BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Reporting by BBC Jerusalem bureau staff on the topic of Coronavirus has so far focused mainly on Bethlehem (see ‘related articles’ below), apparently resulting in quarantine for one journalist. More recently the corporation chose to turn its attention to a location in which to date no cases of infection have been reported.

On March 13th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard a report by Tom Bateman (from 23:34 here) which was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “Well the World Health Organisation may have identified Europe as the current epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak but it also has an eye on those countries and territories which have yet to be affected whose health services are far weaker than those of the developed Western world. Among them is the Gaza Strip where more than two million people live in tightly packed conditions and where the WHO believes that urgent global intervention would be necessary if cases of Covid19 are recorded. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

On March 14th the same report was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend’ (from 30:45 here) with presenter Alex Ritson telling worldwide listeners:

Ritson: “Let’s remind you of our top story: the World Health Organisation has warned that any spread of Coronavirus to the Gaza Strip would need urgent global intervention. There have been no confirmed cases there so far. The health system is already under significant pressure and more than two million people live in densely populated conditions. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Listeners to both editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on March 14th also heard the same report (from 14:06 here and from 19:03 here) which was introduced by Ben James thus:

James: “Now the World Health Organisation says the full extent of the Coronavirus outbreak will only become clear when places with weak, underdeveloped health services are tested. Among those is Gaza, where more than two million people live in tightly packed conditions. The BBC’s Tom Bateman begins this report in a local hospital.”

A filmed version of Bateman’s report apparently also exists.

The WHO’s latest update on the situation in the Palestinian Authority controlled territories and the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip – dated March 13th – makes no mention of “urgent global intervention”. The source of that dramatic claim promoted in two of those introductions is apparently one of Bateman’s interviewees.

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are in general very badly placed as far as understanding the underlying status of medical care in the Gaza Strip is concerned because although they are told plenty about the dire state of medical services in the Gaza Strip, they rarely hear about the PA actions which exacerbate that situation such as the longstanding insufficient supply of medications

Bateman began his report with an unrelated story.

Bateman: “Ten-year-old Mansour is having kidney dialysis in a packed children’s ward. His father can’t afford the cost of a transplant for him, which would mean travel to Egypt or Jordan. This is the story of Gaza’s hospitals: outdated, hard pressed and lacking many medicines and supplies. And now the health system must prepare for Coronavirus.”

As ever, Bateman did not bother to inform listeners why Gaza Strip hospitals lack medicine and equipment. Listeners then heard that:

“We have in Gaza barely between 50 to 60 ventilators. Serious cases would require at certain stage that they need to be on ventilators. And if we have hundreds, then you would imagine what we need to deal with these hundred cases.”

Bateman: “Dr Abdelnasr Sohob is from the World Health Organisation. There have been no confirmed cases of Coronavirus so far in Gaza but it’s on the borders and medics are warning of little capacity to cope with a sustained outbreak.”

Sohob: “Gaza with these facilities can deal with the first shock of 50 to 100 cases with the current resources. After that I think the international community has to step in to assist Gaza.”

Apparently that latter sentence is the source of those dramatic introductions.

Listeners then heard shouting before Bateman referred to a story which the BBC did not bother to report at the time. He went on to promote a much-used BBC narrative concerning population density and an entirely context-free reference to “Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers”.

Bateman: “A protest last month near a newly-built hospital in the town of Khan Younis. Some locals burned tyres and waved banners after reports Coronavirus patients could be brought there. Anxiety is spreading. More than two million people live in one of the world’s most densely crowded places. The UN’s refugee agency for Palestinians says health workers have learned from the most recent medical crisis: the so-called March of Return protests that saw thousands of Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers at the perimeter fence. After those emergencies, it says there are Coronavirus plans to triage patients at hospital entrances and clear public wards of non-essential cases.”

Bateman next interviewed a mother who recounted how she had cleaned the house and taught her children personal hygiene.

Bateman: “Lena Tahar is reading with one of her four children. Gaza’s schools have shut until at least the end of this month as a precaution. For her, like many Palestinians, even the hand-washing advice is hard with an unclean water supply and regular power cuts.”

Listeners were not told of the reasons for the clean water and power shortages in the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “In Gaza City the disinfectant spray squads are out on the streets.”

Listeners heard the “head of protective health department in Gaza municipality” tell them that his team was:

“Spreading the material that kills the microbe, kills the virus. Inshallah this procedure cover all the problem and solve the problem.”

Bateman: “But it might take more than that. There’s already been disquiet at more sweeping measures – like the month-long emergency declared in the West Bank with more than 30 confirmed cases – weren’t adopted initially by Hamas in Gaza. It’s feared infection could thrive amid the Strip’s deep poverty and in the crowded refugee camps – problems that are compounded by the tangled politics here. Israel and Egypt’s crippling blockade – meant to stop weapons getting to Hamas militants – the recent bouts of fighting with Israel and the deep split between the two main Palestinian factions all add to the crisis.”

Bateman made no effort to clarify that the “recent bouts of fighting with Israel” were the result of attacks by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (or how they “add to the crisis”), how exactly that “deep split” between Hamas and Fatah affects healthcare, water, sewage and electricity supplies in the Gaza Strip or why there are “refugee camps” in a territory which has been under Palestinian control for fifteen years.  

Bateman: “But some residents like Ibrahim Abu Leila hope the isolation could help ward off the latest health threat.”

Abu Leila V/O: “More than 11 years of blockade by land, by sea, by sky. The people that arrive here are counted. They come one day or two days and they leave. We don’t have hotels that tourists stay at so we don’t meet them, thank God. Maybe some good can come from the bad.”

Of course hotels do exist in the Gaza Strip and while normal tourism is understandably virtually non-existent in a destination ruled by a terrorist organisation, journalists, conflict tourists, foreign delegations and UN staff certainly do visit.

Bateman closed his report:

Bateman: “Gaza has so far avoided any confirmed Coronavirus cases. People know its impact could stretch their health system to the limit.”

That same observation is of course true in many other places around the world but as we see, the BBC made the most of the Coronavirus story to widely re-promote many of its long-standing mantras concerning the Gaza Strip even though no cases have been reported there so far.

Related Articles:

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The limits of BBC News reporting from PA controlled territories

Hamas announcement puts a BBC narrative into perspective

 

 

BBC News erases relevant background from report on Palestinian riot

On March 11th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Palestinian teenager killed in West Bank clash”. BBC audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian teenager has reportedly been shot dead by Israeli forces during a clash in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian medics said Mohammed Hamayel, 15, was hit in the face by live ammunition near the village of Beita, south of the city of Nablus.

Israel’s military said 500 Palestinians took part in what it called a violent riot, hurling rocks towards its troops and setting tyres on fire.”

Apparently the BBC is not convinced that 500 people throwing rocks and petrol bombs is a violent riot and so found it necessary to qualify that description. No such qualification was seen however concerning the claim of the use of “live ammunition”. AP reported that witnesses stated that the IDF had used rubber coated bullets and in response to an enquiry from CAMERA, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus confirmed that the army used only rubber bullets.

The BBC’s account of the background to the story is based entirely on Palestinian sources:

“The area has been the scene of growing tension in recent weeks.

Palestinians say a group of Jewish settlers has been trying to take control of a hill in the middle of several of their villages.

A witness told the BBC that Palestinians had gathered on Wednesday following rumours the settlers were heading to the hill.

When Israeli forces arrived Palestinians threw stones at them, and the soldiers fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas from drones, the witness said.

Palestinian health officials said a further 17 people were injured.

The settlers had reportedly been organising an archaeological tour of the hill, saying it hosted a site of Biblical significance.”

The actual background to the story was reported by Kan 11’s Gal Berger a week before the BBC’s report on the March 11th incident was published.

The hill is called Tel Aroma and it is located between the Palestinian village of Beita and the Israeli community of Itamar, south of Nablus/Schem. It is situated in Area B (i.e. the Palestinian Authority has civil control and Israel controls security) and is the site of a fortress dating from Hasmonean times (1st century BCE).

In late February a tour to the site was planned by a group of Israeli families. Palestinians – organised by the Nablus branch of Fatah – had previously erected a flagpole at the site and the night before the planned trip hundreds gathered on the hilltop in order to prevent it from taking place. The Palestinians rioted throughout the day and the trip was cancelled. Similar disturbances have continued since then and those acts of violence were praised by the PA president Mahmoud Abbas at a televised Fatah meeting on March 1st.

“What I saw in Nablus was great. This was the right thing to do. They need to understand that we are fighting with our eyes, our hands, our legs, and with everything, and that we will not allow them to toy with us. We are teaching them lessons. When they see unarmed people, people who have no weapons… Women and children chase [the Israelis] who run away from them… It makes me happy to see this. Really. This is our way to accomplish what we want. This is our way to accomplish what we want. By means of peaceful resistance, and with these efforts… The sisters should be in front at the protests. This is the most important thing. Seeing the girls beating up a policeman or a soldier really fills my heart with joy. This is how we want our peaceful popular resistance to be. This is our way to vanquish our enemies, and to achieve our independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abbas’ blatant incitement and the fact that the rioting at Tel Aroma is organised by the Nablus branch of Fatah naturally did not make it into the BBC’s report. Unverified allegations from PA officials concerning “settlers…trying to take control” of the hill of course did.

Predictably, the final part of the BBC’s report included amplification of the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ along with exclusive promotion of the Palestinian narrative.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.

Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

As we see, the account provided by the BBC relies on and dovetails with the narrative promoted by PA and Fatah officials. So much for the corporation’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news”.

BBC travel show brings in political activist on Jerusalem archaeology

The March 8th edition of the BBC World News and BBC News TV channels programme ‘The Travel Show’ included an item billed as “Jerusalem’s Underground History” (available in the UK here)

“This week, Rajan Datar explores the hidden treasure underneath the streets of Jerusalem. He walks on recently excavated 2,000 year old roads and discovers old church chambers from the time of the crusaders. “

At 38 seconds into the report viewers were told of a “controversial” archaeological excavation and Datar went to visit the City of David site, taking a tour of the Pilgrimage Road. Viewers heard that the site was “discovered by accident” in 2004 but were not informed that British archaeologists actually dug there in 1894 and that further excavations were conducted during the Mandate period and the Jordanian occupation.

Viewers heard that:

Datar: “The Pilgrimage Road runs from the ancient Siloam Pool to Temple Mount – also known as Haram esh [sic] Sharif in Arabic – at the top.”

They were not informed of the road’s purpose – who was making a pilgrimage and to where – and Datar went on to visit additional parts of the City of David site.

At 04:54, the item took a political turn. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Datar: “Whilst the project team insist upmost safety for the local residents is the priority, that isn’t quite how everybody feels, especially among the Palestinian community who live here in Silwan, above the City of David site, which they call Wadi Hilweh. Local residents say cracks and sloping like this to dozens of houses have been caused by the excavation, complaining it’s like enduring an earthquake. None the less, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected those claims.”

In fact, only a small part of Silwan lies “above the City of David” site and related legal cases have been rejected by the Supreme Court on more than one occasion.

At 05:27, Datar brought in “Aziz, a travel writer and guide” to give “the alternative Palestinian perspective”. Despite BBC editorial guidelines concerning contributors’ affiliations, viewers were not told that Aziz Abu Sarah is also (as the BBC should know, having interviewed him in 2018) an activist associated with political NGOs.

After viewers had heard Abu Sarah complain that a project documenting biblical Jerusalem does not “tell you the story of the Palestinian residents” in Jerusalem or “the history of the Islamic groups that have lived in Jerusalem” – without clarifying that the Muslim conquest in Jerusalem took place in the 7th century – they saw Datar visit a Crusader site underneath a business in the Old City. While Abu Sarah claimed that “we didn’t know this exists a year and a half, two years ago”, similar Crusader era structures were discovered long before that timeframe.

At the end of the item Datar told viewers:

Datan: “So here’s the rub: in Jerusalem any excavation is going to be both amazing and controversial at the same time.”

Obviously Jerusalem has multiple layers of history which visitors can explore at a variety of sites and museums in addition to the City of David. What makes archaeology ‘controversial’ however is politicisation of the topic and Datan appears to have bought into that with the help of an inadequately presented political activist whose “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” were not disclosed to viewers.  

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BBC shows limited interest in a new Gaza border wall

Last month various media outlets reported that Egypt had begun the construction of a wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.

“Egypt has begun building a concrete wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, AFP journalists and a Palestinian security official from the Hamas terror group said Wednesday.

Dozens of workers aided by cranes could be seen erecting the structure, which will stretch some three kilometers (two miles) from Gaza’s southeastern tip at Karem Shalom to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only gateway out of Gaza that does not lead into Israel.

The wall is being built along the lines of an old, lower barrier that includes an underground structure designed to curb smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.”

According to Asharq al Awsat the aim of the structure is “to end the infiltration of extremists to and from Sinai”.

BBC Arabic also published a report on that story on February 18th. Readers were told that “the border wall is about six meters in height and with concrete bases of up to three meters underground, to counter the tunnels” and that:

“Egypt has been seeking in recent years to demolish tunnels on the 14-kilometer border with Gaza, with the aim of preventing the infiltration of militants and extremists into Egyptian territory, the government says.”

In other words, the aim of the structure being constructed by Egypt is the same as that of both Israel’s defences along the border with the Gaza Strip and the anti-terrorist fence: to stop the passage of terrorists.  

Just two months ago BBC Radio 4 listeners heard the barrier constructed by Israel along the Gaza Strip border portrayed using the ‘open-air prison’ cliché.

“In Gaza the wall is so all-encompassing, in some ways so incredibly difficult to penetrate, that in fact it acts as a kind of a very large-scale prison. People often use that terminology to define…to describe Gaza as a large open-air prison but in fact the walls that surround it, at least on the land side, feels like anybody who’s in Gaza is stuck there.”

However in contrast to its continued high level of coverage of Israeli-built structures, the BBC has to date not even bothered to inform its non-Arabic speaking audiences of the existence of the Egyptian wall, let alone describe it in such inflammatory terms.   

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Another BBC item promotes falsehoods about Israel’s anti-terrorist fence

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2020

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) throughout February 2020 shows that throughout the month a total of 332 incidents took place: 142 in Judea & Samaria, 29 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and 161 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 141 attacks with petrol bombs, 9 attacks using pipe bombs, ten arson attacks, two shooting attacks, one vehicular attack, four stabbings, two incidents of rock throwing and two grenade attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included two shooting attacks, eighteen petrol bomb attacks, nine IED attacks, one incident of sniper fire, three pipe bomb attacks, one incident of anti-aircraft missile fire and 127 incidents of rocket fire.

Sixteen people – all but one members of the security forces – were wounded during February including one in a petrol bomb attack in Hebron on February 3rd, ten in a vehicular attack in Jerusalem on February 6th, one in a shooting attack in Jerusalem on February 6th, one in a shooting attack near Dolev on February 6th, one civilian in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on February 21st, and two in rock-throwing incidents on February 10th and 21st.

The BBC News website published two reports relating to terrorism throughout February. In a report that appeared on February 6th – “Israeli-Palestinian violence flares up”, discussed here – readers were told of the vehicular attack and two shooting attacks which took place on that day. The report also made brief mentions of explosive devices being thrown in Jenin and a petrol bomb in Hebron. Readers saw a second-hand reference to attacks from the Gaza Strip which had not been reported by the BBC at the time:

“There were also further Israeli air strikes on militant sites in Gaza Strip after militants fired mortars into Israel. […]

Israeli warplanes also struck a number of Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip early on Thursday, including an underground complex and a maintenance facility, after mortars and balloons loaded with explosives were launched towards Israel, the Israeli military said. […]

On Wednesday, the military said 13 rockets had been fired from Gaza in a week.”

The second report – “Israel-Gaza sees surge of cross-border violence”, discussed here – appeared on February 24th. BBC audiences were told that:

“On Sunday [February 23rd], more than 20 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, causing some damage. […]

On Monday [February 24th], the Israeli military carried out further air strikes on PIJ targets in Gaza, after at least 14 rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.”

Although BBC audiences would therefore have concluded from that report that around 34 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip on February 23rd and 24th, the actual number of attacks was over 110.

Hence, it can at best be said that the BBC News website reported around 55 of the 332 attacks which took place during February and that during the first two months of the year its audiences saw coverage – sometimes in the form of a brief second-hand mention – of less than 10% of the Palestinian terror attacks which took place.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2020

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2020

 

BBC News signposts Israeli political lists – except one

Last week the BBC News website published three written reports concerning the general election held in Israel on March 2nd.

1) Israelis vote in unprecedented third general election in a year 2/3/2020

2) Israel election: Netanyahu claims ‘biggest win’ amid vote count 3/3/2020

3) Israel election: Netanyahu seeks defectors after failing to secure majority 4/3/2020

In all those reports BBC audiences were provided with brief descriptions of various competing parties’ locations on the political map. [emphasis added]

Article 1:

“In December, he [Netanyahu] comfortably won a primary election for leadership of his right-wing Likud party.

His main opponent in the general election is Benny Gantz, 60, a retired general who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) before entering politics to lead the centrist Blue and White party.”

“If Blue and White wins, it will bring to an end more than 10 years of rule by Likud, which advocates a right-wing nationalist agenda.”

Article 2:

“With 90% of votes counted, his [Netanyahu’s] Likud party and its right-wing allies were on course to win 59 seats, Israeli media reported.”

“With about 90% of votes counted, Likud had 29.35%, compared to 26.34% for Mr Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance, the Central Elections Committee said.”

“…the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism 10 and seven respectively; the centre-left Labour-Gesher-Meretz list seven; the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party seven; and the right-wing Yamina alliance six.”

Article 3:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc appears to have failed to secure a parliamentary majority in Monday’s general election.

With 99% of votes counted, Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party was on track to win 36 seats, and allied right-wing and religious parties another 22.”

“Likud is encouraging defections from the rival centrist Blue and White alliance, which is set to win 33 seats.

The nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party could also tip the balance with its seven seats, although it has ruled out joining a Likud-led coalition that includes religious parties.”

“Nitzan Horowitz, leader of left-wing Meretz party, said there would be a clear majority for the law in the Knesset and that it was “the moral thing to do”.

But Defence Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina alliance, said it would be “extremely undemocratic and spit in the face of half the country”.”

There was however one notable exception made to that editorial practice of helping readers navigate the Israeli political map.

Article 1:

“A strong election result for the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, could favour Benny Gantz’s chances of forming a government propped up by their support.”

Article 2:

“The Joint List alliance representing Israel’s Arab minority was on track to get 15 seats…”

Article 3:

“The Joint List representing Israel’s Arab minority is set to come third with 15 seats.”

“Israel’s Arab Joint List had its best ever election and is the third largest group in parliament.”

As we see, in contrast to the other lists running in the election, the BBC did not make any effort to inform its audiences where the Joint Arab List lies on the political map or which four separate parties make up that “alliance”.

Evidently as far as the BBC is concerned, all its audiences need to know about the ideologies of parties included on Joint Arab List such the communist Arab-Jewish party Hadash, the Muslim religious party Ra’am and the anti-Zionist Balad is that they ‘represent’ the 16% of the Israeli electorate that the BBC inevitably chooses to portray as one monochrome group.

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More BBC Israel pre-election framing from Tom Bateman

BBC promotes linkage between elections on two continents

BBC’s Donnison misleads on Israel’s election result

Contrary to The Times’ claim, Joint List is not “left-wing” (UK Media Watch)

BBC promotes linkage between elections on two continents

Among the BBC News website’s generous coverage of the US administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal in late January was an article by Aleem Maqbool in which readers were told that:

“White Evangelical Christian Americans formed a strong voting block for Donald Trump in 2016, with around 80% voting for him.

Many Evangelical Christians believe that God promised the Holy Land to Jews and that their return to power across the whole territory will bring about the Second Coming of Christ.

But that is not only helping to shape policy because President Trump wants their votes again in November.

There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.”

Readers were not provided with any context. For example AP reported in January that:

“Trump won a clear majority of white evangelical Protestant votes in 2016 […] [b]ut those evangelicals’ alignment with the Republican Party predated Trump and has risen steadily since 2009, according to data from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.”

And:

“Trump has not greatly outperformed his GOP predecessors with white evangelicals”.

Neither did Maqbool’s monochrome portrayal provide any information concerning the prominence of the issue of Israel in comparison to other issues (such as abortion or social justice) among Evangelical voters.

Listeners to the March 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme however found that narrative repeated, along with the promotion of linkage to the election in Israel.

Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 46:47 here) with the inaccurate claim that the US proposal concerns only “the Palestinians”: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Israelis are voting today in their third general election in a year after neither prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor opposition leader Benny Gantz were able to form a government on the previous two occasions last year. This time Mr Netanyahu is claiming credit for Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century on the Palestinians. And this is a vote that could affect Mr Trump’s re-election hopes in November as his stance on Israeli policies is linked to that of his Evangelical Christian supporters. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports.”

Bowen began his report at the archaeological site of Megiddo, claiming that: 

Bowen: “This place gives you an idea of the power and influence of Christian Evangelicals’ view of Israel has in the US. I can see one, two, three, maybe five groups of American pilgrims praying, reading the bible and who share this strong belief that America needs to support Israel because of the vital part it plays in their religious beliefs.”

He spoke to one of those tourists, Ray Armstrong.

Bowen: “Now Christian Evangelicals in the US have a strong interest in Israel, don’t you? You feel a strong affinity.”

Armstrong: “We do. So we are a large – at this time, for better, for worse – a large political influence.”

Bowen: “Now President Trump has been very forward in his support for Israel, recently in his Deal of the Century as he calls it [sic]. Do you think that’s the kind of thing that Evangelicals would support?”

Armstrong: “I think there will be those Evangelicals who will. I think we need to be thorough in our thinking. I think we need to understand consequences of our words. We just need to be careful in what we do and how we go about it.”

That rather vague response did not deter Bowen from continuing to tout his debatable hypothesis.

Bowen: “It is only about six months since the last election and this is the third time in a year but the Americans, by publishing Donald Trump’s plan, have made changes to the political landscape. It’s enabled prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that this is a great deal for Israel and if you want it, vote for me; I’m the only person who can deliver it.”

Ignoring the obviously highly relevant fact that the US proposal was rejected by the Palestinians even before it was published, Bowen moved on to Shiloh where he promoted very dubious linkage between the beginning of construction of a school and the US proposal published in late January.

Bowen: “And it’s not just politics: the physical landscape of the place is changing, as it’s changed over many years, with the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land.”

Notably, throughout Bowen’s report BBC audiences were given no evidence to support Mishal Husain’s opening claim that the outcome of the March 2nd Israeli election “could affect Mr Trump’s re-election hopes in November”.

Bowen’s efforts to link the Israeli election to the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal (even though the election cycle began over a year before that proposal was published) were also evident in a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes.

Bowen: “The prime minister is claiming credit for Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century – an attempt to end the conflict on Israel’s terms. It allows Israel, in defiance of international law, to annex settlements built on land Palestinians want for a state.”

Viewers were also given an inaccurate and simplistic view of the background to the Arab-Israeli conflict:

Bowen: “And as ever, it’s come down to control of the land. That’s always been at the centre of the conflict, a century ago and today.”

In addition they heard Bowen (who only last October asserted that “there haven’t been all that many” Palestinian terror attacks “in recent years”) claim that US policies of the past three years are “sharpening the conflict on the ground” with no concrete evidence provided to support that allegation.

Bowen: “The big changes, political and diplomatic and especially President Trump’s out and out support for the Israeli government is sharpening the conflict on the ground and you can see it in places like this. Conflict is normal for yet another generation. The election won’t change that.”

The narrative the BBC has chosen to promote is very clear: the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan – which has been portrayed by Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues in a uniformly negative light since even before it was made public – is, according to the corporation’s Middle East editor, first and foremost the product of Trump’s dependence upon Evangelical Christian support to get re-elected in November, and has the added effect of aiding Netanyahu’s election campaign by creating “changes to the political landscape”.

On the Israeli front, that “highest calibre” analysis has yet to bear fruit, with Netanyahu’s party (after 99% of the votes were counted) having secured just one more seat in the Knesset than it did in April 2020 – nine months before the US plan was made public.

Related Articles:

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BBC News promotes non-starter topic to advance Israel election narrative

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BBC’s Bateman sketches a simplistic portrait of the Arab Israeli vote

On March 1st – the evening before Israel’s election – the BBC put out a report by its Jerusalem-based correspondent Tom Bateman which focused on the Joint Arab List.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page found a filmed report titled “Israel elections: Will the Arab Israeli vote swing the third election in a year?”.

“Parties representing Arab citizens of Israel believe they could see a high turnout among their voters in the country’s third election in less than a year, on 2 March.

The success of the ‘Joint List’ alliance – a bloc of Arab parties, could help shape the overall result by boosting support for Benny Gantz, the main rival to long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But many Arab Israelis feel their rights have been eroded by Israel’s right wing government, and some are refusing outright to take part in the election.”

Bateman travelled to Haifa to interview four Arab Israelis – one boycotting the election and three intending to vote.

Bateman: “Israel has been in political deadlock for a year. They are now onto their third election. And this time round one of the groups claiming to have momentum are the Arab Israeli parties. There are getting on for 2 million Arab citizens of Israel, that’s about a fifth of the population.”

Bateman: “If more Arab Israelis turn out to vote [than last time] and vote for their parties and get more MPs in parliament it could on the one hand, create more of a block to Benjamin Netanyahu being able to put together a right-wing coalition and potentially more support for his main rival, Benny Gantz.”

By the time that latter statement was aired, the head of the Joint Arab List had made it clear that scenario was unlikely.

Viewers were told that:

“The Joint List of Arab parties became the third biggest group at the last election.”

The Joint Arab List was also the third biggest group in the 2015 election but in the April 2019 election the four parties it comprises did not run as a combined list.

“Their leader Ayman Odeh thinks that their turnout will grow this time because his voters say they are fed up with Mr Netanyahu’s policies. During this election, his party has also been reaching out to left-wing and minority Jewish voters. Last time, a fifth of Arab citizens voted for majority Jewish parties.”

Interestingly, BBC audiences did not get to hear from any of those Arab Israelis who do not vote for the Joint List and so with the exception of that one sentence, the Arab Israeli vote was misleadingly portrayed as a uniform block – as reflected in the film’s opening caption: “Arab Israelis and the third election”.

“Mr Netanyahu often cites democratic participation by all groups as a source of pride for Israel. Historically, participation by Arab citizens has been high. In a close race, Arab Israeli turnout could help shape the overall result.”

Obviously the level of turnout of 20% of any nation’s citizens would “help shape the overall result”, regardless of ethnicity.

Also remarkable is the fact that at no point in this report were BBC audiences informed which parties make up the Joint List and what kind of political views they represent. Ayman Odeh did indeed court certain sectors outside his list’s usual base during this year’s campaign but, as the Times of Israel pointed out:

“A more significant obstacle between the Joint List alliance and its coveted Jewish votes is its inclusion of the Islamist Ra’am party and the Balad party, which contests Israel’s Jewish character.

Odeh is the secular leader of Hadash, a political offshoot of the Israeli Communist Party and other leftist groups. […]

But it’s not just Hadash that’s on the ballot. It’s the entire Joint List alliance — and many potential Jewish voters recoil at the words of Balad’s terrorist-supporting female MK Heba Yazbak, feel threatened when they see Palestinian flags at protests, and can’t vote for a party of which some members oppose LGBTQ rights.”

So while BBC audiences heard the opinions of a philosophy student who would not vote and three women who would – along with claims such as “a lot of racism against us” and “second class citizens” – they were told nothing of the policies of “their parties” which make up the Joint Arab List or how those policies have affected efforts to form past governments.

This of course is not the first time that BBC audiences have seen simplistic reporting on the topic of Arab Israeli voters: Kevin Connolly likewise portrayed that sector in monochrome terms in 2013 and 2015

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BBC News promotes non-starter topic to advance Israel election narrative

BBC News promotes non-starter topic to advance Israel election narrative

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of March 2nd under the headline “Israelis vote in unprecedented third general election in a year” closed with a section headed “Does this election matter?” in which – predictably – the BBC brought up the topic of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal that was made public in January.

Readers were told, inter alia, that:

“The US plan also proposes ceding a cluster of Israeli-Arab towns and villages into a future Palestinian state – effectively transferring Arab citizens out of Israel.

Israeli Arabs, who comprise about 20% of Israel’s population and often complain of discrimination, have been angered by the suggestion.”

Similar messaging was promoted by the BBC’s Jerusalem-based correspondent Tom Bateman in a report aired in the March 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 45:05 here). [emphasis in italics in the original]

Bateman: “There’s been a deep anger among many Arab Israelis. There were new laws [sic] asserting Jewish sovereignty by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Right-wing nationalist government and recently the Trump plan; offering to swap hundreds of thousands of people in Arab Israeli towns into a Palestinian state in return for Israel getting the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.”

The “new laws” to which Bateman refers is actually one law – the Nation State Law passed in July 2018 – which the BBC covered badly at the time.

The US proposal states: [emphasis added]

“Land swaps provided by the State of Israel could include both populated and unpopulated areas.

The Triangle Communities consist of Kafr Qara, Ar’ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia. These communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated. The Vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle Communities become part of the State of Palestine. In this agreement, the civil rights of the residents of the triangle communities would be subject to the applicable laws and judicial rulings of the relevant authorities.”

An explanation of that reference to “negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949” can be found here.

Neither Tom Bateman nor the writer of the BBC News website report bothered to inform BBC audiences that both the main contenders for the post of prime minister of Israel in this election have already rejected that possibility raised in the US proposal.

“The Triangle area in Israel’s North will not become part of a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Arabic-language channel Hala TV on Tuesday night.

Asked about the section of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan that raises the possibility of trading the predominately Arab Triangle area – which includes Umm el-Fahm, Kafr Kara, Baka al-Gharbiya and more – to the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu responded: “There is some vague statement [in the plan] that has no meaning.”

“There will not be any population transfers under any circumstances: I oppose it in principle,” he added.

In recent years and in the immediate aftermath of the plan’s release last month, Netanyahu said that he will not have people forced from their homes on the Israeli or Palestinian side.

The US “Peace to Prosperity” plan did not call for any populations to be moved but did suggest that the border could be redrawn such that the Triangle’s approximately 250,000 Arab citizens of Israel be in a future Palestinian state. However, this was not a core point: the map in the 180-page plan shows Israel swapping land in the Negev near Gaza and Egypt with the Palestinians, and keeps the Triangle in Israel.

The idea of swapping the Triangle was highly controversial and sparked protests in the North and in Tel Aviv. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has said he opposes it.”

In short, worldwide audiences were once again denied information that erodes the narrative the BBC has chosen to promote – in this case that of supposed background to the “anger” of Arab Israeli voters.  

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2020

Throughout the month of February 2020, twenty-one written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were also published on other pages. Eleven of the 21 reports were carried over from the previous month, with ten of them relating to the US  Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal. 

(dates in brackets indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Five reports concerned security issues:

Syria war: Israel ‘hits Iran-backed fighters near Damascus’ (6/2/20 to 10/2/20) discussed here

Israeli-Palestinian violence flares up (6/2/20 to 12/2/20) discussed here

Russia says plane ‘almost hit’ by anti-aircraft fire in Syria (7/2/20 to 12/2/20)

Israeli soldiers duped by Hamas ‘fake women’ phone ruse (17/2/20 to 19/2/20) discussed here

Israel-Gaza sees surge of cross-border violence (24/2/20 to 27/2/20) discussed here

Ten items (all originally published in January) related to the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal (discussed here):

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’ (28/1/20 to 11/2/20 and 13/2/20)

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (28/1/20 to 13/2/20)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan (28/1/20 to 17/2/20)

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble Jeremy Bowen (27/1/20 to 7/2/20)

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues?  (29/1/20 to 10/2/20)

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool (29/1/20 to 11/2/20)

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman (28/1/20 to 25/2/20) discussed here

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (29/1/20 to 3/2/20 and 7/2/20 to 17/2/20)

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’ (29/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin (30/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Two additional items related to other political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

UN lists 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements (12/2/20 to 15/2/20) discussed here

Israel-Palestinian conflict: The family with its own checkpoint Tom Bateman (14/2/20 to 20/2/20) discussed here and here

One item concerned Palestinian affairs:

Mental health: Coping with the trauma of living in Gaza (29/2/20 to present) discussed here

Of three items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, one report concerned a legal/criminal case:

Naama Issachar: US-Israeli woman released from Russian prison (29/1/20 to 1/2/20)

One item related to planning:

Jerusalem: Jordan condemns Israeli Western Wall railway plan (18/2/20 to 23/2/20) discussed here

One article concerned tourism:

Crossing Divides: The hostel promoting tourism to ease Israel’s tensions Lucy Sherriff (16/2/20 to 19/2/20) discussed here

As we see, 47.6% of the items appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout February concerned the US administration ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal which had been released the previous month, with some of those items remaining available for an unusually long time. As ever, Israeli affairs received wider coverage than internal Palestinian affairs.

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2020

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019