What context is missing from the BBC’s report on Umm al Hiran?

On January 18th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page under the headline “Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions“.umm-al-hiran-art-main

The overwhelming majority of that article’s 614 words are devoted to conflicting accounts of the tragic events in Umm al Hiran earlier that day. Seeing as even now – four days later – the post-mortem examination has not been completed and the ballistics report has yet to be published, the value of some of the subjective and speculative accounts the BBC found it appropriate to publish can at best be said to be doubtful as far as helping readers understand what actually happened is concerned.

Facts were however readily available concerning another part of the story: its context. Strangely, the BBC devoted just 12.2% (75 words) of the article’s word count to informing its audiences of the background to the incidents.

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The BBC’s claim that the people concerned were moved to Umm al Hiran in the 1950s is inaccurate – they were moved to the nearby Yatir area and some of them later took over land in Umm al Hiran. The claim that “they have now been told to move to new housing elsewhere” does not give BBC audiences a proper perspective of what the squatters have actually been offered. Neither is the BBC’s claim that the new town of Hiran is “mainly Jewish” supported by the facts.

One journalist who has studied the case of Umm al Hiran extensively is Ben Dror Yemini.

“The members of the al-Qiyan tribe are right. They were indeed transferred to the Yatir Forest area in the 1950s. They settled there with permission. Precisely because they have certain rights which have been recognized by the authorities and by the courts, they were offered to move – for free – to the regulated community of Hura. Not only did they receive free land, a quarter of an acre for each household, and not only was the infrastructure supplied by the government, but each family received an additional payment, at least NIS 100,000 to build its own home. Moreover, every man married to more than one woman received land units according to the number of his wives – even though polygamy is illegal. And in order not to discriminate against the young ones, all those over the age of 24 received an independent home as well.

Before you say that this is an insufficient settlement, it should be noted that most tribe members considered it a fair and sufficient proposal. They moved to the village of Hura. Very few decided to stay. And out of the very few, a small minority left the Yatir area and spread to the Hiran area. Aerial shots document exactly what went on there starting in the 1960s: The illegal construction continued even after it was decided in 2002 to build the community of Hiran, not just for Jews as the slanderers claim. […]

The arguments I am making here do not belong to a certain side. They are based on a Supreme Court ruling, which determined in these words that “most of the tribe members moved to Hura – a Bedouin community, which is regulated and connected to infrastructures – and the remaining ones are required to evacuate their homes, and are being offered to move to Hura… They are not being expelled and not being abandoned. The suggested evacuation involves different proposals for a move, construction, compensation and a housing option, whether in the town of Hura or in the community of Hiran which is about to be built… The planned community does not prevent the tribe members from living there… Anyone wishing to live in Hiran is entitled to do so, subject to the law and under the fixed conditions.””

Another Israeli journalist who has done extensive work on this topic is Kalman Liebskind. (translation: BBC Watch)

“For very many years the State has been trying to move members of the Abu al-Qiyan family from the area in which they settled and on which they illegally built tens of structures and sheds. In order to persuade them to move to Hura – an organized community with services they do not have in their present location – the State was ready to make generous offers of land and money. Most members of the tribe chose to accept the offers. Some of them, after additional financial encouragement from the state, demolished their illegal buildings themselves.

Among those who chose to stay and refused to move even after all the legal proceedings dismissed their claims, the State defined 58 as being ‘entitled’ to compensation if they agreed to move. Who are those ‘entitled’? Families with children, married couples, one-parent families and single people over the age of 24. What was each of the ‘entitled’ to get? A developed plot of one dunam in a neighbourhood in Hura which was prepared especially to absorb the family members, together with financial compensation for each illegally constructed structure that would be demolished.

But the story did not end there. ‘Where will our children live when they grow up?’ asked members of the tribe. ‘We want plots for them too’. The State also agreed to that. And so, for example, parents of four children aged 3, 5, 7 and 9 got a commitment of financial compensation – a one dunam plot for the parents and four more plots which would be put aside for the children which, when the time came, they could purchase for the symbolic price of a few tens of thousands of shekels. Just a moment, you ask, what happens if the Bedouin has two wives and each one of them has four small children? Well then each woman will get her own plot – and for the eight small children plots would also be put aside.

Last Thursday, when the State’s representatives asked to sign the agreement, the Bedouin announced that they had a few more demands; that what they had got until now was not enough; that in addition to all that they also want a million shekels compensation for each family for the illegal structures that they had built and also 400,000 shekels for each family for the emotional damage caused to them and also plots for business and for greenhouses and also tender-exempt plots in the industrial zone of Hura.

Against all that background, another small problem was born. It turned out that in the tribe there are ten Palestinian women who were brought by the al-Qiyan tribe to live here as second wives. Not only are they not Israeli citizens, but their presence is not legal. The State’s representatives explained to the Bedouin that with all the goodwill in the world, the State cannot give a gift of land to Palestinians from Hebron or Ramallah – Palestinian Authority citizens – that nobody knows how they got here.

In light of the new and inflated list of demands, the negotiators understood that the Bedouin were not interested in closing a deal. This was a list of demands from parties trying to end the negotiations. Nevertheless, the State’s representatives decided to see what more could be done in order to leave an opening for a quiet evacuation. A round of telephone calls between the members of the Israel Land Authority committee produced another better offer. Take ten more plots and we’ll close the deal. Nobody explained, of course, that this is an elegant way to give plots to the Palestinian women without saying so outright but each one understood what he was supposed to understand.

Yesterday evening [January 17th], after the last meeting, it was clear to the State’s representatives that there was nothing more to discuss and no-one to talk to and the evacuation went ahead.”

The vast majority of that highly relevant background is markedly absent from the BBC’s minimalist portrayal of the context of this story. To those familiar with the BBC’s partial portrayal of stories concerning Bedouin land claims over the years (see ‘related articles’ below) that will probably not come as much of a surprise. But nevertheless, the corporation cannot possibly claim that it met its remit of providing accurate and impartial information in order to enhance “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” with those 75 words.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

Unquestioning repetition of claims by political activist in BBC report on Negev

BBC amplification of organised anti-Israel delegitimising campaign

 

Compromised BBC backgrounder surfaces again

On January 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia“. Included in that report was an insert of background information titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”, which previously appeared in an article concerning the same story in June 2016.tiran-art-jan-17

The insert includes the following context-free information:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

As was noted here over six months ago:

“The BBC did not bother to inform readers why that was the case.

“In 1949, Egypt established itself on two small and deserted islands in the straits that had never belonged to it – Tiran and Sanafir. Later, they were leased to it by Saudi Arabia. In January 1950, Egypt assured the United States Government that the occupation of the islands was in no way intended to interfere with shipping in the waters of the gulf. But soon Egypt broke its word, fortified the entrance to the straits and blockaded Israel. Having failed to conquer the southern Negev during the War of Independence or to bring about its cession by Israel through political pressure, Egypt now tried to land-lock Eilat and block Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which meant cutting Israel’s present and future communications with Asia and East Africa. The closure of the Straits of Tiran was one of the main factors that led to the Sinai campaign of 1956. Israel’s refusal to withdraw its forces from Sharm el Sheikh unless its freedom of passage through the straits were effectively safeguarded led to the stationing there of the UN Emergency Force. The blockade was lifted and Israel could freely develop its trade with countries in Asia and East Africa, import oil from the Persian Gulf, and redeem the southern Negev from its desolation. Israel declared solemnly that any interference with its rights of navigation in the gulf would be regarded as an attack, entitling it to exercise its inherent rights of self-defence. […]

On 23 May 1967, President Nasser re-imposed the naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran in a deliberate attempt to force Israel to forfeit its internationally-acknowledged rights or else go to war. Five days earlier the UN Emergency Force was expelled by Nasser, and the units stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh were evacuated. […] The Israeli army reached Sharm el-Sheikh on 7 June 1967 and lifted the blockade. From 1967, freedom of navigation prevails in the Gulf of Aqaba, benefiting shipping bound for Israel and Jordan.”

Apparently the BBC considered it necessary to ensure that its audiences know that “Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967” – but not why.”

That observation obviously still applies.

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

 

 

 

attack

BBC reports on death of Rafsanjani ignore his involvement in global terror

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian president from 1989 to 1997, and mentor to current President Hassan Rouhani, died of a heart attack on Sunday at 82.

In multiple BBC reports on his death, Rafsanjani was characterised as one of the most “influential figures since the 1979 revolution” and a “pragmatic conservative” who became “a key supporter of reformists”.

However, in our review of BBC’s coverage of the former president’s death, there was one glaring omission: his key role in Iran’s use of global terror as a tool of foreign policy.

A recent report at The Tower details Rafsanjani’s record of terror:

A Central Intelligence Agency assessment from 1990 found that Rafsanjani had targeted “enemies of the regime” during the previous year, and predicted that “Rafsanjani and other Iranian leaders will continue selectively using terrorism as a foreign policy tool to intimidate regime opponents, punish enemies of Islam, and influence Western political decisions.”

In 1992, four Iranian dissidents were killed in a Berlin restaurant. A German court found in 1997 that both Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kamenei “not only allow terrorist attacks abroad…they themselves set in action such attacks.” Iranian foreign policy, the court concluded, involved identifying opponents abroad and having them “liquidated.”

That same year, the Israeli embassy in Argentina was bombed, as was the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires two years later, with both attacks widely believed to have been done by the Iran-sponsored terror group Hezbollah. Argentine investigators concluded that the AMIA bombing had been approved at a meeting attended by Khamenei and Rafsanjani.

Also during Rafsanjani’s tenure, the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, which housed American troops, was bombed by Saudi and Lebanese members of Hezbollah in a plot that was planned by Iranian agents. 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed in the blast, as were a number of Saudis and nationals of other countries. The bombers who were captured said that they were trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and had received $250,000 and logistical support from an IRGC general. Then-FBI Director Louis Freeh testified before Congress that “the attack was planned, funded and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Republic of Iran, that the IRGC principally had the responsibility of putting that plan into operation.”

Of course, BBC readers were also not informed that Rafsanjani, on multiple occasions, explicitly called for Israel’s destruction.

For more information on the attack on the AMIA Jewish community center (and the subsequent cover-up) see here.

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center has produced two reports concerning UNSC Resolution 2334:Weekend Read

a) Palestinian Reactions to UN Security Council Resolution 2334

b) How UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Relates to Palestinian Terrorism

“On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, with 14 countries voting in favor. The United States abstained allowing the resolution to pass. Resolution 2334 deals mostly with the Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, over which there is broad international consensus. The issue of terrorism is included in the resolution but its weight is slight (as opposed to extensive dealing with the settlements, which are represented as the main obstacle to peace). Moreover, for the most part the terminology used in dealing with terrorism is general and vague. The resolution does not explicitly refer to Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian terrorist organizations (especially Hamas) and popular terrorism and violence (the so-called “popular resistance”).”

2) At the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler fact-checks the speech made by the outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on December 28th 2016.  

““The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo. Including 100,000 just since 2009 when President Obama’s term began.”

If you do the math, that means the population growth rate in the settlements is nearly 4 percent. Israel’s overall population growth rate is about 2 percent. Israel has the highest birthrate in the industrialized world, especially among the Jewish Orthodox population that tends to live in settlements. Israelis have long maintained that “natural growth” — births — should be allowed in settlements, and even the ill-fated “road map” plan for peace pressed by President George W. Bush called for a freeze that included natural growth.”

3) An article recently published at Ynet opens:

“An Israeli investigation into school books used by United Nations-run schools in the West Bank were found to consistently delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel.

These textbooks—written by the Palestinian Ministry of Education—are used in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in both Gaza and the West Bank.

However, the most shocking discovery is that the UN schools don’t teach Palestinian children to recognize Israel as a country—not within the 1947 borders, nor any borders at all.”

The study upon which that article is based can be found here.

Weekend long read

1) CAMERA’s Alex Safian discusses UNSC resolution 2334 in an article titled “Game Changer or Not?“.Weekend Read

“The decision by President Obama to allow the resolution to pass is likely to be a mirror image of his ill-fated demand soon after his inauguration in 2009 that Israel impose a settlement freeze, something which even the Palestinians had not demanded as a condition to resuming negotiations. Rather than advancing prospects for peace, the 10-month settlement freeze, which PM Netanyahu reluctantly accepted, actually hardened Palestinian positions, as they could not accept being seen as demanding less from Israel than the United States.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made this clear in an interview with Newsweek :

It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.

While the freeze was in effect Abbas ignored it as meaningless and refused to negotiate till the last month, then demanded the freeze be extended as it was about to expire, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained in 2012:

When Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze I flew to Jerusalem .. it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t cover East Jerusalem, but it covered much of the contested area in the West Bank.

And I stood on a stage with him … I said it was unprecedented for any Israeli prime minister to have done that. I got so criticized. I got criticized from the right, the left, the center, Israeli, Jewish, Arab, Christian, you name it. Everybody criticized me. But the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze. And he was good to his word. And we couldn’t get the Palestinians into the conversation until the tenth month.

To put it simply, President Obama’s plan backfired, making peace more difficult to achieve.”

2) At the JCPA, Ambassador Alan Baker discusses “The Dangers of UN Security Council Resolution 2334“.

“This position taken by the United States (as well as the other members of the Security Council) also undermines the basic obligation of the Oslo Accords, signed by the PLO and witnessed by the United States (as well as the EU, Russia, Egypt and others), that the permanent status of the territories, the issues of Jerusalem, and borders are to be negotiated.”

3) At the Times of Israel, Rafael L. Bardaji and Col. Richard Kemp of the Friends of Israel Initiative give their view of the same topic.

“East Jerusalem and the entire West Bank constitutes disputed territory rather than being occupied, as the UN falsely insists. The final status of these lands must be mutually agreed in bilateral negotiations between the parties, in accordance with the legally-binding Oslo Accords which the Security Council now treats with contempt. […]

Whatever the UN Security Council might like to believe, if every settlement were torn down we would still not be one step closer to peace. In fact we would be farther from it, as Palestinian leaders sensed victory and pressed on towards their only goal, which is Arab domination of the entire land, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.”

4) At the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Col. (res) Dr Eran Lerman gives his appraisal of UNSC resolution 2334.

“”Be careful what you wish for; you might get it” says the old adage, and sober elements among the Palestinian leadership may yet rue the day they managed to secure an American abstention leading to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution condemns “settlement activity” anywhere, including East Jerusalem, and calls upon all members to distinguish in practice between Jews who live on one side of the Armistice Line of 1949 and those who live beyond it. It presumes to speak in the name of international law and to create the conditions for further progress towards peace in the interests of both Palestinians and “legitimate” Israelis. In fact, this poorly designed and atrociously timed diplomatic tool seems set to harm, if not entirely destroy, the very purposes it was designed to serve.”

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at ‘Foreign Affairs’, the former Israeli Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon lays out his views on making peace between Israel and the Palestinians.Weekend Read  

“When news first broke about the Oslo Accords, I supported the agreement and the “land for peace” formula on which it was based, because, both then and now, I revere the preservation of life more than the acquisition of land. Like many Israelis, I believed in the idea that territorial concessions might be the key to achieving peace. But over time, I became disillusioned.

My awakening came after I was appointed the head of Israel’s military intelligence in 1995, shortly before the signing of the Oslo II agreement. In that position, I had the opportunity to see all aspects of Palestinian politics up close. What I learned was shocking—and I learned it not by uncovering secret Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) decisions but just by following Palestinian media, Palestinian educational curricula, and Palestinian leadership statements. The evidence was overwhelming: rather than preparing the younger generations of his community for a historic reconciliation with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was feeding his people a steady diet of hatred and vitriol toward Israel.”

2) At the Tower, former MK Einat Wilf writes about “The Intersectional Power of Zionism”.

“But Zionism is as much a revolution in Jewish life as a continuation of it. In the immediate aftermath of the Roman exile, the Judeans might have conceived of their return to Judea as a forthcoming possibility. But by the 19th century, the idea of return was sublimated into a Messianic wish, expressed in ritual and prayer. One day, a descendant of King David would arise and lead the Jewish people out of a fragile existence into a life of dignified sovereignty in a land of their own. It was a passive hope that mandated no action.

Zionism was a rebellion against this Jewish passivity. To the Jewish people, Zionism carried the message that they need not wait for the Messiah. Rather, they should be their own Messiahs. Zionism, born of the enlightenment, embodied the idea of human agency. Rather than wait for God or Messiah to bring about their salvation, Zionism called upon the Jewish people to be the vehicles of their own redemption. Zionism demonstrated that, even when dealt some of the worst cards in history, humans were active agents, capable of changing the course of their private and collective futures.”

3) At the Times (£), Michael Gove MP discusses anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

“Antisemitism has moved from hatred of Jews on religious or racial grounds to hostility towards the proudest expression of Jewish identity we now have — the Jewish state.

No other democracy is on the receiving end of a campaign calling for its people to be shunned and their labour to be blacklisted. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement is a growing force on our streets and campuses. Its campaigners argue that we should ignore ideas from Jewish thinkers if those thinkers come from Israel and treat Jewish commerce as a criminal enterprise if that business is carried on in Israel.

This is antisemitism, impure and simple. It is the latest recrudescence of the age-old demand that the Jew can only live on terms set by others. Once Jews had to live in the ghetto, now they cannot live in their historic home. […]

Antizionism is not a brave anti-colonial and anti-racist stance, it is simply antisemitism minding its manners so it can sit in a seminar room. And as such it deserves to be called out, confronted and opposed.”

4) At the Jewish News/Times of Israel, Ronnie Fraser writes: “The first step in defeating anti-Semitism is to define it”.

“When Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, announced that her government was to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism she said that the ‘first step in defeating anti-Semitism is to define it clearly, to remove any doubt about what is unacceptable, so that no one can plead ignorance or hide behind any kind of excuse.’ This should mean the end of people saying ‘I am not an anti-Semite because I say am not’ or that ‘I am not an anti-Semite because my family stood up to Oswald Mosely and his Blackshirts in the 1930s’.

It should also mean that organisations such as the trade unions or the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) will have to reconsider what they mean when they say they oppose anti-Semitism. The PSC condemned the use of the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism; the forerunner of the IHRA definition, by saying it denied their right to challenge ‘the racism of the Israeli state’ which freedom of speech of course allows them to, as is their right, but they can no longer truthfully say that they condemn anti-Semitism.”

An upcoming event for UK based readers

UK-based readers may be interested in an upcoming event in the North Manchester area.

On Wednesday December 28th 2016 at 7 pm, the Managing Editor of our sister site UK Media Watch, Adam Levick, will address the question “What can you do today to promote accurate coverage of Israel in the UK media?”.

Admission is free but those interested in attending should register at:  zcc.man@zen.co.uk or office@jewishmanchester.org

adam-event-manchester

 

Weekend long read

1) Israeli journalist and author RonenBergman writes about the ongoing investigation into the 1994 AMIA centre bombing.Weekend Read

“Investigating Judge Rodolfo Canicoba was appointed to handle the case in Nisman’s place, and he embarked on a world-wide journey in the wake of Ali Velayati, the former Iranian foreign minister, who was one of the suspects on the Interpol arrest warrant that had been issued at Nisman’s request. Each time over the past year when Canicoba heard that Velayati was about to visit another country outside Iran, he asked its government to extradite the Iranian. The most recent of these was Iraq, to which he submitted a demand on October 21, 2016.

Extradition has not yet been executed, and it is doubtful that any country, especially Iraq, will ever risk getting into trouble with Iran by arresting and extraditing so senior a figure as Velayati. But the fact that Argentina has made it clear that it will not drop the matter — together with the warrants dangling over the heads of senior Iranian officials — has a symbolic significance. The case remains one of the most intriguing and dramatic clashes between terrorism and international law in history.”

2) At the Middle East Quarterly, Professor Richard Landes discusses Edward Said’s impact on Western understanding of the Middle East.

“Whether one views the impact of Edward Said (1935-2003) on academia as a brilliant triumph or a catastrophic tragedy, few can question the astonishing scope and penetration of his magnum opus, Orientalism. In one generation, a radical transformation overcame Middle Eastern studies: A new breed of “post-colonial” academics, boasting a liberating, anti-imperialist perspective, replaced a generation of scholars disparaged by Said as “Orientalists.” Nor was this transformation limited to Middle Eastern studies: Said and his post-colonial paradigm assembled a wide range of acolytes in many fields in the social sciences and humanities.”

3) At the NYT, Kenan Malik takes an interesting look at the topic of ‘fake news’.

“In the past, governments, mainstream institutions and newspapers manipulated news and information. Today, anyone with a Facebook account can do it. Instead of the carefully organized fake news of old, there is now an anarchic outflow of lies. What has changed is not that news is faked, but that the old gatekeepers of news have lost their power. Just as elite institutions have lost their grip over the electorate, so their ability to define what is and is not news has also eroded.”