More narrative-driven ‘history’ from the BBC World Service

The August 8th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is titled “The Murder of Naji al-Ali” and it is described as follows in its synopsis:

“The acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist was gunned down in London in 1987. His attackers have never been identified. Naji al-Ali’s cartoons were famous across the Middle East. Through his images he criticized Israeli and US policy in the region, but unlike many, he also lambasted Arab despotic regimes and the leadership of the PLO. His signature character was called Handala – a poor Palestinian refugee child with spiky hair, who would always appear, facing away with his hands clasped behind his back, watching the events depicted in the cartoon. Alex Last has been speaking to his son, Khalid, about his father’s life and death.”

Despite that synopsis, listeners actually hear very little about the substance of Ali’s criticism of Arab regimes and the Palestinian leadership and even less about how that may have been connected to his murder. They do however hear promotion of the familiar context-free narrative of displaced Palestinians with no responsibility for or connection to the events that resulted in their displacement.

Erasing the essential words ‘British Mandate’ from his use of the term Palestine, presenter Alex Last introduces his guest:

Last: “Some fifty years earlier Naji al Ali was born in a village in Galilee in 1936 in what was then Palestine. Khalid al Ali is Naji’s eldest son.”

 Ali: “The village had Muslims, Christians and Jews and they’re all playing together and sharing things together, I mean, in the village square, so he had a happy life, a normal life.”

The 1931 census shows that the village concerned – al Shajara in the sub-district of Tiberias – had at the time 584 residents: 556 Muslims and 28 Christians – but no Jews. A similar demographic make-up appears in the 1945 census. In contrast to the idyllic impression created by Ali, the villagers of al Shajara frequently attacked their Jewish neighbours in the moshava Sejera (known today as Ilaniya) during the ‘Arab Revolt‘ that began in 1936.

Listeners then hear Last say:

Last: “But in 1948, following the creation of the State of Israel and in the fighting that ensued, at least three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs either fled or were driven from their homes. Naji, his family and the other Palestinian Arabs in their village were among them. They became refugees. Naji ended up in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. It was an experience that would define him.”

Contrary to the impression given by Last, the fighting did not break out after and because of “the creation of the State of Israel” but had begun well before that event took place following Arab rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947. Listeners are not informed of the all important context of the infiltration of the Arab League’s ‘Arab Liberation Army’ into the Galilee in early January of 1948 and the series of attacks it launched against Jewish communities in the region, including the moshava Sejera. The fighting in Naji al Ali’s village of al Shajara actually took place on May 6th 1948 – eight days before Israel declared independence.

The narrative of passive victims with no responsibility for the conflict that saw them displaced is then further promoted by Ali.

Ali: “Being used to your surroundings, being part of the family, the wider villages, this overnight ended completely and that was a great shock. And suddenly [they] became refugees in a tent. There’s no income. They lost their land. They’ve lost their businesses. No end of [in] sight in a way. It was imprinted on them. I mean my father, his main agenda is Palestine. For him, till the last day of his life he wanted to go back to his village, he wanted to go back to Palestine. It’s very straightforward, it’s very simple. He could not see why not.”

A similarly context-free representation comes at 05:05 when Last tells listeners:

Last: “In 1982 Naji was in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps; events which, says Khalid, had a profound effect on his father.”

Audiences are not informed that – despite the impression they may very well have received from Last’s portrayal – the Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out by a Lebanese Christian militia.

The programme ‘Witness’ purports to provide BBC World Service audiences with “the story of our times told by the people who were there”. All too often, however, we see that when the story relates to Israel, narrative takes priority over history.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘The Fifth Floor’ highlights cartoonist known for antisemitic imagery

BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist 

 

 

Iranian asylum seeker’s story not newsworthy for the BBC

While the BBC produced both written and audio reports on August 6th relating to the Israeli government’s intention to bar Al Jazeera from reporting and broadcasting in Israel (see ‘related articles’ below), another journalism related story that broke on the same day did not  receive any coverage.

“Israel offered asylum on Sunday to a Turkey-based Iranian blogger who it said faced forcible deportation to Iran, where she would be at risk given her work for an Israeli news site.

Neda Amin, a Persian-language blogger who writes in English and other languages for an Israeli news site, left Iran in 2014 for Turkey. She has been in a court battle to prevent her repatriation and has sought other countries that might take her in as a refugee, the site said. […]

…following appeals by Israel’s journalist federations, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he would issue 32-year-old Amin a special visa.”

Four days later Neda Amin (who was recognised as a refugee by the UN in 2015) arrived in Israel. Times of Israel editor David Horovitz told more of the story:

“After gathering more of her details, I contacted a few people — Israeli and others — who I thought might be able to advise me, and to help Neda.

And they did. The readiness to help was quite remarkable. Almost nobody told me there was nothing they could do or nothing to be done. […]

I don’t know which of the people I turned to played the critical roles. (And I wasn’t the only one acting on her behalf: The NGO UN Watch started a petition for her, and the Jerusalem Journalists Association wrote directly to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.) What I do know is that very soon after I shared the details of Neda’s case, the Israeli authorities wheeled into action. Whatever checks needed to be made were evidently made. Whatever decisions needed to be taken were evidently taken.

At the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Consul-General Shai Cohen and Yaffa Olivitski, who handles consular affairs, established contact with Neda, and went far out of their way to help. Paperwork was organized. And I was told that Neda was going to be allowed to fly to Israel, with an appropriate visa.”

Although Amin is not the first Iranian to seek refuge in Israel, her unusual story was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two 

Weekend long read

1) At the Washington Examiner CAMERA’s Sean Durns takes a look at “Hezbollah’s media relations department“.

“Hezbollah is nothing if not image-conscious. As one operative, Sheik Nabil Qaouk, told The New York Times in July 2000, “The use of the media as a weapon” has “an effect parallel to a battle.” In this respect, Hezbollah is well armed.

The group operates its own TV channel, Al Manar (The Beacon), which routinely broadcasts calls for “Death to America,” age-old antisemitic tropes and hate speech, and promises of the impending destruction of the Jewish state. In 2006, Al Manar was labeled a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, along with other Hezbollah-linked mouthpieces such as the Lebanese Media Group and Radio al-Nour. In its statement announcing this designation, the U.S. Treasury Department noted that an Al Manar employee had used his position to engage in “preoperational surveillance” on behalf of Hezbollah.”

2) At the INSS, Gideon Sa’ar and Ron Tira analyse “the political and military contours of a future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah”.

“It is impossible to assess the distinct context of the next conflict with Hezbollah, but a look at the recent past reveals the rapid changes in the contexts with potential for escalation: from Hezbollah’s force buildup by means of supply lines passing through Syria, to its force buildup on Lebanese soil (including the manufacture of high quality weapons), to efforts by Hezbollah and Iran to expand their force deployments in Syria. There are changes in context as to Russian indifference vs. reservations about actions attributed to Israel, and apathy vs. aggressiveness by the Syrian regime toward reports of breaches of Syrian sovereignty by Israel. The context is affected by the changes in the self confidence and boldness of members of the “axis” (Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies), and the degree to which the axis is invested in other fronts and is not interested, or for that matter, free to seek, an additional front with Israel. It is also affected by changes in the international legitimacy of the Alawite regime, Hezbollah, and Iran, inter alia as a result of the unfolding of Syria’s civil war and developments regarding the Iranian nuclear project.”

3) BBC reporting on the ‘hunger strike’ by some Palestinian prisoners earlier this year included a brief description of its instigator Marwan Barghouti as “a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders” who “has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas”. The ITIC has compiled a detailed profile of Marwan Barghouti.

“During Barghouti’s imprisonment in Israel, his wife Fadwa Barghouti began and headed the campaign for his release. Fadwa is a lawyer who lives in Ramallah, and owns a private legal practice. She is also a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Fadwa heads a fund financed by the PA. The fund runs a Palestinian and international campaign to exert pressure on Israel to release Barghouti. The campaign cultivates the myth of a “freedom fighter,” presenting Barghouti as the “Palestinian Nelson Mandela.”

The campaign for the release of Barghouti was launched in 2013 in Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, the jail where the leaders of resistance to the apartheid regime were incarcerated. The call for the release of Barghouti was signed by eight Nobel Prize laureates, including former American President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Fadwa often travels around the world and meets with various leaders.”

4) The JCPA has a backgrounder on a subject long under-reported by the BBC: Mohammad Dahlan’s collaboration with Hamas and Egypt.

“The tripartite axis of Egypt-Hamas-Dahlan constitutes a convergence of interests between the three sides. Although contingent, it could continue for a long period. […]

As the understandings between the three sides are carried out, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is expected to improve. Egypt will increase its influence in the Strip; the UAE will gradually assume a presence there and push Qatar out.

The augmenting of Egypt’s status vis-à-vis Hamas will enable it to be the main mediator between Israel and Hamas on all the issues, including a new prisoner-exchange deal.

The main loser is Abbas, who has been trying in every possible way to subvert these understandings and to reconcile with Hamas so as to neutralize Dahlan, but meanwhile with no success.”

 

BBC News conceals part of a story on Hamas tunnels

On August 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel to speed up Gaza tunnel barrier“.

“Israel is to accelerate the building of a huge barrier along its boundary with Gaza aimed at preventing militants from tunnelling under the border.

The 64km (40-mile) long construction will reach a depth of 40m (131ft) below and 6m above ground, at a cost of 3bn shekels ($833m).

An Israeli army commander said the barrier should be completed in 2019.

Israel has sought to neutralise the threat of cross-border tunnels since its war with militants in Gaza in 2014.”

The BBC apparently based that article on local media reports concerning a briefing given the previous day by the head of the IDF’s southern command.

“At a briefing on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Maj Gen Eyal Zamir said the hi-tech barrier would be completed, even at the risk of renewed conflict with Hamas.

“If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason [for Israel] to go to war over. But the barrier will be built,” Israeli media quoted him as saying. […]

According to local media reports, the machine used to dig the new the barrier will destroy any existing tunnels, while the barrier itself will use sophisticated technology to detect any new tunnels being built.”

While readers are not informed which Israeli news site was the source of the information used in the BBC’s article, it is notable that an additional, related and widely reported part of Major General Zamir’s briefing was omitted from the BBC’s account.

photo credit: IDF

Ha’aretz reported:

“Zamir showed reporters pictures of sites in Gaza, some of them civilian, which Hamas is believed to be using as tunnel shafts. He warned that any civilian who allows terror organizations to use his property for military purposes is risking his life, his family’s life and his property. For example, he showed a house in the Beit Lahiya area, which the army says has an entrance to an underground tunnel that is also connected to a mosque. Another structure, near the Shati refugee camp, has an entrance to a network of tunnels.”

The Jerusalem Post informed its readers that:

“According to Zamir, many of the tunnels run under civilian homes in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, he presented two residential buildings used by Hamas, including one which belongs to a family with six children and another six-story building built within the past two years.

“Any civilians who stay in these buildings endanger their lives and the lives of their families. It’s Hamas who endangers them first and foremost, but every building over a tunnel is a legitimate military target,” Zamir said. 

“Part of Hamas’s combat strategy is to conduct itself within civilian areas, which is intended to make it difficult for the IDF to locate, attack and destroy the group’s military infrastructure,” Zamir stated, adding that by drawing Israeli fire to these buildings, Hamas aims to delegitimize Israel and the IDF.”

The Times of Israel reported that:

“In addition to disclosing additional information about the border barrier, the military on Wednesday also revealed that it had found two alleged Hamas tunnel sites buried beneath an apartment building and a family’s home in the northern Gaza Strip.

Zamir accused the Hamas terror group of purposefully building the tunnels under civilian structures to provide cover for its operations. That being the case, the general warned, “these sites are legitimate military targets. Anyone inside of one, should another conflict begin, endangers himself and endangers his family, and the responsibility is on the Hamas organization.””

The IDF also published a backgrounder on the subject, including aerial photographs.

As readers may recall, during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, some senior BBC journalists claimed that there was “no evidence” of Hamas using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields and the BBC Trust subsequently defended that inaccurate reporting following complaints from members of the public.

Given that the BBC’s Middle East editor repeated that claim less than two months ago, the editorial decision not to inform BBC audiences of this clear example of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas is particularly noteworthy.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another Gaza tunnels story

BBC ignores latest Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza civilian district

In which the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen repeats his ‘no human shields in Gaza’ claims

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

 

BBC WS history show ‘explains’ Camp David summit failure

h/t JB

The August 4th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is described in its synopsis as follows:

“In 2000 the US led a major effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bill Clinton brought the two sides together at the leafy presidential retreat in Maryland. The Israeli leader, Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, failed to reach any agreement and the summit ended in failure. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the senior American diplomatic interpreter and policy adviser, Gamal Helal who attended the Camp David summit.”

Promotion of the programme on Twitter showed that it purports to inform BBC audiences why the Camp David summit failed.

So what do listeners hear on that topic and what conclusions would they reach? [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

After introducing the programme, presenter Farhana Haider tells audiences that:

“Israel had been pushing for this summit. Chairman Arafat for the Palestinians had argued there’s not been enough progress on earlier agreements to merit such a high level meeting but President Clinton had pressed ahead.”

Later on Haider tells listeners that the actual process of negotiation:

“…involved the negotiating teams meeting with each other and also separately with the Americans on most days. Face to face contact between Arafat and Barak was very limited. Mistrust was clearly running deep, says Gamal.”

Helal: “The main meal was dinner and all three parties were attended by the principals. So during dinner was the only time when they would sit together. […] Sort of like mingling. What did not happen was a bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks or the trilateral talks at the principals level. That did not happen because Prime Minister Barak did not want it.”

Haider alleges:

“…both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions. The US and the Israelis had also overestimated Arafat’s willingness to bargain away sovereignty over Jerusalem. In fact, the city’s final status was as much of a red line for Arafat as it was for Ehud Barak.”

 Gamal Helal recounts how, in a one-on-one conversation with Arafat he tried to persuade him to seize the historic opportunity and that:

“…at the end he looked at me and he said ‘I can’t’. And I said ‘why can’t you?’ He said if I accept this they will kill me’.”

Listeners never find out who ‘they’ are and Haider asks “could you sense his frustration?” without clarifying whether she is referring to Arafat or Clinton. Helal answers:

“Yes and I think there was also a lot of frustration as a result of Prime Minister Barak’s behaviour and attitude during Camp David. For example he promised that there would be negotiations around the clock and the two sides would be meeting discussing all permanent status issues and none of that happened. He basically locked himself up in his cabin. He met only with President Clinton. There was no bilateral meetings with Chairman Arafat except a very short encounter but no actual negotiations between the two leaders. He was not engaged at all. The Palestinians, when they saw that they decided to withdraw and simply say no to everything.”

Haider sums up the story:

“After 15 days of talks, nothing was agreed. Though President Clinton came and went, leaving the parties to continue their discussions, the basic problem was that the maximum Israel offered was less than the minimum the Palestinians could accept. On July 15 2000 the parties left Camp David, blaming the other for the failure.”

The Camp David summit did not end on July 15th 2000 but actually took place between the 11th and 25th of July. Although this programme clearly steers listeners toward the view that the negotiations failed because of “Barak’s behaviour and attitude”, a report published in the New York Times the day after the summit concluded gives a different account.

“The president [Clinton] and other American mediators made clear that it was Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who balked in the end, and by all accounts the issue was Jerusalem, the Holy City both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their sacred capital.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Clinton singled out the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, for his readiness to make hard compromises. ”I would be making a mistake not to praise Barak, because I think he took a big risk,” the president said. ”The prime minister moved forward more from his initial position than Chairman Arafat, particularly surrounding the question of Jerusalem.””

In an interview he gave to Ha’aretz in 2002, Ehud Barak cast light on the circumstances behind Helal’s claim that he “locked himself up in his cabin” and the allegation that the Palestinian delegation’s negative responses were the product of Barak not being “engaged”.

“The moment of truth at Camp David occurred when Clinton brought his ideas and put them on the table. Overall, Clinton’s ideas said that in return for ending the conflict and acquiescing to some Israeli security demands and leaving 80 percent of the settlers in Israeli territory, [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat would get a sovereign Palestinian state, demilitarized and contiguous, in ninety-something percent of the West Bank and a hundred percent of the Gaza Strip. Including exit points to the neighboring countries, a hold in East Jerusalem and the right of return to the Palestinian state but not to Israel. Israel would agree to accept a certain amount of refugees on a humanitarian basis but not a single one on the basis of the right of return.

For us these ideas are no simple matter. They are far from a simple matter. Especially when you try to go into a bit of detail about Jerusalem. But we held lengthy discussions and in the end we decided, because of considerations of historic responsibility, that we have to accept the plan as a basis for discussion. Arafat twisted and turned with it and effectively said no. Clinton went back to him and pounded on the table and Arafat again did not answer but effectively gave an answer that was no.

At this stage Clinton has to go to Okinawa, for a meeting of the G-8. So I say to him, Look, until you extract readiness from Arafat to accept your ideas as a basis for negotiations, there is nothing to discuss. It is hard for us, too, we also have reservations, these ideas are very close to the Palestinian position, but we accept them as a basis for discussion. When you get a positive answer out of Arafat, I’m here. You know where my cabin is.

Clinton goes off to Okinawa, leaving me with the impression that he understands that there can be no discussion. But he leaves a different impression with his staff and with the Palestinians. They understand that in the meantime the discussions can proceed with [secretary of state Madeleine] Albright. When I discover this, I find myself in an impossible position. That is the origin of the story that Barak locked himself in his cabin in a state of depression. But in fact I had no choice. I couldn’t undercut Albright but I couldn’t continue with the negotiations, either. So I told everyone to leave my cabin and I did some sports and I read the book `Five Days in London’ from cover to cover.”

As for Haider’s claims that “both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions” and her description of Jerusalem as “a red line […] for Ehud Barak”, Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David, Shlomo Ben Ami, has some interesting recollections.

“Question: I understand that there was a stage at which Barak astonished everyone by agreeing to divide the Old City of Jerusalem into two quarters under Israeli sovereignty and two quarters under Palestinian sovereignty. Did he do that on his own or was it a joint decision made by the entire Israeli team?

Ben Ami: “As I told you, I suggested that a special regime be introduced in the Old City. In the wake of that discussion, sometime later, the president put forward a two-two proposal, meaning a clear division of sovereignty. In a conversation with the president, Ehud agreed that that would be a basis for discussion. I remember walking in the fields with Martin Indyk [of the State Department] that night and both of us saying that Ehud was nuts. We didn’t understand how he could even have thought of agreeing. Afterward I wrote in my diary that everyone thinks that Amnon [Lipkin-] Shahak and I are pushing Barak to the left, but the truth is that he was the one who pushed us leftward. At that stage – this was the start of the second week of the meeting – he was far more courageous than we were. Truly courageous. Clinton told me a few times: I have never met such a courageous person.””

And Ben Ami also comments on why the Camp David summit failed.

“Camp David collapsed over the fact that they [the Palestinians] refused to get into the game. They refused to make a counter proposal. No one demanded that they give a positive response to that particular proposal of Clinton’s. Contrary to all the nonsense spouted by the knights of the left, there was no ultimatum. What was being asked of the Palestinians was far more elementary: that they put forward, at least once, their own counter proposal. That they not just say all the time `That’s not good enough’ and wait for us to make more concessions. That’s why the president sent [CIA director George] Tenet to Arafat that night – in order to tell him that it would be worth his while to think it over one more time and not give an answer until the morning. But Arafat couldn’t take it anymore. He missed the applause of the masses in Gaza.” […]

“But when all is said and done, Camp David failed because Arafat refused to put forward proposals of his own and didn’t succeed in conveying to us the feeling that at some point his demands would have an end. One of the important things we did at Camp David was to define our vital interests in the most concise way. We didn’t expect to meet the Palestinians halfway, and not even two-thirds of the way. But we did expect to meet them at some point. The whole time we waited to see them make some sort of movement in the face of our far-reaching movement. But they didn’t. The feeling was that they were constantly trying to drag us into some sort of black hole of more and more concessions without it being at all clear where all the concessions were leading, what the finish line was.”

Obviously the explanation of why the Camp David talks failed given in this BBC World Service ‘history’ programme is heavily tipped towards a particular politicised narrative that does not accurately reflect the whole story and therefore misleads BBC audiences.

BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

The last few weeks have seen some interesting developments in the world of Palestinian politics, although those getting their news from the BBC will of course be unaware of that because – as often noted on these pages – the corporation largely avoids that subject.

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

In the second half of July listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard Yolande Knell make the following unexplained statement:

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt.” 

The day after that programme was broadcast, one of those mysterious “exiled figures” – Mohammad Dahlan – gave an interview to AP in which he claimed that his talks with Hamas and Egypt will, among other things, bring about the opening of the Rafah crossing. On the same day, BBC Arabic produced a report concerning that topic, but without any mention of Dahlan.

Four days later, on July 27th, an unusual event took place in Gaza.

“Rival Palestinian lawmakers came together for the first time in a decade on Thursday in Gaza’s parliament, the latest sign that an emerging Gaza power-sharing deal between the territory’s Hamas rulers and a former Gaza strongman is moving forward.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and Hamas rival, praised the new partnership, addressing the gathering by video conference from his exile in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza’s heroic people,” Dahlan told the lawmakers.

The gathering included dozens of legislators from Hamas, several Dahlan backers from the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independents.

Fatah legislators loyal to Abbas stayed away from the meeting, underscoring the deepening rift in the movement. Dahlan fell out with Abbas in 2010.

The legislature has been idled since Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces, then under Dahlan’s command, and took over Gaza in 2007.

Over the past decade, only Hamas lawmakers met in parliament to pass resolutions concerning Gaza.”

On August 1st local media reported that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was making his own overtures to Hamas which included a meeting with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah.

“Earlier this year, the PA cut its payments for Israeli-supplied electricity the Strip by 35%, and slashed salaries for government personnel in Gaza.

The feud between the two Palestinian factions — Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza — also brought about a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the enclave, a rights watchdog said in June, describing a worsening humanitarian situation.

A deal to truck in fuel from Egypt to keep a power plant running was brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman, seen as a top rival to Abbas. […]

The new framework reportedly being discussed between the two sides would enable the PA to restore electricity supplies and allow Gazan banks to trade in foreign currency again, according to the daily.

But in return, Hamas must publicly renege on its agreement with Dahlan, and dismantle its governing structures in Gaza, which, according to the PA, contravene previous agreements between the group and the PA.”

Days later, Abbas reportedly voiced his intention to keep up the financial pressure on Hamas.

“”While there is a severe electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas provides light for its underground tunnels and the homes of its officials around the clock,” Abbas told a group of prominent visitors from East Jerusalem at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank began earlier this year to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza. Such cuts have exacerbated blackouts. […]

Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.””

Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning yet another attempt at Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ apparently continue.

How this saga will play out and whether either Abbas or Dahlan will end up doing a deal with Hamas is still unclear. Nevertheless, what is obvious is that whatever the outcome – and its possible consequences – BBC audiences are already very badly placed to understand its background and context due to the corporation’s serial avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

 

 

 

 

Another Gaza missile attack and BBC silence continues

At around 9 p.m. on the evening of July 8th residents of Ashkelon and the Hof Ashkelon district in the western Negev had to scramble for cover as sirens warned of an incoming missile fired from the Gaza Strip.

“The army said the projectile struck an open area in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

No injuries were immediately reported, and soldiers were searching the area, the IDF said.”

Several hours later Israel responded with strikes on two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip.

Despite at least one employee at the BBC’s Gaza office being aware of those events, the attack did not receive any coverage.

Since the beginning of 2017 thirteen separate incidents of missile fire from either the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula have taken place. The BBC’s English language services have not informed audiences of any of those attacks.

The pattern of reporting whereby the vast majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is sometimes reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Throughout 2016 just one of the ten attacks that took place received BBC coverage in the English language.

A similar policy of omission appears to have been adopted regarding missile attacks perpetrated by a terrorist group located in a neighbouring country, with all of the four attacks launched from the Sinai Peninsula since the beginning of 2017 having been ignored by the BBC’s English language services.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores two more missile attacks from Gaza 

BBC News passes on Hamas terror financing story

On August 3rd the Israel Security Agency announced the exposure of a complex Hamas money laundering ring involving former security prisoners.

“Through this plot, which began in early 2016, the group [Hamas] managed to transfer approximately $200,000 (NIS 720,000) into its Hebron offices from Turkey, with help from Gaza, in order to fund terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said. […]

The head of the operation was identified by the security service as Muhammad Maher Bader, a senior member of Hamas in Hebron and a member of the Palestinian parliament.

Bader, who was arrested in June, enlisted the help of two couriers, Muasseb Hashalmon and Taha Uthman, both of them residents of Hebron, the Shin Bet said.

Hashalmon and Uthman would travel to Turkey, where they would receive tens of thousands of dollars from a Hamas operative named Haron Nasser al-Din.

According to the Shin bet, the two Palestinian men used the money to purchase commercial goods, which they would ship back to Hebron and sell. The money from the merchandise, save for a small percentage that was their cut, was then used to pay the salaries of Hamas’s high command in the West Bank city and was also given to active members of the terrorist group and to operatives who had been released from prison.”

The BBC has for a long time avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and the connection of past and present Hamas operatives in Turkey to efforts to build up that presence. It was therefore not surprising to see that this latest story did not get any coverage at all.

However the BBC News website did have the space and inclination to publish a story it described as being about a “social media row over dog poo”.  One can only conclude that story was deemed by editors to contribute more to audience understanding of Middle East issues than the one about Hamas terror financing.

Related Articles:

Hamas terror cash shoes not news for the BBC 

 

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

In October 2015 the BBC News website allocated just forty-two words to coverage of a terror attack in which four people were wounded near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.

On August 7th 2017 the BBC News website devoted two hundred and ninety-eight words to amplification of statements made by a political NGO concerning a court ruling revoking the citizenship of the terrorist who committed that attack.

Titled “Israel decision to revoke attacker’s citizenship condemned” and illustrated with an unrelated image, the article opens with a description of the attack which predictably does not make use of the word terror because the BBC refuses to employ that term itself when reporting on attacks against Israelis.

“Human rights groups have criticised a decision by an Israeli court to remove the citizenship of an Israeli Arab who attacked people with a car and a knife.

It is thought to be the first time a judge has implemented a 2008 law under which perpetrators of “terrorist activities” can lose their citizenship.”

Later on in the report the word terrorism does appear in direct and indirect quotes.

“In his decision, Judge Avraham Elyakim of Haifa district court said victims’ right to life took precedence over “those who choose to violate the trust of the state of Israel and carry out acts of terrorism in its territory”.”

“The removal of citizenship for terrorism had been applied by Israel in rare instances prior to the 2008 law but the latest case could pave the way for similar rulings in the future, local media said.”

The report does not inform readers of an additional part of the court’s ruling:

“The court ruled that after Zayoud’s citizenship is revoked in October he will be given a temporary status, as exists in citizenship laws, and that it will be extended from time to time at the discretion of the interior minister after he has completed his sentence.”

As is made clear by its headline, the main aim of this article is amplification of statements from what the BBC coyly describes as “rights groups”.

“Israeli civil rights groups said the ruling set “a dangerous precedent”. […]

The court’s ruling was condemned by rights groups.

“The decision to revoke Mr Zayoud’s residence would render him stateless, in violation of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Sari Bashi of Human Rights watch.

“Citizenship is a precondition for a host of other rights, including the right to political participation and social and economic rights.””

Readers are not provided with any additional legal information beyond that simplistic portrayal and neither are they informed that numerous other countries have similar laws – as the BBC itself reported in relation to the UK only weeks ago:

“The 2014 Immigration Act granted the home secretary the power to strip citizenship from dual nationals or from immigrants who have become naturalised citizens and are now fighting overseas, even if that renders them stateless.”

As is usually the case, readers of this article find no mention of the obviously relevant issue of the political agenda of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the fact that it engages in lawfare and campaigning against Israel.

Human Rights Watch was the foreign NGO most quoted and promoted by the BBC throughout 2016 and its reports, PR releases, campaigns and statements enjoyed similarly prominent amplification in previous years. Nevertheless, the BBC consistently fails to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

Obviously that condition was not met in this latest article and so once again we see the BBC providing leverage for politicised messaging concerning Israel from an interested party touted as a neutral-sounding ‘human rights group’, without the required full disclosure to audiences of that political NGO’s anti-Israel activities and campaigns.

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, BBC News website reporting on the Israeli government’s intention to bar Al Jazeera from reporting and broadcasting in Israel failed to provide any examples of the incitement broadcast by the network that prompted that move – in sharp contrast to its coverage of a recent similar case in the UK.  

The story was also covered in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on August 6th with presenter James Menendez introducing the item (from 38:30 here) as follows:

Menendez: “The Israeli government says it wants to take the Qatar funded broadcaster Al Jazeera off the air. The move was announced by the country’s communications minister Ayoub Kara at a news conference in Jerusalem today.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of a small part of the minister’s statement.

Voice-over: “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera which has actually caused us to lose the best of our sons and has been the source of incitement.”

Menendez: “So what exactly did he mean and why now? Questions for our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Those two questions are obviously crucial to audience understanding of the story but did Tom Bateman actually provide any answers?

Bateman: “The communications minister in this press conference today said that it was about a long-running dispute that they have with the network, accusing it of inciting violence – he said – siding with extremist organisations. And this has been a refrain we’ve heard from the Israeli government repeatedly; not least from the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who last month launched an outspoken attack on the network. He said that it was inciting violence, particularly around the recent security crisis over the holy site of Haram al Sharif – Temple Mount – in the old city of Jerusalem. Now this was a particularly violent episode that lasted a couple of weeks and the prime minister had effectively suggested that the network’s reporting of that event – the events surrounding it – was leading people to violent attacks or at least suggesting that they carry them out.”

Failing to provide any examples of such incitement or to clarify the term “extremist organisations”, Bateman then swiftly moved on to the technicalities.

Bateman: “I mean the specific measures being suggested this afternoon are that the Israeli government will seek to force cable and satellite providers to block the signal in Israel and also to revoke the press accreditation – the press cards – for Al Jazeera reporters in Israel, which will effectively make it impossible for them to work here. The network itself has been covering this extensively today and recently its bureau chief in Jerusalem said that in effect Israel and its prime minister was siding with Arab autocratic states who similarly had sought to ban the network.”

Menendez: “Yeah, that was gonna be my next question. Is this Israel just doing it for its own reasons or is it acting – perhaps not in conjunction – but at least siding with those countries who’ve been demanding that Qatar shut Al Jazeera down? And I’m thinking of course of, you know, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Bateman: “Well certainly that would be the view of the network itself who’s, you know, have said that amid this furious diplomatic rift between a number of Sunni Arab states – including Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and Qatar, which of course funds Al Jazeera, that they believe Israel is simply siding with them because it’s politically convenient to do so. I mean its editor also pointed out what he called was the irony of Al Jazeera being one of the very few media networks in the Middle East that is prepared to air, you know, Israeli voices – Israeli government voices – and yet they believe that a self-proclaimed functioning democracy has sided with dictatorships, as he put it.”

Listeners then heard the following garbled portrayal of the core story which obviously did nothing to inform listeners about the kind of incitement broadcast by Al Jazeera and also confused bias and one-sided reporting with the very serious issue of incitement.  

Bateman: “I think the Israeli government view will be simply that it’s had enough and in their view they, well, believe, you know, particularly the Arabic facing service they believe has, you know, been biased against Israel. They will say it’s failed to give, you know, sufficient credence to the Israeli argument – the Israeli side of arguments – in these situations and therefore that that is, you know, that incitement is so serious that it merits closure.”

Bateman went on, returning to the technical topics with which he is clearly more comfortable:

Bateman: “Having said all of that, this will have to go through the Israeli parliament and that may be easier said than done because I, you know, particularly with the desire to block transmissions, that it likely to require parliamentary approval so there’s no time scale on this. It is simply at the moment a desire of intent.”

Menendez: “And just to be clear, is it both the Arabic and English networks?”

Bateman could at this point have clarified the significant differences between Al Jazeera’s English language and Arabic language content but declined to do so.

Bateman: “Well certainly they both operate from…they have correspondents of both language services in Israel – in Jerusalem – and so I think the assumption must be that it will be…will be both. I don’t think, you know, the Israeli government sees a distinction.”

As with the BBC News website’s written article, this report failed to adequately explain the story to audiences because it refrained from providing them with any examples of the kind of incitement that is at its core. That editorial policy turns the story into no more than a list of competing claims which audiences then have to judge for themselves without the benefit of factual information. Clearly that approach does not meet the BBC’s remit of providing “accurate and impartial news […] so that audiences can engage fully with issues” and it stands in sharp contrast to its own reporting of the recent similar story concerning the closure of a UK radio station on the grounds of incitement. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two