BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

The first part of the ‘Newsbeat’ fifteen-minute “special from Gaza” aired on BBC Radio1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 14th was discussed in part one of this post and there we saw how the programme’s target audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK was fed an often inaccurate and highly partial version of the history of the Gaza Strip.  

The programme continued with presenters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney – ostensibly in the region to cover the Eurovision Song Contest for ‘Newsbeat’ – bringing in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

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

[04:30] Rosney: “This is a Newsbeat special in Gaza – a Palestinian territory. The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is with us as well. Tom, what’s life been like in Gaza over the past decade?”

Bateman: “Well what you’ve just been hearing about in terms of the control of Gaza is something really complicated but Hamas dominates there. And this is an organisation that, to its Palestinian supporters, is the resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Of course to Israel and much of the West, they see it as a terrorist organisation.”

Hamas of course does not just object to what Bateman simplistically describes as “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories”. Hamas objects to Israel’s existence on any territory whatsoever. That very basic fact – without which it is impossible to understand the subject matter of this programme – was not communicated to listeners at any point. Rather, BBC journalists repeatedly misled ‘Newsbeat’ audiences by giving then false accounts of Hamas’ objectives.

Like Kat Collins in her ‘potted history’ heard just minutes before, Bateman also chose to lead his young audience towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action. He continued, failing to make any mention of the role played by the Palestinian Authority in relation to the perpetual electricity crisis, lack of sewage treatment and shortages of medicine in the Gaza Strip. While he failed to mention that the Gaza Strip also has a crossing into Egypt, Bateman made sure to promote the old “open-air prison” mantra.

Bateman: “Since Hamas was elected and then consolidated its grip by force on the Gaza Strip, life there really has slowly deteriorated and you just see this all around. There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems and many young people, I mean, have simply never left Gaza. There’s huge restrictions on freedom of movement. I mean some people you talk to describe it as like living in an open-air prison.”

Rosney: “And it’s been a tense 12 months.”

Listeners then heard a distorted account of the ‘Great Return March’ which actually began on March 30th 2018 rather than a month and a half later when the US embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated. Adhering to the BBC editorial policy which has been evident right from the start, Bateman portrayed the violent rioting, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the ‘march’ as “protests”.

Bateman: “Yes, so what we saw was a year ago around the time that, in a controversial move to the Palestinians, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protests began at the perimeter fence by Palestinians. Now they said they were demanding their right to return to the land that is now Israel and also an end – or an easing at least – of that blockade. The protests were seen by Israel as an attempt to breach the fence, to break into Israel and harm Israeli civilians or soldiers. And so we had a lot of violence at the fence; many, many Palestinians killed – shot dead by Israeli troops – and that story really evolved into a series of increasingly violent military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas.”

Bateman made no effort to explain to listeners that the so-called ‘right of return’ promoted by the ‘Great Return March’ is in fact aimed at bringing an end to the Jewish state. Having erased the violent nature of the events from view, he could use the phrase “seen by Israel” to downplay and blur that violence. The fact that the vast majority of those killed during the rioting have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip was not noted by any of the three BBC journalists and neither was the fact that the same factions are behind the violent events.

Holden: “This is Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney in Gaza. Sixty Palestinians were killed a year ago in that violence and thousands more were injured. But these protests on the edge of Gaza happen most Fridays. There was a flare-up just a few weeks ago.”

Rosney: “Yeah and it means many people need medical treatment which, in a place like this with very poor health care, is tricky.”

Holden: “In Gaza there are clinics that are run by independent humanitarian organisations. We’re off to one now which is set up by Médecins Sans Frontières.”

Listeners heard nothing at all about the political agenda of MSF.   

At that clinic Rosney and Holden interviewed a British doctor working for MSF and two patients who gave context-free accounts of their injuries: “I suddenly was shot by a sniper in my leg” and “they just shot me instantly”.

Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ found it appropriate to promote their nihilistic messaging to young people in the UK, including the 16 year-old male’s declaration that it doesn’t matter if he dies because his mother would have another baby to replace him and the female interviewee’s claim that “whatever happens would be God’s fate” in response to the statement from Rosney “so each time you go to the protests you know that there is a chance that you could be shot”.

Newsbeat also had no problem airing unchallenged statements from indoctrinated youth such as “Our life used to be normal before the Israelis came…” and “we need to liberate our homeland, our country…”.

[09:38] Rosney: “The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is still with us. Tom, those people that we just heard from inside the MSF clinic, they were so determined to keep going back to the fence to protest – why is that?”

Bateman: “Well many people have been and I mean as, you know, as you’ve been hearing, some people even though they’ve been shot have said that they will go back to the fence, so there has been a determination I think. On the other hand, when you speak to some people privately, they’ll start to tell you about the real cost involved in terms of lives and injuries with this and some people I’ve chatted to over time have talked about not wanting to go back. But that can be a hard thing for them to say publicly in Gaza. We have seen the scale of the protests really diminish, I think, over the last year or so but one way or another the Palestinians you speak to seem determined to show that they want their rights.”

Bateman’s failure once again to clarify to ‘Newsbeat’ audiences that those so-called “rights” actually mean the destruction of the neighbouring country by means of a mass population transfer and through the use of weapons that the blockade is intended to prevent entering the Gaza Strip means that the topic was presented to listeners in terms that most would sympathise with. Who, after all, can possibly object to people standing up for “their rights”?

Rosney next promoted yet again the false claim that all those Palestinians who became refugees were “forced to flee” and that that only happened after Israel came into being. Listeners heard nothing of the Arab attacks in the six months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence or of the fact that the nascent state was immediately attacked by surrounding Arab countries.

Rosney: “We’ve been hearing that sound a lot in Gaza. It’s the call to prayer for Muslims and right now it’s Ramadan. Those who practice Islam don’t eat or drink between dawn and sunset. Some are actually preparing for Nakba Day – that’s tomorrow – which commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee from their homes in the war that came after Israel declared independence.” […]

Holden: “So the sun’s just gone down here and if you took the picture right now it is the perfect holiday shot. You’ve got the red-orange glow on the sea in the distance; it’s beautiful. But the buildings here tell a different story. Many have got bullet holes in them. Some are half-finished, some are half-destroyed and many have got graffiti drawn all over them.”

Rosney: “Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.”

Holden: “Yeah, you don’t swim in the sea either because around 90 million litres of sewage is pumped into the Med here every day. So 95% of the water around the Strip is polluted.”

No background information on those issues – and no mention of the fact that the problems are not related to Israel – was given to audiences at all.

Rosney: “Now along the beachfront people, well they’re starting to set up food stalls actually. Some are smoking shisha. There’s no alcohol here because of strict rules so no pubs or bars.”

Rosney refrained from clarifying that those “strict rules” are enforced by the Islamist theocracy that violently imposed its rule on the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and Holden next gave more context-free promotion to the BDS campaign:

Holden: “Yeah and there’s probably no big screens that will show the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s largest live music event – which is taking place just 90 minutes up the coast in Tel Aviv. The first semi-final is actually tonight but there have been calls for boycotts of this year’s contest because it is in Israel and some argue that Israel has violated the human rights of Palestinians.”

Rosney: “We’re gonna talk a bit more about that tomorrow on Newsbeat but we’re gonna stick with music….”

Rosney and Holden then interviewed a 26 year-old rapper – mostly about his wish to leave the Gaza Strip.

“It’s not easy for a human to live in Gaza…”

“You can’t leave Gaza…”

“I can’t make audience here – people just thinking how to eat, how to fight. It’s not a normal life. It’s not human. “

The report closed on a rather odd point.

Rosney: “It’s important to point out that in some ways communication with the rest of the world here is actually pretty good. People have got social media and stuff. They are not cut off from the rest of the world entirely.”

Obviously this fifteen minute-long “Gaza special” from ‘Newsbeat’ fell well short of the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and impartiality. It completely failed to provide its target audience with the full range of information needed to understand what is clearly a complex topic and instead promoted a simplistic and partisan narrative of poor, deprived Palestinians pluckily fighting for “their rights” in a place that is mostly awful – apart from the nice sunset – but does have “social media and stuff”.

Is that really the standard of reporting that the BBC believes 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK deserve?

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

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BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

As we saw yesterday, in among reporting on the European Song Contest, ‘Newsbeat’ journalists Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also promoted a problematic “history lesson” to the their audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in an item broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

The next day – May 14th – on the same radio stations, ‘Newsbeat’ aired a “special from Gaza” by the same two journalists. A much-used BBC mantra was already seen in the synopsis.

“Newsbeat reporters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney are in Gaza in the Middle East, one of the most populated places on Earth.”

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

Steve Holden introduced the item (from 00:00 here).

Holden: “Hello. This week we are in Israel and the Palestinian territories as people from all over the world come to the city of Tel Aviv for an event that is loved by millions – Eurovision. […] Tonight the first semi-final will be taking place.”

Rosney: “But we couldn’t cover that without coming here – 90 minutes along the coast – to one of the most talked-about strips of land in the world: Gaza.”

Obviously they could indeed have covered the Eurovision Song Contest without travelling to an unrelated nearby territory but they chose not to – just as they chose not to avoid providing amplification for the BDS campaign’s calls to boycott the event.

Holden: “It’s a chance for us to get into why that is and why it’s made this year’s Eurovision one of the most controversial ever. So let’s get straight to it.”

Rosney: “Listen to that. That’s the sound of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a blazing hot day, white sand, blue water but you would never come here on holiday.”

Holden: “No you can’t visit Gaza. You need special permission to enter. We got permits as members of the press.”

The mantra seen in the synopsis was then repeated again:

Rosney: “It’s one of the most densely populated places on earth; smaller than the Isle of Wight but with almost 2 million people packed in. Palestinian territory bordered by Israel and Egypt.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, a map produced by the BBC in 2018 shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

Adhering to BBC editorial policy throughout the last 15 months, Holden went on to euphemistically describe the weekly ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Holden: “Over the next 15 minutes we’re gonna be talking about why it’s often in the news, the protests that happen here practically every week, the restrictions that affect daily life and the tension with Israel.”

Rosney: “Now it’s important to remember that Gaza is poor. According to the World Bank – an organisation which tries to reduce poverty – of which it says 40% of the population here are in. And youth unemployment rate is well above 60%.”

Holden: “Yeah and it’s also got one of the world’s youngest populations. Get your head around this: more than 40% of the people here are younger than 15 years old.”

Notably, neither Holden nor Rosney bothered to join the dots between poverty, youth unemployment and population density and the obviously relevant factor of birth rate.

‘Newsbeat’ audiences then got their second ‘history lesson’ in two days.

Rosney: “So before we find out why life is like this, we need to understand its history. So here’s Kat Collins.”

Newsbeat reporter Kat Collins came up with an account that has inaccuracy, misleading information or significant omission in almost every line, so let’s take them one by one.

Collins: “A strip of land home to nearly 2 million people, mainly Palestinian refugees. Hundreds of thousands of them living in refugee camps.”

Listeners were not told why there are still “hundreds of thousands” of refugees 71 years on or why Palestinians who have been living exclusively under Palestinian control for the past 14 years are still kept in refugee camps.

Collins: “A key point in Gaza’s history was World War Two and the mass murder of 6 million Jews under the Nazis.”

Here Collins promoted a classic narrative used by anti-Israel activists: the notion that Palestinians are suffering because of the Holocaust – or “mass murder” as Collins preferred to call that genocide.  

Collins: “After the war Jewish people were promised their own country.”

No: the Jewish nation was promised a homeland by the League of Nations after the First World War.

Collins: “Israel was created: carved out of land that was known as Palestine.”

Listeners were not told the origins of the name Palestine and so would be likely to automatically assume – wrongly – that Palestine was the nation state of the Palestinians mentioned just seconds later. 

Collins: “But the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab countries refused to recognise Israel as a country. Again there was war and thousands of Palestinians escaped to places like Gaza next door.”

Collins did not bother to inform listeners that Arab countries and the Palestinians conducted violent attacks long before Israel declared its independence or that roughly half of the refugees fled before Israel came into being. The fact that the Gaza Strip was part of the land designated by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland and the Egyptian occupation of that area in 1948 of course did not get a mention.

Collins: “In the 1960s, another war. Israel captured Gaza.”

Listeners heard nothing of the background to the Six Day War, including the fact that the Gaza Strip was at the time under the control of its main instigator.

Collins: “Decades of fighting continued between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout the 1990s Gaza was given more power though and in 2005 Israeli troops left the area.”

Apparently Collins believes it is appropriate to portray Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “fighting” between the two sides. Her reference to the 1990s is unclear but perhaps relates to the Oslo Accords. Of course in 2005, all Israelis – soldiers and civilians alike – left the Gaza Strip and even the Israeli dead were exhumed. Collins then went on to promote the falsehood that there was “peace” after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip when in fact terror attacks only increased.

Collins: “But peace didn’t last long and Israel still controls who and what goes in and out of Gaza. It says the blockade is for security reasons.”

Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip also has a border with and crossing into Egypt. Neither were they informed that the blockade was implemented because of Palestinian terrorism.  

Collins: “Palestinians there regularly fire rockets into Israel. They want Gaza to become part of a new State of Palestine with independence. Israel’s also attacked Gaza many times, saying it wants to stop the rocket fire.”

The Palestinian factions attacking Israeli civilians with rockets so not do so because they want “a new State of Palestine”. They do so because they want Israel to cease to exist.  

Collins: “The opening ceremony for Gaza’s international airport. That was 1998 but not long after it was bombed by Israel. It’s never reopened.”

Collins failed to clarify that the airport was put out of action during the terror war waged by the Palestinians known as the Second Intifada.

Collins: “With access restricted, not many things get in or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in but aid agencies say people aren’t getting much meat or fresh fruit and vegetables.”

In fact everything gets into Gaza with the exception of dual use goods that can be used for the purpose of terrorism, for which a permit is required. Collins did not name the ‘aid agencies’ she cited but we have been unable to find any such claims from a serious source.  

We did however find a professor from the Gaza Strip who stated that:

“…there is no shortage of food products in Gaza. “You can get anything you’re looking for at the supermarkets,” he testifies. “Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products. The problem is that we’re falling between the Ramallah armchair and the Gaza stool: Abbas issued an order to cut government workers’ salaries, and some 100,000 families fell under the poverty line. Your heart explodes when you pass by the packed food stands, and the head of the household stands there and has to decide whether to buy cheese and bread or watermelon.”

The Palestinian Authority’s financial sanctions against Hamas – which also affect power supplies, sewage treatment and medical supplies – had however no place in the BBC’s ‘history’. Neither did the violent coup instigated by Hamas in 2007.

Collins: “In 2006 the Palestinian militant group Hamas became Gaza’s ruling party. Supporters say it is a legitimate fighting force defending Palestinian rights but countries like the UK, the US and Canada call its members…terrorists.”

Collins of course did not bother to clarify that the ‘right’ Hamas purports to defend is its declared aim of eliminating the world’s only Jewish state. Obviously she preferred to lead ‘Newsbeat’ audiences towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action.

With ‘Newsbeat’ claiming to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, we once again get a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

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

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

 

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

Earlier this month we saw that the BBC had sent two reporters from the offshoot of BBC News which is the manifestation of the corporation’s belief that 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK cannot consume current affairs without a middleman – ‘Newsbeat’ – to cover the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

In among their Eurovision coverage Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also managed to produce “a little bit of a history lesson” for Newsbeat’s target audience which was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

Seeing as ‘Newsbeat’ claims to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, that eight-and-a-half-minute long item gives us a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

Steve Holden introduced the report (from 06:45 here).

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

Holden: “Shalom from the city of Jerusalem. All this week ‘Newsbeat’ is coming to you from Israel and the Palestinian territories. […] We’re in the Middle East, surrounded by countries including Egypt, Jordan and Syria. It’s a fascinating place but also to some a controversial one, which we’ll talk about soon. We are here because this week Israel hosts the world’s largest live music event, the Eurovision Song Contest.”

By that measure one can only hope that the war in Afghanistan and the military coalition intervention against ISIS will be over by next May, otherwise ‘Newsbeat’ will have to make sure that reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands also pop over to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan as well as several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Holden continued:

Holden: “So right now we are in the heart of Jerusalem: its Old City. It is full of market traders, food stalls, so many tourists. And I know this is radio but the smells here are incredible: think a mix of fresh strawberries, all kinds of spices and incense. It is amazing. It’s an organised chaos here; there are so many people but these motorbikes snake down these tiny alleyways and everyone shouts. Think of Jerusalem like a crossroads for religion. It is considered holy for many including Jews, Christians and Muslims. […]

This region is home to both Israelis and Palestinians so gonna give you a little bit of a history lesson now because the British used to rule here years ago when the area was called Palestine. Following the Second World War Israel established its state here. It was a homeland for Jewish people and in the war that followed, when surrounding Arab countries fought that new Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes. Now, after another war in the 1960s, Israel captured places that you might have heard of like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank which it still occupies now – places that Palestinians want as their future state. Now those conflicting claims have seen unrest [sic] in this region for decades with each side blaming the other.”

As we see the BBC is not interested in explaining how Britain came to “rule…the area” or in telling audiences about the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine. Relatedly, the word ‘the’ is missing from Holden’s portrayal of Israel – actually a homeland for the Jewish people. As is so often the case in BBC content, Holden’s portrayal leads listeners to the erroneous belief that the displacement of Palestinians took place only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948 and the Arab attacks which followed their rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947 are erased from view. Having also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War, Holden went on to describe nearly 700 attacks with military grade projectiles against Israeli civilians in two days in early May as “violence…in the Gaza Strip”.

Holden: “Here with us this week is the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman who is based in Jerusalem. Ah…violence flared up very recently in the Gaza Strip which is about 90 minutes from here. Explain what happened.”

Bateman’s explanation included the BBC’s usual euphemism for terrorists and failed to clarify that the two Israeli soldiers were on the Israeli side of the border when shot by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “There were militants in Gaza who really control the Gaza Strip. They shot at two Israeli soldiers, wounding them. Israel then fired back and two militants were killed in an air strike. There were then two days of very intense violence that followed. 700 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel that killed four people in Israel. The Israelis carried out wave after wave of air strikes against the Gaza Strip – in response, they said – and 25 Palestinians were killed. And really the context to all of it is that the Palestinians in Gaza say they want an easing of the blockade that Israel says it carries out for security reasons. The Israelis say, well look, they just want calm on the boundary.”

Bateman’s description of Israeli air strikes as being “against the Gaza Strip” is of course inaccurate – the targets were terrorist assets and installations. His claim that “25 Palestinians were killed” does not inform listeners that at least 74% of them were identified as terrorist operatives or members of the terrorist organisations. Bateman’s portrayal of what “Palestinians in Gaza say they want” of course does not help the BBC’s “younger audiences” understand that what Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad want is to eradicate Israel and that is why counter-terrorism measures including “the blockade” are in place.

Holden: “Now world governments have been trying to stop that from happening for years. What’s the latest?”

Notably Bateman’s portrayal of the two-state solution follows the usual BBC policy of ignoring the all-important part of the formula: ‘two states for two peoples’.

Bateman: “Well the formulation for peace really from the international community for many years has been something called the two-state solution and what that would really mean was you have the State of Israel living in peace and security alongside an independent Palestinian state so the Palestinians would have their own country and the right to run that. What we’re gonna get, in the next few weeks it looks like, is a new plan from the Trump White House in America. President Trump he says he wants to do the deal of the century – the ultimate deal, he’s called it – between Israelis and Palestinians. Now the Americans say it requires new thinking; all the ideas in the past have simply failed. But there are critics already of this, including the Palestinians and their leadership who say they won’t talk to the Americans over all of this. They think the plan is gonna be biased in favour of Israel.”

Holden: “And we’re starting this week in Jerusalem. It’s a city that is complicated. It’s got a very complex history.”

Erasing the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem from the picture even while referring to its effects, Bateman also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War.

Bateman: “You have here two very distinct populations so in the west of the city you have Jewish Israelis. In the east of the city largely you have Palestinians, Arabs. There was a time when the city was very divided; literally there was barbed wire and concrete walls running across the centre of it. When Israel captured it in that war you mentioned in the 1960s they took the whole city and since then they’ve claimed it as what they call their eternal, undivided capital. Now Palestinians in the east don’t want that. They want the east to be the capital of their future state and so it remains a city whose future is in question and really one of the most contested places on earth.”

Holden then introduced a report from his colleague Daniel Rosney who went on walk about in Jerusalem on Independence Day to do vox pop interviews.

Rosney: “This is Damascus Gate: one of the entrances to the Old City but it’s also one of the ways that you get to the east of the city where many Palestinians live. Around here there are Border Police with big guns and they sit in booths. For Israelis this keeps the city undivided but for Palestinians this is the face of their occupation.”

Actually, for Israelis those Border Police officers are defence against the frequent terror attacks by Palestinians that ‘Newsbeat’ chose to erase from this report entirely. Rosney was apparently surprised that residents of the eastern part of the city were not celebrating Independence Day.

Rosney: “Back outside and you can see that in East Jerusalem some of the roads just aren’t as good as they are in West Jerusalem and it’s not got that same celebratory vibe today.

Referring to one of Rosney’s interviewees, Holden closed the report with another misrepresentation of when and why some Palestinians became refugees.

Holden: “As we just heard in Daniel’s report, Rajid [phonetic] wasn’t celebrating Israel’s Independence Day but later this week he will mark Nakba Day remembering the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced from their home after Israel declared independence. More on that tomorrow when we’re going to be in Gaza hearing from those directly affected by the conflict.”

Apparently as far as ‘Newsbeat’ is concerned “those directly affected by the conflict” do not include the residents of southern Israel targeted by thousands of missiles over the years or the many thousands of Israelis impacted by other types of Palestinian terror attacks.

BBC’s Tim Franks in the Golan Heights – part two

In part one of this post we saw how, on a visit to the Golan Heights, ‘Newshour’ presenter Tim Franks purported to interview a resident of the community set to be expanded and renamed after the US president. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “He lives in this tiny hamlet and tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials about their plans to build a new settlement on his village’s land and name it in honour of Donald Trump.”

As we showed, the man concerned does not live in Beruchim and that meeting was not with “government officials”.

Following that interview, Franks’ long report (from 30:06 here) in the May 22nd afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ continued with a trip to Majdal Shams which he insisted on describing as a “village” even though it has over 11,000 residents and once again using the term “Syrian Druze” despite the fact that by no means all of the Golan’s Druze residents identify as such.

Franks: “You get a different view further north in the Golan Heights. In this Druze village – Majdal Shams – you literally get a different view because you can see from its slopes into Syria. For decades this frontier marked by this sinuous ceasefire fence was the quietest that Israel had. That changed with the Syrian civil war. Militant Islamist groups and Iran building up a presence just the other side of these hills. […] So what does this leave the Syrian Druze in Majdal Shams feeling? One good place to try to get a thoughtful response is the owner of the local bookshop, Amal Safadi.” […]

Having already signposted his interviewee’s response and once again failing to inform listeners that Israeli law was applied to the Golan Heights 38 years ago, Franks went on:

Franks: “With the American announcement that they would recognise the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, what’s your attitude towards the idea of the local people here taking Israeli citizenship? Have you taken Israeli citizenship?”

Franks obviously must have known the answer to that ‘question’ before he asked it. Safadi has made her views clear in other media interviews (as have some members of her extended family) and she was obviously selected in advance by his production team to represent a certain side of the story. Listeners heard a translated version of her responses in Arabic.

Translator: “She says I will never think to take the citizenship. Our citizenship as Syrians is historical. We’re here from thousand years. This decision is political: nothing will change on the ground.”

Franks did not bother to try to clarify where “here” is and hence avoided the need to remind listeners that Syria as an independent state came into existence in 1946 or tell them that Majdal Shams was settled in the 18th century.

Franks then brought up imaginary scenarios which have not been proposed by any Israeli official either recently or in the past 38 years since the Golan Heights Law was passed.

Franks: “If the Israeli government decides now that you have to take citizenship or maybe they will say you don’t deserve all the rights of living here.”

Translator: “She is saying we had the same story in 1982 and they tried to force us to take the citizenship. Even we were less educated by then but now we are more stronger and our decision will be more strong these days.”

Franks: “People around the world listening to you might understand that you’ve got a very strong sense of identity – that you are a Syrian Druze – but they’ll also say just look over there inside Syria where there’s chaos, there’s conflict. At least here you’ve got rights and you’ve got relative prosperity as well. Why aren’t you happy to be here and take the advantages that Israel can give you?”

Translator: “She says you have a mother, right? If your mother is sick will you leave her? No, you will stay there and support her. Syria is our mother and we need to support our mother instead of leaving her.”

Making no effort to get beyond Safadi’s slogans and examine factors such as the relevant fact that many Druze residents of the Golan Heights have relations in Syria for whose safety they fear, Franks next told listeners that “elsewhere in Majdal Shams though, the taboo is beginning to crack”.

In fact there has been a rise in the number of Golan Druze applying for Israeli citizenship since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. 

Majdal Shams

Franks then interviewed a Majdal Shams resident who did so two years ago.

Franks: “He needs it, he says, so he can travel more easily for work and also so that once abroad, he doesn’t get hassled or intimidated for having no declared citizenship.”

After his interviewee had told him that opinions for and against the move among people he knows were “fifty-fifty”, Franks responded:

Franks: “I don’t really need to tell you this but the argument that is used by a lot of people here is that this is occupied territory; it doesn’t belong to Israel. One day it will go back to Syria.”

Following his interviewee’s reply to that and an additional question, Franks took the time to stress to listeners that his decision was “the pragmatic, non-ideological decision to take Israeli citizenship”.

The final section of Franks’ report was introduced with another undated reference to “annexation”, an unexplained reference to “strategic importance” and a misleading statement concerning water.

Franks: “So what’s driving the actions of the Israeli state up here? Given Israel’s decision to annex the territory, given the government’s delight at Donald Trump’s recent support for that annexation, given the Golan’s strategic importance, militarily and in terms of the country’s water supply, has there ever been serious thought to a territorial exchange with the Syrians? Well the answer is yes – all the way from the 1990s until as recently as the start of this decade. […] What stopped everything was – no surprise – the Syrian civil war.”

Franks’ final interviewee was former national security advisor Uzi Arad who explained how the war in Syria had led to “the notion that Israel would now forfeit” the Golan Heights looking “recklessly silly”. Franks was however far more interested in Arad’s assessment of “the American move”.

Arad: “Don’t press the point. Clearly this Assad is a real (bleeped out) as a person, as a leader. Clearly Syria needs something better but he had successfully won the nation and he has support to that from Russia. If you provoke him you would make him insist that for him the liberation of the Golan remains a priority. So why? Why pushing them into that corner? We stay there anyway.”

Franks then closed his report:

Franks: “The Golan is beguiling and beautiful. It’s also deceptive. The struggle with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in Gaza – that’s the most visible, most frequently violent manifestation of Israel’s uneasy place in the Middle East. But it’s away from them, up in the north, that the potential for the greatest conflict may come.”

In the years since the Syrian civil war began BBC audiences have seen reports from a number of BBC and other journalists visiting the Golan Heights, most of which have presented a drearily monochrome portrait of the Golan Druze that fails to reflect changes in their society. In addition to being blighted by basic inaccuracy and omission of relevant context, Tim Franks’ almost thirteen-minute-long report largely stuck to the same jaded political narrative and even promoted irrelevant and imaginary scenarios concerning the Israeli government.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Franks in the Golan Heights – part one

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

Once again, BBC history begins in June 1967

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Tim Franks in the Golan Heights – part one

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard another long report (from 30:06 here) by Tim Franks in the programme’s May 22nd afternoon edition. The same report was also aired in the May 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ (from 35:30 here).

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

Franks: “Two days ago I was reporting for you from what we tend to think about when we talk about occupied territory: the congested, contested area of the West Bank and Palestinians and Israeli settlers. Today we’re gonna head to the north-eastern tip of Israel – to the Golan Heights. This is a small country so from here – Jerusalem – to the Golan it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive and into stunning landscape.

This is also occupied territory but, my goodness, it feels so different to the West Bank. Despite the signs you come across occasionally as you travel through this place warning you to keep out of minefields, this is quiet, it’s beautiful, in parts mountainous, in parts fertile. It’s the slice of land that separates Israel from south-west Syria. Israel captured the Golan Heights during the Six Day War in 1967 leaving thousands of Syrian Druze this side of the ceasefire line. There’s now about twenty thousand of them who, back in March, heard the news that Donald Trump was – unlike the rest of the world – going to recognise Israel’s unilateral annexation of the territory. We’ll find out later what some of those Syrian Druze make of that in a moment.”

Significantly, Franks’ portrayal of history as beginning in June 1967 – a typical BBC practice – failed to inform listeners why Israel “captured the Golan Heights during the Six Day War” and what happened in the years before that to prompt such a move. Additionally, while repeatedly referring to “annexation” of the region, Franks failed to clarify to listeners at any point that Israeli law was applied to the Golan Heights thirty-eight years ago.

Notably, Franks elected to exclusively use the term “Syrian Druze” despite the fact that by no means all of the Druze population of the Golan Heights identifies in that manner.

Franks: “First though, I’m going to meet one of the twenty thousand Israelis who live in the Golan Heights. He’s called Menachem Ender. He lives in this tiny hamlet and tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials about their plans to build a new settlement on his village’s land and name it in honour of Donald Trump.”

Although Franks refrained from naming that “tiny hamlet”, as the Jerusalem Post and others reported ten days before his report was aired, the community tapped to be the location of that “new settlement” is Beruchim.

“Makor Rishon reported last week that the community, which will be a mixed secular-religious settlement that in its first stage will number some 120 families, will be set up in the northern Golan at Beruchim, where plans for a previous settlement were approved in 1991, and where there have been unsuccessful efforts over the years to establish a community.”

Ynet added:

“Today, Beruchim is the home of 10 people, and several other newcomers who wish to establish a leadership seminar for pre-army teens in the settlement.

The community was established in 1991, by then-housing minister Ariel Sharon, who sent a group of new immigrants from the Soviet Union to live there. It was established near Qela [Kela Alon] and meant to be a thriving extension of it, but failed to live up to the expectations.

Residents of Qela were outraged about the decision to change their existing community’s name, and hung signs protesting the move on their entrance gate, apparently under the impression that the entire perimeter of Qela and Beruchim will become the new Trump community.

However, the residents had false information, and it was clarified Sunday [May 12th] that the new settlement will not replace Qela, but rather built on top of Beruchim; a draft plan already exists and offers 110 new homes be built in Beruchim, that will house both religious and secular residents.”

An article published by Ha’aretz on the same day that Frank’s report was broadcast shows that he apparently did not bother to check facts adequately in the four days between recording and going on air. The man interviewed by Franks – Menachem Ender – appears in the Ha’aretz report where he is identified as a resident of nearby Kela Alon rather than a resident of the site of the new community to be named after the US president.

“Some 200 meters (650 feet) from Beruchim lies a very different place: The well-tended, middle-class settlement of Kela Alon, home to 85 families. Officially, Kela Alon and Kela-Beruchim are part of the same municipal entity, known simply as Kela. This led to confusion among Kela Alon residents when they heard of the Trump plan through the media, believing their settlement would be expanded and renamed for the U.S. president.

Their unhappiness is still visible on the main road to the neighborhood: Two homemade signs, one leaning against a tractor, read “Kela Alon is not for sale” and “Ramat Trump — not here!”

Mene [Menachem] Ender, 72, says the initial opposition was based on a misunderstanding of the government’s plans.

Ender, who moved to the Golan 45 years ago “out of Zionist motivation — I’m not ashamed to admit it” — after fighting in the Yom Kippur War, has lived in Kela Alon for the past two years. He says members of his community were disturbed by initial details of the plan, about which they had not been consulted. They feared it would transform their town.”

Franks’ claim that “tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials” is also shown to be inaccurate in the same Ha’aretz report.

“In a damage-control effort, the regional council has sought to calm the community, explaining that any new development would take place in Beruchim, not Kela Alon.

On Sunday, leaders of the Golan Regional Council met with 150 concerned residents and assured them that the new “Trump town” would be a separate entity from their own and that they would only benefit from its presence.”

That meeting with local council officials – not “government officials” – took place on May 19th – the day that Tim Franks was in the Golan Heights. We can identify the date of Franks’ visit because later on in the item he tells listeners that:

Franks: “Israel has launched hundreds of air sorties, particularly against Iranian positions [in Syria]. There was an airstrike just last night.”

That incident – which has not been acknowledged by Israel and was not reported by the BBC at the time – took place on the night of May 18th.

The rest of Franks’ report will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

Once again, BBC history begins in June 1967

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

In the first report – aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) – listeners heard that despite increased access to prayer services at the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, the security measures employed were “racist” and “discrimination”. Franks also failed to clarify to audiences that changes in “freedom of movement” occurred because of Palestinian terrorism. After having interviewed two Israelis both retired from public life, Franks concluded his report about the as yet unpublished US peace initiative with an interview with a Palestinian minister.

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

Franks: “Ahmed Majdalani is the Palestinian minister for social development here in Ramallah. Aren’t he and his colleagues just running out of space and leverage?”

Majdalani is also Secretary-General of a small faction called the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (which uses a logo that erases Israel) and PLO Executive Committee member.

Majdalani: “No because the Palestinian leadership until now have the veto.”

Franks: “So you’re rejecting this deal before you even know what’s in it.”

Majdalani: “Look, you can see what the American implement until now. Jerusalem as the capital for Israel started this…this deal. The United States started to implement his deal before submit his document. If the Palestinian leadership say no, there is no Arab country – [not] one Arab country – he will be partner to this deal. And after that you see the position of the international community.”

In contrast to that claim, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have said they will send delegations to the summit in Bahrain next month. Franks closed his report as follows:

Franks: “Defiance from the Palestinian minister. No-one here – how many times over the years have I said this – but no-one here is predicting a quick breakthrough. Some are even doubting whether President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will ever present his plan. But remember: when people talk about the status quo here, they don’t mean things remaining the same. Faith in a two-state solution is only diminishing.”

By the time the May 20th evening edition of ‘Newshour’ came around, Franks’ report had become the lead item (as well as longer) and it was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 00:09 here) thus:

Coomarasamy: “Can a catchy slogan breathe life into a moribund Middle East peace process? There are now not one but two slogans associated with the Trump administration’s efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back around the table. On Sunday the White House announced that its long-trailed ‘deal of the century’ would be accompanied by a peace to prosperity workshop in Bahrain next month. Today, Palestinian officials announced that they wouldn’t be attending that economic conference. In case you’re wondering, Newshour’s Tim Franks is not a no-show today. He’s in Jerusalem and he told me why the Palestinians aren’t going.”

Franks: “Well James, they’re in a blind fury about the Americans right now. I’ve had one very senior Palestinian official using words I’m not allowed to say on air about the Trump administration moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. Well that was one thing that hacked them off. Closing the PLO office in Washington, another. Cutting funding to the Palestinian refugee agency. The Palestinians just think that the US are no longer honest brokers.”

Franks made no effort to clarify to listeners that the Palestinians actually brought the closing of the PLO office in Washington upon themselves.

Franks: “So, yes, you’re right: at the moment moribund sums up the state of the peace process. But at the same time there’s a feeling the landscape may be shifting with some Arab states seeing their regional interests align with Israel’s. The Israeli prime minister talking about annexing parts of the West Bank – he did that just before the election last month – despite the rest of the world viewing the West Bank as occupied territory. So how is this all playing among Israelis and Palestinians? Let me take you first just south of where I’m speaking to you from, Jerusalem, into Bethlehem.”

Listeners then heard a repeat of Franks’ earlier report (apart from his closing comments) – including this:

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

After that repetition of Franks’ earlier report he went on (from 09:03) to bring in another Palestinian interviewee after giving a portrayal of the Palestinian economy which did not include the highly relevant issue of the PA’s prioritisation of salaries for convicted terrorists over the welfare of civilians.

Franks: “But given just how terrible the state of the Palestinian economy is at the moment, how their institutions are creaking and gasping from a lack of funds, why not just go to this US led investment conference next month in Bahrain? It’s a question I put to the spokesman based here in Jerusalem for the main Palestinian Fatah faction. He’s Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad.”

Readers may recall that last year Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad was given a platform by ‘Newshour’ to tell BBC audiences that Palestinians “arrived to this country” 300 years before the Jews – in 650 BC.

Abu Zayyad: “First of all we were not consulted at all regarding the meeting that is supposed to be held in Bahrain. And another thing is that, as we have been saying all the way, that we don’t believe any kind of economic solution for the sake of normalising actually the Israeli occupation of Palestine will bring us anywhere. We’re speaking about the conflict itself; we believe this is a political conflict that needs to be solved by giving the Palestinians the most basic rights that they’re asking for in order to move forward. Then after that, any kind of economic cooperation would come as a second step to strengthen a political solution between the two sides.”

Franks: “It’s not either/or is it? I mean why not accept economic help first and then move to trying to forge a political solution? It’s not…doesn’t exclude the possibility of then negotiating a full peace.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the interest that is coming out of this American initiated [initiative] is not actually to serve the interests of the Palestinian people which is to end the Israeli occupation of their lands. The real interest out of such a meeting or initiative is to try to normalise the relations between Israel and the Arab countries. We tried other plans before that were more about economic cooperation as to try to build bridges between the Arabs and the Israel indirectly while keeping Palestine on the side and it did not help any side of the conflict or the region itself.”

Franks: “If that’s the case, it must be pretty disheartening for you that all these Arab countries have said that they’re going to turn up at this conference.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the formal position of the Arab countries have been made clear in the last Arab summit in Tunisia where all the Arab countries stated clearly that they would not accept the deal such as the century deal that the Trump’s administration speaking about if it does not state clearly that there will be an end for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.”

Once again Franks failed to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967.

Franks: “Sure, but are you urging them to boycott this conference in Bahrain as well?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well we have our communication that is ongoing with the Arab countries and other actors and players in the region and internationally and we….”

Franks: “It’s going to be humiliating for you if you don’t turn up and they do and they say we accept the American notion that actually there could be something here in boosting the Palestinian economy.”

Abu Zayyad then brought up the topic of the February 2019 Warsaw Conference.

Abu Zayyad: “Well I want to remind you: there were other meetings. There was the Warsaw Conference just a few months ago and there was a meeting and there were discussions and there were suggestions made by the American administration but they did not change anything on the ground because here also the Arab countries and the world recognises the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people that must be [a] side of [in] any kind of negotiation or talks regarding reaching a solution for the conflict. So we don’t feel humiliated. We feel confident that we are united on this matter. We hear statements coming out of senior businessmen and leaders of the Palestinian economic sectors stating clearly that they will boycott this meeting and they will not attend it.”

Failing to inform listeners that the PLO does not include all the Palestinian factions and hence does not represent all the Palestinians, Franks closed his report there.

Remarkably, despite having dedicated two long reports to the topic of the US peace initiative, Tim Franks managed – like many of his colleagues before him also engaged in preemptive framing of that story – to completely avoid salient issues such as the divisions between the Palestinian factions, the fact that some of those factions oppose any resolution of the conflict and Palestinian terrorism.

He did however twice use part of over 21 minutes of airtime allotted to him to steer BBC audiences around the world towards the erroneous view that Israeli security measures are implemented not because of the terrorism he failed to even mention, but because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

BBC Monitoring’s Warsaw Summit hashtag ‘research’ gets mixed reception

 

 

 

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

Listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the report aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now in recent years, hopes for a resolution to the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have stagnated. Now, two separate developments suggest the landscape may be shifting. Last month, before winning the Israeli general election, the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. In other words, make them fully part of the State of Israel. And there’s wide speculation that next month President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner may at last unveil his ‘deal of the century’ to chart a new way forward for the Israelis and Palestinians. So, how’s all this playing out in Israel and the occupied territories? Newshour’s Tim Franks is there.”

Iqbal’s claim that Netanyahu “promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank” is of course based on statements made by the Israeli prime minister three days before the election. As was noted here in relation to the BBC’s coverage at the time, that was:

“…a political story taken rather more seriously by the foreign press than the Israeli public which emerged in an April 6th Channel 13 interview with Israel’s prime minister. During that interview Netanyahu was asked why, during his 2015-2019 term of office, he had not annexed Gush Etzion or applied Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim. Avoiding the word annexation, Netanyahu replied that the topic is under discussion and that he intends to apply Israeli law to Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria during his next (potential) term.”

The BBC has now turned that into a “promise”.

Franks’ report opened with the sound of shouting.

Franks: “Sometimes as you try to work out the situation in the West Bank it can seem phenomenally complex and detailed. The jigsaw there is of Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities, different areas of control, different levels of access and restrictions. But sometimes the picture that confronts you is very stark and very clear and, in this case, pretty noisy.”

In other words, what listeners were about to hear was signposted in advance as a “clear” portrayal of “the situation in the West Bank”.

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks then spoke to one of those men, who replied in Arabic.

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

The man continued to speak in Arabic and listeners heard someone else translate.

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

Franks made no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that entry into Israel from the PA controlled areas had actually been eased for Ramadan (as is usually the case) and that tens of thousands of people had attended related prayers on Temple Mount on that particular Friday and the previous one.  He failed to inform BBC audiences that most Palestinians were given free access while for security reasons – and not because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ as Franks chose to promote – some males were required to apply in advance for a travel permit.

“The admission for prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque for men under the age of 16 and over the age of 40, and women of all ages, without the requirement of a permit. Men between the ages of 30 and 40 are required to obtain an entry permit via the Palestinian Coordination Office.”

Franks then asked his unidentified interviewee:

Franks: “The last 25 years you’ve had the Palestinian Authority. What’s changed for you?”

Man: “The situation is becoming more and more worse. It’s going backwards instead of forwards. Before the Palestinian Authority we used to have freedom of movement, we used to work. But the situation is only getting worse after the PA who are ruling. Meanwhile me and you are under occupation.”

Once again Franks made no effort to inform listeners that it was the Palestinian decision to launch the five-year terror war known as the Second Intifada which actually brought an end to the level of “freedom of movement” which existed previously. Franks then brought in the first of two Israeli interviewees.

Franks: “It’s a common view among Palestinians anyway, as long as I’ve been coming here, that things are getting worse. Further north from Bethlehem, for the people in this part of the West Bank the outlook is rosier. This is the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim. Arieh Eldad has lived here for nearly 40 years. His terrace, I’m told, has one of the most commanding views of the West Bank you’ll ever see.”

After Eldad had described that view, Franks went on to repeat the Netanyahu “promise” claim made earlier by Iqbal.

Franks: “Arieh Eldad is a former member of the Knesset. He’s retired now and has long been one of the most forthright advocates of a simple solution to the problem of land in the West Bank: Israel should annex it all. Towards the end of last month’s election campaign the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he didn’t go quite that far but he did throw out a promise formally to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank. Arieh Eldad the old politician is not punching the air just yet.”

Eldad: “Netanyahu he never suffered from an overdose of ideology but his ideology wouldn’t drive him to annex Judea and Samaria. More and more voices are calling for Israel sovereignty on Judea and Samaria and he will not. He will say so again and again: nothing at the end. He is not the guy to annex it.”

Franks: “But maybe, when this long-awaited peace plan from Jared Kushner comes out, that plan will be to bury once and for all the idea of a Palestinian state. Do you not see the direction of travel in the way that you would like it to be?”

Eldad: “Yes certainly. Sometimes it seems that Trump is right to [on the Right of] Netanyahu on several issues. While I don’t remember easier international political climate for us. They are looking for plan B. They are looking for an alternative.”

Franks: “Arieh Eldad and what he says is now the American-led hunt for plan B. But another old hand sees it differently. Shabtai Shavit is the former director of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. In his Charles Eames armchair, tumbler of Scotch whisky in hand, Shabtai Shavit says that after all Donald Trump has given Binyamin Netanyahu, now could be payback.”

Shavit: “From what I hear and what I read, I conclude that Trump is going to pressure us to make concessions. He is in a good position to do it. He tell Bibi ‘listen, I move my embassy to Jerusalem – you owe me’.”

Franks: “One of the things that Jared Kushner has said is that in a sense we need to stop obsessing about two states. So what he’s talked about is security for the Israelis, economic prospects for the Palestinians. But do you think removing the idea of a formal Palestinian state is possible? I mean is it just imaginative thinking or is it fantasy?”

Shavit: “It’s fantasy. With all the respect that I have to Jared Kushner and to Jason Greenblatt, when it comes to the Middle East they are rookies – both of them.”

Franks: “So what could be the Palestinian response to all this? Here at the Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah you can hear, well not just the former Palestinian leader’s words but the whole narrative that the current Palestinian leadership wants to tell, spinning a story of a charismatic figurehead, of mass support, of heroic setbacks, of loyalty to a struggle in the forging of a nation.”

Franks then went on (21:05) to again signpost the false claims of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ heard earlier in his report as ‘the real thing’.

Franks: “But the picture beyond these polished, quiet corridors is different. We heard it through those voices in Bethlehem at the start of the report expressing frustration and disillusion. And with the Israeli and American governments uniting to put the squeeze on that leadership.”

As we will see in part two of this report, listeners then heard comments from a PA minister – but with no descriptions of his terrace, his chair or his preferred beverage from Tim Franks.

No BBC reporting on terror attacks by PA employees

On May 20th the Israel Security Agency announced that it had solved a series of shooting attacks that were carried out in the Ramallah district. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Israel has accused former Palestinian terrorist leader Zakaria Zubeidi of committing several fresh shooting attacks on Israeli buses in recent months, and also indicted him for attacks dating back over a decade that had previously been excused under an amnesty deal, including two murder charges.”

Zubeidi had been arrested along with a lawyer named Tarek Barghout in late February.

The ToI goes on to report that the two were charged in a military court.

“Zubeidi was indicted on 24 separate counts, the earliest of them from 2003. In addition to the recent alleged shooting attacks, he was charged with two counts of intentionally causing death — the military legal system’s equivalent to murder — as well as multiple counts of attempting to intentionally cause death, membership in a terrorist group, weapons sales, firing guns at people and preparing explosives. […]

According to the Shin Bet, the two were responsible for two shooting attacks on buses outside the Beit El settlement in the central West Bank in November 2018 and January 2019, injuring three people in total.”

The BBC did not cover either of those shooting attacks on buses at the time. 

Zubeidi’s history is well known:

“During the Second Intifada, which broke out in 2000, Zubeidi served as the commander in the Jenin region of Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. He was also suspected of being one of the chief architects of several terror attacks during that time period. […]

Zubeidi, who also helped found Jenin’s Freedom Theatre in 2006, evaded capture by Israeli forces for years, until the Israeli government offered him and several other al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades members amnesty in 2007.

Under the initial agreement with Israel, Zubeidi and the other terrorist operatives who were involved would be granted clemency if they agreed to “give up all violent and illegal activities and abandon the terrorist networks that they’d been a part of,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, Zubeidi’s alleged participation in the shooting attacks outside Beit El represents a “blatant and violent violation of these agreements” and thus negates the amnesty agreement, opening him up to prosecution for his terrorist activities during the early 2000s as well.”

Both men were employed by the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry until their arrest.

“Barghout, who has an Israeli ID card and belongs to Israel’s Bar Association but lives in Ramallah, worked on behalf of the Palestinian Authority until his arrest in February, representing terror suspects in both civilian courts in Israel and military courts in the West Bank. […]

According to the Shin Bet, the pair used Zubeidi’s car in the attacks and in the preparations for them — a vehicle he was given by the PA as part of his work for the Prisoner Affairs Ministry.

“This was a grave act in which a senior member of the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry and an Israeli lawyer who worked for the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry carried out serious terror attacks, using a PA car that was used by Zakaria for his work in the ministry,” an unnamed senior Shin Bet official said in a statement.”

Remarkably, BBC audiences have seen no coverage of the arrest and indictment of two Palestinian Authority employees on terrorism charges.

Related Articles:

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BBC R4 airs partisan portrayal of Jenin masked as ‘entertainment’

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examining BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of the WhatsApp story

Earlier this week we saw how the BBC News website promoted Paul Danahar’s narrative driven speculations concerning the WhatsApp security flaw story.

On the same day that Danahar’s article appeared – May 14th – the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ devoted over twelve and a half of its 53 minutes to the same story.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that lead item (from 00:12 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “We begin today with WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service owned by Facebook used by 1.5 billion people. Well it turns out that encryption is not fail-safe after all. Hackers have been able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in the platform. WhatsApp said the attack targeted a select number of users and was orchestrated by an advanced cyber actor. They say they fixed the vulnerability on Friday and urged their users to update their apps as an added precaution. This is quite a complicated story with potentially far-reaching consequences. We’re going to try and unpick it for you. The surveillance software called Pegasus, developed by an Israeli company called NSO Group, has been identified as the software which has breached the encryption of WhatsApp. Let’s start with the technology then and speak to our technology correspondent Chris Fox who joins me in the studio.”

Chris Fox began by explaining the technical details of the story, including the fact that the spyware targeted WhatsApp messages at either end – not their encryption as claimed by Iqbal. In response to a request from Iqbal to “tell us about Pegasus, this software that’s been developed by this company NSO”, Fox clarified that – in contrast to the claim made by Iqbal in her introduction:

03:18 Fox: “We don’t know for sure that it was Pegasus involved in this attack. What we do know is that there was a flaw in WhatsApp that could let something like that in and that flaw has been closed but exactly what the software was is not clear because WhatsApp hasn’t said.”

That did not stop Iqbal from continuing to promote linkage between this story and Israel.

04:42 Iqbal: “Now human rights groups are anxious about this kind of surveillance software, obviously. Amnesty International has filed a petition in an Israeli district court asking to revoke the defence export licence of that cyber surveillance company NSO Group. The petitioners who filed to revoke that export licence claim the firm’s Pegasus software has been used in the past and may still be in use for the surveillance of human rights activists of Amnesty International and also other groups. But what evidence do groups like Amnesty have? I asked Danna Ingleton, deputy director of technology for Amnesty International, what evidence they had that will make a strong case for revoking this license.”

The responses given by Ingleton to Iqbal’s questions were the same as statements she made in an affidavit presented as part of the law suit filed with the Tel Aviv district court by Amnesty International and others the day before this programme was aired. Ingleton told of a colleague (who declines to be named) being sent a message on WhatsApp which Amnesty International believes was linked to an attempt to install spyware on his or her phone. In response to a question from Iqbal about “what’s happened” in such cases, Ingleton spoke of a “chilling effect” also presented in her affidavit.

At 08:38 Iqbal moved on to another interviewee.

Iqbal: “Let’s take a look now at how this technology has become what some people have described as a trophy weapon in the rivalries between various countries.”

Those “some people” would appear to be the Financial Times.

Iqbal: “I’m joined in the studio by now by Thomas Brewster: security, surveillance and privacy reporter for Forbes. Let’s start by getting you to outline a little bit more about what NSO Group is and what they do. We’ve heard that of course they do…ahm…use this Pegasus software to…give it [sic] to countries to prevent terrorist attacks, infiltrate drug cartels etc. But just give us a broader picture of who they are.”

Brewster: “If you think about NSO Group as one of many Israeli surveillance companies who are very, very talented at getting into people’s smartphones…”

Later on Iqbal interrupted Brewster to ask:

Iqbal: “Is it significant that these companies are in Israel or this particular one is in Israel?”

Brewster: “Well I mean Israel…the reason why Israel has this kind of cadre of businessmen who are very, very good at creating these kinds of companies and this kind of technology is because, you know, they come out of a country where they have to go into service. And if you’re technically very smart you get put in, you know, eh…either unit 8200 which is the kind of…eh….GCHQ, NSA equivalent or you go into Mossad and do technical things there or you’re a part of the IDF technology division, you know, there’s all…”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “The Israeli Defense Force.”

Brewster: “Exactly, yeah. All these incredibly talented units and you come out of those units and you either set up a consumer technology business, you set up a cyber security business or, like these handful of people, you set up a surveillance company that, you know, is bypassing cyber security.”

Iqbal: “And is it the case that this kind of software is used in terms of geo-politics in a region like the Middle East?”

Brewster: “If you’re able to do it like they did with WhatsApp today, very, very hard to trace back to who the actual owner of the product is. You know you can take guesses and a lot of them are geo-political guesses, you know…”

The signposting in this long item is of course amply evident. Despite Chris Fox having clarified near the beginning that “[w]e don’t know for sure that it was Pegasus involved in this attack”, rather than ‘unpicking’ the “complicated story” as promised in her introduction, Iqbal simply pursued her Israel theme for more than nine and a half additional minutes.

The day after this item was aired to audiences around the world Thomas Brewster made a discovery.

Those following the Israeli media would have already known in February that the NSO Group had been acquired by the London-based firm Novalpina Capital, whose above letter can be found here.

Remarkably though, ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing at all about that British connection to the company the BBC has chosen to portray as being linked to this story.

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BBC Travel serves up politicised narrative in food item yet again

h/t YM

May 19th saw the appearance of yet another BBC Travel article belonging to the genre of ‘promotion of a political narrative in an item ostensibly about food’.

Titled “Meet the chefs reinventing Palestinian cuisine”, the article was written by freelancer Tessa Fox who has previously had content published at ‘Middle East Eye’ and who is a contributor to the controversial Qatari network Al Jazeera.

As is so often the case in BBC content concerning “the Palestinian kitchen”, readers are told by one interviewee of supposed culinary appropriation by Israelis.

“We’re facing a daily threat of [our food just] being called ‘Middle Eastern cuisine’ or ‘Israeli cuisine’. Today, you have Israeli chefs selling [Palestinian recipes] as Israeli food.”

Readers also find unquestioning promotion of political narratives from the same interviewee, who has appeared previously in BBC content.

“Kattan emphasised that foraging, once popular with many Palestinians, gives residents a strong link to their land. He says that so long as Israel continues its settlement program in the West Bank and confiscates Palestinian territory, this connection among Palestinians to their land is increasingly important.”

Another interviewee is quoted as claiming that:

““As a Palestinian, I realise how much impact ‘the occupier’ has had on our culture. We feel a little ashamed [of our] Palestinian roots,” he added, citing the increased number of restaurants in the West Bank serving non-Palestinian fare.”

The article includes one-sided political messaging served up with Western buzz words such as “farm-to-table” and “land-to-table”.

“As the bitter, decades-long conflict with Israel continues, the Palestinians’ traditional cuisine is under threat, as families have been separated from the farms and valleys that supplied their regional ingredients for hundreds of years. As a result, locals worry that their once-proud culinary identity is disappearing and their food is losing its distinct land-to-table flavour.”

“Israeli settlements, which the UN Security Council has deemed illegal, are sometimes built on Palestinian farmland, thereby destroying the crops or rendering them inaccessible to Palestinians due to security checkpoints. Crops that traditionally require large swathes of land, like wheat, have become increasingly difficult to grow. In addition, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians importing fertiliser, which Israel deems as ‘dual-use’ item along with certain chemicals that could be used to manufacture weapons, have had a “detrimental impact on Palestinian agriculture,” according to a UN study, causing Palestinians’ agricultural production to decline by up to a third.”

That “UN study” was produced by UNCTAD and relies on information sourced from political NGOs such as ARIJ.

“Like Kattan, Bukhari feels strongly that the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank and its restriction of movement of Palestinians is not only disconnecting Palestinians from their land, but dissolving their distinct culinary identity.

“They say ‘Arab’, not ‘Palestinian’,” Bukhari said. “They’re doing their best to remove Palestine from the map, from history. So, anything that is Palestinian should be mentioned more and more.””

“Daher believes that since the erection of the barrier and restriction of movement from the West Bank into Israel, many Palestinians living in the Occupied territories have forgotten the importance of the sea in Palestinian cooking. Outside the Gaza Strip and coastal Israeli communities like Acre with sizeable Palestinian populations, most Palestinians no longer have access to the Mediterranean and have stopped cooking traditional seafood dishes.”

As is all too often the case in BBC reporting, readers are wrongly told that Palestinians began leaving their homes “after Israel declared its independence in 1948”. In fact, roughly half of those who fled did so between November 1947 – when Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence – and May 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent State of Israel.

“Mustafa explained that on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, there are cities such as Nazareth where the majority of people are still Palestinian, but are now residing in Israel. After Israel declared its independence in 1948, many Palestinians fled or were forced to flee their homes in the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence.”

Notably, this one-sided account makes no mention whatsoever of the Arab violence, the invasions by Arab armies or the Palestinian terrorism which made measures such as the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints necessary.

Readers also find misrepresentation of history:

“One such chef is Yousef Hanna, the owner of Magdalena – an upscale restaurant on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in the village of Migdal. Now located in north-east Israel, Migdal was built on top of a Palestinian village depopulated in 1948 called al-Majdal.”

In fact Migdal was established in 1910 – adjacent to the village of al Majdal rather than “on top” of it – and is named after the Second Temple era Jewish town of Magdala, on the site of which the Arab village was constructed.

As we see, BBC Travel’s promotion of partial political messaging by freelance writers of ‘life-style’ articles that potentially reach audiences less familiar with the political ins and outs of the Middle East continues.

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