Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

As noted here last week, on December 9th the BBC News website produced the corporation’s first English language report of the year on the topic of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip – despite numerous other attacks having taken place throughout 2017.

Readers of that report were told that:

“Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

After more attacks took place, the BBC News website produced another report on the same topic on December 14th – “Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire” – in which readers were similarly informed that:

“There has been an escalation of hostilities since President Donald Trump gave US recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel a week ago.”

Relating to incidents which took place the previous evening, the article opened:

“Israel has carried out fresh air strikes in the Gaza strip on what it said were military facilities belonging to the Islamist group Hamas.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had targeted training camps and weapons storage compounds.

The strikes happened after four rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory.”

Later on readers learned that:

“One rocket landed in a field in southern Israel, one reportedly fell short, landing inside the Gaza strip, while two were intercepted.”

However, BBC audiences were not told that the missile that fell short reportedly hit a school in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip – which was fortunately empty at the time.

“Earlier on Wednesday night, four rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, a third struck an open field and the fourth fell short of the border and hit a school in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.

The rocket that fell short destroyed an empty classroom in Beit Hanoun’s Ghazi al-Shawa public school, according to the IDF.”

On December 15th yet another rocket fired by terror groups in the Gaza Strip fell short, also reportedly hitting a structure in Beit Hanoun.

“A rocket was fired at Israel from Gaza on Friday evening, yet hit a residential building in the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun, the Israeli army’s coordinator of government activities in the territories said. […]

According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the house was significantly damaged. In a Facebook post in Arabic COGAT said that “once again terror organizations launch rockets at Gaza residents themselves.”

Despite the BBC being one of the few media outlets to have a permanent presence in the Gaza Strip, no mention of that shortfall missile appeared in the BBC News website’s December 15th report titled “Jerusalem: Palestinians killed in fresh clashes with Israel“.

In the first two versions of that report, readers were told that:

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website, pointing out that the projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip throughout the past ten days were not “mortars”. The report was subsequently amended and that paragraph now reads as follows:

Remarkably, despite the recent uptick in missile fire from the Gaza Strip the BBC has not sent any of its Jerusalem-based correspondents to report from the Israeli communities affected by those attacks. As we see – and not for the first time – the corporation also continues to ignore residents of the Gaza Strip who fall victim to shortfall rockets fired by terror groups in the territory.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during November 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 84 incidents took place: fifty-three in Judea & Samaria, twenty-nine in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and one in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 72 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using explosive devices, one shooting attack, one vehicular attack and two arson attacks. A fatal stabbing attack took place in Arad and there was one incident of multiple mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.

During November one soldier was murdered in the stabbing attack in Arad and two civilians were wounded in the vehicular attack at Gush Etzion Junction.

As noted here at the time, the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on that vehicular attack. The stabbing attack in Arad on November 30th in which Sgt Ron Yitzhak Kukia was murdered was covered the next day in a BBC report that also mentioned the mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. None of the additional incidents that took place during November received any BBC News website coverage.

Throughout the first eleven months of 2017 the BBC News website has reported 0.79% of the total terror attacks that took place and 88% of the resulting fatalities.

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How did BBC radio frame the US announcement on Jerusalem?

Last week we looked at the way in which the story of the US president’s statement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city was framed in reports on the BBC News website even before that announcement had been made.

BBC radio stations likewise devoted coverage to that story prior to the actual announcement. BBC World Service radio, for example, aired items about that story in four different programmes in the twenty-four hours before the statement was issued.

December 5th:

1) ‘Newshour’ presented by Tim Franks (from 00:34 here).

In that item listeners heard from the BBC’s Yolande Knell who did note the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’, its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the waivers signed by US presidents since then. In addition listeners heard negative reactions to the anticipated announcement from the PA’s Nabil Shaath and from Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal who misrepresented the 2004 ICJ advisory opinion on the “legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian Territory” as a “legal ruling” with no challenge from Franks. A negative opinion was also heard from the former advisor to US administrations Aaron David Miller. No Israeli voices were present in that programme.

December 6th:

2) ‘Newsday’ presented by Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach.

The early edition of that programme included a re-broadcasting of the statement from Nabil Shaath, an interview with Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer and an interview with Mustafa Barghouti which was discussed here.

A later edition included interviews with American human rights lawyer Brooke Goldstein and Saree Makdisi which was discussed here and a still later edition of the programme recycled a version of Barghouti’s comments and reporting from Yolande Knell.

3) ‘The Newsroom’ presented by Claire MacDonald.

In that programme (from 00:05 here) listeners heard reporting from the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus and recorded statements from the PLO’s Manuel Hassassian and Israeli minister Naftali Bennett.

4) ‘Newshour’ presented by James Coomarasamy.

In addition to reporting from the BBC’s Barbara Plett-Usher (from 00:05 here) listeners heard interviews with Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli MK Yoav Kish and a Jerusalem bookseller called Mahmoud Muna. Later on in the same programme listeners heard a problematic portrayal of Jerusalem’s history from British academic Mick Dumper which was discussed here.

In all, listeners to those four BBC World Service programmes heard two from two American interviewees (one presenting the announcement as negative and one as positive), two Israeli politicians and one Israeli journalist. They also heard negative views from one Jordanian and one British academic as well as in interviews with Palestinian commentators that were promoted (including repeats) a total of eight times.

In other words, negative views of the anticipated announcement got nearly three times as much exposure as positive ones on the BBC World Service in the twenty-four hours preceding the US president’s statement.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the topic discussed in three programmes on the same day.

December 6th:  

1) ‘Today’ presented by Mishal Husain and John Humphrys

That programme included reporting from the BBC’s Yolande Knell, Barbara Plett Usher and Jon Sopel as well as interviews with the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat (discussed here) and the PLO’s Manuel Hassassian (discussed here).

2) ‘World at One’ presented by Martha Kearney

In that programme listeners heard from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen (from 34:24 here) who made no mention of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, preferring to ‘explain’ the anticipated announcement as follows:

“It was an election promise. As well as people who are Jews who are pro-Israel who may have voted for him – and in fact most Jews in America vote for the Democratic party – he’s also got a lot of support from evangelical Christians who are very, very strong supporters of Israel. So it could be that.”

3) ‘PM’ presented by Eddie Mair

In that programme too Radio 4 listeners heard from Jeremy Bowen (from 18:09 here) who, while once again failing to mention the context of existing US legislation, gave a negative view of the anticipated statement.

“It adds another potential incendiary bomb in what’s already a tense city in a tense and chaotic region. And I think that if you are interested in peace, that isn’t the right thing to do.”

While BBC Radio 4’s guest list was more balanced than that of the BBC World Service, with the exception of Nir Barkat, listeners heard a very monochrome presentation of the story.

Like the BBC News website’s coverage, these two BBC radio stations failed for the most part to provide audiences with the story’s essential context and refrained from providing the relevant – and accurate – historical background necessary for understanding of the story. Instead, their coverage was overwhelmingly focused on framing the issue according to a partisan political narrative.

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Jerusalem terror attack gets 21 words of BBC coverage

On December 10th the IDF announced that it had destroyed a cross-border attack tunnel constructed by Hamas.

“The Israel Defense Forces this weekend destroyed an attack tunnel coming from the southern Gaza Strip that entered Israeli territory, the army announced on Sunday.

photo credit:IDF

The military said the kilometer-long tunnel was constructed by the Hamas terrorist group. It began in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and extended “hundreds of meters” inside Israeli territory. Israel demolished another cross-border tunnel, which was being dug by the Islamic Jihad terror group, six weeks ago.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus would not specify where exactly the newly destroyed was located in Israel, but said it ended in open farmland, approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the nearest Israeli community. […]

He said the tunnel appeared to be a “very substantial” one for Hamas, “based on the level of detail.””

The BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone reporting on that story and the only mention of the IDF’s announcement came in twenty words in half a sentence in yet another article about the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that was published on the website’s Middle East page on December 10th under the headline “Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem“.

Notably, despite the IDF having identified the tunnel as belonging to Hamas, the BBC did not report that information to its audiences and was ‘unable’ to describe the tunnel’s purpose in its own words.

“…Israel said it had blown up a tunnel from Gaza, which it says was being dug to enable militant attacks”

Obviously Israeli officials did not use the phrase “militant attacks” and so for the third time this month we see the BBC inaccurately paraphrasing statements made by Israelis despite the fact that the BBC’s guidance on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people…” 

Later on the same day a terror attack took place at the main bus station in Jerusalem.

“A Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard in the chest,  seriously wounding him, at the entrance to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on Sunday, before being tackled by police and a passerby, officials said,

Graphic video footage from the scene showed the terrorist slowly handing his belongings to the security guard, who was checking travelers at the door to the station, before suddenly taking out a knife and plunging it into the guard’s chest. […]

The victim, 46, was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where doctors were battling to stabilize his condition and save his life, said Dr. Ofer Merrin, the head of trauma center.

“The knife, unfortunately, hit his heart. His condition has stabilized, but I cannot say that there’s not threat to his life because, like I said, he’s in serious condition,” the doctor said, adding that he was unconscious and connected to a respirator.”

The only reporting of that attack on the BBC News website came in the form of twenty-one words in the same article.

“In Jerusalem itself, a Palestinian was arrested after stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli security guard at the central bus station.”

Unsurprisingly given the BBC’s record, audiences were not informed that the incident was a terror attack.

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Multiple inaccuracies in BBC WS Jerusalem history backgrounder

Like the BBC News website, BBC World Service radio produced a considerable amount of coverage concerning the US president’s December 6th announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel even before that announcement had been made.

One of the many items broadcast to listeners around the world during that run-up time is of particular interest because it was presented to audiences as an academic account of Jerusalem’s history – and therefore by implication, both accurate and impartial.

The final item in the December 6th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 48:20 here) as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “We’re going to end the programme by returning to Jerusalem ahead of President Trump’s speech and a look at the history of the city and how it’s made it such a revered and contested place. Well Mick Dumper is a professor of Middle East politics at Exeter University here in the west of England. He says that Jerusalem’s status as a holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians makes it highly prized.”

That portrayal of Mick (Michael) Dumper’s job title is indeed accurate. It does not however provide listeners with any insight into his “particular viewpoint” – as required under the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

And so – unaware that Dumper has for example in the past proposed that UNESCO be the “guardian of Jerusalem’s holy sites“, collaborated with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil‘, described visits by Jews to Temple Mount as “settler encroachments” and claimed that Israel is “undermining…the Islamic presence” in Jerusalem – listeners heard him describe the Palestinian Authority as a “country”: a claim the BBC’s own style guide refutes.

Dumper: “It is the centre for the three major religions of the world; very central to Judaism, to Islam and to Christianity. But on top of that it’s then become the capital that both countries aspire to have as the central city of their country. And…eh…they can’t agree on it.”

Coomarasamy: “And in terms of the holy sites; just remind us what we’re talking about.”

Dumper: “For the Jews it’s what they call the Wailing Wall – or sometimes it’s known as the Western Wall – which is supposed to be the original wall of the Second Temple from the biblical period. For the Christians it’s the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and for the Muslims it’s the site where Mohammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven and receive some of the revelations for the Koran.”

Jews of course do not “call” the Western Wall “the Wailing Wall” – that term is a British invention. Neither is the Western Wall “the original wall of the Second Temple”, but part of the retaining wall of the plaza on which the Temple stood. Coomarasamy made no effort to correct those gross inaccuracies before continuing with a bizarre and context-free portrayal of the city’s division in 1948.

Coomarasamy: “And ever since the State of Israel was founded it’s been a divided city.”

Dumper: “Yes, I mean if I take you back a little bit to the period of the British mandate – that’s between 1917 and 1948 – it was the administrative capital of the territory known as Palestine which was a kind of quasi-colony of the British Empire. And Palestine was administered from Jerusalem. And after that in ’48 it was divided by the warring parties. The west side was occupied by Israel and the east side was occupied by the Jordanians and there was a line running through the middle.”

The British mandate of course did not take effect in 1917 but five years later and the assignment of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to British administration did not make the territory a “quasi-colony of the British Empire”. Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that Jerusalem is located in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland and failed to challenge Dumper’s claim that Israel “occupied” – and by inference, still does – the western area of Jerusalem.

Coomarasamy: “And then there was the war of 1967 which changed the situation on the ground.”

Dumper: “Exactly. After 1967 Israel acquired the rest of Jerusalem and a wider area around the edge of Jerusalem and tried to incorporate it into Israel to try and make it as much Israeli as, say, Tel Aviv. But because of Palestinian resistance, because of long historical connections between that area of East Jerusalem and religious authorities – religious endowments and foundations – it was very difficult for Israel to impose itself. So there was this sort of grey area. East Jerusalem was not quite Israeli. It wasn’t treated exactly the same way as other areas that Israel had occupied in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. And the international community refused to accept any change in the status of Jerusalem prior to any negotiations.”

Coomarasamy: “And another change when the settler movement came to the fore as well.”

Dumper: “Yes, about ten years after Israel acquired the rest of East Jerusalem saw a change in the Israeli government between a more secular-minded Labour party and this was replaced with a Likud party which fostered and encouraged a widespread settlement movement which had a lot of religious foundations to it. And Jerusalem became very central to their thinking about what was the future of Israel.”

Failing to challenge Dumper’s inaccurate portrayal of the importance of Jerusalem across the Israeli political spectrum, Coomarsamy steered the subject of the discussion away from its professed subject matter.

Coomarasamy: “A lot of countries in the run-up to this much-anticipated announcement from President Trump are warning him against moving the embassy to Jerusalem. What sense do you have of how things might play out if he goes ahead with that move?”

Dumper: “By moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the United States will be saying that they were no longer interested in a Palestinian state. Ten years ago I would have said there would be a huge reaction with, you know, flag burning in capitals of the region – Istanbul [sic], Cairo etcetera and, you know, a lot of attacks on Israeli embassies around the Arab world. I’m not absolutely sure that this will take place this time. It’s partly because the Arab world is so divided. The Palestinians themselves are very divided and sending out lots of different messages about how seriously they’ll respond to this. And the Islamic world is very divided between Shia and Sunni as well. So I think it’s a mistake what Trump is doing but I think he may have calculated that the response will not be as cataclysmic as it may have been…ah…ten years ago.”

Coomarasamy: “Professor Mick Dumper of Exeter University.”

In addition to its multiple inaccuracies, this ‘backgrounder’ obviously failed to inform listeners of the context to both the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem following the War of Independence and the Jordanian decision to participate in the Six Day War. Listeners heard nothing of Jewish life in Jerusalem before the division of the city in 1948 and nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population from areas including the Old City. The centrality and significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Israelis alike was not clarified in Dumper’s obviously politically motivated – and severely distorted – account of the city’s history.

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Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part one

Even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel on December 6th, the BBC was already setting the scene.

As documented here previously, the BBC News website published several pre-emptive reports that framed the story according to a very particular narrative and thus shaped audience views of it even before anyone knew what the US president was actually going to say. Some BBC radio stations adopted the same strategy, with listeners hearing no small amount of speculative commentary prior to the actual event.

On the morning of December 6th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ devoted much of the airtime in its various editions to the topic of the anticipated announcement. The commentary included contributions from several people selected to present ‘the Palestinian view’ that were remarkable for gross inaccuracies and distortions.  

Did the programme’s presenters challenge those inaccuracies or did BBC audiences go away with misinformation and misleading impressions that would colour their view of the story in advance?

The early edition of ‘Newsday’ opened (from 00:34 here) with an introduction by presenters Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach that was immediately followed by a statement from Fatah official Nabil Shaath. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Pollard: “Now let’s begin in the Middle East and…err…history and symbols hugely important there and there must be no more powerful symbolic expression than the city of Jerusalem.”

Peach: “Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as their capital. Israel, which controls the city, claims it entirely as theirs. In circumstances such as these it’s not surprising that most other countries have kept well out of it until now and maintain their embassies in the Israeli financial capital of Tel Aviv, in the process withholding recognition of the Israeli claim to the entire city of Jerusalem.”

Pollard: “But now American president Donald Trump is preparing to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy from Tel Aviv. America’s allies in Europe and the Arab world have been warning against the plan: a plan which President Trump promised on the campaign trail.”

Peach: “Lots of reaction coming for you, including this from Nabil Shaath – who’s a senior advisor to the Palestinian president – who says Mr Trump is throwing away his credibility.”

Shaath: “That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker. That takes away honest, takes away broker, takes away chaperone of peace, takes away the deal of the century and makes them behind us – gone into the files of history.”

Listeners then heard commentary from Ha’aretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer. Later on (from 26:55 here) the programme returned to the same topic.

Peach: “First, later today the US president Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Pollard: “He’s not likely to immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, partly because it will take several years, it’s said, to build a new embassy.”

Peach: “We’re told the US president has already telephoned several Middle East leaders to inform them of these plans. His regional allies were strongly against it all, warning of dangerous consequences.”

Pollard: “We’ve heard from Israel. Let’s get the opinion now of a member of the Palestinian parliament. Dr Mustafa Barghouti joins us once again on the programme. Dr Barghouti – welcome back. This has been a possible move for decades; now it’s coming. What’s its significance in your opinion?”

Pollard’s presentation of Barghouti as “a member of the Palestinian parliament” is of course misleading because not only has the Palestinian Legislative Council not functioned for over a decade since the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, but – like the rest of the PLC members – Barghouti’s term of office ended years ago.

Barghouti opened with a spurious reference to ‘international law’ that went completely unquestioned and went on – likewise unchallenged – to promote the ‘apartheid’ smear.

Barghouti: “It’s very significant but it’s very reckless – from a president who seems to be risk reckless on many issues. And it means the United States is officially participating in violating international law. And it is showing such a level of bias to Israel that it is killing any future role of the United States in any future peace process. As a matter of fact Mr Trump is aborting his own peace initiative before it is born. And the worst thing is that he’s making a dangerous move that will definitely destabilise the region and will consolidate, or help consolidate, a system of apartheid that Palestinians suffer from.”

Pollard: “Sorry. Let me just ask you about immediately what you think the consequences will be. First off, in the street – do you think that there is a risk of a violent response to this in terms of demonstrations and attacks?”

Barghouti: “No. From the Palestinian perspective we don’t want violence. We have opted for non-violent resistance but for mass popular non-violent resistance which was very successful last July in Jerusalem and we managed to defeat Netanyahu and force him to remove all obstacles he put in front of the people in Al Aqsa Mosque.”

Pollard failed to challenge Barghouti’s false claims of ‘non-violent resistance’ or to inform listeners of the incitement to violence from Hamas, the PA and Fatah even before the US announcement had been made. He also failed to clarify to listeners that his interviewee’s mention of “last July in Jerusalem” in fact refers to events triggered by a violent terror attack near Temple Mount or that those so-called “obstacles” were metal detectors and security cameras.

Pollard: “OK, so no violence in the street. OK, that’s an important point. What about…”

Barghouti: “I cannot guarantee it. I cannot guarantee that there will be no violence…”

Pollard: “Of course.”

Barghouti: “…in other places because this action is provoking the feelings of 1.6 billion Muslims, 2.2 billion Christians and 360 million Arabs.”

Pollard: “And politically, what difference does it make? You mentioned that in a sense – if I can put words into your mouth – it’s kind of destroyed the idea of America as the honest broker. Who else moves into that vacuum therefore? There is no-one else, is there?”

Barghouti used that question as a cue to promote the PA agenda of internationalisation of the conflict but listeners were not informed of the existence of that policy and so were unable to put his comments into context.

Barghouti: “There can be no one single country but I think we have…we moving in this world from unipolar system to multipolar system and if there would be a serious peace process it has to be an international conference with participation of many countries like China, Russia, European Union for sure. France tried to lead the road and it was obstructed by the United States and by Israel.”

Pollard: “But do you think that in any international arena…we have seen time and again an American veto used. Do you not think that simply any appeal or any hope that you’re now raising of an international effort to do it will simply be blocked or vetoed by the super-power; by the United States?”

Barghouti: “More than that. Any peace initiative will be blocked by Israel because Israel does not want peace, which is giving us a message. We the Palestinians have waited 25 years for the peace process to work. Now we receive the message it’s dead. Fine; we will choose an alternative path. We have to concentrate on changing the balance of power first. And that can happen only through popular resistance and a very wide large enhancement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel like the apartheid system was treated in South Africa. We are fighting for our freedom in every possible way.”

Listeners were not reminded of the second Intifada terror war instigated by the Palestinians in 2000 or of the repeated Palestinian refusals of peace offers. Pollard failed yet again to challenge Barghouti’s promotion of the ‘apartheid’ smear as well as his promotion of the BDS campaign.

Pollard: “If America has gone against the opinion of many of its allies  – European allies as well as Arab allies as well – do you think that this means that they have made themselves so close to the Israeli position that other groups such as for example the Europeans will be freer to have a more independent line?”

Barghouti: “Absolutely. But the Europeans need to be courageous. And they need to move forward and they need to move forward fast and quick. The problem they face is that they don’t have unity inside Europe. And that’s why I don’t think it should be a full European Union initiative.”

Pollard: “Right.”

Barghouti: “It should be an initiative by several countries like France, Germany and others.”

Pollard: “Now can you just clarify one thing because we’ve heard conflicting comments on the programme so far. This is a sort of technical point. In your opinion, by recognising the entirety of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, does that de facto preclude East Jerusalem being a potential capital of a Palestinian authority?”

Barghouti: “It will…it will…of course. It means that it is considering East Jerusalem as part of Jerusalem because for Israel, Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel. Jerusalem is unified and that means that the annexation – the illegal annexation – of East Jerusalem which was occupied in ’67 and which is not accepted by anybody in the world, is considered part of the Israeli capital. That’s why unless the president says very clearly that East Jerusalem…I recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, he’s practically participating in the crime.”

Refraining from providing listeners with any of the crucial historical context diligently erased by Barghouti, Pollard closed the conversation.

Pollard: “Right. Thank you for that.”

As we see, not only was Mustafa Barghouti not challenged on any of his falsehoods but he was allowed to promote his distorted narrative completely unquestioned. If that were not enough, the BBC World Service chose to further amplify some of Barghouti’s spurious claims in an edited clip from the interview promoted on Twitter.

There were, however, additional editions of ‘Newsday’ to come and they will be discussed in part two of this post.

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For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

As regular readers know, the BBC’s English language services did not report any of the fourteen separate incidents of missile attacks by terrorist groups located either in the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula that took place between January and November 2017. Multiple mortar attacks on an IDF position that were launched from the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on November 30th were mentioned in a BBC report on another topic.

On December 7th three missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and did not reach Israeli territory, but set off rocket sirens in the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar HaNegev regional councils, as well as the city of Sdreot. 

A Jihadist Salafi group in Gaza called the Al-Tawheed Brigades […] claimed responsibility for the first two launches. […]

A third rocket, of unconfirmed origins, was fired toward Israel and landed in Israeli territory in an open area, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed. Since the rocket did not approach an urban center it did not set off rocket sirens in the Negev communities near the Gaza Strip.”

Israel later responded to those attacks – which were not reported by the BBC.

On the evening of December 8th three more attacks took place. One projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, one – initially thought to have fallen short – was later located in the Sdot Negev district and one hit the town of Sderot.

“”There was an immense explosion. I heard glass shattering and then car alarms. The walls of my house shook. I didn’t dare leave the shelter. Now the entire street’s closed off and police and bomb squad technicians are everywhere. Ambulances are parked in front of my house and paramedics are looking for anyone who might have been hurt,” said a local Sderot woman.”

The following day an additional rocket was discovered in the yard of a kindergarten in Sderot which was fortunately empty at the time. 

Israel responded to those attacks with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip in which two members of Hamas’ Izz a din al Qassam brigades were killed.

On the morning of December 9th the BBC News website ran an article titled “Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks” on its main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East page’. The article once again opened with inaccurate paraphrasing of statements from Israeli officials. [emphasis added]

“Israel says it has targeted sites in Gaza belonging to militant group Hamas in retaliation for rocket strikes.

Israel’s military said it hit weapons sites early on Saturday. Two people were killed, a Gaza hospital said, bringing the deaths in Israeli strikes and gunfire over the past day to four.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza late on Friday.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The report did not clarify that the two people killed were Hamas operatives and readers saw no reporting from the town of Sderot other than the statement “[n]o casualties were reported” that appeared later in the article.

The rest of the report related to additional incidents of Palestinian violence and demonstrations further afield, with now standard BBC messaging on “settlements” in Jerusalem and “international law” promoted towards its end. Readers also found a recycled euphemistic statement according to which:

“The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014”

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website also found a report on the Israeli response to Friday’s missile attacks.

Given that the BBC’s English language services elected to completely ignore numerous separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip earlier in the year, the question that inevitably arises is why the attacks on December 8th were treated differently.

It is of course difficult to avoid the conclusion that the novel display of BBC interest in this particular round of attacks from Gaza is linked to the fact that it can be framed as being connected to – or indeed ‘fallout’ from – the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem. The fact that the BBC refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of all previous attacks this year obviously reinforces that erroneous narrative. 

(The table relates only to missiles that landed in Israeli territory and does not include shortfalls, interceptions or failed attacks)

 

 

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

If the phrase ‘over the top’ comes to mind in relation to the volume of coverage of the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel that has appeared on the BBC News website, that is not surprising. 

Between December 4th and the morning of December 7th inclusive, the website published the following reports:

December 4th:

1) “Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows” – earlier version discussed here

December 5th:

2) “Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’” – discussed here

3) “Trump’s Jerusalem calls spark warnings from Arab leaders

December 6th:

4) “Why Jerusalem matters” – filmed backgrounder by Yolande Knell, discussed here

5) “US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

6) “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump

7) “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace

8) “Jerusalem: Trump move prompts negative world reaction

9) “Palestinians and Israelis on US Jerusalem recognition” – filmed

10) “Trump on Jerusalem: ‘I am delivering on promise’” – filmed

December 7th:

11) “Jerusalem status: World condemns Trump’s announcement

12) “What Trump’s Jerusalem decision means for peace” – filmed, Lyse Doucet

13) “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift”  – Barbara Plett Usher, discussed here

Clearly the language used in most of the headlines of those nine written articles portrays the US announcement as a negative development to audiences even before they have read the actual articles. A review of the content of those articles shows that their framing of the story is no less uniform.

In none of those nine written reports were readers given an accurate and comprehensive overview of the history behind the story. Accounts of Jerusalem’s history, when given, invariably begin in 1967 with some articles making a cursory but unexplained reference to Jordan’s occupation of parts of Jerusalem but no mention made whatsoever of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from parts of the city in 1948 or of the fact that Jerusalem is situated in the territory assigned by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

Five of the nine written articles and one of the four filmed reports described certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements” and presented a partisan portrayal of “international law”. All but one of the nine written reports promoted partisan maps of Jerusalem produced by the political NGO B’tselem and – in one case – UN OCHA that include among other things portrayal of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City as a ‘settlement’.

The majority of the written reports – seven – unquestioningly portrayed Jerusalem as being the “thorniest” issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and eight of the nine, along with two of the filmed reports, told BBC audiences that the US announcement endangers or even destroys the ‘peace process’ – even though that process made no progress for the past 24 years, despite the US embassy being located in Tel Aviv.

None of the BBC’s reports informed readers that the Palestinians have previously been presented with peace offers that included considerable Israeli compromises on Jerusalem – which they refused.   

All of the written reports gave copious amplification to condemnations of the US announcement by assorted parties with some even uncritically amplifying threats of violence as though that were a legitimate response. Any dissenting views presented came solely from Israeli politicians.

The sole mention of the fact that Russia recognised part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital back in April was found in Lyse Doucet’s filmed report. An announcement relating to Jerusalem from the Czech Republic has at the time of writing not been covered by the BBC.

The essential context of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ was provided to readers of just three of the nine written reports and subsequently added to one other many hours after initial publication. The context of the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate was absent from all the BBC’s reports. Only two of the total thirteen reports mentioned that previous US presidents had made similar campaign promises to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

The BBC framed the US president’s announcement as being intended to appeal to specific sectors.

In article 5 readers were told that:

“Mr Trump would also direct the state department to begin the process of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem – but this could take several years as it still has to be designed and built and security concerns would need to be addressed.

He originally promised the move to pro-Israel voters during his campaign for the presidency.”

Article 6 included the following:

“The Republican Jewish Coalition have already thanked the president in a New York Times ad. The group is backed by Republican and Trump campaign mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.”

In article 11 readers were told that:

“Despite warnings of regional unrest over any such move, the decision fulfils a campaign promise and appeals to Mr Trump’s right-wing base.”

Article 13 informed BBC audiences that:

“…there’s far more evidence he [Trump] was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.”

And that:

“…this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.”

In fact, as noted by Michael Totten, the issue is far more bipartisan that the BBC would have its audiences believe.

“In 1995, the United States Congress, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passed a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” This law, passed by a whopping 93-5 when Bill Clinton was president, had no effect whatsoever on the Camp David Peace Process which would have given East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as the capital of their sovereign state had Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said yes instead of no and chose peace rather than war.

That law was reaffirmed in the United States Senate just six months ago by a unanimous vote. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, co-sponsored the bill. And just two months ago, Schumer slammed Donald Trump for not keeping his campaign promise to recognize reality.”

As we see, BBC audiences got ample – but monochrome – coverage of this story over those three and a half days. While failing for the most part to provide essential context and refraining entirely from providing the relevant historical background necessary for understanding of the story, the coverage was uniformly focused on promotion of a partisan political narrative.

 

 

 

 

Another BBC report on Iraqi Jews omits the Farhud

The December 3rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 religious affairs programme ‘Sunday’ included an item (from 16:05 here) described as follows in the synopsis:

“The story of what happened to the last Jews of Iraq is the subject of a new documentary “Remember Baghdad”. Edward talks to David Dangoor about his great grandfather who was a former Chief Rabbi of Baghdad.”

However, as was the case in a previous BBC World Service radio item on the same topic, listeners expecting to get an answer to the question of what happened to the ancient Iraqi Jewish community would have been disappointed. Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item:

Stourton: “The story of the last Jews of Baghdad is told in the documentary which is being screened in selected cinemas from tomorrow to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain’s seizing control of the city. It was one of the great world centres of Judaism from the days of Nebuchadnezzar right up to the 1940s and 50s. The film – Remembering [sic] Baghdad – explores that history through the eyes of some of the Jews who left. David Dangoor was one such and he told me how he remembers the city.”

Listeners heard Mr Dangoor’s portrayal of a “good life” with a “rich cultural tapestry” before Stourton went on to ask about “relations with the city’s Arabs” and to what extent Jews were “integrated”. Mr Dangoor told of joint business ventures between Jews and Arabs before saying that:

“During the troubles, many Jewish people were given refuge and protection by their Muslim friends.”

Listeners did not however hear what those “troubles” actually were.

After Stourton had asked questions about Mr Dangoor’s great-grandfather and his mother – the first ‘Miss Baghdad’ – he went on to inaccurately claim that the idyllic life portrayed so far had ended because of the establishment of the State of Israel.

Stourton: “You, I think, were born in the year that the State of Israel came into being. What began to change then?”

Dangoor: “We need to remember that Zionism, which is Jewish nationalism, grew at the same time as Arab nationalism in the early part of the 20th century. So it became a point of contention in many Arab countries between Jewish people in Arab countries and their Muslim neighbours. There were clashes from time-to-time and that began to become a bigger problem until of course in 1948, as you say, the Jewish state was formed and the enmity grew. Jews were seen as potential spies for what they called the Zionist entity and there was some hostility.”

In the rest of the item listeners heard how Mr Dangoor’s family left Iraq in 1958 after the murder of the royal family, of his nostalgia for Baghdad and how he believes Jews will one day return to Iraq.

Nowhere in this item, however, did listeners hear a proper explanation of the Farhud pogrom that took place seven years before Israel came into being and was the real turning point that triggered the demise of the Jewish community in Iraq.

Once again we see that on the rare occasions when the BBC does produce content relating to the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands, it fails to tell a complete story.

Related Articles:

BBC WS claims Israeli ‘pressure’ and ‘incentives’ led Jews to flee Iraq

 

 

 

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

On December 6th a filmed ‘backgrounder’ titled “Why Jerusalem matters” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“US President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell explains why the city is so important.”

The film opens with the Jerusalem bureau’s Knell telling audiences that:

“This ancient city lies at the very heart of the Israel – Palestinian conflict…”

Predictably, Knell did not inform viewers that the Palestinians only began to display an interest in Jerusalem after 1967. Until then – as shown in Article 24 of the original PLO charter from 1964 – the Palestinians specifically stated that they had no claim to territory occupied at the time by Jordan and Egypt and the “Israel-Palestinian conflict” was only about the land on which Israel was established in 1948.

Knell continues with a whitewashed portrayal of Palestinian incitement and violence and no mention of the ‘three days of rage’ announced by Palestinian factions the day before her report was posted.

“…we’ve seen many times how just a small change on the ground here can quickly lead to a flare-up and to violence. So what happens here really does matter.”

She continues:

“Jerusalem’s got great religious significance of course – its Old City has some of the holiest sites for Jews [image of the Western Wall], Muslims [image of Temple Mount] and for Christians [image of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]. But it’s also got great political significance too.”

Following a caption reading “What does Israel say?”, Knell tells viewers that:

“Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal, undivided capital”. Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city.”

With no mention whatsoever of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland, the 1948 Jordanian invasion and subsequent nineteen-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City or Israel’s warning to Jordan not to participate in the Six Day War, Knell goes on:

“But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and it later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally. Israeli leaders often vent their frustration that there’s not recognition of full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, particularly from international allies.”

Following another caption reading “What about the Palestinians?”, Knell continues:

“Of course, Palestinians see things starkly differently. They want east Jerusalem as their capital.”

She then goes on to claim that a Palestinian capital in “east Jerusalem” is an already agreed component of the two-state solution:

“And that’s part of the long-standing international formula for peace here, known as the “two-state solution”.

Not for the first time, audiences then see a BBC journalist present the two-state solution in terms that dovetail with the PLO’s interpretation of that term.

“Basically the idea that an independent Palestinian state would be created alongside Israel, along the boundaries that existed before 1967, it’s written up in UN resolutions.” [emphasis added]

In fact the UN – along with the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity – supports “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords as being subject to negotiations of course include borders and Jerusalem.

Having previously erased the pre-1948 Jewish population of the Old City and other Jerusalem neighbournoods from the picture, Knell continues with a partisan portrayal of ‘international law’:

“About a third of Jerusalemites are Palestinians, some of them come from families that have been here for centuries. And there are lots of ongoing tensions, particularly over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the east of the city, they’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

After the appearance of the caption “What do international peacemakers say?”, Knell goes on:

“For decades, the international community has been saying that any change in the status of Jerusalem can only come about as part of a negotiated peace deal. So for now all countries with embassies in Israel keep them in or near to Tel Aviv and they just have consulates in Jerusalem.”

As has been the case in additional recent BBC reporting on this story, Knell then went on to present the apparently upcoming establishment of a US embassy in Jerusalem as something related solely to the current US president. Yet again, audiences were not informed of the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ and the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate.

“But President Trump is insisting that he does want to move his embassy to Jerusalem. And he’s also said he’s pursuing the “ultimate deal” of peace between Israel and the Palestinians – although he’s not committed to conventional ways of achieving it.”

Viewers then see a clip from February of this year with Donald Trump saying at a press conference:

“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

With the rest of that statement erased, Knell closes this ‘backgrounder’ with editorialised commentary that promotes a theme pushed by the BBC for months:

“Just more evidence that with this US administration, options that were once seen as off-bounds, off-limits are now up for serious consideration.”

So did this ‘backgrounder’ enhance BBC audience understanding of what this story is about? Obviously not: the omission of essential history and the promotion of partisan portrayals of the two-state solution and ‘international law’ mean that rather than being a ‘backgrounder’, this item by Knell was in fact just one more contribution to advancement of the BBC’s chosen narrative.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC continues to amplify a political narrative on Jerusalem

The BBC’s partisan portrayal of Jerusalem persists

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short