Another Israeli election, another BBC claim of a ‘shift to the right’

On April 8th a filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman was posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “How far will Israel shift to the right?”.

The accompanying synopsis tells BBC audiences that:

“Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new government.

It has come down to a race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff.

Mr Netanyahu has faced accusations that he fostered racism in the campaign, after he oversaw the creation of an electoral alliance involving a party that calls for the expulsion of most Arabs from Israel.

Our Middle East Correspondent Tom Bateman reports, starting in the divided city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Within the city of about 200,000 Palestinians, a few hundred Jews live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Like that synopsis, the report itself – introduced as “Israel’s election and the far right” – made no effort to explain to BBC audiences that Jewish residents of Hebron live there under the terms of a twenty-two year old internationally supervised agreement between Israel and the PLO under which the then Israeli prime minister – one Binyamin Netanyahu – agreed to redeploy Israeli forces from 80% of the city and hand control over to the Palestinian Authority, thus making the city “divided” with Palestinian consent.

Lacking that essential background information, the view audiences got from Bateman’s report was inevitably distorted. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Last month, settlers celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in the divided city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. Several hundred of Israel’s most ideologically driven settlers live here, guarded by soldiers, in the city of 200,000 Palestinians.”

Bateman: “I mean on one level it’s just a party, it’s people dressing up and having a good time. But like so many things here, it just takes on a different meaning because this is so contested, this is such a tense place, it becomes about an expression of identity by people who feel that they under siege. For the Palestinians it feels like a complete provocation.”

Having heard from a man in a van that “again and again, every generation, there are nations that are trying to destroy the Jews”, Bateman went on to opine on “religious resolve (whatever that may be) and nationalism”.

Bateman: “That explains why religious resolve and nationalism are so much on display here. Those things are a powerful part of Israeli politics. And in this election, the extremes have been courted by the Israeli prime minister. An anti-Arab party called Jewish Power. They didn’t want to talk to us.”

Having tried to talk to a man in the street, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “His party wants to annex the occupied West Bank and also expel what it calls ‘enemy Arabs’ from Israel. Some of the Israelis dress up as Palestinians. So this lady here is wearing a Palestinian [sic] head scarf and carrying a plastic AK-47.”

Viewers were then told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be elected for a fifth term. He faces corruption claims and a serious challenger: former military chief Benny Gantz. Mr Gantz is leading a political alliance in the centre ground. It accuses Mr Netanyahu of dividing Israelis and says he hasn’t been tough enough on security.”

Bateman then refocused audience attentions on Hebron, again failing to provide relevant context such as the consequences of Palestinian terrorism on freedom of movement for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Bateman: “Virtually all of the Palestinians are staying indoors while the parade goes on. Palestinian movement is heavily controlled in this part of the city, especially around the parade.”

Woman: “I feel like their lives are much more relaxed than ours. Apart from that, you can see they can do what they like. They have total freedom in the area and in all the areas that are shut down like this one. We feel sad.”

Bateman: “So what’s happened to Israel’s left wing? Well we found some of them in the market in Tel Aviv. […] I followed around the Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay. They can drum up a bit of a crowd in the market here. But the problem for the Labour Party leader is he could be looking at Labour’s worst poll ratings in this country’s history.”

Making no effort whatsoever to give viewers a real explanation of why that is the case, Bateman went on to push the core agenda behind his report.

Bateman: “After a decade in office, Benjamin Netanyahu has changed the conversation in Israel. For example the two-state solution with the Palestinians is off the agenda for either party that can win.”

In other words, Bateman would have BBC audiences believe that disillusion among Israeli voters and politicians alike with the belief that a two-state solution can be achieved is entirely down to Netanyahu having “changed the conversation” since 2009 and has nothing whatsoever to do with years of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli citizens, Palestinian Authority glorification and rewarding of terror, Palestinian refusal to accept numerous previous offers of precisely such a solution or the Hamas-Fatah split which for over a decade has made any agreement “with the Palestinians” impossible.

Following a conversation with Ayelet Shaked of the ‘New Right’ in which she apparently did not succeed in persuading Bateman that Israeli democracy is sufficiently robust to include a broad range of opinions across the political spectrum, he continued with promotion of unsupported claims from unidentified commentators.

Bateman: “Israel has been taking a look at itself in this election. Some see the move rightwards over the last decade as decisive now. They see ideas that were once on the margins a few decades ago becoming more and more mainstream. Like the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the occupied West Bank.”

Bateman has apparently never heard of the ‘Alon Plan’ proposal of annexation of parts of Judea & Samaria devised by a Labour movement leader shortly after the Six Day War.

Finally, BBC audiences learned that even if Netanyahu does not win this election and even if a centrist/left coalition forms the next government, Israel has – according to the BBC – nevertheless shifted to the right for one reason alone.

Bateman: “Regardless of the result, there has been a marked shift to the right during Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in office.”

Of course this is by no means the first time that the BBC has used coverage of an election in Israel to promote the notion of a lurch to the right. Once again the lack of understanding by BBC reporters of the inapplicability of their own Eurocentric interpretations of terms such as Left and Right to the Israeli political scene is in evidence. But this time Bateman has managed to avoid any reference to Palestinian actions and choices which have made many Israelis more sceptical of their supposed peace partner’s commitment to the process while squarely placing the blame on the shoulders of the Israeli prime minister.  

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BBC Radio 4 religious programme does Israeli politics

h/t HG

BBC Radio 4’s weekly programme ‘Sundaypurports to give listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. The lead item in the April 7th edition of that programme (from 01:01 here) had nothing to do with “ethical and religious issues” at all. 

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

While no such action is likely to happen before the US presents its proposals for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (if at all, given that Netanyahu has in the past repeatedly scuppered such efforts when advanced by other MKs), Netanyahu’s remarks were presented to BBC audiences as a “vow” to “annex settlements”.

Presenter William Crawley introduced an interviewee who, on the same programme, has in the past shown herself to be less than reliable on Israel related stories. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Crawley: “This Tuesday is election day in Israel and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have advanced his own chances of success with his surprise announcement last night that, if re-elected, he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Jordana Miller is a foreign correspondent for ABC News based in Jerusalem. She joins us now. […] Did anyone see this coming?”

Miller: “I can tell you for those of us who’ve been covering Benjamin Netanyahu for years, we knew there was still gonna be something he was gonna offer to voters before Tuesday. We weren’t sure exactly what but here it is. He is now vowing to annex parts of the West Bank which would be a major change in Israeli policy and it would bring, you know, millions of Palestinians under Israeli law which, you know, is a very grey…their status as it is is under a very grey kind of…eh…cloud.”

By the time Miller claimed that what she described as a ‘vow’ to “annex parts of the West Bank” would lead to “millions of Palestinians” being brought under Israeli law, the government minister Israel Katz had already explained to a local radio station that not one Palestinian would be annexed in the event of application of Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria.

Crawley made no effort to explain to listeners that – despite his interviewee’s assertion – “millions of Palestinians” do not live in the “Jewish settlements” to which he referred in his introduction and he refrained from clarifying that – in contrast to her additional inaccurate claim – the status of the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria is not “under a very grey kind of cloud” because they are in fact Palestinian Authority citizens living in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Miller went on:  

Miller: “So this would be very complicated and I don’t believe he will actually do it ahm…but this is what he’s doing to kind of rally his base. He is really down in the polls and tied in a few, maybe by one and he needs to really get people to the ballot and that’s – to the ballot box – that’s what he’s doing.”

Crawley: “And I suppose this, from his point of view, might be a helpful distraction from the corruption scandals that have been engulfing him recently.”

Miller: “That’s right. The attorney general announced some weeks ago that he does plan to charge Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. But the really interesting thing is that it has seemed to barely register with Israeli voters. They simply don’t seem to care that much. At the top of their list are security concerns. Ah…from the north eh…that border with Syria which they fear Iran is moving into and in the south with the Islamic terror group Hamas and the economy. But the corruption charges really, in polls we’ve seen it comes, you know, in the top ten it comes in the bottom half for voters.”

Crawley did not bother to point out to listeners that – in contrast to the impression given by Miller – the attorney general’s final decision concerning charges against Netanyahu will only be made after pre-indictment hearings which will take place after the election.  

Crawley: “If this annexation did go through on the re-election of prime minister Netanyahu what would that mean for the Middle East peace process?”

Miller: “Well it would just be another severe blow for the Palestinians and they have been dealt many blows over the last…err, you know, almost two years under President Trump. So this would be I think…I think it would cause massive riots across the West Bank and of co… [cut off] harsh condemnations in the Arab world.”

Crawley: “Ahm…how much, Jordana, how much of a role does religious orthodoxy – Jewish religious orthodoxy – play in these kinds of political moves?”

Apparently not comprehending the question, Miller went on to give an account which few listeners would have understood.

Miller: “Well that’s been another fascinating thing about this election. Usually the ultra-orthodox parties hold a lot of power because they are some of the most powerful small parties and anybody who wants to be prime minister has to negotiate with them. But this year one of the traditional ultra-orthodox parties polling very low and what we see instead is the rise of the national religious parties in the middle: people who have broken off to support Israel’s minister of education who’s one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s big rivals. There’s another party called the Identity party headed by a national religious leader who’s advocating for separation of religion and state and who wants to legalise marijuana. So we are seeing a very different religious party or centre coming to the fore and they will have a much greater impact likely on creating more separation between church [sic] and state because they are not part of a kind of isolated ultra-orthodox community. So it’s interesting.”

Obviously the inaccuracies in this item mean that it contributed little to Radio 4 listeners’ understanding of this badly presented and as yet entirely speculative story.

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BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The April 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:11 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life in hotly contested elections next week, trying to win another term in office despite facing possible indictments on corruption charges. His election campaign has made much of his ability to deliver dividends from Israel’s relationship with America and has highlighted his friendship with President Trump but for some time his Right-wing policies have been chipping away at America’s strong bi-partisan support for the Israeli government and that fracture is becoming ever more public. Barbara Plett Usher takes a closer look.”

Listeners heard no justification for the use of the buzz words “Right-wing policies” and no explanation of what those policies supposedly involve. They were given no evidence to support the claim that American support is for “the Israeli government” rather than Israel as a whole. Neither was any evidence provided supporting the claim that such support has been diminished solely and exclusively because of the Israeli prime minister’s policies. Plett Usher’s report opened with a recording of the Israeli prime minister speaking.

Recording Netanyahu: “Thank you President Trump. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship.”

Plett Usher: “Benjamin Netanyahu has always believed he’s best at reading the wind when it comes to Americans and he felt that wind at his back on a trip to Washington last week.”

Recording Trump: “Under my administration the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”

Barbara Plett Usher went on to repeat the buzz words heard in the introduction but while this time listeners learned that those policies supposedly relate to “the Palestinians and Iran”, they were not told what those policies are or in what way they are “Right-wing”.

Plett Usher: “President Trump has embraced him and his Right-wing policies on the Palestinians and Iran.”

As Jonathan Spyer recently pointed out, there is in fact “an almost complete consensus between a broad mass of the Israeli (Jewish) public” on the issue of Iranian threats against Israel and “a decline in the level of polarisation within the Jewish voting public over the last two decades” concerning “the security challenge of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinian Arab national movement”.

“Regarding Iran, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, which forms the main challenger to the ruling Likud party in the 2019 campaign, has made clear that there are no disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the question of Iran and the threat it poses.

The consensus, however, goes beyond the rightist Likud and centrist Blue and White party. Labor and Meretz, representing the centre-Left and left-wing spots on the political map, are similarly supportive of the government’s stance on Iran.”

Quite how Plett Usher justifies her claim of “Right-wing policies on Iran” is therefore unclear.

On the subject of the conflict with the Palestinians, Spyer notes that:

“…this debate has lost much of its passion. On the Left, the belief that a partner for historic compromise had been found in the PLO lost many adherents after the collapse of the peace process and the commencement of Palestinian insurgency in late 2000. On the Right, the fervent and ideological commitment to avoidance of any land concessions west of the Jordan River also faded.

This has been reflected in the 2019 campaign. The main contenders – Likud and Blue and White, are clearly competing for the centre ground. “

Once again the justification for Plett Usher’s use of the slogan “Right-wing policies” is unclear.

She continued with a segment including unidentified interviewees at the recent AIPAC conference –using another label for which she did not bother to provide evidence.

Plett Usher: “But outside the White House the wind is shifting. [music] Not here. Support was rock solid at this conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – or AIPAC. It has promoted Israel’s relationship with the US for decades in both political parties. But a few young, newly elected Democrats have been challenging that orthodoxy, triggering a controversy over charges of antisemitism and the level of bi-partisan support.”

Man 1: “The three vocal Democratic representatives are just vocal. They’re loud mouths. And I feel their uproar – people like uproar, they like a tumult, OK – and I think it’ll die down.”

Man 2: “I think that there’s enough love and support in the United States for Israel and an understanding of the importance of the alliance that it really will not affect the relationship.”

Referring to a small demonstration against AIPAC in March, Plett Usher went on to introduce a representative of a political group which, interestingly, she did not find it necessary to locate on the political spectrum.

[shouting: ‘Free Palestine, Free Gaza’]

Plett Usher: “Only a handful of demonstrators showed up but in fact opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s policies has been building for some time, especially when it comes to treatment of the Palestinians and especially in the younger generation. [shouting] That includes many American Jews who say Israel has lurched so far to the Right they no longer share its values. Ethan Miller belongs to a protest group called ‘If Not Now’.”

Miller: “You know, we’re a rising movement – a rising grassroots movement – of American Jews but I think we’re starting to see changes in Congress as well. We’re starting to see members of Congress both in the house and in the Senate actually start to speak up for Palestinian human rights in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”

The group ‘If Not Now’ claims to be “working to transform the American Jewish community’s support for occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all”. Apparently Plett Usher would have her listeners believe that “the occupation” – which of course began as the result of a defensive war during the term of a Left-wing government when the current Israeli prime minister was still four months short of his eighteenth birthday – is one of “Mr Netanyahu’s policies”.

Plett Usher: “It’s a trend that’s never been so pronounced or contentious.”

Recording: “Breaking news coming out of the House of Representatives where a resolution has just passed condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”

Plett Usher then presented a highly selective version of a story from February, failing to clarify that the congresswoman did in fact use an antisemitic trope.  

Plett Usher: “A Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was accused of using antisemitic language. That broke open divisions within the party in a public and messy way. Still, there was an upside says Jeremy Ben Ami. He heads a liberal pro-Israel lobby called J Street that is challenging AIPAC and he organised a conference call on the controversy.”

Recording Ben Ami: “The space that we need to have is the space to discuss the occupation. I think that we are in a place now where those conversations can actually start to be had.”

Plett Usher did not bother to inform listeners that J Street – which some would dispute is “pro-Israel” – was founded in 2007 when the prime minister of Israel was Kadima’s Ehud Olmert or that, in contrast to AIPAC which does not donate to candidates or campaigns, J Street donated some $4 million to exclusively Democratic candidates in 2018. She went on:

Plett Usher: “Or maybe not.”

Recording Trump: “But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

Plett Usher: “President Trump has seized the moment to go after the Democrats, even though he’s been accused of enabling antisemitism. Republicans are claiming to be better defenders of Israel and Democratic lawmaker Tom Malinowski says there’s now less space for conversation about Israel within the party – not more.”

Malinowski: “I am absolutely convinced it is possible to have a debate about our foreign policy towards Israel or any other country but when people start using blatantly antisemitic tropes in that debate, it actually makes it harder. It actually tends to shut down serious debate about foreign policy because everybody becomes defensive and angry rather that thoughtful about the choices that are before us.”

Plett Usher finished by building up what she apparently knows to be an imaginary story about a ‘boycott’ of the recent AIPAC conference.

Plett Usher: “The young and outspoken lawmakers have received an outsized amount of coverage but it is not just about them. Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for president include a mix of liberals and ethnic minorities who have also been more critical of Israeli policy.”

Recording Pence: “And as I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”

Plett Usher: “The vice-president Mike Pence brought up the 2020 election at the AIPAC conference.”

Recording Pence: “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Plett Usher: “In fact only one candidate – Bernie Sanders – explicitly said he was not attending because of policy differences. But it does look as if Israel will be an issue in America’s presidential campaign long after the Israeli prime minister has finished his.”

Plett Usher’s framing of this story is abundantly clear: ‘liberal’ Americans are, according to her, abandoning Israel solely because of its prime minister’s “Right-wing policies”. Unsurprisingly she ignored the relevant issue of the Democratic party’s leftward shift over the years in order to uncritically and unquestioningly promote a narrative advanced by the anti-Israel group showcased in her report.

“My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change,” said Simone Zimmerman, 28, a co-founder of a progressive group, IfNotNow, that opposes what it calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Ms. Zimmerman scorned what she called “the Trump-Netanyahu” alliance and said “too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let them off the hook.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” intended to “build people’s understanding of…the wider world”. 

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More one-sided Gaza coverage on BBC World Service radio

As we saw in an earlier post, the March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary” and following reports from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, listeners heard five full minutes of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda from a professor at a university established by Hamas leaders.

Later on in the same programme (from 44:06 here) presenter Lyse Doucet recycled part of that interview. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “A reminder of our top story this hour: thousands of Palestinians have been demonstrating on the border of Gaza on the first anniversary of weekly protests against Israel. Dr Mosheer Amer is professor of the Islamic…at the Islamic University of Gaza. He told this programme why his students were so frustrated with life there.”

Amer: “…there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza.”

Given the BBC’s obligation to provide “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”, listeners may have expected that “top story” to go on to include the perspective of residents of the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year.

However, despite Yolande Knell’s rare visit to one of those communities, rather than balancing Mosheer Amer’s five-minute portrayal of life in Gaza with an equivalent item recorded in Israel, Doucet went on to introduce a commentator from a think-tank heavily funded (see also page 43 here) by the same Gulf state – Qatar – known for harbouring and funding Hamas.   

Doucet: “Back to our top story this hour: today’s one-year anniversary of the weekly Gaza protests along its border fence with Israel. It all comes at a time of mounting tension. This week a rocket attack from Gaza wounded 7 Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv. Israel launched a wave of airstrikes. There’ve already been three wars between Israel and Gaza in the past decade. Is there a risk of another? I’ve been speaking with Daniel Byman. He’s a foreign policy editor of Lawfare and he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. What are the prospects of another serious escalation between Hamas and Israel?”

Byman: “There is always a prospect of serious escalation. You have a situation in Gaza that is miserable for the Gazans. You have a Palestinian leadership that is divided and competitive and you have Israel that’s very willing to use force to protect what it sees as its security and that combination is very combustible. The good news is that despite having this potential we haven’t seen it spill over into a massive conflict – especially not in the last year or so. No side is particularly eager to begin the fighting but the potential is quite real.”

Apparently the BBC’s supposedly neutral expert does not consider an entire year of weekly violent rioting at the border or the launching of over a thousand rockets into Israeli territory in 2018 or the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Moshav Mishmeret within ten days as ‘eager to begin the fighting’.

Clearly from her subsequent remarks, Lyse Doucet too does not take over a thousand rocket attacks in twelve months too seriously, given that she went on to describe Israel as suffering from “tension” while Gaza suffers from “violence”.

Doucet: “Now we know there are back-channels to try to de-escalate the tension if not try to move towards some agreement. Egypt, for example, is trying to play this role. Do you see anything happening behind the scenes that Gaza can somehow get out of this endless cycle of violence and Israel can get out of this endless tension along that boundary?”

Erasing the Palestinian terror which has made counter-terrorism measures necessary, Byman replied with a curious claim of a current “state of peace”.

Byman: “In the near term there’s no hope for a deal that’s going to resolve this but there is hope for a deal that will at least ease the conditions in Gaza, that will open some [sic – there are two] of the crossings, that will expand the fishing zone, that will otherwise make life a little better for Gaza and as a result allow Hamas – which is ruling Gaza – to be able to say that they’ve achieved something; that they’ve made life better for Gazans and thus they have a reason to maintain the peace. And so that’s not a final status solution, that’s not something that’s going to resolve it forever but hopefully we could take the current uneasy state of peace and continue it.”

Doucet: “Now Israel of course accuses Hamas of using the people of Gaza as human shields to attack and terrorise Israeli civilians and as you know there were recent rare protests inside Gaza by citizens blaming Hamas in part for the dire state of affairs. Do you see any signs of any kind of shift in Hamas’ position?”

Byman then whitewashed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and its use of violence to maintain power while bizarrely framing the terror organisation in terms of Western politics.

Byman: “This is very hard to tell. So Hamas has a fairly tight grip on politics in Gaza and certainly dealt with the protesters. There is criticism but it’s hard to tell whether the movement itself is relatively popular as some polls indicate or if people are simply afraid. What makes things much better for Hamas is that it doesn’t have strong Palestinian rivals within Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, its main rival, is weak in Gaza; it’s not particularly popular and in general Hamas has been able to suppress most dissent. Hamas worries about criticism on both its right and its left but it’s been able to navigate that for over ten years now.”

Readers may recall that back in 2017, Lyse Doucet inaccurately claimed on the same BBC World Service programme that Hamas had ‘changed’ its charter. Apparently the BBC’s refusal to correct that inaccuracy at the time has led to Doucet holding on to that illusion.

Doucet: “But you see it as…its posture as being consistently just anti-Israel? There was a lot of attention a few years ago, as you know, that Hamas was changing its posture, looking for another way out in terms of its relationship with Israel. What…how do you see that now?”

Byman: “I would say Hamas is certainly anti-Israel but it’s also pragmatic. It recognises that Israel has military superiority. It recognises that it is diplomatically isolated. So Hamas is hoping that it now might be a time to strike at least a temporary deal. Now might be a time to try to achieve economic expansion in some way that will enable it to have accomplishments and they can claim that it’s doing something for the Palestinian people even if it isn’t achieving liberation through what it would call resistance.”

Doucet did not bother to clarify to listeners that as far as Hamas is concerned, “liberation” means the eradication of Israel and “resistance” means acts of violence.

Doucet: “And does Gaza, Hamas fit in in any way to this expected new American deal for the Middle East – it’s been called the deal of the century – which would focus on…largely on Israel, what’s happening in the West Bank – which of course is not run by Hamas – and the wider region?”

Doucet refrained from informing audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication.

Byman: “There are a dozen or so reasons to be sceptical of the so-called deal of the century and I think there’s a reason we haven’t seen any real details despite President Trump being in office for quite some time now. On Gaza I would stress that if the deal ignores Hamas, which I think is likely, Hamas can easily disrupt the deal. Hamas attacks in Israel will lead to a very ferocious Israeli response and that back and forth discredits any moderates who are negotiating. It’s very hard to negotiate when rockets are falling. It’s very hard to negotiate when Israel is bombing Gaza. And so Hamas effectively has a veto over a deal and ignoring it is going to be a mistake.”

Byman has been touting that idea of negotiating with Hamas for almost a decade regardless of the fact that the terror group has no interest in making peace with Israel.

Doucet: “So in a situation where you have the UN and many aid agencies and there are some people warning that Gaza’s a ticking time bomb, that its deepening humanitarian crisis and this tension of course, this continuing violence that shows no sign of ending, do you see any way out?”

Byman: “I think the best we can hope for in the near term is that there are fewer crises and the crises that happen involve fewer deaths. From Israel’s point of view it feels that it has achieved some degree of deterrence with Hamas and that even when larger scale conflicts have occurred, that Israel has been able to navigate these with relatively little loss of life on the Israeli side. And as a result Israel feels it can endure the current situation. So I don’t think there’s an answer short of much more comprehensive peace talks and those talks seem likely any time soon.”

Apparently the ‘expert’ brought in by the BBC is unaware of public conversations in Israel concerning ‘deterrence’ and the approach to Hamas. Apparently too he is disinterested in the Israeli citizens that bear the brunt of the terror organisation’s violence.

As we see, while around a quarter of this edition of ‘Newshour’ was devoted to this one story, most of its content focused on the promotion of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda concerning a non-existent “siege” on the Gaza Strip and analysis from a person who promotes the idea of negotiations with the same terror group, while not one Israeli voice was heard. So much for ‘balanced’ coverage.

Related Articles:

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BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

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Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary”. Illustrated with an image captioned “The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of return”, its synopsis read:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the start of protests along the boundary fence with Israel.”

Presenter Lyse Doucet began (from 00:25 here) by framing the story in the fashion seen throughout the past twelve months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “We start today’s programme in Gaza and the Great March of Return, as it’s called. Today marks one year of weekly protests at Gaza’s border fence with Israel. And Palestinian protesters are at the boundary again, some burning tyres, some using slingshots to hurl stones. And on the other side Israeli troops are massed again, bolstered by tanks and snipers. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past year as well as an Israeli soldier. The protests are meant to highlight the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. But Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields to terrorise Israeli civilians. The anniversary comes in the midst of growing tension between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling this sliver of land along the Mediterranean.”

As we see, the BBC’s chief international correspondent managed to tick nearly all the BBC’s framing boxes in her introduction. That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return’ and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Doucet then brought in Tom Bateman (on a bad line) in the Gaza Strip who, after he had described seeing around a thousand people “close to the fence” who were throwing rocks from slingshots and burning tyres, went on to note the use of tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces, claiming to have been “told” of the death of one person and 40 others injured. Doucet then reinforced the framing:

Doucet: “So it’s not just a protest but it’s a risky protest.”

Having wound up her conversation with Bateman, Doucet brought in Yolande Knell who was situated on the other side of the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Despite that rare visit by a BBC correspondent to one of the Israeli communities which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year (the last one was in July 2018), BBC World Service radio audiences once again did not hear a word from any of its residents.

Informed listeners – obviously not the majority – would have noticed Knell’s allusion to Hamas’ ability to control the level of violence according to its own interests and the fact that she is aware of what she termed “night time protests” – about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing at all.

Knell: “…Hamas officials in Gaza indicating…that they would put pressure on the protesters to turn up but then to stay calm and not to go so close to the fence as they have done previously.”

Knell: “…we know what its [Israel’s] demands would be – among them to stop the night-time protests that have taken place along the fence as well and also the incendiary balloons that have caused so much damage. Balloons and kites sent into Israel.”

Doucet then chose to uncritically amplify the recent UNHRC report while once again concealing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have been shown to have links to terror organisations – primarily Hamas.

Doucet: “And as you know, Yolande, the UN has said…has accused Israel of directly targeting civilians using excessive force. What kind of forces are lined along the border today?”

Following a rambling response from Knell, Doucet moved on.

07:17 Doucet: “So what’s it like to live in Gaza in the midst of this tension and deepening economic hardship for its 2 million residents? The UN often expresses alarm over a territory mired in grinding poverty and unemployment without access to even the basics of life: adequate health, education, water and electricity. Much of Gazan anger is directed at Israel but there were also protests against Hamas this month – rare protests – and they were forcibly suppressed. I’ve been speaking to one Gaza resident, Dr Mosheer Amer who is the professor of discourse analysis and linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.”

Presuming that before inviting him onto the show, the programme’s producers had checked out the record of the professor from a university co-founded by Hamas leaders whose political stance is plainly evident in articles and on social media, it is obvious that they had no problem with the fact that listeners were presented with a totally one-sided, context-free near monologue over the next five minutes.

07:53 Amer: “There is I think quite a strong resolve and determination to continue on the Great Return marches because I think that there is a large position among Palestinian civil society that this is effective in raising awareness internationally of the predicament that they’re facing over the past 12 years especially in Gaza. But there is also a feeling of, you know, sadness over the loss of civilian lives.”

Doucet: “What is life like? Are you – if I can ask – are you a father? You have children?”

Amer: “Yes I am a father of children, 2 kids, and it’s a difficult life. I’m a university professor so I think my condition is a little better than the other ones but I still get close to 30% of my salary. That is barely the minimum for, you know, having a good quality of life. But overall the situation is really difficult. We’re talking about restrictions on travel and movement in and out of Gaza. We have the electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day which is really appalling. I mean you cannot imagine that it is only on 4 to 6 hours electricity per day. And then you have to adjust all your life to this condition. And this is not just a month or two or three months: it’s been going on for quite some time. And then we have the overall economic conditions and the health conditions in Gaza hospitals. So in all aspects of life the situation is really dire and really unbearable and that’s why you see thousands – hundreds of thousands [sic] – of Palestinians flocking to the eastern side of Gaza to raise their voice, to say that enough is enough and we can no longer stay in, you know, this kind of a slow death rhythm of life.”

None of the ‘Great Return March’ events have seen more than 50,000 participants (and most have seen significantly fewer) but Doucet made no effort to correct Amer’s claim of “hundreds of thousands”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Gaza’s perennial electricity crisis and the standard of its healthcare have nothing to do with Israel.

Doucet: “What do your young students tell you? What sense do you get of them and how they think about their future?”

Amer: “Well there’s a sense, a large sense of desperation actually because I mean I’m teaching university students majoring in English and in media and journalism and there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find after I work. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza. And this is because of, again, the situation that the Gaza population have found themselves in because of this 12-year siege on Gaza and the repeated wars and this kind of abnormal state of life that we’re living here in Gaza.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2018 was 52% – not “over like 60%”. Doucet made no effort to challenge that inaccuracy or the false claim of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip.

Doucet: “And this…recently there were I think quite unprecedented protests against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Is this anger also rising?”

Amer: “I think this is anger rising at everybody, including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah and everyone. And there is quite a strong division amongst the Palestinians and there is sort of a trading of finger-pointing at Hamas and at PA’s President Abbas. But I think we have to put this in the context of the severe life conditions that the Gazans find themselves in because of the punitive measures that [are] imposed by the PA and also because of certain policies, economic policies, that the Hamas government here has imposed which aggravated in a sense the kind of suffering that people are facing. But the root cause actually behind all of this is the Israeli siege of Gaza. The policies and the measures adopted by the Israelis to keep life to a bare minimum. Gaza cannot live, it cannot die. And this is what we see that this kind of a slow death. Life is sucked out of Gaza and we have people really living a very difficult life.”

Again failing to challenge Amer’s promotion of the “siege” falsehood and plainly uninterested in hearing more about “economic policies that the Hamas government here has imposed”, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “You…do your own children or children of friends of yours – when I say children, even teenagers – do they go to the protests today?”

Amer: “My kids are like 5 year-olds, you know, and 4 year-old so they’re very…they’re very little. You know, and I wouldn’t take them to that protest at the moment. But I think that my friends’ families, their children have gone; they’re a little bit older. When we think about the Great Return March it’s sort of includes all peoples from all walks of life and also from all sort of socio-economic backgrounds and also from all ages, men, women and young children and adults and so on. So it’s not only restricted to what we see in the images; these sort of 18, 19 years old teenagers.”

Having failed to explain the context to Israel’s security measures that include a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip – and without even one mention of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians – Doucet closed that five minutes of unchallenged propaganda there, leaving BBC World Service audiences even worse informed than before.   

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

 

 

 

 

Critics slam pro-BDS article from BBC quoted NGO writer

Those of us who follow the BBC are more than familiar with the corporation’s long-standing practice of promoting the views of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) without disclosing their political agenda (let alone funding) in breach of its own editorial guidelines.

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2018

When the New York Times magazine recently published a very long Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) promoting essay by Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group (ICG), critics not only took issue with its content but also with the fact that readers were not informed of the relevant background to the writer’s organisation.

“Thrall, who the Times presents as a disinterested expert, serves as director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, or ICG, a left-leaning advocacy organization that has received around $4 million from the Qatari government in the just the last year. Qatar’s donations represent around 6 percent of ICG’s total budget. Qatar is not mentioned in Thrall’s 11,500-word piece.

ICG also has raised $1 million in the past several years from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, a prolific and open funder of the BDS movement in the United States.

Another significant portion of ICG’s funding—more than $5 million in the last three years—comes from the Open Society Foundations, run by liberal billionaire George Soros. Open Society funds dozens of Palestinian organizations that are prominent members of the BDS movement.

ICG’s president is former Obama administration official Robert Malley, another Israel critic who was fired from President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election team after he met with the Hamas terror organization. He joined the Obama administration in 2014.”

BBC correspondents based (like Thrall) in Jerusalem have in the past promoted Thrall’s analysis and  in June 2013 the BBC told its audiences that:

“A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the impact of international sanctions on Iran found no indication that the sanctions had affected Iran’s regional role.

And the report’s principal author says there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah. “There isn’t a single line in the budget that confirms any aid or financial support to Hezbollah”, Ali Vaez contends.” [emphasis added]

Over the years the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs has flourished with news consumers finding that more and more of their news comes or is sourced from agenda-driven organisations which make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to journalistic standards. 

When political agendas and journalism meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. But, as this latest New York Times example shows, some of the world’s most prominent media organisations – including the BBC – continue to fail to provide consumers of their content with crucial information concerning the agenda and funding behind the voices they choose to quote and promote.

The fact that the BBC has existing editorial guidelines which would tackle precisely that issue but are serially ignored of course raises considerable concern.  

Related Articles:

Nathan Thrall’s Propaganda Welcomed at the New York Times (CAMERA)

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

As documented in part one of this post, listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th with a ‘Today’ programme report from Gaza the previous day by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ on March 28th had also heard Bateman reporting from the Gaza Strip and that item (from 46:20 here) included the following:

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

Bateman: “And inside Gaza itself, a sense of anticipation about the coming protests that will take place on Saturday marking a year since these weekly protests have taken place at the perimeter fence.”

Thus BBC audiences once again got a dose of the corporation’s framing of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “protests” rather than events organised, facilitated and executed by a coalition of terror organisations that have regularly included violent rioting, serious attacks and infiltrations into Israeli territory.

The March 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s 1 p.m. news bulletin included an item introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 07:46 here) thus:

Sleat: “Thousands of Palestinian protesters have massed on the boundary between Gaza and Israel to mark a year since the start of weekly demonstrations there. Palestinians have been throwing stones and Israeli forces using tear gas to stop them approaching the border fence. Our correspondent Yolande Knell is there.”

Knell: “Across a wind-swept field here lies a wire fence and beyond it there’s a large crowd at one of the Gaza protest sites gathered around a Palestinian flag.  Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza. Already this anniversary was due at a sensitive time: just over a week before an Israeli election and after recent economic unrest in Gaza which has put pressure on Hamas.”

In other words, even when the BBC knows that participants have been throwing petrol bombs and trying to infiltrate Israeli territory, it still portrays the events as “demonstrations” and those participants as “protesters”.

The same was the case when part of that report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell was recycled in a later news bulletin aired during the ‘PM’ programme (from 02:18 here):

Newsreader: “Tens of thousands of Palestinians are demonstrating along the boundary fence between Gaza and Israel to mark the first anniversary of weekly protests there. Three people are reported to have been killed, one before the start of the mass rally. Over the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops while one Israeli soldier has died. Yolande Knell reports from southern Israel.”

Knell: “Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 30th heard the newsreader give the following headline at the top of the programme.

“Palestinian health officials say at least two demonstrators have died in clashes with Israeli forces on the anniversary of weekly protests on the Gaza border.”

The item itself (from 05:34 here) was presented as follows, with no mention of the fact that “health officials in Gaza” actually means the terror group Hamas.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They’ve been throwing stones and petrol bombs and attempting to breach the perimeter fence. Israeli forces have used live ammunition and tear gas. Health officials in Gaza say three protesters have been killed. The demonstrations are marking the first anniversary of weekly protests at the border. From Gaza our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has sent this report.”

Bateman: “That’s live fire as the Israeli snipers are aiming towards a group of people that just got right up at the fence. Some appear to be trying to climb it. At the biggest protest site east of Gaza City, Palestinians turned up in their thousands. Most gathered near the smoothie vans and fruit sellers hundreds of meters from the fence. But others got close to it, burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs. From the other side Israeli troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. One of the demonstrators, Bahaa Abu Shamala, said Palestinians were highlighting their historical dispossession and calling for an end to the blockade which Israel says it imposes for security reasons.”

Abu Shamala: “We are here in Gaza. We are oppressed people. We want to feed our children. We want to get rid of this huge trauma that we suffered from the siege that Israel imposed against us for more than 12 years.”

Israel of course does not impose a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip at all but Bateman had nothing to say about his interviewee’s promotion of Hamas favoured terminology and made no effort to inform listeners of the years of Hamas terror which have made counter-terrorism measures including the blockade necessary.

Once again failing to inform listeners that some 80% of those killed at ‘Great Return March’ events in the past year have been shown to have links to terror groups, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “In the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops at the fence. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper last summer. The Israeli army spokesman is Jonathan Conricus.”

Lt. Col. Conricus: “This has after all been a year of thousands of rioters trying to breach into Israel using different types of violence. We’ve had grenades, IEDs, Molotov cocktails. We’ve even had live fire.”

In other words, the only mention of the violent nature of the year-long events heard by Radio 4 listeners throughout eleven hours of broadcasting came from an Israeli official.  

Bateman: “This week’s build-up to the first anniversary saw a significant military flare-up between Israel and Hamas which largely controls the protests in Gaza. Israel is 10 days away from a general election in which security is a major issue. There have been intensive efforts brokered by Egypt to prevent tensions at the boundary slipping out of control. It seems to have largely succeeded for now, despite today’s casualties.”

Although the BBC sent Tom Bateman to the Gaza Strip and Yolande Knell to southern Israel to cover the March 30th events, audiences once again did not hear a word from or about the residents of Israeli communities close to the border fence who have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year. Neither were listeners informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

One year on, the BBC’s across the board and inflexible editorial approach to this story continues to promote the monochrome framing which – while flouting the corporation’s public purpose obligations – denies audiences vital context and information.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

Listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th.

The March 29th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included a pre-emptive report (from 1:14:55 here) by Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which utilised the standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’ to which BBC audiences have been exposed for an entire year.

That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of returnand lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Listeners heard presenter John Humphrys introduce the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Tomorrow marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s fence with Israel. Hamas – the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip – is marking the anniversary calling for a million-person march at the fence.”

Audiences then heard an audio version of Bateman’s context-free report from a clinic in Gaza City which included the following:

Bateman: “22-year-old Iyyad who was shot at Gaza’s perimeter fence last May. He tells me he nearly lost his leg. He’s been coming here to the clinic for months to learn to walk again. Some seven thousand Palestinians have been injured by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman last summer. As tomorrow’s anniversary looms, tensions have been ratcheting up.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify what his interviewee was doing at the time he was shot and while citing numbers of Palestinian casualties, erased both the terror affiliations of most of those killed and the violence in which they were participating from audience view.

That formula was again evident the next day in two news bulletins aired during the March 30th edition of ‘Today’. At 05:48 listeners were told by newsreader Chris Aldridge that:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time while one Israeli soldier has died and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning. The leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a million people to join today’s action.”

In an additional news bulletin at 1:06:35 Aldridge told audiences:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning.”

Audiences were not told that the man “shot dead this morning” was participating in violent rioting at the time and was apparently a member of the so-called ‘night disturbance units’ active along the border fence during darkness. Aldridge’s claim that “Palestinians are gathering” was shown to be premature in a third item aired at 1:57:30 which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

Robinson: “All this week we’ve been hearing about the mounting tension ahead of the first anniversary of protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There’s reports this morning that Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian man at that border. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent. What do we know Tom?”

Bateman: “Well we know that a 20-year-old man has died already this morning. That was announced by the ministry of health here in Gaza. The circumstances are unclear. We don’t know if it was at one of the protest sites. It doesn’t appear to have been actually and it was very early in the morning. But already it adds to the tension and in the next hour or so after noon prayers there will be thousands of Palestinians who’ll make their way in buses and on foot to five protest sites at the perimeter fence with Gaza. On the other side of the fence the Israeli military build-up…ah…has led to there being around 200 snipers positioned all around the fence and three extra brigades of Israeli forces there.”

Robinson: “The Palestinians who go know the risk they take. The Israelis know the condemnation they will get if they open fire. Nothing seems to change.”

Bateman: “Well this will certainly be I think the biggest protest in months because of that first anniversary. The protests have actually…the numbers have really been dwindling over the weeks as they began a year ago, leaving a sort of hard-core of protesters who were going once a week. But I think the sense in Gaza is that people want to go to the fence to demonstrate. Now Hamas have called for these to be peaceful after some intensive negotiations…ah…indirect negotiations between the two sides. That of course remains to be seen. Israel is saying it is prepared for any eventuality with that build-up of troops. It comes at a time of elections in Israel – a very sensitive moment – and I think we’ll see as we enter the afternoon just how…just how that tension continues, just how it mounts and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said they are prepared for any eventualities.”

Listeners were then told that the upcoming Israeli election is a two-horse race.

Robinson: “Tom Bateman our Middle East correspondent thank you very much indeed. Yes, that election between the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the former military chief Benny Gantz is in just a few days.”

As we see listeners to the ‘Today’ programme heard a one-sided and highly sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ which adhered to the editorial policies that have been in evidence throughout the past twelve months. In part two of this post we will see whether Radio 4’s subsequent programmes throughout the day provided audiences with a more comprehensive picture.

 

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

The BBC News website’s March 30th report on the day’s incidents at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip adhered to the formula seen in coverage of similar events throughout the past year.

Headlined “Gaza protests: Thousands mark ‘Great Return’ anniversary” the BBC’s framing of the story was evident in the use of the words ‘demonstrated’, ‘demonstrators’, ‘demonstrations’, ‘protests’, ‘protesters’ and ‘protest’ no fewer than nineteen times in the 564-word report’s text, headline, sub-headings, links and photo captions. A BBC News Tweet promoting the article also used the term ‘rallies’.

The article opened: [emphasis added]

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have demonstrated in Gaza to mark the anniversary of the start of weekly protests on the boundary with Israel.

Demonstrators threw stones and burned tyres, with Israeli troops using tear-gas and live rounds in response.”

Readers had to go down to paragraph nine to discover that participants threw more than “stones”.

“The IDF said explosive devices had been thrown over the border fence and Israeli forces had responded with “riot dispersal means” and live bullets.”

As usual the BBC quoted “health officials “without bothering to inform readers that they belong to the same terror organisation that organised the event.

“Three protesters died in the clashes, Palestinian officials say, with another killed earlier on Saturday.”

“Three Palestinian protesters, all teenage boys, have been killed and more than 300 have been wounded, Palestinian health officials say.

The health officials say another man was shot dead by Israeli troops close to the fence overnight.”

Readers were not told that the person “killed earlier on Saturday” had, as reported by the Times of Israel, been taking part in rioting at the border at the time.

“Early Saturday, Mohammed Saad, 21, was killed by Israeli army fire east of Gaza City near the perimeter fence, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said, adding he was hit by shrapnel in the head.

A Gaza hospital worker, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said Saad was a member of the so-called “night disturbance unit.” Such groups routinely burn tires, flash laser lights and detonate explosives near the fence at night to distract soldiers and disturb residents of nearby Israeli communities.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed that the majority of those described as wounded were, according to the quoted “health officials”, affected by tear gas.

As has been the case throughout the past twelve months, the BBC avoided explaining the aim of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ to readers while once again promoting the notion of “ancestral homes” and Palestinian refugees in a location ruled by Palestinians.

“The protests back the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has repeatedly been the case since late February, the BBC uncritically amplified claims made in a UNHRC report.

“At least 189 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed between March and December 2018, the UN says.

A UN inquiry says Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes during the protest marches – a charge Israel rejects.”

“A commission of inquiry was set up by the UN Human Rights Council.

Thirty-five of the 189 Palestinian fatalities were children, three were clearly marked paramedics and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found.

The inquiry found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers had shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations. One Israeli soldier was killed on a protest day but outside the protest sites, the commission said.

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

While failing to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in initiating, organising, funding and executing the ‘Great Return March’ events, the BBC did make a brief opaque reference to the terror group’s ability to control the level of violence according to its interests.

“Hamas had said it would try to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence, with Egyptian and UN mediators trying to prevent further escalation.

The clashes were limited in scope and fears of a large number of deaths have not materialised. The protests quietened in the evening.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

Hamas was misleadingly portrayed in this report as being designated only by Israel.

“The Israeli government designates Hamas a terrorist group which it says has been seeking to use the protests as a cover to cross into its territory and carry out attacks.”

The violent coup in which Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 was erased from audience view.

“This day of protests is a serious test of the fragile calm between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.”

The terror group’s operatives were, as usual, portrayed by the BBC as “militants”.

“They came after a tense week in which Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

One year on, the BBC’s reporting on this story has not improved at all and it continues to promote the same jaded themes and euphemisms while denying audiences vital context. A year ago the organisers of this agitprop stated that its aim is to create photo-ops which – in their words – “the whole world and media outlets would watch” and the BBC has played its part in ensuring that would be the case.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

Since late last July BBC audiences have seen and heard numerous reports on the topic of health services in the Gaza Strip that have focused on portraying pressures on the system. For example:

November 2018, Tom Bateman:

“This is a conflict that has changed even more lives this year. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered bullet wounds during protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. It has put intense pressure on Gaza’s hospitals.”

January 2019, Mishal Husain:

Mohammed Abu Mughalseeb of Medecins Sans Frontiers:

“From my experience I think the…you know, from some friends and colleagues in United Kingdom and in France and United States, if they had the same number of injuries received in the emergency department the health system would collapse. No other places in the world can cope with this, with this huge number of injuries.”

On March 29th a report by Tom Bateman that was filmed at a MSF-run rehabilitation centre in the Gaza Strip which Bateman had previously visited last summer appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza’s disability crisis”.

“Saturday 30 March marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel.

As the anniversary looms, tensions and military activity on the boundary have been ratcheting up.

According to UN-published figures, in the last year more than 7,000 Palestinians have been shot by the Israeli military, and more than 190 killed.

Last summer, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman.

Israel justifies the use of live ammunition saying it has defended its soldiers and civilians from violent attacks.” [emphasis added]

The report begins:

“These men are in a physical therapy clinic in Gaza.”

Bateman: “Every time you come to one of these clinics, you just get such a feel for how an entire generation has been affected by what’s gone on over the last year. There is a crisis of disability in Gaza now and this clinic where they’re treating people for long-term care, treating bullet woulds, rehabilitation, they still have 200 people coming through their doors every day.” [emphasis added]

With no effort made to clarify to BBC audiences that “what’s gone on over the last year” is the product of decisions made by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, the film goes on to showcase familiar messaging from another MSF representative.

Carla Melki: “Actually I will say there is not one of the health systems in the world even in the best, important capital of western parts that will be able to face this amount of injuries. When we get 1,200 gunshot injuries in a few hours any health system would collapse. So on top of it, yes, Gaza’s health system is already pressured. There are not, for example, enough beds for the total population. So obviously the system is not collapsing but it is really under pressure.”

Viewers are then told that:

“Some 7,000 Palestinians were hurt by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. Israel says it has acted legitimately to protect its civilians from violent attacks at the border.”

The film closes with a monologue from a person identified as Hashim Abu Maneeh.

Abu Maneeh: “They shot me, they fired an explosive bullet. It broke seven centimetres of my bone. So far I’ve had 11 surgeries, I couldn’t walk for 11 months, couldn’t stand. That can really affect someone.”

Once again we see that while the BBC readily quotes the numbers of Palestinians killed and injured in what it has for an entire year been misrepresenting as “protests”, audiences are yet again denied a view of some of the other statistics necessary for full understanding of this story.

And yet again we see Bateman making no effort to clarify to BBC audiences that the “crisis of disability” he portrays could have been avoided had Hamas (which is of course also in charge of the health system described as “already pressured”) not initiated, encouraged, facilitated and financed this particular terror project dubbed the ‘Great Return March’.

Related Articles:

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

BBC Gaza ‘documentary’ makes no pretence of impartiality

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

More of the same Gaza framing from a BBC Jerusalem correspondent

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

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