BBC News glosses over repeated Palestinian violence at holy site

Visitors to the BBC News website on March 20th found a report titled “Two Palestinians killed in clashes in Nablus” which opened as follows:

“Two Palestinian men have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military said explosive devices were hurled from a car at troops guarding Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Nablus.

The troops opened fire, killing two assailants, it added.”

The report later went on to inform readers that: [emphasis added]

“Joseph’s Tomb – which is revered by Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the son of the biblical patriarch Jacob – has been a source of friction in the past.

It is in an area under Palestinian civilian control, but Jewish pilgrims are permitted to visit several times a year under Israeli military protection.”

Also of significance to Christians, the site is in fact:

“…located inside Area A of the West Bank, under complete Palestinian Authority control. The IDF bars Israeli citizens from entering Area A without prior authorization.”

The BBC did not bother to explain to readers of this report the meaning of the phrase “a source of friction in the past”. The last time audiences saw any BBC reporting on such so-called “friction” was in October 2015 when Palestinian rioters set fire to the tomb. Since then repeated attacks on both the site itself and security forces guarding visiting worshippers have gone unreported. For example:

February 2016: “Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian protesters while Israelis prayed at Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus late Monday night, as Jewish worshipers entered a holy site for a monthly pilgrimage.”

April 2016: “Palestinian residents of Nablus threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers as they escorted hundreds of visitors to a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city overnight Wednesday-Thursday.”

June 2016: “Palestinian security forces managed to push back protesters who were advancing on the Joseph’s Tomb shrine late Saturday. According to Hebrew media reports, the protesters tried to set the site on fire. The demonstration began Saturday night after the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that a wounded Palestinian teen, said to have been hurt by IDF fire on Thursday after allegedly trying to throw a firebomb at Jews praying at the site, had taken a turn for the worse in hospital.”

August 2016: “…Palestinian residents of Nablus threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers and Border Police as they escorted 24 busloads of visitors to Joseph’s Tomb near the West Bank city.”

September 2016: “An IDF soldier was shot and moderately wounded while guarding a group of religious Jews visiting the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, early Thursday morning, the army said. […] Local residents also rolled burning tires and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops guarding the area.”

September 2016: “Palestinian rioters clashed with IDF troops in Nablus early Thursday as hundreds of Jewish worshipers visited a pilgrimage site in the West Bank city. Youths threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops guarding a group of religious Jews visiting the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, the army said.”

December 2016: “Rioters burned tires and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at security forces protecting the pilgrims…”

February 2017: “A soldier was lightly wounded when an improvised explosive device was thrown at him near the West Bank city of Nablus early Thursday morning, the army said. The soldier’s unit was on patrol in the Balata refugee camp as a group of Israeli Jews visited a pilgrimage site on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city.”

December 2017: “Also overnight, the army led a group of some 500 Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. During the visit, local residents clashed violently with the troops, throwing rocks and burning tires, the army said.”

January 2018: “Army sappers detonated a cellphone-operated explosive device that was apparently planted by Palestinians at the entrance to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in the city of Nablus early Tuesday morning, ahead of a visit by approximately 1,000 Jewish worshipers, the army said.”

April 2018: “A Palestinian hurled explosives at Israeli soldiers protecting a crowd of Jewish worshipers in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Wednesday-Thursday, causing no injuries or damage, the army said.”

September 2018: “Violent clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that entered Nablus late Wednesday night to secure the northern West Bank city ahead of the pilgrimage of some 1,500 Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site. […] Footage from the scene shows demonstrators hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli convoy entering the city.”

November 2018: “Clashes broke out in the northern West Bank city of Nablus overnight Tuesday after Israeli security forces entered the city to escort Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, the army said. According to an Israel Defense Forces statement, Palestinians hurled firebombs at security forces and shot at their armored cars, before troops drove them back with tear gas and live fire. Inside the tomb, soldiers discovered two makeshift explosive devices, the army said. Both were defused by sappers.”

As has been noted here in the past freedom of access to and worship at holy sites was supposedly guaranteed under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO over two decades ago.  

Despite its public purpose obligation to provide audiences with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” the BBC chooses to euphemistically frame regular breaches of that agreement as “friction” attributed to the site itself rather than to the Palestinians actually throwing firebombs, explosives or rocks.

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BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

As documented here at the time, earlier this month the BBC chose to ignore the release of information concerning Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan Heights.

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

Not only have BBC audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in south-west Syria in recent years but the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

That framing was again promoted by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barabara Plett Usher in several recent reports concerning US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In an article titled “Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory” that appeared on the BBC News website on March 21st, readers saw superfluous scare quotes attached to the phrase military entrenchment.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has warned about the “military entrenchment” of his country’s arch-enemy Iran in Syria and has ordered air strikes in an attempt to thwart it…”

Subsequent analysis from Plett Usher suggested to readers that the subject of the Iranian build-up of force in Syria is not only open to debate but a tactic used by Israel to advance its interests. [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

The same ‘analysis’ from Plett Usher appeared in a report published on March 22nd under the title “Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks”.

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

In an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means” which first appeared on March 22nd and was then posted in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 25th as well as promoted in a report titled “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli” published on the same day, Plett Usher wrote:

 “…Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.”

In the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 12:17 here) listeners heard Plett Usher claim that:

“Mr Netanyahu had stepped up lobbying for such a move since Mr Trump took office. He’s gained traction by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel and the Golan Heights is the front line.”

The week before she produced those reports Barbara Plett Usher had been at a press briefing given by the US Secretary of State and had asked a question concerning the Golan Heights.

“MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara.

QUESTION: […] And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

Not only did Plett Usher herself sound significantly less sceptical about “Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan” in that question but she got a very clear answer from the US Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, in her reports to BBC audiences Plett Usher’s framing includes promotion of the notion that there is room for doubt with regard to the actions and intentions of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

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BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

 

BBC unquestioningly amplifies unsubstantiated Hamas claims

Early on the evening of March 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house”. Since its initial appearance the article has undergone amendment twelve times. The latest version (at the time of writing) gives readers mostly reasonable portrayal of events but a few points are nevertheless noteworthy.

On two occasions the report refers to “Gaza’s health ministry”.

“Gaza’s health ministry said seven Palestinians were injured.”

“The IDF said, in response to the rocket fire, fighter jets and helicopters struck 15 targets in Gaza, including a Hamas military compound in the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza’s health ministry did not report any casualties as a result of those strikes.”

Interestingly, several previous versions of the report had accurately referred to “the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry” but the obviously relevant fact that the body reporting injuries and casualties is the same body firing the rockets and mortars was curiously erased from the final version of the article set to remain online.

While people who deliberately attack civilian targets are clearly terrorists, the BBC – as usual – could not bring itself to use that term in this report. [emphasis added]

Militants later launched a barrage of rockets towards southern Israeli towns despite reports of a ceasefire, triggering further Israeli strikes.”

“So far no Palestinian militant group has said it fired the long-range rocket that hit the house in Mishmeret, north of Tel Aviv, on Monday morning.”

“Overnight, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 60 rockets and mortars towards Israel, according to the IDF.”

And so, as ever, we see the BBC using the euphemism ‘militants’ because it considers it more important to avoid making “value judgements” about terrorists who target sleeping Israeli civilians with military grade mortars and rockets than to inform its audiences by means of precise and appropriate language.

Right at the end of the final version of this report, readers find a section sub-headed “What did Israel strike in response?”.

“The targets included the office of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza City’s Rimal district. There was no indication that Mr Haniya was inside at the time.

The IDF also said it had bombed a five-storey building in Gaza City housing the offices of Hamas’ Internal Security Service, and a three-storey building in the eastern Sabra district that was the “secret headquarters” of Hamas’s General Security Forces, as well as its General Intelligence and Military Intelligence agencies.”

Finally, readers were told that:

“A Hamas website, The Palestinian Information Center, said blocks of flats, civilian facilities, agricultural land and “resistance sites” had been targeted.”

In other words, the BBC chose to close this report with unquestioning amplification of unsubstantiated claims of Israeli attacks on non-military targets sourced from a website run by a terrorist organisation.

Quite how that meets the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards” is of course a mystery.  

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BBC’s Knell claims Gaza IED attackers ‘demonstrate against Israeli policies’

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on Friday, March 22nd heard a report (from 16:53 here) concerning the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption earlier in the day of the report submitted by the commission of inquiry it set up last May. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning what it calls Israel’s apparent use of unlawful and other excessive force after an inquiry into last year’s deadly protests at the Gaza border. The UK has expressed concern about anti-Israel bias and abstained from the vote. Health officials in Gaza say Israeli forces have killed two people and wounded 55 today in the latest demonstration. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Audiences were not told that “health officials in Gaza” are in fact one and the same as the terrorist organisation which encourages thousands of people to riot at the border fence every week.

Knell: “Israel condemned this hard-hitting resolution, saying it was an absurd and hypocritical ritual of the council to single it out for criticism. While 23 countries voted in favour and eight against, the UK was among 15 to abstain. On Twitter the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had earlier written ‘it cannot be right that Israel – the world’s only Jewish state – is the only nation the UN Human Rights Council dedicates an entire agenda item to’. The resolution followed a UN inquiry which said Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding over six thousand in Gaza protests last year. Israel says its military acts only to defend its civilians. Today, Gaza’s Hamas rulers – keen to distract from recent economic protests – again encouraged locals to demonstrate against Israeli policies.”

Apparently Yolande Knell has not sufficiently studied the Commission’s report (see page 104) as she cites the number – 189 – of Palestinians it claims were killed during the rioting rather than the number it claims were killed by Israeli forces.

As we see, throughout this news bulletin the year-long rioting that has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts was euphemistically portrayed (in line with BBC editorial policy from day one) as “protests” and “demonstrations”.

Knell’s portrayal of the March 22 incidents as a demonstration “against Israeli policies” clearly does not give audiences a clear understanding of what actually happened on that day.

“Several thousand Palestinians were protesting along the Gaza Strip border on Friday, throwing explosive devices and rocks at soldiers who were responding with tear gas and occasional live fire. Palestinians said two people were killed.

Also Friday, a balloon carrying an incendiary device launched from Gaza set a blaze between homes in the nearby Israeli kibbutz of Nir Am. The fire was extinguished and there were no reports of injuries. Another blaze was started near Kibbutz Be’eri.

In riots along the barrier, Palestinians tried to destroy the border fence in several places, but were pushed back by the IDF. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians, an 18-year-old and a 29-year-old, were killed by live fire and 55 wounded.”

For fifty-one weeks the BBC has been producing coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting that has uniformly downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in their organisation and execution has (until some recent but isolated clarification by Yolande Knell concerning Hamas’ involvement) been repeatedly ignored.

The BBC’s funding public has heard absolutely nothing about the airborne explosive devices employed in recent months or the night-time rioting organised by Hamas. Audiences have however heard and seen homogeneously uncritical promotion of the UNHRC commission’s report on a subject about which they have been serially under-informed.

That of course means that the BBC’s domestic audiences are – in contrast to the corporation’s public purpose obligations – not well placed to understand what their own foreign secretary means when he refers to “discrimination” and the intention of the UK to oppose Item 7 resolutions at the UNHRC.

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

 

Partial portrayals of international law in three BBC reports

In recent days visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page have found three reports relating to the US president’s announcement of the intention to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

One of those reports was written by the BBC’s State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher and the other two included inserts of her analysis. All three promoted specific messaging on the topic of international law.

1) Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory March 21st:

“Richard Haass, a former senior US state department official who is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said he “strongly disagreed” with Mr Trump. He said such recognising Israeli sovereignty would violate a UN Security Council resolution, “which rules out acquiring territory by war”. […]

So critics have concluded this was a blatant attempt to give Mr Netanyahu a boost in a hotly-contested election.

If so, it’s one that violates important principles of international law, they say: Mr Trump has endorsed the seizure of territory, and will have no moral authority to criticise Russia for doing so in Ukraine’s Crimea.”

2) Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks March 22nd:

“Richard Haass, a former senior US state department official who is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said he “strongly disagreed” with Mr Trump and that the decision would violate a UN Security Council resolution “which rules out acquiring territory by war”. […]

Critics have concluded this was a blatant attempt to give Mr Netanyahu a boost in a hotly-contested election. If so, it’s one that violates important principles of international law, they say: Mr Trump has endorsed the seizure of territory, and will have no moral authority to criticise Russia for doing so in Ukraine’s Crimea.”

3) Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means March 22nd, Barbara Plett Usher:

“First and foremost is one of international law: in recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, Mr Trump is in effect endorsing its seizure of the territory. By what moral authority then could he challenge others who do the same, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea?”

As Professor Eugene Kontorovich pointed out in testimony given to the US House of Representatives last year:

“The widely-repeated view that recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would be contrary to international law is based on one fundamental assumption: that at least since the adoption of U.N. Charter, international law prohibits any acquisition of foreign territory by force. While such a formulation of the rule is largely accurate, it omits crucial exceptions quite relevant to the case of the Golan Heights.

Whatever the current status of an absolute prohibition on territorial change resulting from war, there was certainly no such blanket prohibition in 1967, when the territory came under Israeli control. At the time, international law only prohibited acquisition of force in illegal or aggressive wars. This is evident from the source of the prohibition in the UN Charter, post-Charter state practice, and the understandings of international jurists at the time. There is simply no precedent or authoritative source for forbidding defensive conquest in 1967.

The U.N. Charter prohibits war for most purposes. When the use of force is illegal, it is natural to conclude that any territorial gains from such aggression cannot be recognized as well. Thus the illegality of conquest arises from the presumptive illegality of the use of force. But crucially, the U.N. Charter does not make all war illegal. Indeed, it expressly reaffirms the legality of a defensive war. Since defensive war is not illegal, it follows that the defender’s territorial gains from such a war would not be illegal.”

Notably, readers of the first report were also told that:

“In 2017, Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the relocation of the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv. The decision was condemned by Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and the UN General Assembly demanded its cancellation.”

The second article likewise stated:

“In 2017, Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the relocation of the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

The decision was condemned by Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and the UN General Assembly demanded its cancellation.”

Under the heading “How will this affect the West Bank?” readers of the third article were informed that:

“The occupied West Bank is different from the Golan Heights. It was also captured by Israel in the 1967 war, from Jordan.”

As usual the BBC’s presentation of history commences in June 1967 with no mention of the relevant fact that in 1948 Jordan launched an attack on the regions included in the Mandate for Palestine which the BBC terms “the West Bank” and “East Jerusalem” and subsequently illegally annexed both areas.  

Predictably, while amplifying Palestinian claims to parts of Jerusalem which were under Jordanian occupation for 19 years, the BBC has nothing at all to tell its audiences about the legality of that particular case of seizure of territory by war.

What is missing from BBC news bulletins on Gaza protests?

As we saw earlier in the week, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell managed to write an entire feature on the topic of the recent popular protests against the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip without explaining how Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism has affected that situation.

“While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.”

The day after that article was published – March 19th – listeners to the ‘Six O’Clock News’ on BBC Radio 4 heard another report from Knell on the same topic (from 19:06 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The Hamas-run authorities in Gaza have been continuing to make arrests following unprecedented protests about the economic conditions there. Dozens of journalists and human rights workers as well as the group’s political opponents are among those who’ve been detained. The clamp down has been documented online as our Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem, Yolande Knell, has been finding out.”

Knell: “A woman screams as a man is dragged away by Hamas security forces in a video uploaded to social media. Other footage online showed people being badly beaten with live ammunition being fired in the air. Protests with the slogan ‘We Want to Live’ began last week, bringing hundreds of people onto the streets across Gaza. Nothing of this scale has been seen since Hamas took full control here over a decade ago. This woman doesn’t hold back in her criticism. ‘The sons of Hamas leaders have houses and cars. They can afford to get married. They have everything’ she says ‘and our children have nothing – not even a piece of bread’. Recently, high taxes have pushed up prices but already Gaza’s economy was broken. 70% of young people have no jobs. Israel and Egypt have kept a tight blockade in place since the take-over by Hamas, which is widely seen as a terrorist group. Hamas is blaming its political rival Fatah for stirring up unrest in Gaza – something it denies. After years of ruling this tiny territory with an iron fist, recent days have shown cracks in the authority of Hamas. Its tactics may now be scaring people away from protests but that’s not stopping them from venting their anger online.”

The same report was also aired in the BBC Radio 4 ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 18:20 here).

In addition to giving a euphemistic portrayal of the violent coup perpetrated by Hamas in 2007, Knell failed to clarify to listeners that what she terms a “tight blockade” was made necessary by the rise in Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians following that violent coup – including over 3,000 attacks using rockets and mortars in the first year alone.

Clearly Knell intends listeners to understand that Gaza’s ‘already broken’ economy is linked to the counter-terrorism measures implemented by Israel and Egypt. However, once again she has absolutely nothing to tell BBC audiences about Hamas’ prioritisation of its terror infrastructure and activities over the welfare of residents in the Gaza Strip.

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Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

h/t GB

Since February 28th BBC audiences have seen several examples of uncritical amplification of a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

As has been documented here over the past twelve months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ weekly violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as mere “protests” and “demonstrations”. BBC reporting has serially downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in the organisation and execution of the provocation has been repeatedly ignored.

On March 18th the Commission of Inquiry presented its report at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. Even before that presentation had taken place, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ aired an item (from 02:49:40 here) in which that partisan framing of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting was repeated.

Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item with a portrayal of Israel as an ‘occupying force’ in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the territory nearly 14 years ago.

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

Robinson: “A commission established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate what it calls the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians is due to deliver its conclusions later today. Israel has always insisted that it has no choice but to protect its border with Gaza using, if necessary, live fire and dismisses the report as anything but independent.”

Having framed those participating in year-long acts of violence as “civilians” despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of those killed had links to terrorist organisations, Robinson went on to falsely assert that ‘the core facts are not in dispute’ even as he described the violent rioting as “protests”.

Robinson: “The core facts though are not really in dispute. The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website published an article about Loubani last May in which he made the same claims. As was documented here at the time:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.”

As noted here when the BBC interviewed Loubani in 2015:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.”

Robinson of course did not bother to provide his listeners with that relevant background information before introducing another doctor.

Robinson: “Well listening to that is an orthopaedic surgeon all too familiar with these sorts of injuries. He works at the al Shifa hospital. He’s Dr Mahmoud Mattar and he’s at the United Nations in Geneva today to hear what the UN Human Rights Commission will have to say. […]

Once again Robinson promoted the BBC’s chosen framing:

Robinson: “The Israeli military say that they often fire into the legs of protesters but that they only do it as a last resort and they do it to avoid killing people. Explain to us what the impact of the injury you treat and see is, please.”

After Mattar had described the injuries and the difficulties faced by hospitals trying to treat large numbers of patients (but without clarifying that the hospital where he works is run by the same terror organisation which organises the violent rioting), Robinson again gave an inaccurate portrayal of the past year’s events along the border.

Robinson: “The human toll is terrible but what do you expect from the commission because clearly Palestinians will say they have a right to protest peacefully but Israel will say if you approach the border you are a risk to the Israelis on the other side of the border and they have repeatedly warned that people who do approach the border may well be shot.”

Mattar replied with the claim that hospitals in the Gaza strip should be given better equipment in order to deal with the injuries and Robinson – obviously looking for a political sound-bite – interrupted him.

Robinson [interrupts] “So you think the right reaction today is a humanitarian response – more money for medical care – rather than a political response about who is to blame.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m not here to blame anyone actually. With all the aggression we know by all the international law that the protester have the right to demonstrate peacefully. In addition we also have the right to be treated fully as the international world.”

Robinson: “But of course the Israelis would say they have the right under international law to defend their border.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m talking from this point as a medical professional. I’m not know too much about the border and what happen in the border but actually what I know…”

Apparently realising that he was not going to get the reaction he was looking for, Robinson interrupted his interviewee again and closed the conversation.

Robinson [interrupts]: “But you will be back, Dr Mattar, in Gaza soon.”

Mattar: “Yeah, yeah.”

Robinson: “Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us.”

The BBC’s consistently one-sided coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ over the past twelve months, means that audiences lack essential background information on that topic. Rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, this latest BBC item again downplays the threats facing Israel and ignores the fact that the violence is orchestrated by terror groups. Once again we see unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report without any mention of its defects and the continuing promotion of a blatant politically motivated narrative.

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A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, on March 18th the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell reported on terror attacks in Samaria, rocket fire on Tel Aviv and recent demonstrations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. All those separate events were framed as being linked to the upcoming election in Israel and Knell rounded off that report by quoting unnamed “Israeli commentators” who turned out to be one journalist writing at Ha’aretz.  

Later the same day a very similar written report by Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule”. That article ended with the same curious framing of those domestic protests.

“Israeli journalists have observed that right now their country faces a paradox.

Usually, Israel would be pleased to see an uprising against Hamas in Gaza, hoping this could lead to the group’s downfall.

But in the run up to April’s general election in Israel, the country worries about turmoil and what other diversions Hamas might have in mind.”

Knell’s written report opened thus:

“In Gaza, it is no surprise to hear complaints about the terrible living conditions – after all, the World Bank describes a local economy in “free fall” with 70% unemployment among young people.

However, what has been extraordinary in recent days is that large crowds of Palestinians have been turning out on the streets to voice their frustration and even criticise Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules the strip with an iron fist.”

The explanation given by Knell for those “terrible living conditions” read as follows:

“At the heart of Gaza’s economic woes is a blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – restricting the movement of people and goods – which was tightened after the Hamas takeover. Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU and UK.

In the past two years, the PA has piled on financial pressure as it has tried to reassert its control over the strip. Cash-strapped Hamas has recently hiked taxes, raising prices and pushing many people in Gaza to the brink.”

As we see Knell claimed that Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures are “at the heart the heart of Gaza’s economic woes” but without telling readers of the Hamas terrorism which made those measures necessary.

While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.

Obviously Knell’s minimalist explanation of Gaza’s “economic woes” is distinctly unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand the real background to the situation which has brought demonstrators onto the streets.

No less unhelpful is her bizarre insistence on linking those social protests and acts of terror alike to next month’s elections in Israel.

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A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

On March 18th the BBC got round to telling listeners to one of its radio stations something about the demonstrations against Hamas which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip since last week.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 37:47 here) by Yolande Knell in which – oddly – those and other recent events in the region were framed as being connected to the upcoming general election in Israel.

Presenter Nick Robinson began by referring to the terror attacks that took place the previous morning in Samaria which had hitherto been ignored by the BBC.

Robinson: “Tensions are rising ahead of Israel’s elections. The Israeli army says that a person has been killed and two seriously injured in a shooting near the Ariel settlement on the occupied West Bank. We can talk to our correspondent Yolande Knell. Tell us more about that incident, Yolande, please.”

Knell began by giving an account of the incident which – predictably – did not include the words terror or terrorist.

Knell: “Well the Israeli military is still searching this morning for a Palestinian man who was…ehm…this attacker yesterday in the West Bank. He killed an Israeli soldier of 19 years old and then wounded badly two other people. Basically he stole the gun of the soldier after stabbing him and then started firing at cars heading towards the nearby settlement. He took one of those cars, having injured a man inside, and then drove it to another nearby junction where he shot and badly injured a second soldier before he drove off. So I mean really Palestinian attacks with guns, knives, car rammings; they have continued to occur sporadically in the West Bank but really the frequency of such attacks has decreased a lot from back in 2015 and 2016 when there was a real series of them. But this in very worrying for the Israelis as they head towards the April 9th general election where the prime minister wants to run for his fifth term. He’s really brandishing his credentials as Israel’s Mr Security.”

As recently reported at the Times of Israel, Knell’s portrayal of “decreased” terror attacks since 2015/16 does not tell the whole story.

“…Israeli officials say that slightly more than 200 terror attacks were prevented in 2015, about 350 in 2016, roughly 400 in 2017, and almost 600 in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been almost 100 thwarted terror attacks — and these are only of the kind defined as severe: shootings, explosives, vehicle-rammings, and the like. In other words, terrorists are attempting to perpetrate more terror attacks each year, and their motivation remains high.”

Robinson continued with further reinforcement of that questionable framing.

Robinson: “I talked of increasing tensions ahead of those elections. There were rocket attacks on Tel Aviv from Gaza and retaliatory strikes on Gaza by the Israeli armed forces.”

Knell: “That’s right. Quite a lot of unusual things happening in Gaza in just the last few days. Last Thursday night, as Hamas leaders sat down with an Egyptian security delegation which has been trying to mediate a longer-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, there were two longer range rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv. That’s something that has not been seen here since the 2014 full-scale armed conflict…ahm…between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Then the Israel military responded with airstrikes on dozens of Hamas targets.”

Notably Knell failed to inform listeners that residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip had also been targeted with several barrages of rocket fire overnight and the following morning. However we discover that – in contrast to her colleagues at the BBC News website – Yolande Knell was able to tell ‘Today’ listeners who is behind the weekly rioting along the border fence.

Knell: “There was then this insistence from Hamas and the Egyptians that the rocket fire was some kind of mistake and as Egypt tried to broker calm, Hamas called for the cancellation of its demonstrations along the boundary fence last Friday. That’s the first time that’s really happened since those protests began nearly a year ago.”

Knell moved on to another topic:

Knell: “The other thing that’s caught us somewhat by surprise…erm…is…several days of protests in Gaza by another group calling itself ‘We Want to Live’ and they’re really protesting – defying the tight control of the Hamas authorities – protesting about the rising cost of living and high taxes in Gaza. And that’s led to dozens of arrests, people being beaten up by the Hamas security forces including journalists and human rights workers.”

Failing to mention the reports of Hamas’ use of live fire against the demonstrators, Knell then rounded off her report with more dubious framing relating to the upcoming election.

Knell: “And Israeli commentators writing in the papers this morning that there’s kind of a paradox here. Normally Israel would be very pleased with the kind of public protest in Gaza, seeing it as proof that its closure policy in Gaza, which often says could lead to Hamas’ downfall, is working. But right now this is the kind of turmoil that will be more worrying for Israeli officials. It doesn’t want to see some kind of disintegration in Gaza – possibly even leading to another full-armed conflict – just ahead of those elections.”

Despite Knell’s use of the plural, one Israeli commentator wrote one piece in one newspaper claiming a “paradox” on that day. The paper is Ha’aretz and the commentator is Zvi Bar’el. This is what he wrote:

“The paradox is that under other circumstances, Israel would be pleased with the public protest in Gaza and see it as proof of the success of the closure policy, which it believes could lead to Hamas’ downfall. But the turmoil Hamas is experiencing worries Israel too. It needs a partner to take responsibility for running the Strip, stop a disintegration that could lead to a large-scale armed conflict on the eve of the election, and serve as an address for mediation. Suddenly it turns out that the confrontations at the fence are a marginal threat, if at all, compared to the risk of instability of the Hamas government.”

Leaving aside the fact that what Knell and her unnamed source describe as “closure policy” primarily came about because of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli citizens, the BBC’s domestic audiences now know that their obligatory licence fee goes towards paying for Yolande Knell to sit in a Jerusalem studio and recite almost word for word selected passages from a publication read by less than 4% of the Israeli public which they could actually have found online for themselves.

Knell also used Bar’el’s commentary in a written report published later in the day on the BBC News website as we shall see in part two of this post.

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BBC News tells only part of an Israeli elections story

On the evening of March 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari” in which readers were told that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has disqualified the leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Michael Ben-Ari, from next month’s elections.

In doing so, it overturned an earlier decision by the electoral committee.

Mr Ben-Ari has faced criticism over his comments about Israeli Arabs. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said they amount to “incitement to racism”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did the court rule?” the BBC provided readers with further information about the comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification.

“The court backed an appeal from left-wing politicians who argued that Mr Ben-Ari had made racist remarks.

The Times of Israel website reports that the appeal cited Mr Ben-Ari from August 2018, saying: “We have to change the equation regarding anyone who dares to speak against a Jew.

“[Such a person] is a dead man. He must not come out alive. No expelling him, no stripping him of his citizenship. He does not live! A firing squad takes him out as the Arabs understand [best].”

Mr Ben-Ari has claimed that he was referring to Hamas leadership – not all Arabs.”

Only readers who bothered to click on that promoted link would learn that:

“Michael Ben Ari, party leader of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), has faced multiple appeals to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.”

In addition the BBC’s report told readers that:

“The court also reinstated Israeli Arab parties previously banned from contesting the 9 April poll.

They had been barred from standing for their critical remarks about the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.”

Notably those “Israeli Arab parties” were not named by the BBC and no further information was provided concerning their prior disqualification by the Central Elections Committee on the basis of what the BBC chose to euphemistically portray as “critical remarks”.

The parties concerned are Ra’am-Balad – currently running on a joint electoral list. BBC audiences were not informed that the Central Elections Committee had also earlier in the month “voted to disqualify Ofer Kasif, a Jewish member of the other Arab-Israeli party, Hadash-Ta’al”.

“The petition against Balad-Ra’am was filed by the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Otzma Yehudit parties, which claimed that the Arab-Israeli party is “seeking to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, and supports the violent Palestinian resistance and Hezbollah, and most of its members are supporters and backers of terror.” […]

In addition to Ra’am-Balad, the committee accepted a petition to disqualify Kasif of Hadash-Ta’al, citing provocative comments he has made in the past, including calling the justice minister “neo-Nazi scum.”

Along with his comment against Ayelet Shaked, Kasif in the past was accused of comparing Israel and the IDF to the Nazi regime, of calling to fight against “Judeo-Nazis,” and voicing support for changing the national anthem.

Last month, in an interview with Haaretz, Kasif said Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians.”

Kasif is also on record as having “voiced support for cancelling the Law of Return”.

In addition to incitement to racism, Israel’s election law – Basic Law: The Knesset – forbids any person or list that promotes “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and/or “support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel” from running in elections.

The Balad party rejects the existence of the Jewish State, promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and aspires to a bi-national state.

However, while the BBC did provide its audiences with details of the racist comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification in this report (tagged, inter alia, racism) it chose not to supply an explanation of the background to the Central Elections Committee’s decision – later overturned by the Supreme Court – to ban other candidates, while euphemistically framing their negation of Jewish self-determination as mere “critical remarks”.

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