The BBC’s “soft boycott” of Israel

This is a guest post by Aron White.

A few weeks ago Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard drew attention to the BBC’s “soft boycott” of Israel. The term, coined by Mr Pollard, describes the BBC’s tendency to report on Israeli innovations and technological breakthroughs without mentioning that they took place at Israeli institutions and companies. Most recently, the BBC recently reported on a breakthrough in cancer treatment by the Weizmann Institute, but the Israeli origins of the research were significantly

I wish to further analyse this “soft boycott” and argue that it is actually multifaceted. There are times when the BBC completely ignores Israel’s connection to a newsworthy company, times when Israel’s connection is significantly downplayed and times when Israel’s connection is specifically focused on, in cases which fit a particular agenda and narrative of Israel as a militaristic and pariah state.

In some cases brilliant Israeli inventions are reported by the BBC but their Israeli origins are completely ignored. ReWalk is a revolutionary technology designed by Dr Amit Goffer from Haifa’s Technion University, allowing people with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and walk again, using a sophisticated exo-skeleton. Claire Lomas, a paralysed woman from Leicester, made UK national headlines in 2012, when she used a ReWalk suit to walk the entire London Marathon, battling to complete the course in 16 days.

In the BBC coverage both before and after her success, much focus was given to how the ReWalk system works, but no mention of ReWalk’s Israeli origins was made. In 2015, BBC reported on a British military veteran who is using the ReWalk system as part of a “Salford University pilot scheme” – again without mentioning ReWalk’s Israeli origins – and an article last September about Mrs. Lomas completing the Great North Run once again does not mention Israel.

The BBC is capable though of reporting the origins of products – a different but highly comparable BBC story opens with the line “A cutting edge exo-skeleton designed by a Brazilian neuroscientist…..”. In the case of ReWalk, the Israeli origins of the company are completely ignored.

There are also times when the BBC mentions the Israeli connection to a company but downplays that connection, often in a contrived way. Over the past few years, the BBC has reported on the acquisition by Google of DeepMind, a “UK start up” , Rangespan – another “UK start up” – and it published a follow-up article about DeepMind the “UK firm”.jc-soft-boycott

Yet such simple language is not sufficient when talking about Israeli companies. When Google bought Waze – an Israeli start-up – in 2013 the BBC reported that they had bought “the Israel – based start-up”. In a more recent story about Waze, the BBC described the origins of the company with the following contrived sentence “Waze began in Israel 10 years ago before launching in the UK in 2011.

It is well-known that start-ups “begin” the whole time – Apple “began” in America, Alibaba “began” in China and on Dragon’s Den, investors consider whether to invest in  companies that also spontaneously “began”. In the case of Waze, Israel is mentioned – but in a way that falls short of saying the phrase “Israeli company”. Mention Israel – but not too much.

Unless, that is, the story fits a particular narrative of Israel; then the BBC places Israel’s role front and centre. “Meeting Cellebrite – Israel’s master phone crackers” announced a BBC headline last September. The article begins with the following line – “It’s an Israeli company that helps police forces gain access to data on the mobile phones of suspected criminals.” Suddenly the BBC is keen for people to know that the company is Israeli because here the story features a company that does something sinister and ‘Mossad – like’.

The military theme is also front and center of the BBC’s recent article from October entitled “How Israel builds its hi-tech start-ups.” The article focuses almost exclusively on the role of the military in driving Israeli start-ups and the theme is so central that there are no photos actually featuring Israeli start-ups but one that shows former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the claim that Israeli cyber-ops were involved in attacking Iran’s nuclear program. For the BBC, Israel is sometimes a start-up nation – as long as the story can mention the military in the same sentence.

In the end, the BBC’s coverage of Israeli start-ups is merely a reflection of how the BBC views Israel in general – as a nation defined exclusively by its conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world, suffused with a militaristic culture, that flits on the edge of being a pariah state. Nowhere is this one-dimensional view of the country clearer than in the BBC’s own country profile of Israel; that article features the word “Gaza” eight times, “Arab” ten times, and “Palestine” or “Palestinian” fourteen times. It does not mention the name of a single Israeli Prime Minister, Nobel Prize winner or cultural figure, past or present, and includes barely anything except a (one-sided) history of the Israeli-Arab conflict. This is the essential, simplistic  view of Israel that the BBC propagates and so stories about Israeli innovations – which imply that Israel is a normal country, with a national life, society, culture and economy unrelated to the conflict – are ‘de-Israelised’ to stick to the narrative.

Israel is a multi-faceted country that, amongst other aspects, has a thriving scientific and technological community creating solutions to some of the worlds greatest challenges and bettering the lives of millions of the people around the world. The BBC must stop its soft boycott of Israel and allow readers to see the multiple sides of Israel rather than hide away any “redeeming features” of the country. In the name of journalistic standards, the BBC should allow the facts about Israel to create the narrative, rather than the reverse.

BBC Hardtalk for Israel, Softchat for Palestinians

This is a guest post by Aron White.

In his October 21st Hardtalk interview, Israeli MK Yair Lapid turned the tables on presenter Stephen Sackur and made the following remark:Hardtalk logo

Yair Lapid: “I have been watching the show. Whenever a Palestinian is on, you don’t ask the questions that are that difficult.”

Steven Sackur: “Well you haven’t been watching the show enough then, because the Palestinians say exactly what you just said, “Oh, you are tougher on me than you are on him (the Israeli).”

An objective analysis will show that Yair Lapid is totally correct – Israeli guests on the show face a tough grilling whereas Palestinians and their supporters get basically a free pass.

Here is the introduction Stephen Sackur gave Yair Lapid last week:

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a wave of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks, Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat, an innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd. Well, my guest is Yair Lapid, former finance minister, and leader of the Yesh Atid party. He has called on Israelis to”shoot to kill” at the first sign of danger. Will that kind of language enhance anyone’s security?”

This is a genuinely harsh introduction – and considering that Sackur draws no distinction between the Israeli victims of terror attacks and Palestinian attackers killed by policemen, it maybe is too harsh. But let us compare this with the opening Hardtalk laid out for Saeb Erekat during an interview in February 2014.

“What does the new right-wing Israeli coalition government under Benjamin Netanyahu mean for the Palestinians? The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has made moves recently to win international backing for his cause, particularly through the United Nations. Will this strategy help or hinder their aspirations for statehood? My guest today is the Palestinian veteran chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Can they isolate Israel, and achieve recognition of a Palestinian state through international diplomatic channels?”

This is not the opening to a difficult interview in which Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism, incitement, corruption and human rights violations will truly be open for discussion. The question on the table is how best can the Palestinians isolate Israel: instead of asking hard-hitting questions, the BBC is merely asking whether the Palestinians can achieve their goals.

The Hardtalk bias was open for all to see during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hardtalk conducted two interviews on consecutive days – the first interview, on July 24th, was with Danny Danon, a former Israeli government minister, and the second interview the next day was with Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas.

Here is the introduction to the interview with Danny Danon:

“Israel says its current campaign in Gaza is in response to rocket strikes from Hamas militants, and is aimed at destroying its illicit tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle arms. In more than two weeks of conflict, more than six hundred Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, and nearly four thousand wounded. The U.N. Human Rights Commission (sic.) says Israel may have committed war crimes. About thirty Israeli have died, nearly all of them, soldiers. My guest today is Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, He was dismissed as deputy defence minister earlier this month, for accusing the prime minister of being too weak in his Gaza campaign. How does he justify the high Palestinian death toll?”

Compare this to the introduction to the interview the very next day, with Khaled Masha’al.

“My guest today is Khaled Masha’al, the political chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently locked in a grim and costly military confrontation with Israel in Gaza. Right now, the pressure on Hamas is immense, military, political and diplomatic. So, is the showdown in Gaza a battle for Hamas’ survival?”

Masha’al is not being asked any hard questions at all – no question about Hamas rockets, human shields, human rights abuses, or its openly jihadist constitution. Rather than hard questions, sympathy for Hamas simply oozes from the description of a “costly” conflict with Israel that may be a battle for Hamas’ very survival.

This highlights a further point: not only does Hardtalk ask Israelis far tougher questions than Palestinians; the interviewers openly display sympathy for Palestinians and their supporters. 

During his interview with William Schabas, initially appointed head of a U.N. Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas who resigned from the post due to concerns about his objectivity, Stephen Sackur asks:

“You have talked about the campaign against you. We remember the full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal condemning you, talking about your bias, I believe also, you had personal emails. You had threats. Did it get to a point where you could just stand it no longer?”

Yet when he interviews Yehuda Glick, the man who was shot four times because of his activism to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Stephen Sackur never asks him how he felt, but instead offers this musing:

“I am guessing, Yehuda Glick, that what happened to you wasn’t entirely a surprise to you. You have been a controversial figure described by many Israelis, indeed many Israelis in the Israeli government and security establishment as a provocative figure and as an extremist for years. You have known that there have been threats upon you for years too. So although it was awful, it wasn’t really a surprise was it?”

So one man who actually got shot four times (for campaigning for what he sees as religious freedom) should have seen it coming because he received threats but another man who received threats (though admittedly, by “personal email,” no less) deserves our deepest sympathy. I mean, how bad are four bullets compared to an advertisement in a newspaper?

Hardtalk is deeply biased. It challenges Israelis about how they defend themselves, but poses no hard questions to the inciters, jihadists, rocket launchers and terrorists. For Israelis, an appearance on the show is a hard talk. For Palestinians and their supporters, it is merely a soft chat. 

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’



Exclusive: how a complainant convinced the BBC Trust’s ESC to uphold his appeal

As we have previously noted, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee recently upheld an appeal regarding a complaint about a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which was broadcast on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme in June 2011. 

As reported by The Times in mid-March:

“The BBC Trust has upheld a complaint which alleged that a five-minute report on Radio 4’s Today programme about the Six-Day War was misleading and biased, The Times has learnt. […]

The latest complaint relates to an item which aired on the Today programme in June 2011. The report, by Kevin Connolly, one of the BBC’s Middle East correspondents, examined the legacy of the 1967 conflict between Israel and several neighbouring states.

According to the trust’s findings, which were obtained by The Times, a listener alleged that the Today report wrongly gave the impression that Israel occupied land three times its original size as a result of the war, when it had given 90 per cent of the land captured in 1967 back to Egypt. The programme also, the complainant alleged, gave a misleading impression that Israel was not willing to trade land for peace, when it had reached peace deals with Jordan and Egypt that included transfers of conquered territory.

The trust found that the Today report had been inaccurate on both points and that the complaints should be upheld.”

As previously noted here, this complaint took a shocking two and a half years to make its way through the BBC’s complaints procedure and one of the interesting features of the ESC’s report on the topic (pages 9 -23 here) is the documentation of the sudden about-turn in the BBC’s stance regarding the complaint after input from “the News Division and from the BBC correspondent [Kevin Connolly]”.

“On 3 December 2012 the complainant received an undated letter from the Head of the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit], advising him of the Unit’s provisional finding. The ECU said that by drawing attention to the original extent of the territory occupied by Israel in 1967 without referring to the return of Sinai, the item may have created the impression that Israel remained vastly larger as a result of the war and that land for peace remained an untested option. It had therefore provisionally decided to uphold a breach of accuracy in this respect. [emphasis added]

Following an inquiry by the complainant in March 2013 about whether the decision had been finalised, the complainant was advised that the last letter he had received telling him of the provisional finding, had been sent to him in error; it had been intended as a draft for internal consultation.

As a result of representations from the News Division and from the BBC correspondent in response to the internal circulation of the provisional finding, the Head of the ECU had now altered his view and had decided not to uphold any aspect of the complaint. He said the point had been made to him that the return of Sinai to Egypt following the Camp David Accords was not an instance of “land for peace” as envisaged in those Accords. An integral part of the Accords had been a commitment to “negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects” and a staged progression towards full autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza and a final status agreement. Because the ECU was now satisfied that the return of the Sinai did not constitute “land for peace” the significance of any incorrect impression as to the extent of territory Israel had withdrawn from was much reduced and the ECU decided it would not therefore have affected listeners’ understanding of the question under consideration in the report.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the Head of the ECU – who had previously been inclined to uphold the complaint – was persuaded to completely reverse his position by the specious claim of Kevin Connolly et al that Israel’s return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt within the framework of the peace treaty between the two countries did not constitute ‘land for peace’.  Many of us might simply have given up in the face of such contorted logic, but the complainant did not. Instead, he persevered with a reply to Connolly’s claims.

“The complainant responded to the revised provisional finding on 13 April 2013 with a detailed rebuttal of the ECU’s conclusions, challenging the ECU’s interpretation of the contents of the Camp David Accords.”

Whilst that detailed rebuttal did not prompt the Head of the ECU to change his mind about rejecting the complaint, it was taken into consideration by the Editorial Standards Committee which eventually did uphold the complaint.

BBC Watch contacted the complainant, Sam Green, who kindly agreed to share with us details of his rebuttal of the claims produced by Connolly. Sam’s account below makes fascinating reading for anyone who has ever waded into the BBC complaints procedure and raises serious questions about the workings of that procedure as a whole.

“The lowest point in the grinding slog of my BBC complaint was probably receiving the Editorial Complaints Unit proposed final ruling. This was the final stage within the Corporation before I appealed to the BBC Trust, the semi-detached oversight body.

It was so demoralising because, on top of the delay (I was strongly suspicious they were trying to use delay as a tactic to bury the complaint), the logic in this finding was so flawed, so tortuous, so surreal that this letter made me doubt the bona fides of the organisation. The important thing was not the journalism; it was preventing a complaint succeeding.

The second response came after they had previously said they were planning to partly uphold the complaint, and then said I’d been told that by mistake.

Here is their reasoning on why my complaint didn’t hold water:

“…the return of Sinai to Egypt following the Camp David Accords was not an instance of “land for peace” envisaged in those Accords, an integral part of which was a commitment to “negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects” and a staged progression towards full autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza and a final status agreement. Put simply, the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai could be regarded as an instance of “land for peace” if that outcome had been achieved, but it has not been.

…Kevin Connolly’s report was concerned with “land for peace” in the same sense – a peace settlement among all parties on the basis of agreed borders…”

I had a problem in how I was going to respond to this; one of the tactics the BBC used was to layer on complication; the more complication they layered on the easier it was for them to say how complicated it all was and they couldn’t possibly hope to deal with all of that. I needed to focus on the internal logic of the report rather than a history of the Middle East. However I did need to engage with their argument, so I dealt with both. It was a long letter.

I started by signposting the attempt to overcomplicate in their response:

I will not be drawn into a line-by-line dissection of the Camp David Accords; it is a diversion from the question of whether your listeners heard an inaccurate and misleading report. They are for the most part not expert in the history and politics of the Middle East, and nor am I. Nor should there be any expectation that we have such specialist knowledge.

If the BBC starts from the expectation that its listeners ought to have postgraduate level knowledge of all the topics it covers it would not benefit your listernership.

I went on to differentiate between the two treaties that made up Camp David, to outline elements of the Egypt Israel Peace Treaty, summarising;

It is called a Peace Treaty. It establishes a state of peace between Egypt and Israel. It links the establishment of that peace with the exchange of territory.

I engaged with the term “land for peace” (their inverted commas) and my efforts to find out where their singular usage they claimed for the phrase had come from. It was not in the other Camp David accord; the Framework for Peace, it was not in the Egypt Israel Peace Treaty. A Google search took me to Security Council Resolution 242 which itself did not contain the phrase, was not raised in the report or previously in the complaint and did not contain a meaning claimed in the ECU provisional ruling.

I moved on to the contradictory and ever fluid meaning of ‘peace’. In the statement from the ECU there was no peace for which land had been traded because the “staged progression  to full autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza and a final status agreement” did not come to pass, and, at the same time it meant “…a peace settlement among all parties on the basis of agreed borders…”. That’s quite an unexplained stretch for a concept. It shows just how desperate the BBC was to retrofit plausible meaning on their report.

I spent quite some words addressing this; if it was about peace with the Palestinians why talk about Syria so much?

The Camp David Accords were between Israel and Egypt. There were no other regional parties who were signatories to those accords or, as far as I understand, who accepted it.

And which parties do you mean? The states involved in the 1967 Six Day War? Syria was excluded from the Camp David accords, Jordan was not a party. And what about Iraq and the Arab League? The PLO, or Fatah, and what about Hamas? Other Arab states? Who are “all parties”? Why is there an assumption that Egypt spoke for and signed on their behalf when they explicitly rejected it?

It was at this point I mentioned the Jordan Peace Treaty of 1994 which also included territorial concessions. Land as part of a peace deal.

And the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005; more complex but still relevant in terms of willingness to withdraw from conquered territory.

In terms of the extent of territory under Israeli control, the ECU had this to say;

“…the significance of such an incorrect impression is much reduced if the resulting inference that ‘land for peace remained an untested option’ is not viewed as misleading; and, on balance, I don’t think it would have affected listeners’ understanding of the question under consideration in the report to the extent that I would regard it as a breach of editorial standards.”

To me it seemed blindingly obvious:

a listener without specialist knowledge would naturally infer that in the absence of any statement to the contrary Israel remains triple the size (or controls territory triple its original size).

After travelling much further into the complex history of the region than I wanted to, I had moved to my real point; the importance in not losing sight of what the listener heard and the natural meaning they would associate with that.

Turning to the question of land for peace. I again suggest it is appropriate for you to rely on natural meaning… the impression your listener would have been left with by the report that went out was one of intransigence and unwillingness to trade territory for peace. An impression that required context.

…on any natural meaning, as understood by a reasonable listener, trading more than 90% of the territory captured in the context of peace treaties, for peace, constitutes land for peace; land pursuant to peace. Trying to use semantics to argue otherwise smacks of casuistry.

This made no impact on the ECU which rejected the complaint. It is only because the complaint managed to reach the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee that these points (along with later submissions) were properly considered, and the Trust ruled that the report was inaccurate and misleading; that it was bad journalism.

The question now is; why didn’t Kevin Connolly understand that? Does he get it now? Does he accept it? Why didn’t the Today programme producers and Editor understand that? Why didn’t the people dealing with the initial complaint understand that and why, for all their lengthy and reflective deliberations didn’t the ECU understand that?

And what are they all going to do about it?

They haven’t said – and I think we can all have a pretty good guess at the answers to all of those questions.” 



Malice Through The Looking-Glass

A guest post by Geary.

What if Israel behaved just like any other Middle Eastern country (and the Middle East started acting like Israel)?

NEWS: Middle East

Good evening.

In the usual weekly display of anti-Iranian feeling, thousands of Israelis poured into the streets of Tel Aviv after Saturday prayers, chanting “Death to Iran, Death to Islam” and burning effigies of President Rowhani and John Kerry.

We are hearing reports of several dead and dozens injured as five Christian churches have been attacked and set on fire by a Jewish mob in central Jerusalem after allegations that an Israeli Christian claimed to be the Prophet Moses. The man was arrested before he could be lynched. Doctors say he suffers from severe mental problems but could still face stoning if found guilty under Israel’s strict blasphemy laws.

Scenes of jubilation, music mingling with gunshots,  were witnessed all over the Israeli town of Ashdod as Mr Avi Sand returned there after serving four years in prison for murdering an entire Arab family, including two young children and a three-month old baby. The town’s Mayor declared a Day of Celebration for his return. Flowers and sweets were distributed among the children in his honour. His poster could be seen on walls alongside other celebrated Israeli militants who had killed Arab civilians in recent years.

The Israeli Prime Minister has reiterated yet again his firm line on the fate of Muslims in the future state of Israel, following any successfully negotiated two-State peace talks. “Muslims have no right to live on this side of the border” he told the collected journalists. “We will not tolerate a single Arab on the Holy soil of Israel. Israel must be Muslim-frei.”

An Education Ministry inspection of a number of Jewish schools has revealed that Jewish children as young as five are routinely being taught not only that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jews, but also that the Arabs who live there are descended from pigs and apes. A spokesman for the Ministry told the press: “They are only innocent animal stories for children, a bit like Aesop’s Fables”.

A group of Arab NGOs, the Red Crescent and UNWRA issued a joint statement today condemning the continued firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian centres, which they described as “war crimes”. “We deplore not only the loss of life but the terrible psychological trauma inflicted in particular on the children by these constant acts of barbarity”, a spokesman told us.  Along with a number of sympathetic Western NGOs such as War on Want and Save the Children, they are documenting crimes against civilians which will help bring a case against Hamas at The Hague of preaching genocide.

In other news, the UN is expected later today to pass a motion condemning fifteen Arab states for human rights abuses including the enslavement of foreign workers, religious and gender apartheid and the widespread, indiscriminate use of torture and the death penalty.  The Head of the Arab League was heard earlier to remark: “They have us bang to rights. All this has being going on for far too long. Well, forever, actually. It has to stop.”

And finally, on a lighter note, several witnesses are claiming to have seen what they describe as a pig slowly flapping its wings over the offices of the BBC and the Guardian newspaper in central London. Well, some people will believe anything, won’t they?

Good night.

The Guardian, the BBC and Mona Lisa’s Nose

A guest post by Geary

Guess what this is?

nose 1Did you get it? Well done: yes, it’s the Middle East as represented by large parts of the media, including the Guardian and the BBC – by far the UK’s most influential broadcaster.

Well actually no. It’s Mona Lisa’s nose. But you get the picture, or rather, you don’t. You just get a tiny part of it.

There is a basic principle in the fields of semiotics and sociolinguistics, known as “framing”. It is well-known that the way a story is framed will influence how it is received by an audience.  It is equally uncontroversial that framings are not natural and preordained, that whoever is telling the story has a choice of various framings and the choice that is taken gives a significant insight into how we should evaluate both the story and the storyteller.

Returning to the original analogy, the problem with the Guardian-BBC coverage of the Middle East is that we don’t get a frame at all. We don’t even get much of the painting.

They make a conscious choice to remove as much context as possible to depict the Israel-Palestinian relationship, firstly, as entirely conflictual. Whenever do we hear of the many collaborative projects or the Israeli aid work in the Territories or the health care available to Palestinians in Israeli hospitals? Secondly, it is projected as the greatest conceivable imbalance. One side has all the power imaginable, the other side is utterly disempowered. 

And thirdly it is simplistically but seductively presented as white hat versus black hat, or rather, white race against black, or at least brown. The Israelis are depicted as Westerners and so metaphorically white (what a mutation – from swarthy Semites to Nordic Aryans in just two generations). Meanwhile the Palestinians, being Arabs, must be metaphorically a “brown” people. And so we are left with an ugly narrative of white supremacism, provoking a delicious frisson of outrage among viewers and readers.

Finally, the relationship is stripped of all historical context. Cruel Goliath just woke up one day and decided to occupy and oppress his poor downtrodden neighbour. First of all to steal his land and then, who knows, to drive him out completely. In this framing the Palestinian “cause” is quite simply freedom and any means of throwing off the oppressor’s yoke is justified, even the most violent.

But let’s try looking at the whole painting in its regional context. The Guardian-BBC could frame this Middle East conflict as that of a tiny country which has had to fight for its survival in three wars of aggression and has been subjected to 60 years of continuous ferocious terrorism, but which almost miraculously continues to flourish as a democracy with full respect for the rule of law. And all this in a region brimming with violence, tyranny and hate. In this framing, we would require an exchange of hats. Israel is engaged in defensive resistance against enemies who wish to destroy her simply because she is different; she is democratic – dangerously contagious – she is modern and above all she is not Arab-Muslim. In this framing it is no longer clear quite who is the Goliath but it’s quite clear who is the bully and who the victim. And in an Arab Middle East where not only Jews but also the Kurds and Christians are all persecuted victims of Arab-Muslim rejectionism of the “other”, it becomes clear that it isn’t Israel who should be in the UN dock for apartheid racism.

Or we might try a third framing. The Palestinians and their cause are stoked and stroked and embraced by the big power players in the region – Iran, Syria, Turkey and the Gulf States – for the most cynical of self-serving reasons. Firstly, to bolster their soft-power prestige in the Arab world, and secondly to distract the internal populations from the humiliations they suffer at the hands of their rulers. The real Middle-Eastern conflict, as is now becoming clear, is between Shia-dominated Iran, plus its Syrian puppet, and the rest of the Sunni-dominated Arab world. The Palestinians are a very useful pawn in this game. And note that this support is never for a reasonable negotiated peace with Israel. Instead the Palestinians are spurred on to seek some improbable military victory in which Israel is brought to its knees or, better still, every last Jew is driven from the Middle East. Make no mistake, both Sunnis and Shias are happy to fight Israel to the last drop of Palestinian blood and the last thing they want to see is peace. This is a rather different Palestinian “cause” from the one sold daily by the BBC and Guardian. nose 3

But wait. I’m being unfair. We do sometimes see this: 

What’s this? Why yes it’s the ‘Jewish lobby’. The only part of the frame we’re regularly shown. How often are we told that US support for Israel is the result solely of the shadowy but immense power of US Jews and their piles of gold? It couldn’t possibly be that Israel is a democracy under the rule of law and that not supporting Israel would be a dereliction of every value the US professes to believe in. No, perish that thought. 

And why do we never see this? 

nose 4Well done again. Yes, it’s the Arab lobby. The Saudi, the Qatari, the Emirates lobbies – now there is serious money – who not only work Washington lavishly and spend billions on US arms, but bribe media outlets with advertising income and fund universities throughout the West (the Gadaffi Foundation, remember that?) so that ubiquitous “Middle-Eastern studies” are properly pro-Arab and anti-Israel.

One last word on the land-stealing Goliath meme so popular with the BBC and Guardian. As so often documented on this blog, the vast majority of those evil settlements, aka “the obstacle to peace”, are actually built on land which in any reasonable future agreement would be part of land swaps and end up as part of Israel.

So, Guardian, BBC, in the future let’s see the whole picture in a proper frame. She’s famous for her enigmatic smile. It’s probably because she “nose” what the deliberate simpletons are up to.


The ‘Core Issues’ of the Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks, BBC Style

A guest post by Geary

Would you like to know what are the Core Issues to be decided before peace can break out between Israel and the Palestinians, according to the BBC? Here they are in a BBC website inset-box nutshell: Core issues

“Core issues

Jerusalem: Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of future state; Israel unwilling to divide it

Borders and settlements: Israel wants to keep major Jewish settlements; Palestinians want borders along 1967 lines but accept some settlements will have to stay in return for land swaps

Palestinian refugees: Israel rejects idea of a Palestinian “right of return”

Security: Palestinians want full attributes of normal state; Israel wants to curtail this.”

Also here in a nutshell we discern the BBC’s inherent, partly explicit and partly implicit bias and enmity against Israel. It’s there in the language, the repetitive negative portrayal “Israel unwilling”, “Israel rejects”, “Israel wants to curtail”. Get the message? Israel is the blockage. The Palestinians (who just ‘want’ their ‘rights’ and ‘normality’) keep knocking at the door of peace but Israel won’t open it.

And then, even if we accept that these are some of the core issues, let’s try a little rephrasing of the first three:

Core issues

Jerusalem: Jerusalem is the (historic) capital of the Jewish state. The Palestinians demand half of it, despite already having a functioning capital at Ramallah.

Borders and settlements: Israel wants to keep major Jewish settlements; Palestinians refuse to allow a single Jew to remain in any future Palestinian state.

Palestinian ‘refugees’: Under the euphemism “right of return”, the Palestinians want to destroy Israel as a Jewish state by flooding it with their people.

 But it’s the fourth which is the most bizarre:

 “Security: Palestinians want full attributes of normal state; Israel wants to curtail this.”

What has this to do with security? If anyone has demands about security it’s the Israelis who want to be sure that any future autonomous Palestinian state is not a haven for terrorists bent on killing Jews. Which leads us on to the terrorist elephant in the peace-talks room: Hamas. If the BBC had the least shred of honesty and impartiality, under the heading ‘Security’ we should read ‘Israel wants assurances that neither the PA nor Hamas will use its “security” apparatus to commit the kind of atrocities against Israeli civilians which have steadily punctuated the last 60 years’.

What else do we find if we study the language of this and two other recent BBC pieces – one on Reconsidering the two-state solution which, touts the far-left one-state solution, where Jews – hopefully – get out of their own land, and another on the ‘disappointment’ felt by ‘Palestinians’ (actually a bunch of rich kids at a Quaker school, complete with glossy pictures of young people) about Obama (no propaganda angle there then)?

How are Israel and the Israelis described, and how the Palestinians? We find references to an Israeli ‘right-wing’ – a real ‘boo’ word for the BBC – on four occasions, but there seems to be no such thing as a Palestinian ‘right-wing’. But the Palestinians do have ‘rights’ (plural), ‘civil rights’ and the inevitable ‘human rights’, which the Israelis are of course suppressing. Quite how the Israelis are managing this, given that the Palestinians have their own government, parliament, courts, press, education system, and so on, is not made clear. That maybe the PA and Hamas are less than entirely respectful of their people’s human rights in not explored (this is after all the BBC). There are also ‘hawkish’ Israelis, but no aggressive Palestinians.

The Palestinian and anti-Israel perspective is consistently and effortlessly adopted and preached. Not only is the West Bank ‘occupied’ (and not ‘disputed’) but Israel itself is on ‘historic Palestine’ (but wasn’t that the Roman name for a Jewish entity, reinvented by the British after WW1?).  The old Zionophobic trope of ‘apartheid state’ is wheeled out. Those Palestinians who refuse to accept Israel and propose the single state only do it because they’re ‘frustrated’ rather than, say, because they’ve always rejected a Jewish state on ‘Muslim land’. The Palestinians are ‘unhappy’ because America gives aid to Israel and didn’t back Abbas’s demands at the UN. One wonders what would make some Palestinians ‘happy’ with the US – short of America supporting the annihilation of Israel?  Finally, the situation of the Palestinians is ‘intolerable’. One wonders then why the leaders don’t make a tad more effort at making peace.

Overall a picture is painted of Israel as doers, the perpetrators of whatever is going wrong and of the Palestinians passive done-to, as innocent victims. For some unknown reason (well actually we do know) we twice hear from the inimitable As-A-Jew, historian Avi Shlaim, that he’s supporting the one-state solution ‘in the light of Israeli actions’, a loaded term if ever there was one. Not only are the settlements a major obstacle to any peace solution, so is the construction of ‘Israel’s barrier in and around the West Bank’. Any rational unbiased observer might think that nothing has brought more peace to the region than that barrier. Notice also the ‘in’ the West bank; more BBC sleight-of-hand. Moreover, the previous peace-talks were derailed because Israel restarted building settlements (and not because the Palestinians never came to the table throughout most of the ten-month building freeze). Any Palestinian misbehaviour is related as impersonally as possible: ‘there is violence’, ‘there are more Palestinians in prison’, without telling us who commits the violence or why they’re in prison. On the occasion when the Palestinians are depicted as doers, the ‘doing’ is of ‘struggle and sacrifice’. One wonders whether the latter includes the ‘ultimate sacrifice of suicide bombers at Jewish weddings and on school-buses’. 

And what about Hamas – who most people might think are pretty nifty at doing? It’s mentioned seven times, notably once as something ‘the United States considers a terrorist organisation’. Weird those Americans, why should they think that? In stark contrast to those frightful (if peaceful) ‘settlements’ Hamas is not presented among the obstacles to peace despite the fact of vowing never to make peace. If anything it’s the Israelis again at fault because they won’t ‘talk’ to it.

The point is this: the BBC’s prejudice and propaganda against Israeli is not just in the topics chosen and the people interviewed, it’s in the very language. The first two are easy to spot, the last is more subtle, more dangerous and mocks to scorn the Corporation’s claim that ‘Impartiality lies at the heart of public service and is the core of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences’.

BBC gets one of its facts on “Palestine” right

A guest post by Geary

BBC Radio 4 hosts an – often excellent – programme entitled “Analysis”. This week’s episode (July 1st, 2013) “Syria and the New Lines in the Sand” is on why, given five minutes of freedom, so much of the Arab world seems unable to refrain from tearing itself to pieces. Could it be the centuries of bitter sectarian enmities? Or the lack of any legacy of workable institutions after 500 years of Ottoman rule? Of course not; silly me.

This being the BBC, the answer, of course, is that it’s not their fault, it’s ours – or our grandfathers’ anyway. The evil Sykes-Picot (“villains” for the BBC) Agreement. The poshest man alive, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, oddly forgiven for having been Ambassador to Israel, is wheeled on to give gravitas to the argument that ‘It’s All Our Fault’. 

If only in 1920 the British (and a bit the French) had put all the Sunnis in one big country, all the Shias in another and all the Kurds in yet another, then they’d all be getting along like a house on fire (maybe that’s the wrong metaphor, but still). On the other hand these entities might forever be at each other’s throats, but this possibility was not mentioned.

Alternatively, the British should have planned some sort of Balkanisation of the region into a thousand independent enclaves, each a homeland for some minority. Oddly, the one part of this plan which came to fruition – the creation of Israel and the subsequent expulsion by the Arab states of their Jews to populate it – does not seem to enjoy universal popularity amongst the Arab neighbours or, for that matter, at the BBC. 

But imagine my shock when I heard – amid this feast of West-bashing and pandering to Arab grudges – the mention, en passant, of the non-existence of any “Palestine” prior to the 1920s. So unlike the Beeb to let this one slip. At roughly 6 minutes 20 seconds into the programme, the presenter and historian are perusing a pre-World War I map of the Middle East:

Presenter: What was this area called at that time?

Historian: Well, it wasn’t called any of the names we know it as today. It wasn’t Syria and it wasn’t Palestine, particularly. These were Western names, and Roman names sometimes, we used to refer to this part of the world, but at that time it was all just part of the Ottoman Empire. [emphasis added]

Crickey, BBC, you let the cat out of the bag there. The inconvenient historical fact that there was no country called Palestine and had not been since the Roman times, when it was inhabited by, unless the Bible, Gibbon and Mel Gibson are all telling lies, the Jews. No “historic Palestine” and so no “historic Palestinian people” then. Just a mixture of folk all living under the sway of the Ottomans. Indeed it was the British who created the Palestinians after WWI. In fact they very generously created two lots of Palestinians for good measure: Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews. But before that “Palestine” had no legal tender, it was simply a name and an entity dreamt up by British diplomats who’d had a far too classical education. 

So is there hope yet for BBC historical truth-telling on Israel-Palestine, after this slip? I fear not. Later in the programme we get dark mutterings that “if the Kurds were the great losers out of Sykes-Picot” (not sure that was entirely ‘Our Fault’ – neither the Arabs nor the Turks were willing to envisage a Kurdish state) “the big winners were the early Zionists”. Sigh. So Sykes-Picot, and all the mess it created, was nudge, nudge, just another Zionist plot.

Of course no-one can pretend that Sykes-Picot was not a self-interested deal, aiming to ensure Western political interests and safeguard access to Middle Eastern oil (but what’s so bad about that? Access to trade benefits both sides – ask the Egyptians at the moment). And equally of course it denied much of the Arab Middle East self-determination for a generation. But it was also an honest attempt to create viable nation-states out of the defunct, historically retarded Ottoman Empire. And if Arab self-determination is leading to the horrors of the self-Balkanisation of the region we are witnessing now, maybe those two old Anglo-French “villains” were not so stupid or villainous after all.

BBC’s ‘Any Questions’ has been at it again

A guest post by Joe Geary.

(The programme can be downloaded here for a limited period of time or listened to here. The relevant section begins at 12:23′. – Ed.) 

Not learning any lessons from harbouring child molesters, the BBC is a natural home for Israel molesters.

First of all – the breathtaking question from one Stephen Bedford:

 “Despite all the foreign aid and support, Israel has spectacularly failed to get on with its neighbours. Does Israel deserve a future?”

How did they possibly allow such a question? Still, it tells you all you need to know about the Political Wing of the BBC.

Cue a vicious anti-Israel tirade from Shirley Williams.

She’s actually visited Gaza, she says (one wonders who showed her round) and it’s “a slum, worse than anything in Britain in the 19th Century”. But wouldn’t that be its government’s fault, Shirley? And you don’t know your history. Average Gazan life expectancy is over 73 years –  in Britain in the 19th Century it was below 40 and in 2011, male life expectancy in Glasgow was 71.

And it’s “crowded out to the gills”.  Yes, and how precisely is that Israel’s fault? Do they put something in the water to make Gazans have more babies?

And Gaza is full of people “who see their land slowly eaten up by more and more Israeli settlements”. Come again, Shirley? Israeli settlements in Gaza as the pretext for violence against Israel? The sheer ignorance is astounding.

So of course Jonathan Dimbleby, the BBC chair, steps in to quietly correct the facts. Fat chance. So yet another anti-Israel lying slander passes through the BBC airwaves.

 As for Williams’s motives. My guess is this. Her party keeps getting a kicking in the press and at polls. So what do you do? Turn round and give Israel a good kicking. Feel better now Shirley?

P.S. Dimbleby’s main contribution was to interject that in the current conflict only three Israelis have been killed but over 30 Palestinians. So the main problem for the BBC man is not enough dead Israelis.