UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

 

 

 

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UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

From 4 p.m. GMT on the afternoon of July 14th BBC World Service news bulletins led with reports on the day’s events in the Gaza Strip and – to a lesser extent – southern Israel.

A number of recurring themes can be seen in the reports heard by BBC World Service listeners over a period of nearly eight hours:

1) Leading with and focusing on events in Gaza, with concurrent events in Israel mentioned later.

2) Quoting “Palestinian health officials” while failing to clarify that they are actually members of the same terror group organising the months of violent rioting along the border and launching missile attacks.

3) Using the euphemism “militant” in place of the term terrorist.

4) Quantifying the number of Israeli strikes on Hamas targets – e.g. “dozens” – while failing to quantify the terror groups’ rocket and mortar attacks.

5) Qualifying descriptions of Palestinian attacks as terrorism.

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

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military says it has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip as shells and rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Palestinian health officials say that two people have been killed and 12 more wounded by an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel says it’s destroyed a battalion headquarters belonging to Hamas.”

In the next bulletin (and a later one) listeners were told that the Israeli strikes were “against Gaza” rather than against a terror group’s military infrastructure alone. 

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza hitting dozens of militant targets, among them a Hamas battalion headquarters. The operation followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis have reported three people injured on their side of the border.”

While a Hamas training facility was mentioned in several bulletins, the BBC presented its purpose as an Israeli claim, failing to inform audiences in its own words of the function of the building despite the information being available in a video produced by Hamas itself. The categorisation of IED attacks and a grenade attack as terrorism was repeatedly unnecessarily qualified.

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Israel says it destroyed a training facility belonging to the militant group Hamas in one of its most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Here’s more from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza since the last war, hitting dozens of militant targets – among them a Hamas training facility. The series of airstrikes followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis say three people were injured on their side of the border.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 18:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. It’s one of the most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

While the two people killed in Gaza were described as “teenagers”, the fact that two of the Israelis wounded were also in that age-group was not communicated to listeners. After those two mentions of the fact that the injuries came as a result of a rocket attack on the family’s house, that information was excluded from subsequent bulletins.

BBC World Service news bulletin 19:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Israel has carried out its biggest air attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. At the same time, mortars and rockets have been fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Palestinian health officials say two teenagers have been killed and at least 15 more people wounded. The Israeli ambulance service says that three Israelis have been injured by shrapnel. Our Middle East regional editor Sebastian Usher has this assessment.”

Usher: “This is a serious escalation and there are attempts being made – Egypt, the UN – to try to talk both sides away from a direct confrontation. Remember, in the last decade there’ve been three wars in Gaza. Both sides are saying at the moment that’s not what they want but this is beginning to get dangerously out of control if it continues at this pace and if the casualties begin to mount.”

Notably Usher did not clarify that those “three wars” also took place in Israel.

BBC World Service news bulletin 20:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli air force has carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. The Israeli prime minister said the raids were a response to terrorist actions by Hamas, from whose territory rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel. More details from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what they called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014.

Voiceover: In consultation with the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff and the top security command of the State of Israel, we have decided a strong action against Hamas terrorism. The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary.

He said the raids were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas from whose territory rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement comes after the Israeli prime minister said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu said it was in response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas. Two Palestinians were reportedly killed and three Israelis were injured.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. More from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a truce has been agreed with Israeli forces after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However, Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli prime minister said the attacks against militant targets in the Gaza Strip were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

The first time listeners heard quantification of the missile attacks was seven hours after the story became the lead item.

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement from a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. From Jerusalem, here’s Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “An Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City sent plumes of dust and smoke into the afternoon sky. Palestinian health officials said two teenagers were killed, describing them as passers-by when the building was hit. In what amounted to a significant military flare-up, Israel said it targeted 40 sites used by the militant group Hamas while nearly 200 mortars and rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza. Three Israelis were wounded from shrapnel in the town of Sderot. Late in the evening Hamas said it had agreed a ceasefire. Israel said only the facts on the ground would dictate its actions.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it agreed a truce with Israel after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli premier said the attacks against militant targets were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

By midnight GMT the story was no longer the first item in the bulletin. Remarkably, only then did listeners hear of the events which sparked the flare-up, although Bateman failed to clarify that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

BBC World Service news bulletin 24:00 14/7/18 – from 00:57

Stewart Macintosh: “The latest reports from Gaza suggest Palestinian militants and Israeli forces are continuing to exchange fire despite an earlier announcement by Hamas that the two sides had reached a truce. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014 as Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The latest round of hostilities took place amid the simmering tensions at Gaza’s perimeter fence. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot dead a 15 year-old boy, bringing to more than 130 the number of Palestinians killed during regular protests. An Israeli soldier was wounded by a grenade thrown from the fence which appeared in part to trigger the latest airstrikes alongside growing pressure on Mr Netanyahu to respond to daily arson attacks from the Strip involving burning objects attached to kites and helium filled condoms.”

As we see the majority of those BBC World Service news bulletins began by describing Israeli actions, with considerable focus on the theme of the “biggest attack” since 2014. Listeners were not told whether or not the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip was also the ‘biggest’ since that date. 

It is of course difficult to imagine that the BBC would describe groups responsible for firing 200 projectiles in 24 hours into British territory as “militants”: as we have seen in the past the BBC does use the word ‘terror’ to describe attacks on British and European soil. Nevertheless, the double standard employed by the BBC in language when reporting terrorism continues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

Some nineteen hours after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had begun launching a barrage of mortars and rockets at Israeli civilians living in nearby communities in the early hours of July 14th, visitors to the BBC News website were informed that: “Israel deals hardest blow to Hamas”.

Version 6

That report – headlined “Israel deals ‘hardest blow’ to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war” – appeared on the website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages and it was amended several times throughout the night with the later version opening:

“Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.

The raids were a response to rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but there have been reports of further exchanges.”

BBC audiences were not informed that events spiraled following violent incidents on July 13th during what the report later describes as “mass demonstrations along the border”. The report’s only reference to those incidents is as follows:

“Hamas said another Palestinian had died after being shot by Israeli troops during border protests on Friday.”

The BBC’s report fails to clarify that the youth concerned had been trying to climb the border fence at the time, that another infiltration attempt had taken place or that an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack.

Following that violence, a number of Hamas military installations were targeted by Israeli forces, including two attack tunnels which were not mentioned at all in the BBC’s report. At around 01:30 on July 14th terror factions in the Gaza Strip began launching mortars and rockets at Israeli communities and by 6 a.m. at least 31 attacks had been recorded.

The missile attacks continued later in the day, as did the retaliatory strikes on Hamas military installations which were described in the BBC’s report as follows:

“Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday. […]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck facilities used by Hamas, which dominates Gaza, including a battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, a training camp located in a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, weapons storage facilities and rocket launchers. […]

Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.”

BBC audiences were not told that the “high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp” – intended to be a library – was used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and that a tunnel dug under the building connects to Hamas’ tunnel network.

By 16:30 over a hundred missile attacks had taken place. A children’s playground and several buildings were damaged including a synagogue and a house in Sderot where four members of the family were injured by shrapnel. By late evening the number of missile attacks had risen to over 174 and attacks continued during the night.

The BBC’s report devotes the grand total of 44 words to that side of the story. Although the article was amended five times in the eleven hours following its publication, no effort was made to update the number of missiles fired.

“Three Israelis were hurt by one of more than 90 rockets fired on Israel. […]

The IDF said dozens of rockets had been fired on Israel from within Gaza.

One rocket hit a home in the town of Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds.”

Only in the ninth version of the report – which appeared around midday local time the next day and some sixteen hours after its initial publication – was an amendment added to reflect the actual number of missiles fired.

“More than 200 projectiles – including rockets and mortars – had been fired into Israel since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.”

As has been BBC practice since the end of March, readers were provided with casualty figures sourced from Hamas but were not told of that fact or of the terror group’s involvement in organising, facilitating and financing the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltration attempts that have taken place during the ‘Great Return March’. As usual readers were also not informed that over 80% of those killed have been linked to various Gaza Strip based terror factions.

“The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.

They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians were killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.”

As we see, just as the BBC’s one-sided headline focused audience attentions on Israeli actions, so did the report itself. Remarkably, the BBC News website could not even be bothered to update readers of the first eight versions of the report regarding the correct number of attacks launched against the thousands of Israeli civilians who were forced to spend their weekend in safe rooms and air-raid shelters and the events which triggered the escalation were concealed from audience view.

Related Articles:

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

 

 

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

In recent weeks we have been documenting the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of the arson attacks on farmland, woodland and nature reserves adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As was noted on several occasions during that time:

“Since they began in April, not one BBC Jerusalem bureau reporter has found the time to travel to the border district to report on how the attacks are affecting the people living there.”

Apparently somebody at the BBC also noticed that fact because on July 12th a filmed report by Erica Chernofsky appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “How kites and balloons became militant weapons“.

Although the arson attacks had been going on for three months by the time this video appeared, they were described as a “new threat” in its synopsis. [emphasis added]

“Israelis living close to the border with Gaza face a new threat from Palestinian militants – ‘fire kites’ and balloons.”

In just over half of the two-minute twenty-seven second video viewers hear from Yael Raz Lachiani – spokesperson for Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the rest they are told by the BBC that:

“Palestinian militants in Gaza are using some unusual weapons to attack Israel. These rudimentary weapons have caused more than 500 fires in the area. The balloons are often made from condoms because of their durability.”

At that point viewers see footage of such a balloon being filled with some sort of gas.

They are not told that the gas is helium and that it is intended to be used for medical purposes – notably MRI machines – or that last month Israel announced that it would “be more critical in assessing the requests made by hospitals and medical facilities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that the gas was being used for the correct purposes and not for arson balloons”.

The video goes on:

More than 6,000 acres of land have been destroyed by the fires.”

In fact, over a week before this video was published the figure was already over 7,400 acres.

“In Nahal Oz, some 250 acres of wheat fields have been scorched. The damage is estimated to be about $2m (£1.5m). The attacks began amid a period of violence along the border which saw about 120 Palestinians killed.”

No context concerning the pre-planned nature of that “period of violence”, the part played by terror groups in initiating, facilitating and financing it or the fact that over 80% of those “120 Palestinians” were linked to terror factions was provided to viewers, who were then told that:

“The Israeli army has developed drone technology to down the kites but it doesn’t catch them all.”

So finally, after three months of arson attacks, members of the BBC’s audience who happened to visit its website may now have seen one minute and twenty seconds of comment from one resident of the area bordering the Gaza Strip.

 

 

BBC News cuts out the infiltration part of Syrian drone infiltration incident

On the afternoon of July 11th a Syrian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace.

“A Patriot missile was fired at a Syrian drone that infiltrated 10 kilometers into Israel on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a rocket-alert siren to go off in several communities in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted the drone over the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. […]

The IDF said that they tailed the drone for 15 minutes after it entered Israel from Syria. […]

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the drone was spotted before it entered the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries.

“We spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle at around 3:20pm flying toward the buffer zone and we followed it. It was spotted before it crossed into the demilitarized zone,” he said.

“We carried out a number of activities to prevent friction and defense activities including calling four war planes and two combat helicopters and we prepared Patriot missile batteries. When we realized that there were optimal conditions, we intercepted the drone using one Patriot missile,” he continued.”

Several hours later, Israel responded with strikes on three Syrian military posts.

A BBC News website report titled “Syria war: Government attacks IS enclave in south-west” that was published some two and a half hours after the interception included a description of the incident in twenty-six words, none of which clarified that the drone had infiltrated 10 kms into Israel.

“On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had launched a Patriot missile at a drone launched from Syria, setting off air defence sirens in Israeli communities.”

Readers were also told that:

“The Syrian army’s advance towards the occupied Golan Heights has also alarmed Israeli officials, who believe it may attempt to deploy soldiers along the frontier in defiance of a 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers.”

The relevant fact that UNDOF forces redeployed to the Israeli side of the buffer zone four years ago and no longer carry out their designated mission with regard to Syrian forces was not clarified.

The article continued:

“Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria, ostensibly as advisers to the government. Thousands of Shia militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been battling rebels alongside the Syrian army.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to stop what he considers Iranian “military entrenchment” in Syria and has ordered a number of air strikes on Iranian facilities.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences were not informed that, according to pro-Assad sources, Hizballah is “helping to lead a Russian-backed offensive in southern Syria which has left over 250,000 people displaced” or that additional Iranian-handled Shia foreign militias are also taking part in that campaign. Neither were they told that last month Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami said

“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan… Orders are awaited, so that the custom of God vis-à-vis the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.” [emphasis added]

Apparently though the BBC is still quite happy for its audiences to go away with the impression that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily an Israeli claim.   

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BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

When the BBC News website published its July 10th report concerning Israeli actions in light of three months of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, it also offered readers some background reading.

Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip“, that backgrounder first appeared in November 2012, was revamped in July 2014 and has been amended on numerous occasions since then, most recently in May 2018.

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

“It [the Gaza Strip] is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.” [emphasis added]

Obviously those claims are not accurate: the PA does not exercise control over the territory and Hamas rule did not end in 2014.

Readers are then told that:

“When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.”

No mention is made of the fact that the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel after Hamas’ violent coup in Gaza were a response to increased terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Once again with the relevant issue of Palestinian terrorism concealed from audience view, under the sub-heading ‘Freedom of Movement’ BBC audiences find the following:

“In the north, crossings into Israel at Erez have picked up marginally this year compared with 2017, but remain well below pre-blockade levels due to new restrictions.

Fewer than 240 Palestinians left Gaza via Israel in the first half of 2017, compared with a daily average of 26,000 in September 2000.” [emphasis added]

According to UNOCHA (quoted on a different topic in the same section), during the first half of 2017, 43,009 people crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Erez Crossing. Obviously that BBC claim is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Readers are not told that the cited comparison date “September 2000” was immediately before the second Intifada and – crucially – the launching of countless terror attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The context of terrorism – and the resulting restrictions on the passage of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel and trade – is likewise absent from the backgrounder’s section titled “Economy”.

“Gaza is significantly poorer than it was in the 1990s. Its economy grew only 0.5% in 2017 according to a World Bank report, with annual income per person falling from $2,659 in 1994 to $1,826 in 2018.”

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

“Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. On average, some 5,479 people live on every square kilometre in Gaza. That’s expected to rise to 6,197 people per square kilometre by 2020.

The number of people living there is expected to hit 2.2 million by the end of the decade, and 3.1 million by 2030.”

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

In a section sub-titled “Health” the BBC once again disseminates inaccurate and misleading claims.

“Access to public health services has worsened due to border restrictions. […]

Exit passes through Israel have also dropped in recent years, with approvals for medical reasons dropping from 93% in 2012 to 54% in 2017.

Moreover, drugs, supplies and equipment are all restricted because of the blockade – including dialysis machines and heart monitors.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which last year exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.

The backgrounder goes on:

“A recent fuel shortage for generators has also affected medical services. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three hospitals and ten medical centres have suspended services due to a lack of power.”

It is of course the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for the fuel and power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services but the BBC’s backgrounder implies that too is attributable to “border restrictions” – i.e. Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

While a section titled “Power” includes an interestingly punctuated link to a 2017 report billed “PA ‘stops paying for Gaza electricity'”, the backgrounder itself does not clarify that in 2011 Hamas elected to discontinue the purchase of fuel from Israel for Gaza’s power plant, instead relying on an erratic supply via smuggling tunnels which were later destroyed by Egypt or that internal disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulted in an exacerbation of the power crisis in the Gaza Strip during 2017.

Similarly, a section titled “Water and sanitation” fails to inform BBC audiences that sewage pipes in the Gaza Strip were used to make rockets, that new supplies of pipes transported in by Israel were diverted for the same purpose rather than being used to solve the Gaza Strip’s sanitation problems or that the electricity crisis exacerbated by the dispute between the PA and Hamas has also seriously affected sewage treatment and water supply

Obviously this ‘backgrounder’ does not give BBC audiences an accurate and impartial view of the reasons why “life in the Gaza Strip” is as it is. The BBC’s failure to report impartially on Hamas’ responsibility for the deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip – brought about by its putting continued terrorism against Israeli civilians at a higher level of priority than taking care of the population’s welfare – clearly means that this backgrounder is not fit for purpose and does not meet the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand “issues across…the world”.

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After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As has been documented here over the past few months, the BBC has failed to produce any serious reporting on the topic of the arson attacks using kites and balloons which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been staging daily since April 11th.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

However, no crystal ball was necessary in order to predict that after three months of largely ignoring that story, the BBC’s interest in it would suddenly perk up when Israel took action.

On July 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel closes main Gaza goods crossing in response to arson attacks” on its Middle East page. The reason for Israel’s action was presented to readers in the report’s fifth paragraph as follows:

“Israel has shut the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip in retaliation for arson attacks by Palestinians and attempts to infiltrate its territory.

Only “humanitarian equipment”, including food and medicine, will now be allowed through Kerem Shalom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to use a “heavy hand” against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza.

A Hamas spokesman called the Israeli move “a new crime against humanity”.

Palestinians have been launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border since April.”

Readers next saw an image captioned “Gazans have been flying incendiary balloons and kites over the border with Israel” and were told that: [emphasis added]

“The devices have sparked 750 fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, Israeli officials say.”

Curiously, three weeks earlier on June 20th, the BBC had reported that:

“Israeli officials say the crude devices have sparked more than 450 fires in recent weeks, burning 2,800 hectares of land and causing $2m (£1.5m) of damage.”

With the arson attacks having continued relentlessly since that June 20th report was published, it is of course impossible that three weeks later, a smaller area of land had been burned and the monetary value of the damage reduced from $2 million to “hundreds of thousands”. Local press reports cited a figure of some 7,000 acres destroyed.

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the agitprop – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

Readers were told for the second time that in response to Israel’s announcement concerning the Kerem Shalom crossing:

“Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, called on the international community to intervene immediately to prevent what it called a “new crime against humanity”.”

The BBC’s report did not inform readers of the reaction from the Iranian funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of course no mention was made of the fact that the terror organisation now claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks (all but ignored by the BBC) on that same crossing just two months ago.

The BBC then found it appropriate to amplify the messaging of a foreign funded political NGO.

“The Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha, which promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, also condemned the Israeli decision.

“The damage being caused to agricultural lands in Israel is grave and deplorable, but collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza by closing its only official crossing for the movement of goods is both illegal and morally depraved,” it wrote on Twitter.”

However, while the BBC News website apparently did consider statements from a terror organisation (twice) and a political NGO to be crucial to audience understanding of this story, the point of view of the residents of the area that has been under daily attack for three months was obviously once again deemed superfluous.

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BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

“In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

Framing the topic in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?

The synopsis to the July 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?‘ reads as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Jonathan Dimbleby presents political debate and discussion from Westminster Synagogue in London with the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party responsible for Women Maria Caulfield MP, the crossbench peer Baroness Deech, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com Martin Lewis and the Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Together they discuss the recent apparent second Novichok poisoning, Sadiq Khan’s approval of an inflatable in the shape of a baby Trump, a second referendum on Brexit, whether the UK should move its embassy to Jerusalem, whether the legalisation of recreational cannabis will follow the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby is of course on record as saying that the BBC’s decision to uphold parts of complaints made concerning Israel-related reporting by Jeremy Bowen would “cause serious damage” to the corporation’s international standing, while describing those complaints as “lies and distortions”.   

His interventions during discussion of that highlighted question are hence noteworthy.

The question from the audience member concerning the UK embassy in Israel – actually worded “why doesn’t the UK move its embassy to Jerusalem?” – came at 17:50 minutes into the programme (available here) and was immediately followed by a remark from Dimbleby:

Dimbleby: “As of course the US government has done – or Donald Trump has done…”

As was clearly stated at the beginning of the announcement concerning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the decision was based on the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

“The Congress, since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104– 45) (the ‘‘Act’’), has urged the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate our Embassy to Israel to that city. The United States Senate reaffirmed the Act in a unanimous vote on June 5, 2017.

Now, 22 years after the Act’s passage, I have determined that it is time for the United States to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This long overdue recognition of reality is in the best interests of both the United States and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As the second panelist – Baroness Deech – was giving her answer to the question, Dimbleby interrupted. 

[21:51] Dimbleby: “Do you, do you, Ruth, do you not see that there is a big diplomatic – to put it mildly – dilemma when the city is divided between two communities – two groups that are both national groups – and that until you have managed to solve the Palestinian issue, it’s very difficult not to be sending the message that it’s more important to us that Israel has the capital in Jerusalem than it is that the Palestinians have an equal right to part of Jerusalem as their capital?”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel, the status of Jerusalem is one of seven ‘permanent status’ issues yet to be negotiated. Jonathan Dimbleby is obviously in no need of such negotiations, having already decided for himself on the question of ‘rights’ to the city. However Radio 4 listeners heard him frame his own opinion as fact.

When the third panelist to speak – Maria Caulfield – had a slip of the tongue, Dimbleby quickly jumped in, putting words in her mouth.

Caulfield: “…you know some of the demolition of settlements doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours and so there’s a lot of work to be done…”

Dimbleby: “Sorry: some of the demolition of settlements?”

Caulfield: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Dimbleby: “The creation of settlements.”

Caulfield: “Sorry – the creation of settlements and the demolition of some of the Palestinian…”

Dimbleby [interrupts] “Palestinian homes.”

Caulfield: “…homes…doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours.”

As the BBC itself reported a year ago, no Israeli government has ‘created’ new ‘settlements’ in well over two decades. Dimbleby’s pursuit of accuracy did not however include informing his audience of the vital context of the absence of building permits in cases in which “Palestinian homes” have been demolished.

At the end of that item (28:19) Dimbleby chose to read out two listener responses of the same stripe.

Dimbleby: “Quite a lot of tweets. This from Jonathan Ross: ‘People in power like to throw their weight around. That’s why Israel and its supporters want Jerusalem as their capital’. But – or and – Steve Brooks: ‘Jerusalem is a city that belongs to a whole series of people. Israel cannot reasonably claim it all’.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s efforts to frame the impressions taken away by audiences on this topic are embarrassingly obvious.

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