Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Throughout the month of May 2019, twenty-five written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and two of which were carried over from the previous month.

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

Four reports concerned security issues:

‘Ceasefire’ after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel (6/5/19 to 8/5/19 and also 10/5/19 to 16/5/19) Replaced two previous videos at same URL which were discussed here

Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza (4/5/19 to 5/5/19) discussed here

Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify (5/5/19) discussed here

Gaza conflict: ‘Ceasefire’ after days of violence (5/5/19 to 10/5/19)

Five items related to political/diplomatic aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together Melissa Jun Rowley (30/4/19 to 6/5/19 and also 9/5/19) discussed here

Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran Paul Danahar (14/5/19 to 22/5/19) discussed here

US Israel-Palestinian peace plan ‘a surrender act’ – Palestinian FM (17/5/19 to 22/5/19) discussed here

Al Jazeera suspends journalists for Holocaust denial video (20/5/19 to 23/5/19)

Why Israel eyes the EU with distrust James Landale (21/5/19 to 30/5/19) discussed here

Of 16 reports concerning Israeli affairs, three were about internal politics:

Israel protests: Thousands rally against Netanyahu immunity (26/5/19 to 29/5/19)

Israel to hold fresh election as Netanyahu fails to form coalition (29/5/19 to 2/6/19)

Israel’s Netanyahu: Is ‘King’ Bibi’s crown slipping? Tom Bateman (30/5/19 to present)

Two reports concerned legal/criminal cases:

Sara Netanyahu: Israeli PM’s wife ‘agrees plea bargain’ (29/5/19 to 31/5/19)

Israel arrests man over Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning (13/5/19 to 16/5/19)

One report had a historical theme:

Israeli researchers brew ‘ancient beer’ with antique yeast (22/5/19 to 24/5/19)

One report was about environmental issues:

Israel probes Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning (10/5/19 to 13/5/19) discussed here and here

Two reports concerned science:

Israeli scientists ‘print 3D heart using human tissue’ (16/4/19 to 2/5/19)

Could desalination help prevent water wars in the Middle East?  Yolande Knell 10/5/19 to 18/5/19)

Two reports related to business or technology:

US states file lawsuit accusing drugs firms of inflating costs (12/5/19 to 14/5/19)

Facebook bans “inauthentic” accounts targeting Africa (17/5/19 to 20/5/19)

Four items related to the Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Tel Aviv:

Eurovision Tel Aviv 2019: Why the song contest is bigger than ever Steve Holden & Daniel Rosney (12/5/19 to 20/5/19) discussed here

Madonna Eurovision performance in doubt Mark Savage (14/5/19 to 15/5/19) discussed here

Hackers interrupt Israeli Eurovision webcast with faked explosions (15/5/19 to 17/5/19)

Clashes as ultra-orthodox Jews protest against Eurovision Tom Bateman (18/5/19 to 31/5/19)

One report can be classified as miscellaneous:

I never met my daughter’s dad – she was his dying wish Sarah McDermott (22/5/19 to 5/6/19)

While BBC audiences saw 16 reports concerning Israel, no coverage of internal Palestinian affairs appeared at all throughout the month.

Between January and May 2019 the BBC News website published sixty articles pertaining to Israeli affairs and just seven reports on internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

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More simplistic BBC framing of the US peace proposal

The June 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend’ included an item billed:

“…a senior governing party politician in Israel reflects on the need to hold elections again in three months.”

The item began with a fairly unremarkable interview (from 32:57 here) with former Jerusalem mayor, Likud party member and Knesset rookie Nir Barkat concerning his party’s failure to form a coalition government and the repeat general election to be held in September.

Presenter Julian Worricker then asked for comment from his two studio guests who had been introduced at the beginning of the programme as:

“Shaista Aziz – British journalist, writer, comedian and politician for the British Labour Party and Frank Langfitt, who’s London correspondent for the US National Public Radio network.”

Listeners were not informed that Shaista Aziz’s CV also includes stints with various political NGOs including Oxfam, Islamic Relief and Save the Children as well as a position on the management council of War on Want or that she spent two weeks in Schem as an ISM volunteer during the Second Intifada. Neither were they told of her current projectspokeswoman for the ‘Stop Trump Coalition’. 

Apparently uninterested in domestic Israeli politics, Langfitt chose to take up Worricker’s second question of “what it means for this Jared Kushner initiative”, opining that the upcoming Israeli election “gives the Americans a little more time to sell a plan that they haven’t really told people what it might be” and going on:

Langfitt: “The second thing to remember is that it’s going to be met with scepticism in part, certainly the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. You know the United States at times was seen as an honest broker in the Middle East but it’s very hard for Palestinians or most Arabs to see that when you move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Later on Langfitt added:

Langfitt: “I don’t think it’s going to be an easy sell for the Americans with this administration, frankly with President Trump and the things that he’s done that have been very provocative to Arabs and Palestinians.”

Listeners heard no explanation as to why the relocation of the US embassy to an existing facility in an area of Jerusalem to which the Palestinians ostensibly make no claim should be “very provocative”.  Neither were the discussion’s participants interested in analysing Worricker’s observation that “the Palestinians have already been highly critical of what they anticipate to be in this report [sic] even though it’s not been published”.

Shaista Aziz’s contribution to the conversation began with the presentation of unevidenced and simplistic allegations as ‘fact’.

Aziz: “Well, you know, Netanyahu is widely regarded as one of the most Right-wing leaders in Israel’s history. He’s not a man known for compromise or nuance – let’s be clear about that. We know that the war drums are beating over Iran which this…this election will impact that as well I think…”

Worricker made no effort to challenge those facile claims before Aziz brought up the unrelated topic of infrastructure problems in the Gaza Strip caused by Palestinian infighting.

Aziz: “I’m very glad that the Palestinians have been named and mentioned here because, you know, Gaza – the UN is saying – is almost uninhabitable. You’ve got a sewage system that’s collapsed, a water system that’s collapsed, agricultural issues and then at the heart of this is people who’ve lost hope so you’ve got large numbers of young people in Israel and Palestine who cannot see a way out of this for them in terms of their political leadership finding a just solution and a just peace…”

Speaking on a radio station where barely a day goes by without at least one report concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, Aziz went on to claim that:

Aziz: “…an international solution will only be accepted if it’s a just solution and I think the issue of Palestine’s dropped off the radar and I do believe that these elections are going to end up being a big destruction and used by extremists on both sides.”

And so pre-emptive BBC framing of the as yet unpublished US administration initiative plods on with yet more superficial commentary that herds audiences towards the view that if the US peace proposal goes nowhere, that will be due to internal Israeli politics and because the US administration has done “provocative” things – not because the Palestinians have rejected the proposal before even seeing it.    

Related Articles:

BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

Looking beyond BBC framing of the US peace proposal

BBC News coverage of incendiary attacks in two locations

Last year we documented how it took the BBC three months to get round to producing one short report about the arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip within the framework of the ‘Great Return March’ which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of nature reserves, woodland and farm land in nearby Israeli communities.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

No additional reporting on that topic has been seen in the past eleven months even though the attacks have continued and even been ‘upgraded’ to include airborne explosive devices. The BBC of course continues to portray the activities of Gaza Strip residents along the border with Israel as “protests”.

The ITIC reports that:

“Since the ceasefire (May 6, 2019) that ended the most recent round of escalation, there has been a gradual increase in the launching of incendiary and IED balloons from the Gaza Strip. During the past two weeks it has become intensive and systematic, and caused scores of fires near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border. […]

During the long span of arson terrorism attacks (more than a year), more than 2000 fires have been set in Israel (according to data from the Israel Fire and Rescue Services in the southern district and the Jewish National Fund (JNF)), burning approximately 8700 acres (JNF). Most of the fires broke out near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, burning agricultural fields, natural forests and nature preserves. Arson terrorism also contributed to the disruption of daily life in the local Israeli communities and caused moral and psychological damage.”

Since that last round of escalation in early May BBC audiences have seen plenty of reporting concerning the Gaza Strip – including an interview with a Hamas spokesman – but no coverage of the increased arson attacks launched from that territory which have caused damage to crops.

photo credit: ITIC

However, visitors to the BBC News website on May 29th did learn about the deliberate burning of agricultural land in another location.

Titled “Syrian military ‘burning farmland in rebel-held north’”, the report informs readers that:

“Satellite images show large areas of farmland in opposition-held north-west Syria have been burnt as part of what activists allege is a campaign by the government to destroy vital food crops.

Civil defence workers say incendiary weapons have been fired repeatedly at fields in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces in the past month. […]

The Syria Civil Defence – whose rescue workers are known as the White Helmets – accuses the government and its ally Russia of seeking to “burn all aspects of life” in the last region still held by the opposition after eight years of war.

In addition to bombing residential areas, it says, the Syrian and Russian militaries have targeted farmland with rockets and shells containing incendiary chemicals, causing “large pervasive fires which have destroyed all farm crops and deprived peasant farmers of their coming harvests”.

Satellite photographs taken at the start and end of last week by Maxar Technologies showed areas of scorched earth and plumes of smoke around the town of al-Habeet, in southern Idlib province, and neighbouring Kafr Nabouda, in northern Hama province.”

So if the deliberate burning of farmland in northern Syria is newsworthy – as it of course should be – why has the BBC not produced any reporting on similar events in southern Israel in the past eleven months?

Related Articles:

A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

 

The BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra goes north

Shortly after 8:45 p.m. on the evening of June 1st, two projectiles were fired from Syria towards the Golan Heights with one landing in an open area and the other falling short of the border.

Some 18 hours later the BBC News website published a report with a headline that told readers only of the Israeli response some seven hours after that attack – “Israel strikes Syrian targets near Golan Heights”.

The attack which sparked the incident was given barely half a sentence of coverage, with no details provided.

“Israeli aircraft have struck Syrian army targets after rockets were fired at the occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli military says.”

The report did however include a Tweet giving details of the targets in Syria later struck by Israel.

A previous incident which the BBC did not report at the time – May 27th – was also mentioned.

“On Monday, IDF said it had attacked a Syrian anti-aircraft system that fired on one of its warplanes. Syrian state media said one soldier had been killed in that incident.”

However readers were not informed that this is the second time this year that missiles have been fired from deep inside Syria at the northern Golan Heights – perhaps because that previous incident in January received scant and belated BBC coverage.

The majority of this report (69% of its total word count) is devoted to background including a lengthy section headed “What are the Golan Heights?”.

As usual, the BBC’s accounts of history begin in June 1967 with no mention of what happened before “Israel seized the Golan” or why it did so.

“Israel seized most of the Golan from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East war, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake the region during the 1973 war.”

A photo caption tells BBC audiences that “Syria will not agree a peace deal with Israel unless it withdraws from the whole of the Golan” and the article goes on to state that:

“Syria has always insisted that it will not agree a peace deal with Israel unless it withdraws from the whole of the Golan. The last US-brokered direct peace talks broke down in 2000, while Turkey mediated in indirect talks in 2008.”

Readers are not told that Syria was offered precisely that in the 1990s and once again we see that the BBC has adopted the Syrian narrative, according to which demilitarised zones established under the 1949 armistice agreement are part of “the whole of the Golan”. 

Since the US recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights earlier this year, the BBC has taken to using the same ‘international law’ mantra that it promotes concerning Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem also in relation to communities on the Golan – see previous examples here and here

“There are more than 30 Israeli settlements in the Golan, which are home to an estimated 20,000 people. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The report closes with a claim also seen in previous reports:

“The settlers live alongside some 20,000 Syrians, most of them Druze Arabs, who did not flee when the Golan was captured.”

Obviously most of those people were not around 52 years ago “when the Golan was captured” (the total population of the four Druze communities in the northern Golan was around 7,400 in 1967) and so the sloppy claim that twenty thousand people “did not flee” is inaccurate.

Notably, we see that the BBC presumptuously portrays the Alawite residents of Ghajar – who are Israeli citizens – and the Druze residents of the northern Golan who have chosen to take Israeli citizenship as “Syrians”.

Related Articles:

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

 

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

As we have had cause to note in the past, the BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

That guidance was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

On June 3rd visitors to the BBC News website saw yet another example of that BBC adoption of PLO terminology in the synopsis to a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman titled “Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site”.

“Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers broke out at Al Aqsa mosque compound, the holy site also known to Jews as Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

What that synopsis describes as “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers” [sic] was actually violent rioting initiated by people who certainly were not ‘worshipping’ at the time.

“Following the report that Jews will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Sunday, according to the Police Spokesperson’s Unit.

The commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, ordered the police to enter the Temple Mount and take care of the rioters.

As the police attempted to enter the place, Arab worshipers began throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the forces. The forces responded with riot dispersal means.”

The report itself opens with similar terminology promoting the notion that the violence ‘broke out’ all by itself and with no account of what the rioters actually did. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Clashes broke out at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Palestinians were angered by this Jewish visit to the compound. It came on a day of high tensions.”

Audiences were not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism or that under existing agreements, while non-Muslims have the right to visit the site, they do not have equal prayer rights there. The report continued:

“Later in the day, outside the walls of the Old City…

Bateman: “This is a pretty potent mix of religion and nationalism for these Israelis. They’re just passing through Damascus Gate into the Muslim quarter of the Old City, populated with Palestinian shops and homes. The message from these people is that the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Of course the Palestinians they’re about to walk past think very differently.”

Man [voiceover] “What’s happening in Jerusalem today is a robbery of Jerusalem. If this is the capital of Isreal [sic], why do you need all these forces to show everyone that this is your undivided capital.”

The use of the term ‘Isreal’ in the subtitles is either a grave spelling error or promotion of a term which is frequently used by anti-Israel activists to negate the country. The report went on:

“The parade is known to Israelis as the ‘March of Flags’. It celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war of 1967.”

Bateman then showcased one of the participants who presumably gave him the answer he was looking for.

Bateman: “What do you think of these Palestinians here watching people go past?”

Woman: “We don’t have this country, Palestine. Only Israel. The Palestinians can live with us. It’s good but it’s [us] who own the country.”

Bateman’s own retort to the woman was not shown in the subtitles.

Bateman: “You get a real sense of the confrontation at a moment like this. The Israelis dance with flags and the Palestinians are being stopped behind lines of police.”

The report ends:

“The march ends at the Western Wall…the holiest site at which Jews can pray. Israelis couldn’t access it for two decades before the war of 1967.”

Remarkably, this report on the topic of Jerusalem Day – the day marking the reunion of Jerusalem – avoided telling BBC audiences that the reason Israelis couldn’t “access” the Western Wall “for two decades” was because Jordan had belligerently invaded and occupied the area, ethnically cleansing Jews from the Old City in the process.

 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 31st edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme ran an item which included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell ostensibly about Palestinians from the Gaza Strip travelling to Jerusalem for healthcare.

That was followed by an interview with a British MP who had been taken on a four-day paid trip to Jerusalem by the anti-Israel NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ and who falsely claimed that two premature infants born to a mother from the Gaza Strip had ‘died alone’ in a Jerusalem hospital because of “inhumane” Israeli security checks before entry permits are given to Gaza Strip residents.

Not only did presenter Mishal Husain fail to challenge the inaccurate version of the story told by her interviewee Rosena Allin-Khan, but she went on to embellish it with fictions of her own. 

Following that, Husain introduced her final interviewee ( from 01:53:29 here) and in her opening statements, once again promoted the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had woven – this time in the plural.

Husain: “…Sharon Bar-li is Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK. […] What would you say to that point that Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has…has made that the system at the moment means that there are Palestinian children who die alone in hospitals in Jerusalem?

Bar-li: “…the policy is such that no child, no patient, should go into Israel to receive medical treatment by itself. Every patient should be accompanied and when it comes to children, it should be accompanied preferably by a parent, by the mother or by family member…”

Husain continued to inflate her own chimera, using a story from Knell’s report in which one child traveled to Jerusalem for chemotherapy with a grandparent as the base for the unevidenced claim that “often” parents do not get a permit to accompany their child.

Husain: “Yeah. I mean you know that it often doesn’t…from what we’ve heard in that report, often it is not the parent that for whatever reason – a security reason I imagine – the parent does not receive…ehm…the permit to enter Israel. But what kind of security risk is really posed by the parent of a child who’s going for chemotherapy or indeed a mother who’s just given birth to triplets?”

Once again Husain used a strawman argument: obviously the mother of the triplets was not deemed a security risk because she got a permit to travel to Jerusalem for the birth in the first place and later was given another permit to travel to collect her daughter from the hospital.

Bar-li: “As you know, Gaza is controlled by Hamas which is a terror organisation and there’s been plenty of cases in the past where unfortunately Hamas has abused – cynically abused – patients, many times without their knowledge, planting on them explosives, money, other information or devices, in order to instigate terror attacks. There are…”

As is all too often the case when Mishal Husain interviews Israelis, she then became noticeably impatient and proceeded to repeatedly interrupt her interviewee.

Husain [interrupts]: “Parents of children who are going to Israel for chemotherapy?”

Bar-li: “They don’t know. There has been cases in [the year] two thousand…”

Husain [interrupts]: “How many cases?”

Bar-li: “There has been several cases like this. Imagine when you go into hospital carrying a medical tube and this medical tube actually has an explosive in it. Can you imagine what would happen if it will explode in a hospital? And even if there were only…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Sorry, just to be clear: has that actually happened? When did it happen? How many times did that happen?”

Had the BBC bothered to report that story (and many similar ones) at the time, Husain would perhaps have known what her interviewee was talking about.

Bar-li: “It happened in 2017. There was a case of two sisters, one of them was a cancer patient. Her sister accompanied her and without their knowledge they were given medical tubes in which there were explosives. And it was revealed and a great disaster was prevented. There are also interviews with Hamas militants that were arrested in which they are exposing the methods and in which they are testifying to this method. Hence security measures need to be taken and we have to be extra vigilant. It’s important also to mention the role of the Palestinian Authority in…in delaying or preventing some of these permits.”

Husain obviously was not interested in having the deputy ambassador tell listeners about Palestinian Authority policies relevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion.

Husain: “OK yes because it’s a complicated process of getting approvals from different points.”

Bar-li: “Not just…not just because of the complication of the process…”

Husain [interrupts]: “There are many layers of it.”

Bar-li: “Actually recently…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You heard…you heard what we’ve been…it’s just that we understand the process is complicated but we can see from the figures that the approvals for patients who are travelling from Gaza into Israel, the numbers of those have been going steadily down over the years. In 2012, which was after Hamas came to power, it was something like more than 90% and it’s now down to around 65%. There are lives that are being lost in the process.”

Bar-li: “Over the years tens of thousands of Palestinians exit Gaza, entered into Israel to receive life-saving treatment. We of course sympathise with any person in need but at the same time we should remember that there is a complex situation. Actually, when you look at the numbers of [for] 2018, you see a 15% increase in humanitarian permits being issued to Gazans in comparison to 2017.”

Husain: “It’s currently 65% of permits that are approved according to the WHO. Those were the figures from March 2019 which is down from where they were in 2012.”

A closer look at the World Health Organisation data supposedly quoted by Husain shows that while indeed 65% of the 2,004 applications for travel permits for patients were approved in March, it is not the case that – as listeners would naturally have concluded – 35% were refused. In fact 32% of the total requests were delayed and 4% denied.

Husain then indulged herself with some blatantly brash editorialising which once again used the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had earlier cooked up:

Husain: “The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people and no child should die alone.”

As Sharon Bar-li tried to respond, Husain cut her off and closed the item there.

It is of course all too clear that this long item was not news but over twelve minutes of journalistic activism based primarily on a false story irresponsibly promoted by a British MP who was taken on a paid jaunt by an organisation devoted primarily to anti-Israel campaigning for decades.

Not only did the BBC clearly make no effort to check that story and its dubious source, but Mishal Husain deliberately spun it into ‘fact’ in order to influence audience opinion on this topic, thereby providing backwind for existing political campaigning by that anti-Israel NGO and others.

That of course is ‘fake news’ according to this definition:

“Fake news is a problem for different reasons.

The first kind of fake news – deliberate lies – is a problem because it can make people believe things that are completely untrue.

The second kind – when people publish something without checking that it’s completely right – can make people have less trust in the media, as well as make everyone believe something that might be inaccurate.

People also only tend to share things that they agree with. So if people are sharing a lot of fake news, and lots of people believe it, it’s easy to get sucked into a bubble that is actually completely different to the real world – and a long way from the truth.”

That definition was produced by the BBC itself within the framework of its claim to counter fake news. In fact, as we see in this example, the BBC itself contributes to the phenomenon. 

Related Articles:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

Resources:

 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

For years the BBC’s portrayal of the topic of healthcare in the Gaza Strip has failed to give audiences an accurate and impartial view of the subject.

BBC News passes up the chance to set the record straight on Gaza shortages

The BBC, the Gaza Strip and medical supplies

No BBC follow-up on story used to mislead on Gaza medical services

Moreover, while the BBC knows full well that issues such as shortages of medical supplies and medicines – along with refusals to cover treatment costs and late or non-existent applications for entry permits into Israel for Palestinian patients – are the results of Palestinian Authority policies, it continues to frame such topics as being first and foremost connected to Israeli security measures.

“There is a considerable impact through the blockade on health facilities and that was shown…for example I did a report that ran last night on the ten o’clock news and you could see how medical facilities are suffering.” Mishal Husain, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, January 18th 2019

Not infrequently, BBC audiences have been told partially portrayed stories about children and infants to illustrate such reports.

“Because the blockade restricts the movement of people, patients need to request permission to leave. This two-day old baby with a congenital heart defect was waiting for an exit permit when we filmed him. Four days later he died. His permission hadn’t come through.” Mishal Husain, BBC One ‘News at Ten’, January 17th 2019

And it’s becoming more difficult to get Israeli permits to transfer seriously ill patients out of Gaza, partly because the PA is giving fewer guarantees it will cover their medical costs elsewhere. The doctor tells me how, days ago, he broke this news to the parents of a newborn with a congenital heart condition who went on to die. ‘How did I do this?’ he asks me. ‘I’m speaking to you not as a doctor but as a human being’.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC Radio 4, July 22nd 2017 [emphasis added]

The latest BBC report in that genre was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on May 31st. Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the long item (from 01:45:37 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition such as cancer in Gaza, where many medical treatments are not available, means a series of complex problems beyond your diagnosis. With a financial crisis and a deep rift between Hamas – which rules Gaza – and Fatah – which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – many drugs are in short supply.”

If listeners thought that they were about to hear more about that “deep rift” and how it and PA policy translates into a long-standing crisis in the health system in the Gaza Strip and reduced referrals for treatment elsewhere, they were mistaken.

Husain: “Treatments and travel are also restricted by the tight blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Often, a patient’s best hope is to get to one of the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. The final stage of that process is a permit from the Israeli authorities. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “There’s a crowd of cancer patients at the Augusta Victoria reception from early morning. Many come from Gaza and have had long hold-ups for potentially life-saving treatment.”

Woman [voiceover]: “My treatment is going to take longer as my tumour grew because of the delay. The longer you wait, the scarier it gets with this disease.”

Knell: “And yet these patients say they’re lucky as they’ve reached East Jerusalem. Those aged 16 to 55 have gone through more thorough Israeli security checks. Now, they’re in the only Palestinian hospital where Israel allows radiation treatment and it has the drugs they need.”

According to a study published in October 2018:

“In 2013, the first radiation oncology service in the Palestinian territories opened in the August-Victoria Hospital. There are now three linear accelerators in the Palestinian territories…” [emphasis added]

The report continued:

Woman [voiceover]: “In Gaza it’s difficult. All they do is check you. You live, you die, that’s it. The travelling is exhausting but this is the only place to get treatment. Getting permits is hard unless you’re in your 50s or 60s. Many younger people just have to stay in Gaza.”

Knell: Increasingly, hospitals in Gaza lack essential medicines including for cancer. The territory’s run by Hamas but a rival administration – the Palestinian Authority – is responsible for sending medical supplies. The PA also authorises patients getting treated outside. Then, the Israeli authorities decide who gets an exit permit. The bureaucracy for Gazans exasperates oncologist Dr Yussuf Hamamra [phonetic].”

Hamamra: “They have to go through a very complicated process. That’s mean two thirds of them they are coming to us in very advanced stage unfortunately. They need to have permission to come from the Israeli side and also financial coverage from the Palestinian minister [ministry] of health and you know sometimes here the politics of course will affect strongly the situation and [unintelligible] the patients they need to come to my clinic within 2 weeks, they need at least 2 months.”

Knell: “Upstairs, in the children’s ward, 13-year-old Mahmoud sings for his nurses while he’s hooked up to a drip for his chemotherapy. The lyrics about homesickness are poignant but for the first time in a year, Mahmoud does have his mum with him instead of an elderly grandparent. She’s now got security clearance from Israel.”

With no identifying details given, it is of course impossible to check out Knell’s story and understand why the mother allegedly did not initially receive a permit. Knell made no effort to fill in those obviously relevant details for listeners before going on to tell of more than one baby “on their own” but actually providing details of just one case.

Knell: “And here, in the neo-natal ward at the Makassed hospital, there are some tiny patients on their own. After the militant group Hamas took over Gaza more than a decade ago, Israel tightened its restrictions on people’s movements, citing security concerns. The Israeli authorities say it’s their policy for sick children to be accompanied by a parent but that doesn’t always happen. Baby Shahd was born prematurely in January, the only survivor of triplets. She’s now healthy, smiling at me in her cot. For over two months she’s been waiting to be taken home. Her mother was sent back to Gaza shortly after giving birth. This cash-strapped hospital had no place for her to stay.” […]

When I watch, it’s a nurse feeding Shahd but later I’m told of a happy reunion. Her mother was finally able to come and collect her this week. The staff are delighted. Here, at the East Jerusalem hospitals, they care for some of the most vulnerable Palestinian patients – tough financial and political realities only adding to the serious conditions they’re in.”

The background to that story promoted by Knell – which had been reported on May 29th by an Israeli media outlet and which again came up moments later in the same item – is actually as follows:

“In January, the Gazan woman, pregnant with triplets, arrived at the Makassed Hospital for urgent surgery. She went into labor and gave birth but two of the siblings, both boys, died days later.

The mother returned to Gaza to bury her two sons while Shahd, the girl, stayed behind in Jerusalem, where she was taken care of by hospital staff.

The hospital repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to request a permit from the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories for Shahd’s mother or father to come back to Israel, but the efforts failed. […]

COGAT said in a statement that it received just one previous request for a permit, but it was faulty and therefore not approved.”

Mishal Husain then (from 01:50:54) introduced the next part of the item.

Husain: “Well Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is a Labour MP and has recently returned from Jerusalem and the West Bank where she was visiting hospitals and doing medical work. […] And one of the cases you saw was that of this little baby.”

Allin-Khan did indeed visit the region between April 4th and 8th this year on a trip paid for by the political NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) as she went on to state. However, listeners heard nothing from her or from Mishal Husain about that NGO’s political agenda and its history of anti-Israel campaigning.

Allin-Khan then proceeded – unchallenged by Husain – to give a false account of the story.

Allin-Khan: “Yes, I met baby Shahd when I went to East Jerusalem with Medical Aid for Palestinians to help them and support their work that they do there. I met baby Shahd who sadly was the only baby surviving of three triplets born to a mother that wasn’t able to stay in the hospital and the sad case was that the staff in the hospital had to tell the mother over the phone that her other two babies had died. Being a clinician myself I cannot imagine what that must be like. But being a mother, I cannot imagine the incomprehensible pain to hear that you cannot be with your children as they take their dying breath.”

Rather than correcting the inaccurate version of the story told by her interviewee, Husain embellished it.  

Husain: “Because she had gone back to…eh…Gaza or her permit didn’t allow her to remain and the three new-born babies were in this…were in this neo-natal unit.”

Allin-Khan: “Yes.”

Husain: “What about the children who are having cancer treatment? There was one of them reflected in that report who had his mother with him on that day but there are other times when they’re receiving chemotherapy without their parents being allowed to have come to Jerusalem with them.”

Allin-Khan then came up with a completely unsupported claim that likewise went unquestioned.

Allin-Khan: “It’s very rare for them to have their parents with them. I went to the paediatric oncology ward that was featured in the piece and it’s full of children whose eyes are full of fear and sadness. Some as young as 2 or 3 facing chemotherapy alone without their mother. And we wouldn’t find it acceptable in the UK for children to endure the most unspeakable pain such as going through cancer chemotherapy without their mother there and some of them were so distressed that they couldn’t even communicate with their parents over the phone.”

Husain: “I mean there’s a complicated security situation – we’ll be talking to the Israeli deputy ambassador about that in a moment – but what could be done do you think to improve this? At least for the children.”

Allin-Khan: “Fundamentally this is a humanitarian crisis born out of political choice. The cases described today are not uncommon and frankly inhumane. Permit delays are in fact permit denials which in many cases cost lives and I’m going to be calling on the UK government to apply pressure on the Israeli government because I would hope that everyone, regardless of their politics, has enough humanity to accept that no child should die alone or endure painful treatment on their own.”

So what did Radio 4 listeners actually get here? Yolande Knell picked up a story which had appeared two days earlier in the Israeli media and made an item out of it which dovetails nicely with the BBC’s existing framing of the topic of Israeli counter-terrorism measures. The ‘Today’ programme then brought in a British MP with a vague connection to the same story to promote commentary that serves the long-standing political campaign by MAP and other anti-Israel NGOs concerning the ‘blockade’.

Listeners did not hear the word ‘terror’ once throughout those seven minutes but they did hear a false version of the core story which enabled promotion of the notion that children “die alone” and undergo “painful treatment on their own” (even when a grandparent or another family member is present) because of Israeli policy – which was clearly signposted to listeners as being “inhumane”.

The rest of this item will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

BBC Watch prompts removal of Nazi analogy from BBC Arabic website

As documented here last week, on May 15th the BBC Arabic website published an article about a demonstration which had taken place a few days earlier in London.

“In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending […] had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.”

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified by the BBC – including an antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and the reply we received includes the following:

“Thank you for getting in touch and your complaint in which you claim that we ‘promoted anti-Semitism’ in an article published by the BBC Arabic service.

I forwarded your email to the editors of the Arabic service…

In reply – we try, as much as possible, to cover all different angles of Arab-Israeli conflict which simultaneously doesn’t necessarily mean that angles have to be crammed into every story. At the beginning of the article in question we did mention how the two sides view and celebrate/mourn this day. This story focused on one angle due to the nature of the event, the interviewees taking part in the event and the related trend on Arabic social media. In short – our view is that any objective assessment of the coverage of Arab-Israeli conflict on the Arabic site should be based on the entirety of the coverage across different medium: TV, Online & Radio, and not judged by one single article.    

Turning specifically to the allegation of ‘promoting antisemitism’, the accurate of the quote in question is: “I was, and still, very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I have visited Herzl Museum in Jerusalem to know more about them, but now I fail to comprehend the fact that Israelis are practicing violent acts on the same level of atrocity to the Palestinians”.

We don’t accept the complaint that it ‘promotes antisemitism.’ Our aim is to reflect the world as we find it and this quote was the strongly held view of the contributor, which we reported accurately. However, we have removed the quote as it does, in our view represent, an overblown comparison on the part of contributor. [emphasis added]

I hope the above clarifies the matter.”

The quote was indeed removed from the article on May 29th – two weeks after its initial publication – but with nothing added to inform readers of that fact.

Once again we see that, in addition to ignoring recommendations concerning the spelling of the word, the BBC apparently believes itself to have both the authority and the expertise to make pronunciations on what is – or is not – antisemitism. 

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism – such as that published by the IHRA over three years ago – in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms.

And sadly, that need is still embarrassingly obvious.

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?

 

 

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

A demonstration organised by groups including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa and the Muslim Association of Britain took place in London earlier this month. As documented by the ITIC:

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas – and Muslim Brotherhood – affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches [Great Return March – Ed.]. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Also among the speakers at that event was Glyn Secker of (among others) ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – a group frequently featured in BBC content. Secker was briefly suspended by the Labour party last year due to participation in a Facebook group promoting antisemitic material. As reported by the Jewish News:

“The “National Demonstration for Palestine: Exist! Resist! Return!” march – attended by several Labour MPs, including Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon – had placards claiming that “Israel provokes antisemitism”. […]

Glyn Secker, secretary of the Anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour, told the demonstrators that the 119 Labour MPs who were “friends of Israel” a “fifth column in the Labour Party led by [Dame Margaret] Hodge and [Tom] Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement.”

Claiming that the Zionist Federation was “embracing” the neo-Nazi English Defence League, Secker told the crowd gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place: “What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?

“Here’s a warning to the [British] Jewish leadership, while you foment your campaign of allegations of antisemitism against [Jeremy] Corbyn and the left to silence Israel’s critics, while you cry wolf month after month, year after year in the Labour Party and remain blind to the explosion of the far-right and Islamophobia, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” 

He added: “You serve to protect the poison that would destroy both our freedom and yours. Well brothers and sisters, we are on the side of the Palestinians. We are on the side of the freedom marchers of ghetto Gaza.””

Although that demonstration took place literally on the BBC’s doorstep, we have been unable to find any English language coverage of it.

However four days later, on May 15th, the BBC Arabic website published an article which opened:

“Today marks the seventy-first anniversary of the Nakba, the name given by Palestinians and Arabs to the humanitarian tragedy of the displacement of a large number of the Palestinian people from their homes and the destruction of most of their political, economic and civilisational features following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1984 [sic].”

The article went on to tell readers that Palestinians “continue to live in refugee camps” – but not why – before showcasing a number of posts on social media which “stressed the right of return” – but with no explanation of what that actually means. Among the Tweets chosen by the BBC was one from professional anti-Israel activist Ben White.

Referring to the ‘Great Return March, the article told readers that “60 people were killed in last year’s major rally, coinciding with the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem” – but not that the majority of them have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending (which, interestingly, did not publish an English language version of this article on its BBC News website blog) had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified.

“But things changed for her in 2012 when she visited the West Bank and witnessed the “inhuman treatment” of Palestinians by Israelis, especially in the city of Hebron.”

“The “Palestinian cause” has become a symbol of all forms of injustice and injustice in various parts of the world. Those who defend any just cause anywhere in the world must support the Palestinians in the face of Israeli injustice and aggression.”

“I was ignorant of what was going on there, but I started to research, read and listen to people, and I concluded that what was happening was terrible, but that it was racist.”

“Alicia considers that what is more important than demonstrating on Nakba Day or other occasions is “to engage in the campaign to boycott Israel. This is a method that has proved successful with apartheid in South Africa and will make a big difference to the Palestinian cause.”

BBC Trending also had no qualms about promoting antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

At the beginning of 2018 BBC Arabic had a weekly reach of 43 million people. Apparently the BBC is quite happy for such an antisemitic statement to be promoted to that audience.

 

 

 

 

BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ fails to challenge misinformation on antisemitism

The news that the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) had opened an investigation into the UK Labour Party in order to determine whether it “has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” prompted the BBC Two flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’ to air a related report on May 28th.

The report included an interview with Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and former Labour MP Clare Short by presenter Emma Barnett.

Much of Clare Short’s contribution focused on promoting one specific false claim which, given her record of anti-Israel activism and her previous statements concerning the Labour party antisemitism scandal, could hardly have come as a surprise to those who solicited her participation.

“…what’s happened is there’s been a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. The anyone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called antisemitic. That’s what’s happened.”

“…but what I’ve said about this whole dilemma is true. They’ve broadened the definition to say criticism of Israel, which is in breach of international law, is part of antisemitism. And then people who are active on that issue are being picked on.”

“I am saying that criticism of Israel’s breaches of international law is not antisemitism.”

“…but if the definition has been stretched to include criticism of Israel…”

“Do you think the definition of antisemitism should include criticism of Israel?”

“…everybody should make this distinction: antisemitism is evil. Extending the definition to prevent people having any sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians is a misuse of that allegation.”

Although Siobhain McDonagh did protest Short’s claims on two occasions – “That isn’t what’s happened” – at no point during the item were viewers informed that Short’s Livingstone Formulation allegation is patently false or that the opening paragraph of the relevant IHRA working definition of antisemitism specifically states:

“Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, ‘Newsnight’ further promoted Short’s misinformation on Twitter.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding…so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.”