Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

As noted here previously, the lead item in the July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update‘ concerned legislation passed hours beforehand by the Israeli Knesset.

The programme’s webpage uses the title “Israel: An Exclusively Jewish State”. Presenter Dan Damon introduced the item (from 0:00:15 here) using the same term. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Damon: “We begin though with the news from Israel. In the parliament there – the Knesset – a vote on the future of that country’s self-determination: a controversial bill defining the country as an exclusively Jewish state. The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest. Israel [sic] Arab politicians have denounced this new law as racist.”

Obviously the claim that the law defines Israel as “an exclusively Jewish state” is inaccurate.

The same inaccurate claim appeared in the first two versions of an article that appeared on the BBC News website on July 19th.

Following a complaint from Mr Stephen Franklin in which he pointed out that the text of the law does not define Israel in that manner and that Israel’s minorities already have equal rights under the law and will continue to do so under this new legislation, the BBC Complaints department responded, citing an amendment made to the report some eight hours after its initial publication.

“I understand you feel it is inaccurate to state that the bill passed characterises Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.

BBC News always aims for the highest standards – to be fair, accurate and impartial. It is worth noting that the article now reads “‘Israel’s parliament has passed a controversial law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state”.”

BBC Watch has written to request a similar correction to this radio programme and its webpage.

In that item listeners heard from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem who correctly pointed out that the law “isn’t going to change things overnight. It’s simply not that kind of a piece of legislation” and that “many of the things it talks about are actually pre-existing in other laws”.

However, as was also the case in the BBC News website report, Bateman for reasons unclear found it appropriate to mention a clause which was not included in the final draft of the legislation.

Bateman: “…the law says that Jewish settlement is a national value that should be promoted by the state. Now that’s actually a watered-down version of the draft clause which critics of the law had felt might lead to Jewish-only communities and local authorities really having the power to create de facto and in law Jewish-only communities.”

Like the website article, Bateman did not clarify that the dropped clause actually allowed the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community” and did not bother to inform his audiences that many communities composed of people belonging to religious and ethnic groups such as Bedouin, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims already exist in Israel.

Bateman closed his report by telling listeners that one Arab-Israeli MK had “described it…as a hate crime and an apartheid law”.

Listeners then heard from two MKs – Yehuda Glick of the Likud and Ahmad Tibi of the Joint Arab List. They did not however hear any challenge from Dan Damon when Tibi raised the false claim promoted by the political NGO Adalah of “more than 60 laws differentiating and discriminating between Jews and Arabs”. Neither did they hear any questioning of numerous inaccurate claims from Tibi including that the new law affords rights “both political and housing, lands allocation etc…only for Jews”.

Related Articles:

How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

 

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BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

On the morning of July 19th the BBC News website published a report titled “Jewish nation state: Israel approves controversial bill” which opened by telling BBC audiences that:

“Israel’s parliament has passed into law a controversial bill that defines the country as an exclusively Jewish state.

The “Jewish nation state” bill downgrades Arabic as an official language and says advancing Jewish settlement is a national interest.

It also states that the “whole and united” Jerusalem is its capital.”

The BBC’s report did not provide readers with the text of the bill. Had it done so, BBC audiences would have been able to see that the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

The clause referring to “Jewish Settlement” reads:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Readers of the BBC’s report are told that:

“…some clauses were dropped following objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general, including a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish-only communities.”

That dropped clause actually allowed the state to:

“authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community,”

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences of the fact that many communities composed of people belonging to religious and ethnic groups such as Bedouin, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims also exist in Israel.

The BBC’s report promotes comment on the story from three sources: members of the ‘Joint List’, the Israeli prime minister and an anti-Zionist foreign funded political NGO.

“Israeli Arab MPs condemned the legislation but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a “defining moment”. […]

Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill’s passing represented the “death of democracy”.

Adalah, an Arab rights non-governmental orgnisation, said the law was an attempt to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.”

With the report providing no comparison between this legislation and similar laws and constitutions in other countries, the view of the story that BBC audiences are intended to take away is of course amply clear.

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) While Adalah is not the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGO, it does appear in BBC content from time to time. David Collier has taken a closer look at one of that NGO’s flagship projects.

“Adalah are an NGO in Israel that claims to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel ‘in particular’.

Adalah created a database of ‘discriminatory laws’ that has been used as a central pillar for anti-Israel boycott activities (BDS). Adalah’s database is the primary source for one of the three aims of the boycott Israel movement.

These laws are referenced everywhere. In the UN, in every anti-Israel meeting, in many European governments. There is hardly an anti-Israel book that is published that does not reference the list of laws. The list is a pillar of the boycott Israel movement.

Just one problem: The list is little more than a scam.”

2) MEMRI documents some of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah PR campaign against the anticipated US administration peace initiative.

“Even before its terms have been publicized, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century,” has encountered harsh opposition from the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it does not promote peace but seeks to eliminate the Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian state and to topple the Palestinian leadership. Against this backdrop, PA elements have directed personal attacks at the U.S. officials promoting the deal. […]

Harsh criticism against the deal and its proponents was also voiced by Fatah, whose chairman is Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. Recently the movement announced the launching of “a national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.””

3) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss reviews “The Elections in Turkey: Strengthened Ultra-Nationalist Forces and the Possible Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

“In Turkey’s June 24, 2018 elections, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for another term, and the ultra-nationalist parties grew stronger. This is significant first and foremost in the Kurdish context, since the nationalists can be expected to be among the main opponents of renewing the peace process with the Kurdish underground. This will also have extensive repercussions on Turkish foreign policy toward Syria and Iraq, and as such, on Turkey’s relations with the regional and global powers.”

4) At the Times of Israel Ari Ingel discusses “Israel, Gaza, and International Law”.

“Pro-Palestinian commentators and social media activists have been lambasting Israel over the course of the recent Gaza demonstrations for violating international law with proclamations of war crimes and human rights violations.

While a law degree apparently comes free with every twitter account, much of this talk is mere bluster with no foundation in the actual law itself, but rather, espoused with an intention to falsely vilify Israel and its leaders in the court of public opinion.” 

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

Over the past few weeks we have documented some of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ events that began at the end of March. Between March 30th and early May, BBC reporting was sporadic but as the anticipated May 14th climax approached – and with it the chance to promote the notion of linkage between the pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – the pace of coverage increased, as the examples below demonstrate.

Tuesday, May 8th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, (from 02:18:25 here) interview by Mishal Husain with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.

Husain: “Why are your soldiers using live ammunition to shoot people on the other side of the fence? [….] The Israeli rights group Adalah […] says that […] there’s been systematic use of live fire with no justification.”

Wednesday, May 9th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 0:14:00 to 0:20:30 here) discussed here

Friday, May 11th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: live broadcast from Jerusalem with Martha Kearney (from 08:09 here)

Sunday, May 13th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Sunday’: broadcast from Jerusalem with Edward Stourton (from 00:13 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Weekend’ with Julian Worricker (from 04:40 here) discussed here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 00:53 here)

Monday, May 14th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newsday’: live broadcast from Jerusalem (here)

BBC News website: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” – discussed here

BBC News website: “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” 

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: with Justin Webb and John Humphrys (from 0:34:00 to 0:38:15, from 1:48:30 to 1:57:30 and from 2:43:30 to 2:48:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:35 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:13:00, from 0:14:00 to 0:20:45, and from 0:30:00 to 0:49:30 here) – discussed here, here, here and here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 00:11 to 0:23:00 and from 0:26:30 to 0:42:45 here)

Marshall: “At 4pm local time the United States officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As the ceremony took place, more than 50 Palestinians protesting in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces.”

BBC World News, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:28 to 0:13:15 and from 0:31:00 to 0:41:30 here)

BBC Two, ‘Newsnight’ with Mark Urban (from 0:01:30 to 0:11:00 here)

Tuesday, May 15th:

BBC News website “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years“.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.”

BBC News website: “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” – discussed here

BBC News website: “What’s at the root of the protests in Gaza?” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here

BBC News website: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

BBC News website: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

BBC News website: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 0:07:45 to 0:08:30, from 0:10:15 to 0:13:00, from 0:48:15 to 0:54:15, from 1:09:00 to 1:13:30, from 2:10:00 to 2:21:30, and from 2:38:15 to 2:42:15 here)

“Palestinian officials say nearly 60 people died in Gaza yesterday, when Israeli forces opened fire as America opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.”

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’, with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:10 to 0:02:20 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:30 here)

“Funerals have been taking place for many of the Palestinians killed during protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel yesterday. The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned what it called the appalling deadly violence by Israeli forces who killed nearly 60 people.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:12:45 and from 0:30:00 to 0:42:45 here)

“As the funerals are held in Gaza of the 58 people killed on Monday by Israeli security forces, Hamas and the Israeli government blame each other for the violence – while both insist they want peace.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 0:00:40 to 0:14:00, from 0:30:00 to 0:43:00 and from 0:45:00 to 0:50:10 here)

BBC World Service, BBC OS, “What’s it like living in Gaza?

BBC Radio 4, ‘PM’ with Eddie Mair (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:15 and from 0:05:30 to 0:17:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’ with Ritula Shah (from 0:00:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:45 to 0:23:45 here)

BBC World News and BBC 4, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:00 to 0:13:20 here)

Wednesday, May 16th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 1:12:00 to 1:15:45 and from 2:43:00 to 2:44:45 here).

“The Arab League will hold emergency talks today, with some members calling for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court, for the massacre of 59 Palestinians at the border with Gaza on a single day.” [emphasis added]

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:25:00 to 0:31:45 here) – discussed here

BBC News website, BBC One ‘News at 10’, BBC News Channel, “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here.

BBC News website: “Gaza: The history behind the anger” by Paul Adams

 

On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15thHamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.”

Also on May 16th, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he admitted that “many” of those involved in the May 14th incidents “took off their military uniforms” and went on to say:

“When we decided to embark on these marches, we decided to turn that which is most dear to us – the bodies of our women and children – into a dam blocking the collapse in Arab reality, a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity, which occupies our Jerusalem, plunders our land, defiles our holy places, and oppresses our people day and night.”

In other words, by late afternoon on May 16th it was known that fifty-three of the 62 people reported killed on May 14th had been claimed by the terror organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One would of course have expected the BBC to have given that information equal prominence to its repeated claims of a “massacre” and “slaughter” of “Palestinian protesters”.

However, at that point the BBC did a disappearing act.

On May 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” which makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of those killed were members of terror groups [ see ‘updates’ below] and BBC World Service and domestic radio programmes dropped all coverage of the story.

So perhaps the BBC was not aware of the fact that over 85% of those killed had been claimed by terrorist organisations? In an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired on May 18th – presented by Jon Donnison (from 17:14 here) – we discover that the corporation was perfectly aware of Bardawil’s statement.

Donnison: “Now the UN’s Human Rights Council has voted for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli forces in Gaza this week. Health officials in Gaza say 60 people were killed by Israeli forces on Monday and a further 2,700 Palestinians injured, many of them with live fire. A Hamas official has said 50 of those killed were from the Islamist group which is in power in the territory. Israel has insisted that its response to the protests was proportionate but that is not the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who said Israel’s actions were wholly disproportionate. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’” in which it failed to state that the majority of those killed on May 14th had been claimed by terror groups while continuing to promote the notion that they can be described as “unarmed civilians”.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “massacres” of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which orchestrated the protests, for the deaths.” [emphasis added]

The public purposes laid down in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide its audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. In order to meet that obligation the BBC would have had to inform audiences of the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed a very high proportion of those the BBC spent days describing as “protesters” on multiple channels and platforms.

Significantly, it failed to do so.

Update: 

A reference to Bardawil’s statement appeared at the end of an article published on the BBC News website on May 18. A qualified reference to the statement was added to the article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” the day after its initial publication. 

 

 

 

 

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality 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.”

However, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs

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.

umm-al-hiran-art-background

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

 

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

h/t Dennis    

Treading faithfully in the footsteps of their compatriots of yesteryear, few subjects have been done to death by British journalists in the Middle East as that of the Bedouin in Israel. 

It therefore came as no surprise to find the BBC’s Wyre Davies venturing a whole eleven miles out of Jerusalem last month to report on “Israeli threat to Bedouin villages”.  

Davies’ report appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website, as well as on television news, on October 18th. It was also broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ on October 25th and can be heard here from around 25:26′. 

Davies opens his radio report from the school constructed without planning permission in the Bedouin encampment of Khan al Ahmar with the uncorroborated statement:

“If they [the children] didn’t come to school here, they wouldn’t get an education anywhere.”

He goes on to say:

“But they’re [the Bedouin] surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements as far as the eye can see and they want the school evicted and demolished.”

Contrary to what Davies would apparently have his listeners believe, in Israel demolition orders on buildings constructed – in any sector – without planning permission are not given out by the neighbours, but by the relevant authorities.

One may think that of all places, it would be wise to ensure that a school was built according to health and safety regulations. Apparently that aspect of the story is of no concern to Davies, who next interviews a woman named as Angela Goldstein and described as “an advocate who campaigns on behalf of this Bedouin community”. 

Ms Goldstein claims that:

“The only schools that are near are settler schools and of course none of these children would be accepted into Jewish-only schools.”

The whiff of racist rhetoric arising from that comment should have wised-up Wyre Davies to his interviewee – did he not already know who she actually is. 

Angela Godfrey Goldstein is no mere ‘advocate’: she is the policy officer for ICAHD – the political NGO which promotes apartheid rhetoric and the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. She is also a member of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ ,which was recently involved in a scandal due to its anti-Semitic Tweets and of course organizes flotillas. ICAHD’s director Jeff Halper sits on Free Gaza’s Board of Advisors as well as being a member of the ‘Russell Tribunal‘.

In addition, Ms Godfrey Goldstein is a member of Machsom Watch (the same organization which organized a delegation to comfort the families of the arrested murderers of the Fogel family) and her trip to Khan al Ahmar is far from a one-off: she runs a nice line in political trips to the encampment, in which Wyre Davies’ next interviewee, Eid Abu Hamis of the Jahalin tribe, is something of a regular feature. 

Davies sets the romantic scene by informing listeners that he is talking to Eid Abu Hamis Jahalin “under the shade of a fig tree” and then allows his host – unchallenged and unproven – to state that:

“The situation is now difficult due to the settlers who want us to leave”

“They [settlers] attack the woman [sic] and the children”

The Jahalin tribe has been the subject of many articles over on our sister blog CiF Watch, due to the fact that Khan al Ahmar is also a favourite and frequent watering hole for Guardian correspondents. Readers can view more background information here and here

The story which Wyre Davies tells is by no means a new one; in fact, it has been going on for about thirty years and Israeli courts have examined – and rejected – the Jahalin’s claims to the land. 

“The Jahalin have been making claims about the land of Ma’ale Adumim, and squatting on state land assigned to the community, since the 1980’s. They have been warned many times by successive Israeli governments that eventually they would have to move. Most of the Jahalin eventually agreed that they did not have rights to the land. For example, according to a January 29th, 1994 Los Angeles Times article, “no one, not even Hairsh (Mohammed Hairsh, a Jahalin leader) claims that his tribe has a legal right” to the land they have been occupying.

Nevertheless, out of sympathy for the plight of the Jahalin tribe, the Israeli government offered them title to a plot of land if they would agree to leave their encampment near Ma’ale Adumim. This new site is about one kilometer from and more than five times larger than the Jahalin’s previous encampment. In addition, under the proposed agreement with the Jahalin, the Israeli government agreed to provide, at no charge, electricity and water hookups, cement building platforms and building materials.

Not surprisingly, the leaders of the Jahalin tribe accepted Israel’s offer and most of the tribe moved to the new site. The electricity and water hookups were provided, and the platforms were built. However, when a lawyer representing some of the Jahalin returned from a trip abroad and heard of the agreement, she convinced several of the Jahalin families who had not yet moved to stay where they were.”

Bizarrely, Wyre Davies then interviews MK Ariyeh Eldad – presumably supposedly in the name of ‘balance’. Eldad, however, does not represent the Israeli government against which Davies’ other interviewees make charges (he also represents a mere fraction of Israeli opinion with his party – Ichud Leumi – holding a mere 4 seats in the Knesset) and therefore the interview with him can hardly be considered a ‘right of reply’.

During the interview with Eldad, however, Davies manages to squeeze in the following:

“This land…the international community regards as occupied Palestinian land and therefore it’s not Israel’s to claim as state land or otherwise”

Once again, a BBC reporter fails to reflect the fact that there are conflicting and diverse legal opinions about the status of the land in question, as well as neglecting to mention that it falls in Area C which, under the Oslo Accords, is still subject to negotiation.

Next, Davies travels to what he terms “inside Israel proper” and visits the Bedouin encampment at Umm al Hiran in the Negev, which he describes as being situated on “ancestral lands”. He claims that the Bedouin there are scheduled for eviction:

“..because Israel wants to build a new community here, but for religious Jews only.”

That final statement, by the way, is not true. The proposed community includes both religious and secular people, but to pretend otherwise undoubtedly embellishes the story with new dimensions.  

Again, CiF Watch has published much on the subject of land disputes with the Negev Bedouin because that too is a frequent subject for Guardian journalists. Background reading is available here, here and here. Details of Israeli government offers and incentives to the Negev Bedouin squatters can be read here

One organization involved in the politicization and promotion of Negev land disputes as a means of delegitimizing Israel is ‘Adalah‘. Adalah calls for the replacement of the Jewish state with a ‘democratic, bilingual and multicultural’ country in which Jewish immigration would be limited to strictly humanitarian cases but Palestinian refugees and their descendants would be entitled to the ‘right of return’. Ironically, Adalah is also involved in a campaign to remove Jewish residents from areas of the Negev. 

Wyre Davis’ interviewee in Umm al Hiran is Suhad Bishara, whom he describes as “a lawyer who represents the Bedouin in their fight to remain here”.

Ms Bishara is actually the head of the Land and Planning Unit at Adalah. She is allowed by Davies to state – again, unchallenged and unproven – that:

“It’s like the Wild West. Human rights are suspended. The rule of law is suspended. This is black and white. You are not entitled to be here because you are an Arab”. 

So, what do we have here? Well, obviously Wyre Davies is telling a very partisan version of a story without even trying to appear impartial or accurate. The rhetoric he and his interviewees use is clearly designed to leave the audience with shocking impressions of Israeli discrimination and racism towards the Bedouin. Davies does not make a proper attempt to recount the other side of the story apart from the inclusion of a very brief statement by COGAT in the internet version only.

But what is really shocking about this collection of articles and broadcasts by Wyre Davies is his willingness to play wingman for political NGOs dedicated to the abolition of the State of Israel. By failing to declare the affiliations of his interviewees, Davies allows the BBC to be used as a medium for the promotion of their message.

Did ICAHD and/or Adalah organize Davies’ visits to Khan al Ahmar and Umm al Hiran? He certainly would not be the first journalist to take advantage of such trips in exchange for a sympathetic write-up, if he did.

The BBC needs to provide transparency on the background circumstances to these articles immediately.