NGOs’ political campaign opportunistically recycled by BBC News

As readers may be aware, on July 4th the Israeli prime minister embarked on an official visit to four countries in Africa.Africa visit art 1  

The BBC News website’s Middle East page published two articles on that topic: “Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary” and, in the ‘Features’ section, “Netanyahu in Entebbe: A personal journey amid a diplomatic push” by defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Both those reports include features made no less noteworthy by their predictability.

In Marcus’ article readers found context-free amplification of the narrative of ‘occupation’.

“A whole combination of factors prompted a souring of ties between Israel and African capitals between 1966 and 1973.

There was Israel’s occupation of territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War. There was growing pressure from Arab states and, by the Middle East War in 1973, the oil weapon was a potent tool.”Africa visit art 2

In the other article terrorists were described as “militants”.

“His [Netanyahu’s] elder brother, Jonathan, was shot dead as he led the operation to free hostages, who had been taken captive on an Air France flight by Palestinian and German militants.”

Uncritical amplification was given to the false narrative of “colonialism” in a superfluous quote from a party unconnected to the story.

“However, Palestinian government spokesman Jamal Dajani said he believed Israel’s attempt to gain influence would fail.

African states would see through Netanyahu’s “propaganda” because Africans and the Palestinians shared a history of “occupations and colonialism”, he told AP news agency.”

But perhaps most remarkable is the fact that among the related reading promoted in both these articles is a link titled “Israel’s unwanted African migrants”.links Africa visit arts

The article to which the link leads has nothing at all to do with the subject of Netanyahu’s current visit to Africa and yet the BBC opportunistically recycled that highly problematic report (one of several produced by Kathy Harcombe in February 2016) which is nothing more than a self-conscripted contribution to the PR efforts of a campaign run by a coalition of political NGOs and certainly does not provide readers with accurate and impartial information likely to enhance their understanding of either that unrelated issue or the subject matter of these two reports. 

Somebody at the BBC News website made the editorial decision to include that link in both of its articles covering the Israeli PM’s visit to Africa and that person apparently believes that enhances the corporation’s reputation for ‘impartial’ journalism.

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BBC’s Knell raises an opportunistic stink

On September 12th the ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website published an article by Yolande Knell titled “Who, What, Why: What is skunk water?“.Knell Skunk

The hook for Knell’s article is evident in the article’s opening paragraph.

“Police departments in the United States are reported to have bought a foul-smelling liquid developed in Israel to repel protesters. What is “skunk” and how is it used, asks Yolande Knell.”

However, only those 31 words and a further 39 towards the end of the article relate to the reported purchase of the riot control method by US police departments. The report’s remaining 627 words are employed by Knell for more of her signature political campaigning.

One of the article’s notable features is the language used by Knell to describe the circumstances in which the Israeli security forces use Skunk spray.

Having already informed audiences in the opening paragraph that the substance is used “to repel protesters“, the article also states: [all emphasis added]

“Invented by Israeli firm Odortec, skunk water was first used by the Israeli military against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank in 2008.” 

And:

“In the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, skunk has been used to break up weekly rallies against Israel’s closure of a nearby road.”

“Protesters, demonstrators, rallies”:  none of Knell’s chosen terminology contributes to audience understanding of the fact that Skunk and other methods of crowd control are in fact used against violent rioters. The only hint concerning that comes in a quote from the IDF but Knell herself refrains from clarifying the issue to readers, leaving them with the mistaken impression that Skunk is used against people marching quietly with placards.

“A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told the BBC that skunk is “an effective, non-lethal, riot dispersal means” that can reduce the risk of casualties.” 

Knell promotes statements from two political NGOs but – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – refrains from providing audiences with any information on the obviously relevant topic of their political agenda. The foreign funded NGO ACRI is quoted as follows:

“Israeli security forces have been accused of misusing the stinking liquid.

Last year police sprayed large quantities of it in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, at a time of widespread unrest.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel complained that this was “disproportionate“, affecting the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians.

It documented cases where homes, shops and schools were hit with the foul liquid long after rioters had left the area.” [emphasis added]

The local NGO most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its Israel-related content in 2014, B’Tselem, provides the video embedded in the article – and apparently the source of an unverified allegation – as well as a quote.

“In the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, skunk has been used to break up weekly rallies against Israel’s closure of a nearby road. The protest organiser claims his home has also been singled out.

“Several times they purposefully targeted my house,” says Murad Ishtewe. “Once the high pressure of the jet broke the window so the water came inside. All my furniture was ruined.”

The IDF said it was not aware of such an incident.

“For us it’s a complex picture,” says Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem.

“The authorities ought to find non-lethal ways of maintaining law and order. The problem is the way Skunk is used. Very often it is a form of collective punishment for a whole area.”” [emphasis added]

The inclusion of the terms “disproportionate” and “collective punishment” – both of which have legal connotations not relevant to this story – is of course particularly notable given the BBC’s similar misuse of legal terminology during Operation Protective Edge, often whilst amplifying the agendas of political NGOs engaged in lawfare.

Knell also throws in inferences of racism:

“Many Palestinians view the offensive smell as a humiliation, as skunk is used almost exclusively against them. Exceptions are rare. One came in April this year, when it was sprayed (possibly diluted) at Ethiopian-Israelis protesting against what they saw as racially motivated police violence.”

She neglects to inform readers that the use of Skunk in Jerusalem on April 30th came about after the protest turned violent and does not disclose her source for the claim that in that case the solution was “possibly diluted”.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find any Israel-related report by Yolande Knell which does not promote her embarrassingly transparent political agenda. Not infrequently her work (and that of other BBC journalists too) relies on contributions from a selected group of political NGOs, without any effort being made to duly inform BBC audiences of the agenda which lies behind their claims and statements. Yolande Knell clearly has no qualms about acting as a medium for foreign funded Israeli NGOs but that of course is not the same as accurate and impartial reporting of the news – which is, after all, what licence fee payers are entitled to receive.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC News compromises impartiality with link to website of political NGO

BBC News amplifies political NGO in inaccurately headlined report

BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

 

BBC documentary on Tel Aviv gay pride fails to keep up with the news

Last week a message dropped into the BBC Watch mailbox promoting a BBC radio documentary. The e-mail came from the programme’s presenter – Tim Samuels – who also informed us that a television version of the documentary is scheduled for broadcast later in the year. 

The radio version – titled “Tel Aviv Comes Out” – was broadcast on August 11th on the BBC World Service in the series “The Documentary“. Samuels recorded the programme in June 2013 and that fact seems to have contributed to issues regarding the accuracy of the synopsis which appears on the BBC website and in the documentary itself. 

WS documentary TA comes out

The synopsis states:

“Tel Aviv’s march to gay epicentre hasn’t always been smooth – or organic. In 2009, the Mayor embarked on a multi-million dollar mission to rebrand the city as the ultimate gay destination. In that same year, a gunman – who has never been caught – opened fire on a gay youth club killing two people. Hostility is never far away.”

The trouble with that statement is of course that a suspect in the Bar Noar shootings has been caught (in fact he was arrested during the time that Samuels was in Tel Aviv making the programme) and was charged with two counts of murder and attempted murder on July 8th 2013. The implication that the shootings were purely an anti-gay hate crime is also problematic given the information which emerged after the arrests.  

That means that whoever wrote that synopsis has either not bothered to keep up with the facts of the case – and hence misleads audiences by making inaccurate statements – or that the facts of the case do not tailor themselves to the message he or she is trying to get across. Clearly, that synopsis needs to be corrected. 

Tim Samuels’ programme itself is in parts very good, including interesting interviews with Professor Uzi Even, former MK Yael Dayan and others. Unfortunately, he – or his producers at Tonic Productions – also do not appear to have kept up with progress in the Bar Noar case – despite obviously being aware of the fact that arrests had been made. From around 31:35, Samuels can be heard saying:

“…Tel Aviv’s self-confident tolerance was suddenly shattered in 2009 right in the heart of the city… […] A gunman walked into the gay youth centre and opened fire, killing two and wounding fifteen. An unexpected and incongruous attack that brought about some serious national soul-searching. […] Today’s papers are reporting some extra news about the shooting in 2009 at the gay youth centre. They’re saying that finally – nearly four years later – arrests have been made in connection to the shooting…”

It should be pretty standard practice for a documentary maker involved in a project which includes reporting on a criminal investigation to keep up with developments in that investigation and update and amend the programme accordingly – rather than going ahead with the broadcast of inaccurate and misleading information which is two months out of date.  That should clearly apply even more so when the programme is to be broadcast by the BBC, which purports to demand the same editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality from commissioned work as it does in its own content. 

The other problem with this documentary is its mainstreaming of the language of delegitimisation of Israel through its focus on – and promotion of – accusations of alleged “pinkwashing”.  Samuels opens his documentary by asking:

“But has the city’s [Tel Aviv] gay and lesbian cause been co-opted and used as a public relations tool by Israel?”

At 19:45 he says:

“What concerns some is that all this talk of tolerance – and the mayor’s money – is being used to deflect attention from the Palestinians and that gay rights have become a Public Relations tool.”

The trouble is that Samuels does not bother to properly inform his listeners who those “some” are and what their fringe agenda is. Audiences then hear an unidentified woman telling Samuels that “when tourists come here they see all this pinkwashing” and claiming that Israel is to blame for the fact that Palestinians cannot lead openly LGBT lives. Samuels then interviews Eyal (sometimes spelt Aeyal) Gross, whom he introduces merely as “associate professor of law at Tel Aviv university” – failing to inform audiences that Gross is a seasoned activist not only on the LGBT scene, but has also sat on the boards of ‘ACRI and ‘Gisha.

Whilst the opposite point of view to the two interviewees promoting the notion of “pinkwashing” is put by Tel Aviv council member and mayoral advisor on LGBT rights Yaniv Weizman, Samuels fails to adequately inform his audiences that the “pinkwashing” claim is just one tactic used within the wider context of political activism aimed at the delegitimisation of Israel. As we have noted here many times before, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state that:

“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.”

The failure to make Gross’ political associations clear and the resulting lack of context to his politically motivated comments clearly breach that guideline.

Let’s hope that these issues are dealt with before the television version of this documentary is broadcast so that what otherwise could be an interesting programme is not marred by failures of accuracy and impartiality.

 

BBC R4 “Little Moscow in Israel” programme fails on accuracy and impartiality

On June 10th 2013 BBC Radio 4 aired a programme made by Ladbroke Productions – produced by the company’s director Richard Bannerman, with presentation/narration by Dennis Marks (both former BBC employees) – entitled “Little Moscow in Israel”. Commissioned programmes are, of course, required to meet the same editorial standards as content produced by the BBC itself. 

The programme can be heard for a limited period of time here or for those with access to iPlayer, here.

Little Moscow

Whilst claiming (according to its less than accurate synopsis) that it “explores the life of the 1.2 million Israelis of Russian origin”, the programme actually has three levels. At first hearing, it may seem like a rather benign portrait, with sympathetic sketches of the Gesher Theatre Company and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. But underneath that level lies a second one made up of stereotypical generalisations about the Israelis who came from the former USSR and subjective individual experiences. Underneath that level, we find a third one consisting of the advancement of the programme makers’ own personal prejudices and stereotypes about Israel which are hung on the hook of the subject of USSR-born Israelis. 

At 03:26 Dennis Marks informs listeners that:

“Practicing Jews don’t speak of immigration to Israel. They talk of making aliyah – going up.”

Of course the use of the Hebrew word aliyah has nothing whatsoever to do with the user’s level of religious observance and hence Marks’ claim is – in contravention of BBC editorial guidelines – inaccurate. 

One of the programme’s interviewees is Lily Galili – a senior journalist at Ha’aretz for 30 years. We will never know what parts of the conversation with Galili were edited out of this programme, but what was left in creates a bland caricature of over a million people with sweeping claims such as “they hated the climate”. 

Next, listeners hear from Elizabeth Tsurkov  (with Marks conveniently forgetting to inform readers that she is a contributor to the radical far-Left ‘+972 magazine’) who claims that:

“There wasn’t much housing available, so Russians were pushed to the periphery”.

Housing was indeed a big issue, as it would be in any country with such a large number of new immigrants arriving in such a short period of time, and naturally much of the new building to accommodate their needs took place on cheaper land outside the Gush Dan metropolitan area –as indeed had been the case with previous large waves of immigration. But Tsurkov’s generalised observation ignores both the large communities of immigrants from the former USSR in places such as Bat Yam (just south of Tel Aviv) or Petah Tikva, the subsequent independent relocation of many immigrants in the following years and projects such as ‘First Home in the Homeland’ (Beit Rishon B’Moledet) in which new immigrants were housed in kibbutzim for their first six months in Israel. 

At 12:37 Marks says:

“In the early nineties indigenous Israelis known as sabras stigmatized the new arrivals. They may have been invited to swell Jewish numbers to match those of the Palestinians, but for the sabras they also constituted a threat.”

Listeners are not given any factual evidence to support those highly politicised statements by Marks (or any information about the Law of Return) and the insinuation of stigma and discrimination is continued when Tsurkov says:

“Doctors, for example, managed to do exams and prove that they are real doctors even though they studied in the USSR”.

The facts, however, are very different. The wave of immigration in the early 90s included a very high number of doctors, with nobody doubting for a moment that they were “real doctors”, but not enough job openings for all of them. In common with the standard practice in most Western countries, immigrant doctors were required to take training courses designed to familiarize them with the local language in general, the local medical terminology and the very different methods of practicing medicine in Israel whereby doctors first qualify in general medicine and only then specialize in a certain field – in contrast to the system in the USSR. They then sat exams in order to qualify to practice medicine in Israel and those able to meet the required standards were absorbed into the medical system according to the quotas available. 

At 14:22 Marks’ commentary moves into the sphere of the overtly political. 

“One contentious prospect for ‘generation one and a half’ [people who immigrated to Israel as children] is offered by the settlements in the occupied territories. We’re driving down Route 5. Turn right out of Tel Aviv, cross a checkpoint and you’re in the West Bank. We’re on our way to Ariel – not so much a settlement; more a small town. It began as a hilltop encampment for a handful of settlers in 1978. Now it has light and heavy industry, new shopping centres and schools. It’s the archetypal fact on the ground. More than half its citizens are Russians.”

In Ariel, Marks meets an Israeli who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine in 1991 and who explains to him that his reasons for living there are primarily ones of convenience.  Rather ironically, Marks continues:

“Another stereotype bites the dust. Moshe isn’t the Zionist settler of journalistic cliché. He isn’t an ideologue, he’s not even religious. He’s firmly secular like the majority of new Russians.”

It is revealing that Marks insists upon calling Moshe and other Israelis who have lived in the country for 22 years “new Russians”.  One presumes that any attempt by a foreign journalist to describe British citizens of two decades’ standing in their own multicultural country as “new Pakistanis” or “new Jamaicans” would be met with fierce disapproval from most BBC editors and journalists.

The synopsis to the programme which appears on the BBC website claims (inter alia) that:

“He [Marks] hears of Russian/Israeli weddings which rabbis have refused to solemnise, because the bride cannot prove that she has a Jewish mother.”

Whilst Marks may have heard of such things, his listeners do not. His next interviewee – Dima Motel – states quite clearly that the rabbinate did recognize him as being Jewish when he went through the standard process of registration for a religious marriage.  The insinuation that such a process is confined to immigrants from the former USSR is of course untrue and constitutes another inaccuracy.

The next notion which Marks tries to advance is that of supposed identification with the political right by immigrants from the former USSR. He interviews Arik Elman – a former spokesman for ‘Israel B’Aliyah’ – who explains to him that the ‘Russian vote’ can be found across the political spectrum, with concentration on the Right and Centre. Marks is not apparently curious enough to wonder if the reality of years spent under communist oppression might influence the political opinions of immigrants from the former USSR. Instead, the programme cuts directly to Elizabeth Tsurkov who says:

“I think Russians are…will continue to identify with the Right, but as the older generation dies out and becomes less influential there is room for other voices. Voices that are more liberal. People who don’t feel the need to prove that we are real Israelis by hating others, by hating Palestinians, by hating Arabs.”

Not only does that grotesque caricature of Israeli conservative politics and Israelis in general somehow get past BBC editorial standards of impartiality, but Marks adds his own ominous commentary.

“Elizabeth Tsurkov again, speaking for the young, liberal minority. But they are most definitely a minority.”

Marks continues: 

“Back in Ariel’s Russian bazar, life may appear stable and comfortable. Secular Russians are free to eat their pork sausages. Today is Saturday and the shops in Jerusalem are firmly shut. Here the Sabbath opening hours are 9 a.m to 6 p.m. But scratch the surface and you’ll quickly remember that you are seventeen miles into the West Bank. Ariel is named after the former premier Sharon who coined the phrase ‘facts on the ground’. For Moshe these facts offer nothing but benefit to the Palestinians who once cultivated these hilltops.”

Marks’ claim that Ariel lies “seventeen miles into the West Bank” is not even supported by ‘Peace Now : the western entrance to Ariel is some ten miles from the ‘green line’. His claim that the town is named after Ariel Sharon is only partly correct. It was actually originally named after one of Jerusalem’s synonyms, but in 2009, whilst keeping the same name, was ‘renamed’ after Sharon. 

Immediately following his interviewee’s explanation of how many Palestinians from the surrounding area work in Ariel’s industrial zones, Marks interjects:

“Is that really the case? No Palestinians live in Ariel. You won’t see them in the Russian supermarket. Nor can they use the gym and the swimming pool in what Russians call Ariel’s country club. Its funding comes from American benefactors, but the water in the pool is diverted from the nearby Palestinian aquifer.”

No Israelis of course live in Nablus or Tulkarem and you won’t see them in the supermarkets or gyms there either, but that fact – or mention of the Oslo Accords and Palestinian Authority-controlled Areas A and B – does not fit in very well with the narrative of discrimination which Marks is trying very hard to promote. What Marks calls the “country club” is the Milken Sports and Recreation Complex. It does indeed receive contributions from benefactors abroad, but Marks neglects to inform his listeners why it was built

“In reaction to the violence and terrorism that began with the Intifada … in the year 2000, Mayor Ron Nachman initiated the construction of a comprehensive sport facility. He envisioned a family center where Ariel residents could build themselves both physically and emotionally.”

And what of Marks’ claim of water diverted from some “nearby Palestinian aquifer” to Ariel’s swimming pool? As we know only too well, the BBC excels in weird and wonderful tales of ‘stolen Palestinian water’ – keeping a highly problematic permanent feature on the subject on its website.  Apparently Marks and Bannerman – along with subsequent BBC editors – did not bother to fact check the veracity of their claim – but BBC Watch did just that.

Mr Yigal Rosental – Director of the Ariel Water Corporation – informed us that:

“The water in the swimming pool is received in the framework of the general town water supply which is supplied to us by the company ‘Mekorot’. The source of the water supplied by Mekorot’s pipelines is in the coastal lowlands.”

Yigal Rosental

In other words, the water in Ariel’s swimming pool does not come from “Palestinian” sources at all and Marks’ claim that it does represents a serious breach of both accuracy and impartiality. 

Mark’s next interviewee is Liza Rozovsky, whom he describes as a “Russian-born journalist and human rights worker”. Once again, Marks is not completely candid: Rozovsky is “Spokesperson of the OPT Department at Association for Civil Rights in Israel” and her organization is of course one of the many political NGOs operating in the region using the ‘apartheid’ trope to delegitimize Israel.

Towards the end of the programme Marks turns his attentions to the subject of multiculturalism. 

“It goes back to the very beginnings of Zionism in the 1890s when the Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl imagined the Judenstaat  – the Jewish state – as a multicultural rainbow nation. When the state was finally founded sixty years later, its first prime minister, Ben Gurion, had a very different vision. Israel would be a melting pot in which Jews from Western Europe, North Africa, the Levant and beyond would combine together to create a new national identity. But have they?”

Herzl certainly did not use the modern catch-phrase “rainbow nation” and Marks’ claim that he was a committed multiculturalist is arguably very far-fetched, with one of the few references to that subject in his pamphlet being little more than an afterthought.

“And if it should occur that men of other creeds and different nationalities come to live amongst us, we should accord them honorable protection and equality before the law.”

But Marks’ romanticized portrayal of the founder of Zionism serves as background to the point he really wants to make and that is that Israelis have supposedly betrayed the multicultural Zionist ideals as he perceives them.

Marks concludes:

“I first met Russian immigrants here almost thirty years ago. In the 1980s many of them seemed lost and confused. Returning in the early decades of the 21st century, with Russians in the Knesset, with Russian towns in the desert, with Russian theatre companies and Russian technocrats dominating the new industries, I imagined that confusion would have given way to confidence. But I wonder. How many more generations will it take for the schism between melting pot and rainbow to be resolved? How long before Israelis address the much greater gulf between facts on the ground like Ariel and the people who can’t shop in its bazar and can’t swim in its pool?”

What exactly “Russian towns in the desert” are supposed to be is a mystery. There are Israeli towns in the desert in Israel, but “Russian” ones? Does Marks also make a habit of referring to ‘Pakistani towns on the moors’ in his own country? One very much doubts it.

But that is precisely the issue with this whole programme. Marks’ anachronistic intellectual colonialism allows him to be judge and jury, making sweeping generalisations and promoting jaded stereotypes and glaring inaccuracies in order to promote his own political agenda. Rather than making an honest attempt to explore and understand “the life of the 1.2 million Israelis of Russian origin” and to discover the ways in which Israel has succeeded in absorbing them, Marks is unable to resist using those people as a springboard from which to advance well-worn themes of Israeli racism and discrimination.

That is a pity, because had he actually approached the subject with an open mind and tried to learn something from the experience, he might have been able to provide Radio 4 listeners with some food for thought regarding approaches to the subject of immigration which have turned out to be considerably more successful than those with which they are familiar in their own country. Instead, Marks and Bannerman merely spoon-feed  BBC audiences more fertilizer for their already warped impressions of Israel. 

BBC headline promotes a lie

A perusal of the BBC News website’s Middle East page turned up a link to a programme called ‘Fast Track’ from July 31st 2012 with the caption “Are tourists being forced to reveal their personal emails to security on arrival in Israel?”.

Clicking on the link leads to a report by Keith Wallace which was apparently broadcast on BBC television news and is headlined with the statement: “Israeli security ‘read’ tourists’ private emails”. 

The blurb asks “How would you feel if when you arrived at your holiday destination, security staff demanded to read your personal emails and look at your Facebook account?” and continues:

“Israel’s attorney general has been asked to look into claims that security officials have been doing just that – threatening to refuse entry to the country unless such private information is divulged by some tourists.”

However, the film report itself tells a somewhat different story – especially if one fills in the blanks left by Wallace. 

The subject of the film is American architect Najwa Doughman, aged 25, who on May 26th 2012 arrived at Ben Gurion airport for her third visit to Israel, together with a friend. In his introduction, Wallace informs viewers that almost three million people visited Israel last year, adding “other people go there for very different reasons”, before showing footage of the April 2012 ‘flytilla’ as an illustration of the political activists and ‘resistance-chic’ genre of tourism which also arrives at the airport. 

Wallace claims that stopping groups of political activists should be “straightforward enough” but then puts forward the assertion that “methods used to security check individuals at Ben Gurion airport have overstepped the mark”.  

Wallace does make it clear that Ms Doughman had “written about the 2008 Israeli assaults on Gaza for her university newspaper” and that she had worked at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon in 2010, suggesting that this might prompt “extra questions” at the airport. 

In fact, Najwa Doughman (whose article on Gaza – complete with Nazi analogy – can be read here) was president of the University of Virginia branch of ‘Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine’; an organization which supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, employs ‘apartheid’ rhetoric against Israel and promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees together with their ‘repatriation’ to their previous homes or those of their ancestors, along with the expulsion of all Jews from what it terms ‘Arab’ areas. Ms Doughman’s stay in Lebanon – according to her Linkedin profile – lasted 13 months, ending in January 2011. 

In Wallace’s interview with Doughman she recounts how she was asked by a member of the security staff at the airport to open her e-mail account (which she presumably agreed to do) and that her e-mails were searched and read. Doughman says that the security officer told her to “tell your friends that we don’t only Google your names; we search your e-mails too”.

However, the account of the same story which Najwa Doughman wrote previously for the ‘Mondoweiss‘ site puts a somewhat different light upon the subject. 

In that article, Doughman wrote:

“Little did I know that my father’s Arab name would make me guilty until proven innocent.”

However, the fact that this was her third visit to Israel indicates that her insinuations of racism are far from justified.

Doughman went on to write:

“I typed in my username and password in complete disbelief. She [the security officer] began her invasive search: “Israel,” “Palestine,” “West Bank,” “International Solidarity Movement.” “

“The security officer opened an email from a friend living in Jerusalem who had advised me to remove myself from internet searches. “They are heavy on googling names at the airport recently,” he had written. “See if you can remove yourselves, not crucial but helpful.” “

Next, Wallace goes on to interview Hagai Elad of ACRI  – after giving an anodyne description of that organization quoted from its own blurb –  and after that he conducts an interview with Fred Schlomka of Green Olive Tours who claims to have heard similar stories to that of Ms Doughman from his clients. 

What Wallace does not tell his viewers is that Fred Schlomka was operations manager for ICAHD between 2001 and 2003, is a former member of its board and has written a series of ‘reports‘ for the organization. Wallace does also not inform his readers of the political nature of the congenial, juggling Mr Schlomka’s ‘tour company’, including the fact that for $695 he will arrange a three-day trip to Beit Ummar hosted by an ISM volunteer and a man who has spent time in an Israeli prison due to his activity with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  

Wallace ends the report by showing footage of the terror attack in Bulgaria as an illustration of why security is necessary in Israel and by interviewing an expert on aviation security who explains very clearly why Najwa Doughman would have raised suspicions at the airport. He even admits that ACRI is pursuing only three cases of this type, which – considering that almost three million tourists visited Israel last year – clearly indicates that only a very small minority of visitors with specific intentions which do not include normal tourist activities have any reason to believe that they may be asked to open their e-mail account as part of security measures. 

Clearly, the assertion in the report’s headline – “Israeli security ‘read’ tourists’ private emails” – is not only based entirely on unproven hearsay from Najwa Doughman, but is also inaccurate: genuine tourists to Israel do not have their private e-mails read. 

Clause 3.4.12 of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines states that:

“We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”

Clause 4.4.14 states that:

“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.”

In this report, once again, the BBC has failed to make clear the connections of interviewees to politicized NGOs and/or organisations with a specific political agenda before promoting their claims.

It is particularly regrettable that a respected and trusted organization such as the BBC should be taking its lead from anti-Israel sites such as Mondoweiss and regurgitating the type of politically motivated non-stories designed solely to besmirch Israel which one so often finds there.