BBC World Affairs editor misleads on women’s rights in Iran

This week Freedom House published its ‘Freedom in the World’ map for 2019. Once again the vast majority of the Middle East is ranked ‘not free’ with the only country that is ranked ‘free’ being Israel.

The full reports on individual countries are not yet available but here are some excerpts from the Freedom House 2018 report on Iran – which last year too was ranked ‘not free’.

“Women remain significantly underrepresented in politics and government. In 2017, Rouhani appointed two women among his several vice presidents but failed to name any women as cabinet ministers. No women candidates were allowed to run for president.”

“Women do not receive equal treatment under the law and face widespread discrimination in practice. For example, a woman’s testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man’s, and the monetary compensation awarded to a female victim’s family upon her death is half that owed to the family of a male victim.”

“The penal code criminalizes all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage, and Iran is among the few countries where individuals can be put to death for consensual same-sex conduct. Members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community face harassment and discrimination, though the problem is underreported due to the criminalized and hidden nature of these groups in Iran.”

“Freedom of movement is restricted, particularly for women and perceived opponents of the regime. Women are banned from certain public places, such as sports stadiums, and can obtain a passport to travel abroad only with the permission of their fathers or husbands.”

“Women are denied equal rights in inheritance matters.”

“Women are subject to obligatory rules on dress and personal appearance, and those who are deemed to have inadequately covered their hair and body face state harassment, fines, and arrest. Men are subject to less strict controls on personal appearance. Although Tehran’s police chief announced in December 2017 that city authorities would no longer make arrests for breaching rules on personal appearance, instead mandating education sessions by police officials, the change apparently applied only to the capital, and repeat offenders could reportedly still face detention.”

“Women do not enjoy equal rights in divorce and child custody disputes.”

“The government provides no protection to women and children forced into sex trafficking…”

In contrast, here is an excerpt from an article by the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson which appeared in the ‘features’ section of BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st under the title “The plane journey that set Iran’s revolution in motion”.

“Today, Iran is a lot more easy-going than most outsiders imagine.

The rules about women’s dress are sometimes enforced harshly, but the Islamic Republic has never clamped down on women’s rights in the way you see routinely in Saudi Arabia.

Iranian women run businesses, own property, drive cars and play an important part in politics.

The present government is probably more liberal than any other since the revolution.” [emphasis added]

The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ which ranks countries in terms of women’s economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. The 2018 report put Iran in slot 142 out of 149, with Saudi Arabia one place higher. Despite Simpson’s claim that “Iranian women…play an important part in politics”, the WEF’s sub-index on political empowerment ranks Iran 141 out of 149. Saudi Arabia is ranked 127th.

This is by no means the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC has whitewashed the specific issue of women’s rights in Iran as well as the general picture of human rights in that country. But this is not some junior reporter dashing off a report: this is the BBC’s highly paid world affairs editor – no less – writing a feature, with time to check facts in order to avoid misleading audiences.

Yet again we see just how seriously the BBC takes its constitutional obligation to “provide 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:

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

 

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during January 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 160 incidents took place: 116 in Judea & Samaria, 22 in Jerusalem and 22 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 112 attacks with petrol bombs, 15 attacks using pipe bombs, four shooting attacks, four stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one attack using a gas cylinder placed inside a burning tyre

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 2 attacks with petrol bombs, 3 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, two grenade attacks and three rocket attacks.  

Throughout January three people were wounded in terror attacks. A civilian bus driver was wounded in a shooting attack on a bus on January 5th. On January 9th a civilian was wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. A member of the security forces was injured in a shooting attack at the border with the Gaza Strip on January 22nd. Neither those incidents nor any of the others which did not result in injuries received any coverage on the BBC News website.

A rocket attack on January 7th was briefly mentioned in a report on another topic but another attack on January 12th was ignored.

In short, the BBC News website reported 0.63% of the Palestinian terror attacks which took place during January 2019.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

 

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

The February 4th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item concerning Venezuela which presenter Ritula Shah brought to a close with a question (from 23:31 here) on a different topic to one of her interviewees – Chris Williamson – whom she had earlier introduced as a “Labour MP and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn”.

The question related to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party held on the same evening.

Shah: “I want to ask you one more question. Labour MPs tonight have unanimously passed a motion calling for the party leadership to do more to tackle antisemitism and the MPs accuse the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby, who was at the meeting, of ignoring the demands and refusing to give the answers they wanted. You weren’t at that meeting, I know, but you have been at odds with those levelling accusations of antisemitism at Labour’s structure. I wonder what you make of tonight’s move.” [emphasis added]

Williamson: “Well I think it’s an incredibly unfair criticism of Jennie Formby. She’s done more than any previous general secretary to address a backlog of complaints, including antisemitism. She’s appointed an in-house counsel. She’s expanded the national constitutional committee that deals with serious…ehm…accusations of mis…of misdeeds and she’s increased staff to deal with this matter.”

Shah: “So you don’t think the MPs are justified?”

Williamson: “No absolutely not. I think it’s incredibly unfair. Jennie’s done more than anybody to deal with the cancer of antisemitism and we have to stand united against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and racism and she’s done precisely that.”

The BBC’s domestic audience would of course have been better equipped to judge that predictable messaging from Williamson had they first been informed what Shah meant by “at odds with those levelling accusations of antisemitism at Labour’s structure”.

Williamson has not simply disagreed with allegations of antisemitism within the Labour party. In a 2017 interview with the Guardian:

“He said rows over Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism within Labour and his approach to Venezuela were “proxy wars and bullshit”.

“I’m not saying it never ever happens but it is a really dirty, lowdown trick, particularly the antisemitism smears. Many people in the Jewish community are appalled by what they see as the weaponisation of antisemitism for political ends.”

Williamson subsequently described reactions to those comments as “positively sinister” and in 2018 portrayed antisemitism related disciplinary actions within the Labour party as “ridiculous suspensions and expulsions from the party… in the most grotesque and unfair way”.

While a person who publicly states that antisemitism has been ‘weaponised’ and that concerns about racism in the Labour party are “smears” and “bullshit” may not have been the best choice of commentator on the meeting that was the topic of Shah’s question, clearly audience understanding of his comments would have been enhanced had his stance on the core issue been better clarified in line with the BBC editorial guideline concerning the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”.

BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

On May 7th 2018 the BBC News website published a report about the results of the first election held in Lebanon in nine years. The website’s readers saw no further reporting on the subsequent failure to form a government over the next nine months.

On February 1st 2019 a report titled “Lebanon forms new government after long delay” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Lebanese factions have agreed to form a new government of national unity, ending nearly nine months of wrangling.”

Readers were not given any meaningful insight into the background to that “wrangling”, which is explained by the FDD analyst Tony Badran as follows:

“Following its victory in the May 2018 parliamentary election, Hezbollah began orchestrating the formation of a new government. From the outset, the terror group laid out its non-negotiable demands and immediately received the acquiescence of Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri. Namely, Hezbollah wanted to control the lucrative Ministry of Public Health. It succeeded. The new minister, Jamil Jabak, reportedly is the former personal physician of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah.

Then Hezbollah proceeded to manage the shares of the other sects and parties. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, gained seats in the election but Hezbollah marginalized it in the government formation process. Instead of obtaining the Defense portfolio, Hezbollah made sure that ministry went to one of their allies, Elias Bou Saab.

Hezbollah similarly managed the Druze share. Hezbollah forced Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt to give up one of the three allocated seats to a figure approved by Jumblatt’s rival, Talal Arslan, an ally of both Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah also demanded that Hariri offer a share in the government to a bloc of pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad Sunnis. Not only did Hezbollah force the inclusion of an anti-Hariri Sunni minister, but it also forced its Christian ally, President Michel Aoun, and Aoun’s son-in-law and foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, to vacate a slot from their share. In so doing, Hezbollah stripped any one party, even allies, of the ability to veto government decisions independently.

Hezbollah now controls a majority coalition of all the Lebanese sects.”

The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of the new government in Lebanon is as follows: [emphasis added]

“The 30-member cabinet has four women, including the interior minister – a first for Lebanon. […]

Mr Hariri’s new government will be composed of most of the country’s rival factions, including the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah which – with its allies – made gains in parliamentary elections last May.

One of the main sticking points until now has been how Hezbollah’s Sunni allies, who oppose the prime minister, would be represented in government. They were eventually awarded one position in cabinet, while Hezbollah took two seats.

Jamil Jabak was chosen as health minister by Hezbollah, although he is not a member of it.

Other key members of the new cabinet are Ali Hassan Khalil and Gebran Bassil, who both remain as finance and foreign ministers respectively.

Four women entered the government. Among them is Rhea al-Hasan, the country’s new interior minister.”

Nowhere in this report are BBC audiences informed that Hizballah is a terror organisation which is designated in whole by the US, Canada, Israel, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council and in part by the UK, Australia and the EU.

The BBC’s tepid portrayal of Hizballah as “Iran-backed” obviously does not facilitate audience understanding of the fact that Iran funds its proxy in Lebanon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

And apparently the BBC finds nothing newsworthy about the fact that members of the new Lebanese cabinet belong to a terror organisation that has an arsenal of some 120,000 missiles, funds its terror activities through international drugs trafficking and money laundering and serially violates UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Hizballah’s lexicon and a false narrative

Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

BBC News inverts cause and effect in US aid story headline

Readers may recall that last month we noted the absence of any BBC coverage of a story concerning the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept a category of US aid.

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American security aid dollars as of the beginning of February, in a development seen as a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security ties.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to Pompeo on December 26, 2018, telling him that the PA would reject US financial support because of a new American law known as the Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Act.

Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation — possibly in the hundreds of millions — if the Ramallah-based body accepts even one penny of American aid.

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” Hamdallah wrote in the letter, adding that the PA would reconsider its decision if ATCA were changed in a way that would protect it from lawsuits in American courts.”

On February 1st the BBC News website got round to reporting that story in an article by Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell which was presented to audiences with a headline that clearly leads readers to believe that the initiative to stop the aid came from the US administration: “US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza”.

The first five paragraphs of Knell’s report gave readers no indication whatsoever of the fact that the US aid was stopped because the Palestinian Authority told the US Secretary of State that it refused to accept the funds.

“The US has confirmed it stopped all aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in a step linked to new anti-terrorism legislation.

More than $60m (£46m) in annual funds for the Palestinian security services has now ended, and – while Israel has backed some previous cuts in US aid for Palestinians – officials have expressed concern about this move.

It is thought that co-operation with Israeli forces, which helps keep relative calm in the West Bank, could be affected.

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Donald Trump last year, has just come into force.

This allows Americans to sue those receiving foreign aid from their country in US courts over alleged complicity in “acts of war”.”

Only in paragraphs six and seven were readers informed that:

“At a news conference on Thursday, senior official Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority (PA) had sent a letter to the US state department asking them to end funding because of a fear of lawsuits.

“We do not want to receive any money if it will cause us to appear before the courts,” he said.”

Knell went on to tell readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

With BBC audiences serially denied any meaningful reporting on the subject of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and with serious coverage of the issue of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families very few and far between, readers are of course unlikely to be able to judge for themselves whether or not that PA denial holds water.

Related Articles:

The story about US aid to Palestinians that the BBC chose not to report

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ airs second item in five days on Israel election video

As noted here earlier in the month, the BBC’s record of reporting on the past two Israeli general elections shows that it has serially ignored the economic and social issues which have been high up on the list of priorities for Israeli voters. A report from Tom Bateman which was aired in the January 30th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme suggests that coverage of the election due to be held in April is unlikely break that mould.  

The subject of Bateman’s report is former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz who previously got an anonymous mention on the same programme on January 18th and whose campaign videos were mentioned in an ‘alternative news bulletin’ by John Simpson in the January 25th edition of ‘Today’.

The item (from 2:41:36 here) was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

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

Robinson: “Israelis go to the polls in the Spring to choose a new government. Last night the campaign launch took place on Tel Aviv of Benny Gantz – a former chief of the Israeli military who believes he can unseat Benjamin Netanyahu – now into his tenth year as prime minister. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

If his first term in office is taken into account, Netanyahu is actually well beyond hid “tenth year as prime minister”.

Bateman’s report began with sounds from an event held the previous evening and an inaccurate portrayal of the colour of IDF uniforms.

Bateman: “A man previously seen in khaki holding binoculars. Tonight it’s a suit, a microphone and an adoring crowd. Benny Gantz launched his campaign and a broadside at Benjamin Netanyahu who he suggested was like a king sowing incitement and division. Israeli elections are usually decided on the issue of security and so former generals ooze with potential political capital. But Benny Gantz’s story goes up against an incumbent prime minister seen by his base as Mr Security.”

Bateman then interviewed a man who was Gantz’s radio operator in the paratroopers brigade thirty years ago and his one question was:

Bateman: “As somebody who knows him well, can you give us a clue about his politics? What’s your impression?”

Voiceover: “My impression…eh…he…”

Bateman quickly stepped in:

Bateman: “The policies haven’t been pouring from Benny Gantz. Some observers have little to say other than the fact that he is tall with unusually blue eyes. Although even then he was out-polling most other parties.”

Listeners then heard some in part tongue-in-cheek commentary from Gil Hoffman – political correspondent at the Jerusalem Post.

Hoffman: “So because Israelis are voting on security, that gives anyone with a security record a great advantage and Gantz has one more added plus which is this lack of an opinion on anything. […] There will be efforts by Right-wing politicians to show that Gantz is not this security messiah but that he is a weak Leftist and prevent him from being this alternative to Netanyahu. They’ve just started and there are 72 days left.”

Bateman next turned to the same campaign video which ‘Today’ audiences had heard about just five days earlier.

Bateman: “So Gantz – trying to burnish a strongman image – released a video showing flattened buildings in Gaza when he was chief of staff in the war of 2014. It boasted of sending parts of the Strip back to the Stone Age and thirteen hundred terrorists killed. Human rights groups castigated the apparent disregard for civilian casualties. An Arab Israeli MP said he watched it and felt sick.”

Like Simpson before him, Bateman refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. Also like Simpson, Bateman failed to clarify that the video he described as showing “flattened buildings in Gaza” in fact shows one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.

Bateman continued with commentary on ‘leadership’ from a soon to be former MK.

Bateman: “Hilik Bar, a Labour party MP, said Gantz had fallen into a populist trap – a clumsy imitation of the hawkish right.”

Bar: “If you will test his ideas one to one you will see that he is a Leftist. OK by the way he’s…”

Bateman [interrupts] “That’s become really a term of abuse. I mean the Right are using that as a way of attacking him.”

Bar: “People who are afraid to belong to the Left or to [be] called Leftist are either a coward or not leaders enough.”

Bateman closed his report with yet more military motifs.

Bateman: “As his launch packed up last night Gantz began his campaign on a battlefield strewn with political casualties. Many an Israeli general has tried to reach the top of government. Few have succeeded.”

Among Israel’s twelve different prime ministers to date – some of who served more than one term – three (along with one acting prime minister) have held the rank of general or above.

Of all the new political lists which have emerged since the announcement of the upcoming election, BBC audiences have so far heard only this very sketchy portrayal of this one party, with no reporting whatsoever on its stated policies. Interestingly, the fact that Gantz’s new party has teamed up with a party led by another former chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, did not make it into Bateman’s report.

So while BBC audiences have yet to hear any reporting on topics not connected to security and the ‘peace process’ which will be issues in the upcoming election, they did hear two reports concerning the same ‘Stone Age’ campaign video in the space of five days.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

 

 

 

  

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

On January 30th an article by BBC music reporter Mark Savage titled “Stars urge BBC to ask for Eurovision to be moved out of Israel” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The article relates to a letter published – as usual – by the Guardian newspaper the previous day and most of Savage’s report is composed of unqualified quotes from that letter (together with a link to the original) and statements made by the BBC in response.

Among the quotes that went unchallenged by Savage was an ‘apartheid’ smear.

“The letter comes a week before Eurovision: You Decide, a live BBC TV show through which the British public will vote for the act to represent the UK.

“For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour,” the letter said.

“They and the BBC should consider that You Decide is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot ‘decide’ to remove Israel’s military occupation and live free of apartheid.””

At the end of the report readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“Many of the signatories to Wednesday’s [sic] letter have previously made calls for a cultural boycott of Israel, criticising artists such as Nick Cave, Radiohead and Lana Del Rey for organising concerts in the country.

Their campaign follows an earlier call for Eurovision to be relocated, made last September by a coalition of artists from across Europe.

That was organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says BDS opposes Israel’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism.”

That unsatisfactory “Israel says” formulation has been in evidence since April 2018.

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC avoiding informing audiences in its own words that what the BDS campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state. For years we have documented on these pages how the corporation has serially failed to provide an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR. Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Research carried out in the UK shows “a clear link between antisemitism and hostility towards Israel, finding that a majority of people in the UK who support boycotts or regard Israel as an apartheid state hold anti-Jewish views.”

The survey:

“…sought to examine the relationship between anti-Jewish sentiment and a belief that Israel should be boycotted and is an apartheid state – two of the central, interrelated claims of the country’s critics in the UK. […]

“A relationship exists between British people’s agreement with each of the two key contentions and their predisposition towards anti-Jewish sentiment – as one scale increases, so does the other,” write the authors, Dr. Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and Dr. David Graham, its senior research fellow. […]

The correlation between anti-Jewish sentiment and support for BDS was stronger than the belief that Israel is an apartheid state and bigotry against Jews, although the latter correlation is “clearly evident”.”

Among the public purposes set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement that are the constitutional basis for the BBC are the provision of “accurate and impartial news” and “learning for people of all ages”.

As long as the BBC continues to unquestioningly amplify politically motivated delegitimisation such as the ‘apartheid’ smear and to report stories relating to the anti-Israel BDS campaign without providing audiences with the full range of information concerning the aims of that political campaign, it not only neglects those public purposes but, as the above research shows, opts out of playing a part in tackling anti-Jewish racism in the UK.

Related Articles:

The Guardian: Platform of choice for anti-Israel activism  (UK Media Watch)

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

 

 

BBC News’ account of TIPH story sidesteps violent incidents

On the evening of January 29th the BBC News website published a report titled “Hebron: Palestinians denounce Israeli decision to end observer mission” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The report actually includes two separate stories, the first of which was presented to readers as follows: [emphasis added]

“The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of a foreign observer force in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has deployed unarmed civilians for more than 20 years to report on human rights violations.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the observers of “acting against” his country.

Palestinians said Israel was showing contempt for international agreements.

Saeb Erekat, of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, called on the UN to deploy a permanent international force across the occupied West Bank in response.”

Later on readers were told that:

The TIPH was established in 1994 in the wake of an attack by a settler at the Ibrahimi Mosque that left 29 Palestinians dead. The force was deployed for three months but its mandate was not extended.

The 1997 agreement saw the TIPH return to Hebron, with Denmark, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey contributing observers.

Its mission is to assist in “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians”.

The TIPH presents its findings to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are required to agree every six months to extend the force’s mandate.”

The BBC’s report did not adequately clarify to audiences the one-sided nature of the TIPH’s mandate. As Professor Eugene Kontorovich notes:

“The anti-Israel bias of TIPH is built into its mandate, which tasked organization members with the one-sided mission of “promoting by their presence a feeling of security” for Palestinians in Hebron. Protecting Jews from constant terrorist attacks is not part of their job description.” 

Nowhere in the BBC’s report was there any mention of the incidents involving TIPH personnel which took place last year – the assault of an Israeli child by a Swiss member of the group and the slashing of the tyres of an Israeli owned vehicle by an Italian member. As the Jerusalem Post notes, those incidents were a factor in the call to review the renewal of the TIPH mandate.

Predictably the report erased from its section on the background of Hebron all mention of the city’s Jewish history, including the fact that Jews lived there uninterrupted for hundreds of years until the 1929 massacre. Readers did however see a dubious ‘religious importance’ rating.

“Hebron has been a flashpoint for decades.

The city is the location of the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Muslim and Christians as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s burial place. The site is the second holiest in Judaism and the fourth holiest in Islam.

Under a 1997 agreement, 80% of Hebron is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20% is under full Israeli control.

The Israeli-controlled sector is home to about 40,000 Palestinians and several hundred Jewish settlers living in settlement compounds. The presence of the settlers there is considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with this.”

The 1997 Hebron Protocol was of course signed by Israel and the PLO and it followed on from the 1995 Interim Agreement signed by the same parties and witnessed by the USA, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway and the EU. Apparently the BBC would have its audiences believe that the PLO signed an agreement facilitating the residence of Israelis in Hebron in violation of “international law”.

The second story in this BBC report is unconnected to the article’s subject matter. It relates to an incident which took place on January 26th, the details of which are as yet unclear and which is currently under investigation. In the original version of the report BBC audiences first got a one hundred and eighty-five word account of one version of the story.

“There was no immediate response from the UN, but the Organisation for the High Commissioner for Human Rights did express deep concern about an unrelated incident in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyir on Saturday in which a Palestinian man was shot in the back and killed.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that its monitoring suggested Hamdi Taleb Naasan died after a group of up to 30 Israelis from the nearby Israeli settler outpost of Adei Ad attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields and then fired live ammunition towards al-Mughayyir.

The confrontation led to six villagers being shot with live rounds, leaving three of them in a serious condition, he said, adding that it was unclear whether any settlers were also injured.

“When Israeli security forces did finally intervene, the main focus of their action appears to have been to disperse the Palestinian villagers using tear gas,” Mr Colville said.

“Three more Palestinians were injured by live ammunition after the intervention of the security forces. However it is not clear at this point whether they were shot by settlers or by soldiers.”

After being told that the army is investigating the incident, readers then got a fifty-three word long account (including an unhelpful link to a Ha’aretz article requiring subscription) of the other version of the incident.

The settlers have said the troops also used live ammunition, and that the confrontation began when a teenager was attacked and stabbed by Palestinians on the outskirts of al-Mughayyir.

According to the settlers, armed civilian emergency responders who came to the teenager’s aid opened fire in self-defence after villagers threw stones at them.”

So while violent acts by foreigners in the TIPH ‘peacemaking’ delegation were excluded from this report, one version of an as yet unclarified story was allocated three and a half times more coverage than the other.

 

BBC News ignores PA government resignation

One might have thought that the resignation of a prime minister and his entire government would have merited at least a few words on the BBC News website, regardless of the location.

However, when the Palestinian Authority prime minister handed in his resignation on January 29th, BBC audiences saw no coverage whatsoever of that story.

“PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government tendered their resignations earlier Tuesday, marking the end of a failed unity bid with rival Hamas.

[PA president] Abbas accepted the resignations but assigned Hamdallah and his fellow ministers the task of maintaining the PA government’s operations until the formation of a new one, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

The government’s decision to resign came two days after the Fatah Central Committee recommended the formation of a government made up of representatives of factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization and independent personalities, leaving out Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip. […]

Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Sunday that the Palestinians planned to form a new government in response to Hamas not handing over the Gaza Strip to the PA.”

However, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Fatah’s plans for a PLO government have already run into choppy waters.

“Two PLO groups announced that they will not participate in a new Palestinian Authority government because it will deepen divisions among Palestinians, consolidating the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. […]

…the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said that they will not be part of a government that “solidifies divisions among” the Palestinians.
Miriam Abu Dakka, a senior PFLP official, said that the PLO, and not Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, was the only party authorized to make a decision on the formation of a new Palestinian government. […]

Another PFLP official, Kayed al-Ghul, pointed out that his group has refused to participate in all Palestinian governments that were established after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. The PFLP is opposed to the Oslo Accords. […]

Earlier, the DFLP, which is also opposed to the Oslo Accords, said it too would not participate in a new government and called for launching dialogue among Palestinian factions to achieve “national unity.””

Meanwhile, The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) and timeline still tell audiences that in October 2017 “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions” and “Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations”, despite the fact that those statements are patently inaccurate.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

BBC News continues to side-step internal Palestinian politics

 

BBC Radio Wales’ brief but misleading presentation of UK antisemitism

On January 27th BBC Radio Wales aired an edition of the programme ‘All Things Considered’ titled ‘Nationalism & Religion’.

“On Holocaust Memorial Day Roy Jenkins explores the perceived rise of anti-Semitism and far right movements; nationalism and religion, and compares attitudes to 1930s Germany.

As the remains of six unknown victims of Auschwitz were buried in Hertfordshire last Sunday – one for every million Jewish people killed by the Nazis – the Chief Rabbi urged an end to rising anti-Semitism. Later in the week, the country’s most senior counter-terrorism officer warned that the ‘febrile’ atmosphere around Brexit could be exploited by far right extremists. At a time of heightened division and the rise of right-wing nationalist movements across Europe, and in other parts of the world, some draw disturbing parallels with the Germany of the 1930s. On Holocaust Memorial Day, Roy Jenkins asks is such talk merely alarmist? 
Wales has had its own nationalist party for more than 90 years, with elected representatives at Westminster, in Brussels and in the Welsh Assembly. Plaid Cymru is part of the political establishment, hardly sinister – there are clearly important distinctions to be made. So just what is nationalism? And in what ways is it bound up with religion?

Joining Roy to discuss the issues are Dan Cohn-Sherbok, ordained Reform Rabbi and Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales Trinity St. David; The Rev’d Aled Edwards, Chief Executive of Cytun, Churches Together in Wales, active in issues of equality, racism and the care of refugees and asylum seekers; and Sinisa Malesevic, Professor of Sociology at University College Dublin, who has written and lectured widely on nationalism, ethnicity and identity.”

In contrast to the impression given in that synopsis – and repeated by the presenter in his introduction – the fact that the remains of six people murdered in Auschwitz were buried in Bushey and the fact that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust is six million is coincidental.

Despite the programme’s given description, listeners actually heard remarkably little about “the perceived rise of antisemitism” in the UK and what they did hear came mostly from contributor Dan Cohn-Sherbok.  [emphasis in bold added]

06:24 Jenkins: “Dan – rising levels of antisemitism. As a Jewish person living and working around the UK, what’s your experience?”

Cohn-Sherbok: “Well I know that some of my fellow co-religionists are concerned about what they perceive as rising antisemitism and this is all tied up I think with the State of Israel and criticism of Israeli policy. I personally don’t feel that I’m living in any kind of an antisemitic environment. It’s really philosemitic and particularly in Wales. I have lots of friends and I don’t feel it but I know that there are currents of criticism of Israel and this worries a lot of Jews.”

Jenkins: “And do people talk to you directly about it, expressing their concerns?”

Cohn-Sherbok: “Not really. There’s much more concern about Brexit and about American politics. But I know, reading the Jewish newspapers and being informed about what’s going on in the Jewish world, that there is concern and people don’t feel comfortable about being Jewish.”

26:13 Cohn-Sherbok: “Well I think that what the Holocaust has illustrated to Jews is that in times of terrible deprivation and economic instability a society can look for a target and in Nazi Germany the targets were the Jews. And they were rejected on racial grounds and also on religious grounds. Being Jewish meant that you were an outsider. You were an outsider in terms of race and an outsider in terms of religion. So it seems to me that is really the lesson of the Holocaust – that you can turn the outsider into the enemy and that can result in the most terrible circumstances.”

28:55 Cohn-Sherbok: “I think as far as the Jewish community is concerned we’re not doing enough to reach out to the Muslim community. It’s all mixed up with Israel and the Palestinians but we need to try to find some way of building a bridge between the Jewish community and the Muslim community and Jewish leaders are not doing enough. We need to do much more.”

So did this programme meet the BBC’s public purpose obligations to its funding public by contributing to their understanding of antisemitism in their own country?

The employment of the term “perceived” in relation to rising antisemitism in both the programme description and in Cohn-Sherbok’s contribution obviously hinders audience understanding of the fact that the number of antisemitic incidents recorded by the Community Security Trust has risen over the past decade.

The claim that antisemitism in the UK is “all tied up with” – i.e. exclusively linked to – the State of Israel is inaccurate and misleading and does not reflect the findings of the CST (see page 11) either in terms of the proportion of incidents showing evidence of political motivation or the differing types of motivation.

“Of the 727 antisemitic incidents reported to CST during the first six months of 2018, 154 incidents, or 21 per cent, showed evidence of political motivation. Of these, 67 incidents showed evidence of far right motivation; 77 showed evidence of anti-Israel motivation; and ten showed evidence of Islamist motivation. All incidents needed to show evidence of antisemitism alongside any political motivation in order to be recorded by CST as an antisemitic incident.”

The claim that antisemitism in the UK is linked to “criticism of Israeli policy” and “criticism of Israel” is inaccurate and misleading, as is the claim that “a lot of Jews” are worried by such criticism. As the IHRA working definition of antisemitism clearly states:

“…criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Israel-linked antisemitic incidents in the UK do not fall into the category of legitimate “criticism of Israeli policy” as Cohn-Sherbok misleadingly claims. Likewise, his portrayal of antisemitism as a reaction to “terrible deprivation and economic instability” clearly does nothing to enhance listener understanding of antisemitism in 21st century Britain.

That this programme was aired on Holocaust Memorial Day obviously makes its failure to contribute to audience understanding of contemporary antisemitism in the UK – and even mislead listeners on that topic – even more unfortunate.