Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

h/t FB

The August 8th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 44:25 here) concerning a film about the Gaza Strip. Presenter John Humprys began with some unsurprising framing.

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

Humphrys: “Gaza is by any standards a pretty bleak place to live. Now a documentary called ‘Gaza’, which had its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is about to be released in this country. It’s been called a portrait of Palestinian life in which a series of people talk about how they live amid restrictions and lack of any opportunity. Mishal has spoken to Garry Keane – co-director of the film – and Fadi Hussam Hannona the production manager in Gaza. She asked Garry Keane why he made the film.”

“Mishal” is of course the programme’s own Mishal Husain who has herself produced no small amount of one-sided reporting from or about the Gaza Strip in the past.

Keane: “The film was born out of a conversation I had back in 2012 with the documentary photographer Andrew McConnell. And I had always wanted to meet someone who had access to the Strip, who had an awareness of working on the ground there. And most importantly to meet someone who had shared, you know, shared my sensibilities about the situation there. So when we both realised that we had a passion for the plight of what we consider the trapped and tortured people of Gaza, we decided to combine our skills – as I was a documentary maker, he was a photographer – and join together to make a film about…from the point of view of the ordinary citizens of the Strip. So that conversation happened in 2012 and it took us until 2018 to finish.”

Following a clip from the film Husain introduced its production manager.

Husain: “Fadi Hannona – you were the production manager in Gaza. There are a series of individuals who are seen in the film. A couple of them are teenagers. How did you decide on those people and what was the process of filming on the ground in a place like Gaza like for you?”

Hannona: “Actually I didn’t decide. I understood what the directors wanted. The research took long time thinking about how we can present these characters to the audience in the right, most natural, real way. And look, the media around the world deal with Gaza only as a breaking news so we decide to do something completely different and we did. We have Gaza film now.”

Husain failed to challenge that inaccurate claim and listeners heard another clip from the film before her interviewee continued:

Hannona: “Gaza has been reduced to an image of violence and destruction on the news. OK yes; there’s conflicts…conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life and people want a chance. So we tried through our film to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the ordinary people are suffering every day.”

Husain: “Have the people featured in it – or indeed anyone in Gaza – got to see it?”

Hannona’s reply did not inform listeners that there is “no cinema in Gaza” any longer because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

Hannona: “Actually no because there’s no cinema in Gaza and after what happened in Sundance I was very upset back then and I’m still very sad and angry about it. Not only did we miss the festival and the chance to present the film but it’s just another reminder of how wrong it is that we can’t travel. It’s, you know, it’s unjust.”

Husain: “You mean because you didn’t manage to get out of Gaza to go to the Sundance Festival yourself?”

Hannona: “Yeah I lost…yeah I lost [unintelligible] to bring me at Sundance. They close the border one day before I should leave Gaza.”

Listeners were not told to which of Gaza’s borders Hannona was referring or who “they” are. The Sundance Festival took place in the US between January 24th and February 3rd 2019. Egypt had closed its border crossing with the Gaza Strip earlier that month due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn. According to the UN that closure lasted until January 28th. On January 22nd:

“…shots were fired at Israeli troops stationed along the security fence across from the northern Strip. In response, an IDF tank destroyed a nearby observation post belonging to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

On Tuesday afternoon, during a small riot next to the border, another sniper opened fire at a group of soldiers positioned along the border, hitting a Paratroopers Brigade company commander in his helmet, causing light injuries.”

Whether or not that was the reason for a closure of the Erez Crossing is unclear but notably BBC audiences heard nothing about the responsibility of Palestinians for their travel difficulties.

Listeners heard another clip from the film before Husain went on:

Husain: “Garry Keane; do you think it is a fair portrait of Gaza? And I ask that because you talked about ‘trapped and tortured people’. The Hollywood Reporter felt that you airbrushed Hamas and its responsibility out of the story.”

The Hollywood Reporter review of the film includes the following:

“The press notes for Gaza say Hamas is one of the villains of the story, but that’s a ludicrous statement. Hamas may be one of the villains of the actual historical record, but it’s a non-factor in the documentary. Occasionally we pass by a military-affiliated figure with a rocket launcher or a machine gun, but to watch Gaza you’d think such weaponry was only used to be fired in the air when the Israelis free unjustly imprisoned Palestinians.”

Keane: “Ahm…we have been accused on occasion – on very few, you know, very limited occasions – of making a propaganda film for Hamas but anyone who claims that we feel has an agenda to serve. We show Hamas armed military wing on the streets conducting large rallies with enormous rockets on display. A character in the film says that Palestinian problems would be solved if Hamas weren’t there. We don’t serve the views of Hamas or any of their supporters. Our film is all about highlighting the effects of an unjust blockade on the ordinary people of Gaza. You know, a blockade that even the UN constitutes as collective punishment. So I think it’s ridiculous to say that, you know, that just because we disapprove of the actions of the Israeli government and want to highlight that, that we’re accused of racism or…this film is not about race or religion or about propaganda. It’s about human rights violations being perpetrated on two million citizens of the Gaza Strip. You know this is a film about promoting understanding.”

With nothing at all to say about the human rights of the Israeli civilians living for years under the shadow of Hamas terrorism, Husain closed the item there.  

Husain: “Garry Keane and Fadi Hussam Hannona, thank you both.”

Once again BBC Radio 4 has presented a one-sided item which does not even pretend to fully inform audiences but promotes plenty of buzz words and slogans which conform to the corporation’s standard politicised messaging on the Gaza Strip.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during July 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 92 incidents took place: 54 in Judea & Samaria, 24 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and 14 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 66 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using pipe bombs, four arson attacks and one vehicular attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included eight attacks with petrol bombs, two attacks using pipe bombs, one attack using a grenade, one shooting attack and two incidents of rocket fire.

Five members of the security forces were injured in a vehicular attack on July 6th near the Hizme checkpoint in Jerusalem which did not receive any coverage whatsoever on the BBC News website.  

Two incidents of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on July 12th were likewise ignored, as was the death (not included in the ISA report) of an 89 year-old woman who was injured during a rocket attack on Ashkelon in May of this year.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has reported 28% of the terror attacks which have taken place and 75% of the resulting fatalities. Four of those seven months saw no reporting on terrorism against Israelis whatsoever.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

BBC ignores another cross-border terror tunnel

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2019

Will BBC audiences be told this Gaza healthcare story?

Readers may recall that in early June listeners to BBC domestic radio’s news and current affairs station, Radio 4, were told by a presenter of the ‘Today’ show that:

“The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used [by Israel] to dehumanise the Palestinian people…” 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

The BBC of course has a history of ignoring stories which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. 

At the end of June the Israeli news website Ynet reported (Hebrew) that:

“This morning the surveying stage begins for the construction of a big international field hospital on an area of 40 dunams with 16 different departments near the Erez Crossing, which will be run by an international medical team. The hospital will be funded by a private American organisation and [will be built] with Israel’s permission and it will bring significant improvement and [provide] services which are not given today in the Gaza Strip to Palestinian patients.”

However the Gatestone Institute now reports that the Palestinian Authority is objecting to the plan.

“Palestinian Authority Minister of Health Mai Kaila, during a meeting in her West Bank office in Ramallah, reportedly told the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Jimmy McGoldrick on July 31 that the field hospital was part of a plan to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip and that the Palestinian Authority government considers the plan to build a hospital a “part of the Deal of the Century.”

“If the objective of establishing this hospital is humane, it would have been better to support and develop existing hospitals in the Gaza Strip,” the Palestinian minister told the UN official. “This project wears the dress of humanity while concealing a dangerous political aspect.”

Kaila asked the UN official to relay a message to all relevant parties: The Palestinian Authority government has effectively washed its hands of the new hospital.”

Although BBC audiences are told plenty about the dire state of medical services in the Gaza Strip, they rarely hear about the PA actions which exacerbate that situation such as the longstanding insufficient supply of medications. Whether or not they will be informed of this latest own goal from the Palestinian Authority remains to be seen.

Half a story time with the BBC’s Middle East editor

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“The humanitarian disaster in Syria continues to unfold but there’s little pressure from outside to stop the killing of civilians. Our correspondent considers the contradictions.”

And:

“Television footage from Idlib in northern Syria continues to provide distressing evidence of civilian suffering. But the world’s leading nations are unwilling or unable to intercede. Jeremy Bowen recalls his visits to the region in former, peaceful times but sees no end to the current violence.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 00:38 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “Events in Idlib province in Syria in 2011 led to a devastating war and Idlib still remains a centre of resistance to Bashar al Assad’s regime. Civilians there are enduring appalling conditions as the Syrian army has driven rebel groups out of other towns and villages elsewhere in the country. Idlib is now the last major bolt-hole against Assad but, says Jeremy Bowen, that may not be for much longer.”

The following day – August 4th – a slightly different version of the same item was aired on BBC World Service radio’s version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

“As President Bashar al Assad’s forces advance on Idlib province, one of the last pockets of armed resistance to his regime in Syria, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen weighs up what is really at stake, and what course the civil war might take from here onwards.”

Presenter Anu Anand introduced the item (from 06:20 here) as follows:

Anand: “In recent weeks there’s been a surge of violence in the civil war still tearing away at the fabric of Syria and particularly at the country’s north-west and the province of Idlib. This is a part of the Middle East that’s seem millennia of human history and been witness to many an autocratic regime, to countless bloody conflicts and innumerable fighting forces. And since the protests broke out in the Spring of 2011 it’s always been a centre of resistance to the regime of Bashar al Assad. By 2017, as President Assad’s military drove rebel groups out of one urban centre after another elsewhere in Syria, Idlib became the last major bolt-hole for his opponents. But, as Jeremy Bowen explains, that may not be true for much longer.”

Both those introductions – including the highlighted sentences – fail to adequately clarify to listeners that the Assad regime methodically ensured that ‘evacuation agreements’ reached after fighting in other parts of the country often included the transportation of rebels and their families to Idlib province. For example in March 2018 in eastern Ghouta near Damascus:

“Fighters from Ahrar al-Sham, which holds Harasta, agreed to lay down arms in return for safe passage to opposition-held northwestern Syria and a government pardon for people who wished to stay, the opposition sources said.

Some 1,500 militants and 6,000 of their family members will be transported to rebel-held Idlib province in two batches starting on Thursday, the Hezbollah military media unit said.”

In April 2018 civilians and rebel fighters from southern Damascus were also sent to Idlib and in July 2018 some 4,000 people were evacuated from south-west Syria to Idlib, with AP noting at the time that:

“The U.N. and human rights organizations have condemned the evacuations as forced displacement. More than half of Idlib’s population of two million is of displaced Syrians from other parts of the country, following similar military offensives and evacuations.”

In August 2018 the Independent similarly reported that:

“Backed by Russia, the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have conquered swathes of territory in recent months. In a now-familiar pattern of evacuation agreements, they have effectively corralled fleeing civilians, moderate rebels and also hardline jihadis into the northern province. The battle Assad is expected to launch on Idlib will likely be one of the final showdowns against the embattled opposition, and possibly mark a bloody end to the civil war.

The United Nations has expressed deep concern for the nearly 3 million people trapped in Idlib. […]

The UN said this week it was bracing for “the most horrific tragedy” in Idlib and dubbed it a “dumping ground” for fighters and civilians. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, warned on Thursday that as many as 800,000 people could be displaced if the fighting does begin. He said he feared the potential use of chemical weapons by the regime and al-Qaeda.” 

That important context – along with the fact that in September 2018 Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib province – was likewise absent from the account given by Jeremy Bowen, which began with a description of his own family trip to the district in 2010 before going on:

Bowen: “Since the [Syrian] regime and its Russian allies launched an offensive against the province three months ago, 450 civilians have been killed. Idlib is the last big piece of land and major population centre they still haven’t recaptured. A few days ago, in a speech overflowing with frustration and anger, the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that 440,000 people had been displaced within the Idlib enclave and the biggest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century was in the making. ‘Are you going to shrug your shoulders?’ he asked them ‘or are you going to listen to the children of Idlib and do something about it?’. But the Security Council will not, cannot act. The five permanent members are deeply divided over Syria. The result is a deadlock that discredits an organisation that’s only as strong as the political will of its members.”

Bowen however stopped short of clarifying to audiences that his euphemistic portrayal of a “deeply divided” UN Security Council in fact means Russian vetoes – as reported by AP in June.

“Russia blocked the U.N. Security Council on Monday from issuing a statement sounding alarm about the increasing fighting in and around Syria’s Idlib province and the possibility of a humanitarian disaster, a council diplomat said. […]

The Security Council has struggled to speak with one voice on Syria in recent years. In one notable example, a 2017 Russian veto put an end to an initiative that determined accountability for chemical attacks in Syria. That effort was run jointly by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

In April 2018 the Guardian had already noted that:

“Russia has used its security council veto powers 11 times to block action targeting its ally Syria.”

After reminiscing about another trip to the Idlib region in 2012, Bowen told listeners:

Bowen: “Turkey and Russia are the outside powers that matter in Idlib. The regime needs Russia’s power. Turkey wants a big say in the future of land just across its border and to destroy the power and national aspirations of Kurds who did the hard fighting on the ground against IS. And caught in the centre of it all are three million people in Idlib province. That includes tens of thousands of armed men loyal to a range of militias under an alliance led by a Salafist jihadist fighting group, some of whose leaders come from Al Qaeda. The regime and the Russians say they’re fighting terrorists. Many in the West would not disagree even as they deplore their methods.”

Just as was the case when he reported from Syria in 2015, Bowen made no effort to balance that promotion of a Syrian regime talking point by clarifying to BBC audiences that many more Syrian civilians have been killed by regime forces than by Jihadists of various stripes.

And so, once again, BBC audiences get a carefully framed story on Syria which omits relevant information essential for its proper understanding from the man charged with making news from the Middle East “more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.  

Related Articles:

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

BBC’s Assad interview and the ‘related articles’

 

 

 

 

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

A week has passed since revelations concerning alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees emerged.

BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

The BBC continues to maintain ‘radio silence’ on that issue and – although it did take the time to inform audiences that “[l]ast year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949 [sic]” two days after that story broke – it did not apparently consider the fact that Switzerland and the Netherlands subsequently suspended their funding to the agency worth reporting.

Since then Belgium has followed suit.

BBC reporting in August 2018

“Belgium has temporarily suspended its funding to UNRWA, following reports of a UN investigation into ethical misconduct among its senior staff, according to Israel’s Embassy in Belgium.

The embassy tweeted about the suspension on Friday, quoting from Belgian Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, who stated, “If the accusations are true, it’s completely unacceptable.””

In short – three countries suspend their funding to a UN agency in the wake of an ethics report revealing alleged mismanagement and abuse of authority at its highest levels and yet the BBC does not consider that its audiences need to know about that story.

Related Articles:

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

h/t SG

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote that Hamas approved terminology and the latest example came in the August 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Food Chain’ (repeated on August 4th) which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“When access to a city is blocked, food supplies quickly plummet, electricity and water become scarce, and people are forced to find new ways to feed themselves. Black markets thrive, and some may risk their lives to feed their families. But a dwindling food supply can also inspire creativity and compassion.

Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.

A journalist tells us how it feels to eat abundantly in a café in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat. An electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a statement of compassion and resistance. And a cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and food are scarce.”

Presenter Emily Thomas opened the programme with a description of a siege and went on with some clear signposting. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Thomas: “Your home is surrounded. Enemy forces are camped outside the city. They’ve cut off electricity and water supplies and sealed off the main roads out. You can’t leave. Nothing and no-one is coming in. But you still have to eat. Could finding a way to eat well become the ultimate act of defiance? […] In this episode people who’ve lived under siege in Aleppo in Syria, Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and the Gaza Strip are going to reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines where black markets can thrive and people may risk their lives to feed their families. We’ll hear that even as food supplies run out, creativity and compassion can flourish. How we eat behind siege lines can show our humanity and resilience.”

The first part of the programme related to Sarajevo and the last to Aleppo. In the middle (from 11:50) listeners heard a section which began with more inaccurate framing of the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ from Thomas.

Thomas: “Preserving a food culture is perhaps more important than ever when living under siege.”

Voiceover: “We make a whole variety of regional foods and as well as Arabic dishes we make pastries, different kinds of bread, chicken and rice, couscous; everything you’d expect to find in Gaza.”

Thomas: “But how much variety would you expect when more than half of the population is classed as food insecure by the UN? This is Wada Younis [phonetic]: one of a group of women who runs a catering company in Gaza. […] More than half of the territory’s labour force are unemployed so customers are in short supply.”

After her interviewee had explained that her clientele includes “women who don’t have the time to cook at home” and people with “more money”, Thomas told listeners:

Thomas: “A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people. Gazans are not allowed to farm in the mile-wide Israeli declared buffer zone on the border: an area with some of its best arable land. Add to that an intermittent power supply and almost every household relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.”

Notably listeners heard no explanation of those “security concerns” and the words Hamas and terrorism did not cross the BBC presenter’s lips. The inconvenient fact that the Gaza Strip also has a land border with Egypt was likewise airbrushed from Thomas’ portrayal.

Imports to the Gaza Strip are of course not “severely restricted” unless they come under the category of weapons or dual-use goods that can be employed for terror purposes and obviously that does not include food. Even anti-Israel NGOs do not claim that the buffer zone (the width of which varies from place to place) is a mile – i.e. 1,609.34 meters – wide. Gaza’s “intermittent power supply” of course has nothing to do with Israeli counter terrorism measures and everything to do with internal Palestinian disputes. In fact Israel continues to supply more than half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity and about 10 million cubic meters of water a year: hardly the actions of a ‘besieging’ force.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service is apparently quite happy for its audiences to be misled about the reasons for the chronic power shortages in the Gaza Strip because listeners next heard Younis repeat that falsehood.

Voiceover: “The siege causes loads of problems but the main one is electricity. Sometimes there’s no electricity and when we’re baking or preparing dishes it’s a real issue. And the other problem is the financial situation; people can’t afford much and they don’t all have incomes. Raw materials aren’t available and can be really expensive which means we can’t always make a profit. Sometimes we have to sell at cost price to keep our customers.”

Thomas: “Are there some ingredients it’s impossible to get hold of at all?”

Although Younis replied in the affirmative, the rest of her response showed that the real answer to that question is no.

Voiceover: “Yeah – the ingredients for desserts and cakes aren’t really available and if they are, they’re only in a few shops and are really expensive so we can’t afford to make them. And you just can’t get the kind of ovens we need in Gaza. You can only get them outside. And we often have to throw vegetables away because the electricity cuts out and the fridges go off.”

Thomas: “The electricity then poses a real problem. What about the water supply?”

Voiceover: “You can’t drink the water in Gaza or cook with it. It’s not clean. So we have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as for washing ingredients to avoid contamination.”

Making no effort to inform listeners why residents of the Gaza Strip face chronic shortages of electricity and clean water, Thomas summed up:

Thomas: “So the electricity supply is intermittent, the water supply is difficult too, you can’t get hold of all of the equipment and the ingredients that you need. It sounds really tough to be running a catering company.”

She later went on to claim that “food is limited” in the Gaza Strip.

Thomas: “Do you think that food and enjoyment of food and the sharing of food become more important when you’re living in the middle of a political situation like this and when food is limited?”

In her closing remarks (25:42) Thomas referred to “inhumane situations” despite the fact that no context to the measures imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to combat inhumane terrorism had been provided.

Thomas: “To me their story of food behind siege lines, like the others we’ve heard, shows not just people’s resilience but also the power of food to comfort and prove our humanity when we’re placed in the most inhumane situations.”

So why did the BBC World Service mislead its audiences by inaccurately framing the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ in accordance with Hamas talking points and misinform them with regard to the background to the chronic problems with water and electricity supplies?

At the end of the interview with Wada Younis, listeners heard that it was set up by the BBC’s Gaza Strip office.

Thomas: “Many thanks to our colleague in Gaza Jihad Masharawi for arranging that interview.”

This is of course far from the first time the employees at the BBC’s Gaza office have amplified Hamas propaganda and neither is it the first time that Masharawi has been involved in producing BBC content that promotes the false notion that the Gaza Strip is ‘under siege’ by Israel.

How the BBC can possibly claim that this item meets editorial guidelines on either accuracy or impartiality is unclear.

Related Articles:

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

Stats defy the BBC’s repeated portrayal of a ‘siege’ on Gaza

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

 

 

BBC radio audiences get ‘the word’ and ‘theories’ instead of facts and analysis

On the same day that the BBC News website published a highly partial report on the topic of new Israeli building permits, listeners to the July 31st evening edition of  the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce the final item (from 48:49 here) with the claim that security cabinet approval for those permits came a day later than was actually the case.  

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

Coomarasamy: “Now let’s hear about some developments in the Middle East because President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner has been meeting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. The meeting comes on the day when the Israeli government gave rare approval for the building of 700 Palestinian homes in a part of the occupied West Bank, along with permission for another 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers. The Palestinians bitterly oppose Jewish settlement building and they say this permission is simply another land seizure.”

Seeing as any building would likely take place within the boundaries of existing communities, that claim of a “land seizure” is clearly far fetched and Coomarasamy’s suggestion that the security cabinet approval stipulates the religion/ethnicity of potential residents is equally inaccurate. He went on:

Coomarasamy: “Omar Hajajrei [phonetic] lives in the affected area.”

Listeners were not informed who that interviewee is, to which organisation – if any – he belongs or what makes him qualified to comment on the topic besides his place of residence.

Voiceover translation from Arabic: “This is a lie and it’s only for the media. It’s an excuse to build settlements and to have a barrier of settlements around Jerusalem as you can see in front of us. There are around 1,500 residential units. They started six months ago and look how much they’ve built so far. They will build all around the mountain. It is a lie. Even if they will give permits, they will not give it the right way.”

Coomarasamy: “I’ve been discussing this decision with Raphael Ahren, a diplomatic correspondent of Times of Israel.”

The ‘analysis’ that listeners heard from Raphael Ahren commenced – and continued – with pure speculation.

Ahren: “It is quite unusual. Usually it’s not the security cabinet who debates and decides these issues. It doesn’t need security cabinet discussions. The word here in Israel is that Netanyahu decided to bring this topic up for discussion among the ministers so he can sort of share the blame. If people criticise them for it he can say ‘well all the ministers in the cabinet bear responsibility for that decision and it’s not just me’.”

Coomarasmay: Why might he have decided to go ahead with it?”

The answer to that question was no more evidence based.

Ahren: “Well nobody really knows. There are several theories going around. I’ll offer you two theories. One is that the American administration which is preparing to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has asked him to do so.”

However Ahren then admitted that not only does he have nothing to support that speculation but it has actually been refuted.

Ahren: “This evening the US ambassador David Friedman and his people say that they made no such request and that they didn’t even hint at it. But sometimes, people say, you don’t even have to make an explicit request. Everybody knows that as the Trump administration releases its probably pro-Israel peace plan, it probably looks good to have this gesture for the Palestinians.”

Ahren then presented more evidence-free speculation:

Ahren: “The second reason I would offer had nothing to do with the Americans, had nothing to do with the forthcoming peace plan but rather with the fear of litigation in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I heard reports tonight that the special prosecutor is in the final stages of her decision-making process whether to proceed from the currently ongoing preliminary examination in the situation in Palestine to a full-fledged investigation. According to that logic the settlements are a war crime and if then Israel only ever advances housing for Jewish residents but not for Palestinian residents of the West Bank it wouldn’t look good, it would kind of provoke her.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question the assertion that the ICC bases its decisions on whether or not it is ‘provoked’ and Ahren continued:

Ahren: “You might have heard even last week it made international headlines that Israel demolished illegal structures in the West Bank. I toured the West Bank today where settlement leaders have different opinions on this but some people are actually saying in a world where everything’s forbidden, everything’s allowed. If we never give permits for them to build we cannot expect them not to build and then it doesn’t look good if we only destroy and we don’t let them build.”

Coomarasamy: “If it is the first of the two theories you put forward and it is a bone, as you put it, to be thrown to the Palestinians, is it one that they’re likely to touch?”

Ahren: “Well yeah I mean of course they want to be a building for their people so it’s not something that they’re going to reject. I may say, some of these houses may already have been built and these permits are sort of coming retroactively. Palestinians, as I mentioned, do not get a lot of permits to build in the West Bank and there is natural growth of the Palestinian population there and therefore a lot of illegal structures are going on. These 700 permits might just be used sort of to legalise them after the fact.”

How the BBC can possibly claim that those unsupported speculations would help BBC audiences understand the story is of course unclear and listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Midnight News on August 1st (from 22:10 here) did little better.

Newsreader: “Israel has given rare approval for 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. It also said that 6,000 homes could be built for Jewish settlers. The announcement was made as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived in Jordan to drum up support for US attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman of course recited the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’.

Bateman: “The government decision gives the go-ahead for a significant number of new homes in settlements – which are seen as illegal under international law – and is said to further extend Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank. But it is Israel’s approval for Palestinian homes that is unusual. It is not clear whether these would be 700 new constructions or merely legal consent for existing homes in what is known as Area C. Here, Israel has full control and builds new settlement houses but new Palestinian homes are frequently demolished as Israel virtually never gives them building permission.”

Bateman next amplified an obviously absurd Palestinian claim and presented listeners with yet another speculative theory.

Bateman: “The Palestinian leadership called the announcement piracy. The timing, with Mr Kushner’s visit to the region underway, may be significant. The White House’s faltering attempts to deliver what Mr Trump has called ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is based on money and backing from Arab states. This may have been one way of trying to convince them to take part in the process and address the long-held criticism that the administration’s support is heavily weighted towards Israel.”

That, apparently, is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

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More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.

As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]

“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”

As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.

 Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.” 

Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”

Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The article tells readers that:

“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”

It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.

“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”

Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:

“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”

While the BBC continues to ignore allegations of corruption at the top of UNRWA management and the related suspension of funding by Switzerland and the Netherlands, readers are also told that:

“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”

UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.

Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.

“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”

The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:

“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”

Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.

As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.

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No BBC reporting on serious Gaza border incident

As we saw once again just earlier this week, most BBC reporting on events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip over the past 16 months has promoted very specific framing which:

  • Erases 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.
  • Erases or downplays the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, airborne incendiary devices, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched.
  • Erases or downplays the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Fails to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erases or downplays Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and portrays terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Cites casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Border infiltrations have barely been mentioned in BBC reporting even though they are a fairly regular occurrence.

Early on the morning of August 1st another infiltration took place.

“An Israeli officer was moderately wounded and two other soldiers had been lightly hurt after a Gaza militant breached the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip and opened fire at IDF troops in a pre-dawn attack on Thursday. The military shelled a Hamas outpost adjacent to the border in response.  […]

IDF Spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said the Gaza militant was armed with an AK-47 rifle and several hand grenades. […]

The militant was identified approaching Israeli territory around 2am by the soldiers remotely monitoring the area along the security fence. […]

The Golani force that arrived on the scene shortly after, found themselves under attack by the Palestinian who hurled a hand grenade and fired shots toward the troops. A platoon commander was moderately wounded in the shootout, while two other soldiers had been lightly hurt by shrapnel.

The Hamas operative then hid a few dozen meters away from the security fence, separating Kibbutz Kissufim and the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. He was located by the security forces an hour later and fatally shot.”

Over twelve hours after that serious incident ended, it has still received no coverage on the BBC News website.

That of course means that the BBC can continue to tell its audiences that what Israeli soldiers stationed on that border face are “protests” by “unarmed protesters”.

BBC News again sidesteps an issue that does not fit the narrative

Last year we noted the significance of the BBC’s failure to adequately inform its audiences about Palestinian violations of agreements signed with Israel within the framework of the Oslo Accords concerning freedom of access and worship at holy sites located in areas under Palestinian Authority control.

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

“Obviously Israeli Jews are not able to visit the synagogue in Gaza City today and visits to additional sites on that list are either virtually impossible or severely restricted. Some of those holy and historically important sites have been vandalised, including Joseph’s Tomb which – as the BBC reported at the time – was set ablaze by Palestinian rioters in October 2015. 

Holy places to which access is supposedly guaranteed by the Oslo Accords have also been the scene of numerous terror attacks and planned attacks…”

The last time the BBC showed any interest in such a story was in March and that was because two Palestinians were killed while throwing explosive devices at soldiers securing visitors.

In that report readers were told that Joseph’s Tomb in Schem (Nablus) “has been a source of friction in the past” but the BBC refrained from clarifying that “friction” actually means repeated Palestinian attacks on both the site itself and the security forces guarding visiting worshipers.

This week the Israeli media reported that during the monthly visit:

“IDF forces found a pipe bomb near Joseph’s Tomb during preparations before the arrival of 1,200 Jewish worshipers to the compound in Nablus. The bomb was neutralized in a controlled explosion. 

Disturbances broke out as the worshipers entered the tomb, as rioters burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, and the prayer services continued undisturbed.”

Under the terms of its charter the BBC is of course obliged to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. While in recent weeks the corporation has repeatedly amplified a PA promoted narrative touting the demise of its interpretation of the two-state solution, the BBC continues to be notably less interested in informing audiences about the Palestinian Authority’s failure to uphold agreements already signed nearly a quarter of a century ago.

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