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 

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

When Britain’s media regulatory authority OFCOM suspended and later revoked the licence of a local radio station in the UK last month, the BBC News website provided audiences with an accurate and comprehensive explanation of the reasoning behind that decision in two articles titled “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM suspended over ‘terror talks’” and “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM loses licence“.

“A community radio station has had its licence revoked for broadcasting more than 25 hours of lectures by an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Sheffield-based Iman FM’s licence had already been suspended by Ofcom for playing the lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. […]

“We have strict rules prohibiting harmful content in programmes likely to incite crime,” the Ofcom spokesperson added. […]

It followed “extremely serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code, after it aired material likely to incite or encourage the commission of crime or to lead to disorder”, said Ofcom. […]

In 2011 the United Nations Security Council described Awlaki as a “leader, recruiter and trainer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

His sermons are thought to have inspired terrorist attacks including the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 in which 12 people died and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 US soldiers were killed.”

That standard of clear and informative reporting was not however in evidence on August 6th when the BBC News website published a report now titled “Al Jazeera: Israel seeks to shut offices and take network off air“. [emphasis added]

Version 1

“Israel is seeking to close Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s offices in the country and revoke its journalists’ media credentials.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara alleged that the channel supported terrorism, and said both its Arabic and English-language channels would be taken off air.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the broadcaster of “incitement”. […]

Mr Netanyahu had accused the pan-Arab TV channel of fuelling a recent crisis around a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The Israeli prime minister vowed in late July to “expel Al Jazeera” for its reporting of the issue, which he said had incited violence. […]

Israel has however frequently accused it [Al Jazeera] of being biased in reporting the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

The BBC’s report refrained from providing its audiences with any examples of the kind of Al Jazeera material that has prompted such ‘allegations’ and ‘accusations’ past and present.

Readers were not informed, for example, that two days after the terror attack that sparked the recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere, Al Jazeera aired an interview with the deputy head of the banned northern Islamic Movement in which – as documented by MEMRI – he was given an unchallenged platform to promote pernicious incitement.

“Kamal Khatib: 22 years ago, we said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger. At the time, we said that throughout the excavations, the occupation used chemical substances that have a long-term effect. These substances could eat away at the rocks and pillars, but its effect would not show immediately, and afterwards they would be able to claim that the cracks in Al-Aqsa [walls]… It has happened. There are fissures and sinkholes in some places. [Their plan was that] they would be able to claim that it was the working of nature. It seems… Actually, I shouldn’t say “seems”…

Interviewer: Sorry to interrupt you, Sheikh, but did [Israel] do it now, when the mosque was closed? Did it execute this secret scheme?

Kamal Khatib: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I fear – I am almost convinced – that the goal of Israel in closing the mosque was not just to search for weapons, as the [Israelis] claimed. They know that there are no weapons inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Neither were readers told, for example, that in 2008 Al Jazeera threw a birthday party for the convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar (for which it later apologised) or that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al Qaradawi has a regular Al Jazeera slot from which he has been inciting against Jews – and others – for years.

While failing to provide readers with any such examples, the BBC’s article does however report various Al Jazeera statements on the story, even amplifying the unquestioned claim that the network is “independent” despite the fact that it does not report on the autocratic regime that is the source of its funding.

“Al Jazeera has condemned the decision. […]

An Al Jazeera official in the Qatari capital Doha told AFP that the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East, and considers what it has done is dangerous”. […]

The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was “professional and objective”.

The network’s editor in Jerusalem has accused Mr Netanyahu of collusion with his autocratic Arab neighbours in an attack on free and independent media.”

Obviously in order to understand this story properly, BBC audiences needed to be provided with information concerning the kind of material broadcast by Al Jazeera that has sparked the objections – just as they were in the case of the Sheffield radio station. The BBC News website failed to provide that essential background information but did other BBC platforms do any better? That question will be answered in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

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

 

 

BBC and Guardian reports on Alan Duncan omit his “powerful lobby” comments

Yesterday’s Al Jazeera investigation focused on a covertly filmed private dinner conversation in London involving a diplomat at the Israeli embassy who was looking for information to “take down” deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan.

Though the Israeli ambassador quickly apologised for the comments by the low-level official, Shai Masot, and there was no suggestion of a coordinated Israeli effort to bring down Mr. Duncan, British news outlets immediately pounced, devoting significant coverage to the incident – more coverage, overall, than on the deadly terror attack later that same day.

Some of the coverage has addressed the question of why Masot seemed particularly keen on getting information on Duncan, and correctly pointed out his extreme criticism of Israel.  Both the Guardian and BBC specifically noted Duncan’s critique of settlements in speeches and interviews made in 2014.

An article was published in the BBC website on Jan. 8th titled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” which included the following background.

Sir Alan, who has described expanding Israeli settlements as a “stain on the face of the globe”, was seen as more of a problem than Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was “basically good”, according to Mr Masot in a transcript of the conversation.

“He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.”

Sir Alan launched a scathing attack on Israel in 2014, when MPs backed Palestinian statehood, deeming Israeli settlements as an “act of theft”.

“Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity – this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame on Israel,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

Curiously, the BBC omitted the most controversial comments from Duncan’s 2014 BBC Radio 4 interview.  Duncan said during the interview – in the context of the previous day’s vote by MPs to recognise Palestinian statehood – that American politics is “”dominated” by a “very powerful financial lobby”.”  (Unsurprisingly, these comments were not challenged by the BBC host.)

Similarly, a Jan. 8th Guardian report by Patrick Wintour, “Why might an Israeli diplomat believe Alan Duncan needs taking down?” focused on Duncan’s record of comments on Israel and the settlements. Here’s the relevant part:

Above all, he simply refuses to accept Israel’s policy in the Middle East is defensible. In a landmark speech in 2014 at the Royal United Services Institute he pushed the anti-settlement policy further than any Tory politician, likening the Israeli attitude towards Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.

He said: “Those that supported settlement policy should be put on a par with racism sexism and xenophobia and antisemitism. Indeed just as we rightly judge someone as unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise settlements are illegal.

“No settlement endorsers should be regarded as fit to stand for public office, remain a member of a mainstream political party or sit in a parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country or any other country when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists and should be treated as such.”

Leaving aside Duncan’s extraordinary demand that anyone who expresses a pro-settlements view is unfit to stand for election, note that, as with the BBC, the Guardian omitted Duncan’s comments about the powerful lobby’s putative control over the US.

Tellingly, Duncan’s dog whistle was clearly heard by one particularly prominent antisemitic extremist, who cited his comments as a rare example of a British politician ‘revealing’ the injurious nature of Jewish power.

Earlier today, we tweeted the BBC thusly:

Find information on complaining to the BCC here.

Information on complaining to the Guardian is here.

You can Tweet the Guardian journalist here.

 

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

On September 2nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Arafat poisoning inquiry dropped by French prosecutors” and a similar report appeared on the BBC Arabic website.

Although this report is about the closure of an inquiry opened three years ago in August 2012 after Suha Arafat filed a civil suit at a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre claiming that her husband had been murdered, the caption to the main photograph illustrating the English language article continues to infer foul play.Arafat art 3 9 15  

“Swiss tests found abnormal levels of polonium on Yasser Arafat’s body”

That theme is also promoted in the body of the report:

“Arafat died in Paris in 2004, aged 75. His wife says he was poisoned, possibly by highly radioactive polonium.

The claims were seemingly backed up by tests carried out in Switzerland.”

Later on readers are informed that:

“Three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators were allowed to take samples from Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah.

But, earlier this year, one French prosecutor said the polonium samples were of an environmental nature.”

Readers are not told that the Russian investigation also ruled out poisoning.

As we know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that its content must achieve both “due accuracy” and “impartiality over time“. The BBC’s coverage of this story over the past three years presents an opportunity to examine its adherence to those editorial standards.

The story began in July 2012 when an Al Jazeera ‘documentary’ claimed that Swiss experts had found “significant” traces of Polonium 210 on some of Arafat’s personal effects provided by his widow.

In August 2012 Suha Arafat filed her suit in Paris and BBC coverage at the time informed audiences that:

“…many Palestinians continue to believe that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied any involvement.”

In November 2012 Arafat’s remains were exhumed. The BBC’s Jon Donnison had already prepared the scene with two reports on Arafat’s ‘legacy’ – here and here – and a filmed item in which he promoted the notion that Arafat was “killed at the hands of Israel”. Additional filmed and written coverage by Richard Galpin also promoted the PA’s conspiracy theory of Israeli involvement in Arafat’s death. The exhumation itself prompted no fewer than five reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, three of which again promoted conspiracy theories about Israel.

A year later, in November 2013, the appearance of a Swiss report with findings described as “moderately” supporting the poisoning theory prompted the BBC news website to produce no fewer than thirteen different reports, nine of which amplified conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death.website 6 to 8 11

In December 2013 a leaked French report stating that Arafat was not poisoned was covered in two reports on the BBC News website, both of which included repetition of Palestinian conspiracy theories which accuse Israel of being responsible for Arafat’s death.

Later on in December 2013, the Russian team also announced that its findings ruled out foul play and that news was covered in one report on the BBC News website, which again promoted Palestinian conspiracy theories concerning Israel. By this time the website had promoted four times more reports promoting the Swiss report which “moderately supported” the poisoning theory than it had devoted to the French and Russian findings which determined that Arafat died of natural causes.

In January 2015 the BBC’s flagship interview programme ‘Hardtalk’ produced a special programme to “mark the anniversary” of Arafat’s death in which Suha Arafat was provided with a platform to further promote the notion that Arafat was murdered.

In March 2015 French experts officially announced that they had ruled out foul play and that “the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature”. There was no coverage of that announcement on the BBC News website.

In July 2015 the French prosecutor “said there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. The BBC News website’s one report on that announcement promoted the ‘Israel killed Arafat’ conspiracy theory no fewer than three times.

In August 2015 the BBC found it appropriate to rebroadcast its January 2015 ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Suha Arafat despite the fact that it was obvious that the case was heading towards closure.

In this latest article concerning the French authorities’ decision to close the case from September 2015, the Swiss results are once again promoted as noted above.

So has the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” covered this story with “due accuracy” and “impartiality over time”? Well, for a start, the fact that the BBC’s backgrounder on the topic has not been updated since December 2013 does not enhance the impression of commitment to accuracy.

The repeated – if not obsessive – amplification of a baseless conspiracy theory even after two teams of experts had ruled that Arafat died of natural causes certainly cannot be said to contribute to the impression of accuracy in BBC reporting and licence fee payers may well be asking themselves how the BBC can possibly justify the use of resources, air time and column space to repeatedly propagate fact-free myth-cum-folklore and why it has spent three years lending an air of plausibility to this particular conspiracy theory.

As for impartiality, the volume of coverage of the Swiss results which “moderately” supported the poisoning theory has clearly been much greater than the BBC’s reporting on the results produced by the other two teams and their continued amplification even in this latest report suggests that “impartiality over time” was not a priority in coverage of this story.

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

On April 24th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article by Lina Sinjab extolling the virtues of Qatari foreign policy. Headlined “Qatar casts size aside with assertive foreign policy“, the report tells readers:Qatar 2

“But Qatar is not satisfied with being just a wealthy country – it wants to be seen as a serious regional power as well.

It is a role it is already carving out for itself, for example having mediated in peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, and having opened offices in Doha for the Afghan Taliban.

And, in sharp contrast to its neighbours, Qatar openly supports both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement. It has hosted Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal since he was kicked out of Damascus for supporting the anti-government protests.

It is a foreign policy principle of Qatar that in the search for peace and stability no-one should be excluded and everyone should be engaged with.” [emphasis added]

Sinjab’s first two supporting arguments for that debatable claim are provided by none other than the leader of Qatar’s protégé terrorist organization Khaled Masha’al and the editor of a newspaper with a vice-chairman and managing director from the Qatari ruling family which, unsurprisingly, takes a pro-government stance.

“It is an example of what Jaber al-Harmi, editor-in-chief of Al Sharq, one of Qatar’s leading papers, sees as an attempt by the emirate to forge a new approach to dealing with the region’s problems.

“Qatar tried to suggest a new attitude in the Arabic sphere and wanted to say that there is another view to what’s prevailing,” he said.

This became apparent at the start of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Qatar’s government publicly supported protests in the region and its leading pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera gave voice to those opinions.

“Qatar believed that it had to side with the Arab streets, the people and their aspirations for reforms and freedoms. What distinguished Qatar is its transparency in its policies,” said Mr Harmi.”

At this point any journalist truly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality would surely have told audiences about the Qatari regime’s lack of transparency and its disregard for “reforms and freedoms” in its own back yard.

“Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, both print and broadcast media content are influenced by leading families. The top five daily newspapers are privately owned, but their owners and boards include members of the ruling family. In 1996, Hamad permitted the creation of Al-Jazeera, which has achieved global reach. Although it is privately held, the government has reportedly paid for the channel’s operating costs since its inception. As a result, Al-Jazeera generally does not cover Qatari politics. All journalists in Qatar practice a high degree of self-censorship and face possible jail sentences for slander. In October 2013, a 15-year prison sentence was upheld for poet Mohamed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who was convicted in 2012 for insulting the emir through his poetry. Local news outlets were reportedly ordered by a Qatari court to refrain from covering the 2013 trial of two members of the royal family convicted for 19 deaths in a 2012 shopping mall fire.

In 2012, the Advisory Council approved a draft media law that would prevent journalists from being detained by authorities without a court order, and would allow them to protect their sources unless required to reveal them by a court. However, it also would impose fines of up to $275,000 for publishing or broadcasting material that criticizes the Qatari regime or its allies, insults the ruling family, or damages national interests.”

Sinjab’s next interviewee is Al Jazeera’s Director General and her report includes the following – apparently written with a straight face.

“Mr Abou Hilaleh says, contrary to a popular view, Al Jazeera’s coverage is not dictated by Qatar’s foreign policy.

“When I worked for Al Jazeera as a correspondent and now as a director, in both cases, we have nothing to do with Qatar’s foreign policy. But in certain countries, our offices are treated as embassies for Qatar.”

Let’s take a look at what Mohamed Fahmy – one of the Al Jazeera journalists detained and tried in Egypt – recently wrote in the New York Times.

“When Al Jazeera was started in 1996, Qatar was widely praised for its enlightened thinking. […]

Like many young Arabs, I was impressed. Al Jazeera seemed a model of courageous broadcasting in a region not known for upholding freedom of speech. That was still my view when I became Cairo bureau chief in September 2013.

I have since realized how deeply I, like the viewing public, was duped. I came to see how Qatar used Al Jazeera as a pernicious, if effective, tool of its foreign policy. […]

The Doha management also neglected to tell me that it was providing Brotherhood activists in Egypt with video cameras and paying them for footage, which it then broadcast, without explaining its political provenance, on the banned Arabic channel. During my detention, I met a number of prisoners who told me how this worked, and I have seen court documents confirming it.

Al Jazeera’s managers crossed an ethical red line. By attempting to manipulate Egypt’s domestic politics, they were endangering their employees.”

Those familiar with Al Jazeera’s record will of course not be surprised by Mr Fahmy’s words.

Lina Sinjab’s final ‘character witness’ is, like Khaled Masha’al, apparently also dependent on Qatari generosity.

“Husam al-Hafez, a former Syrian diplomat who defected to Doha, sees Qatar’s policy as pragmatic.”

In other words the BBC’s glowing – but cringingly superficial – portrayal of Qatari foreign policy is based entirely on the testimonies of two journalists from media outlets with links to the Qatari ruling regime and two people dependent upon that regime’s hospitality. No effort is made whatsoever to provide audiences with views which do not adhere to the party line or analysis from contributors not in some way dependent on the Qatari regime.

“One of the things about Qatar’s foreign policy is the extent to which it has been a complete and total failure, almost an uninterrupted series of disasters,” says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “Except it’s all by proxy, so nothing bad ever happens to Qatar.”

So much for the BBC’s self-awarded title of “the standard-setter for international journalism“.

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

BBC News website parrots Guardian’s leaked cable spin

One really would think that by now the BBC should have learned to take the serial Israel-related journalistic ‘scoops’ produced by the Al Jazeera-Guardian duo with the appropriate bucket-load of salt. After all, the same partnership was responsible for the publication of the so-called ‘Palestine Papers’ in 2011 and the Al Jazeera employee behind those leaks also engineered the ridiculous ‘Arafat was poisoned’ story in 2013.

But no: the BBC has once again swallowed the latest Clayton Swisher creation promoted via Al Jazeera and the Guardian hook, line and sinker, producing its own version of the non-story in the form of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 23rd under the title “Israel PM ‘differed’ with Mossad on Iran, says report“.leaked cable story  

On the website’s Middle East page the article is promoted with the by-line:

“Israeli intelligence took a different view of Iran’s nuclear capabilities from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leaked cable suggests.”

The article itself opens:

“Israeli intelligence did not share PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s view that Iran was a year away from making a nuclear bomb, a leaked cable suggests.

In 2012, Mr Netanyahu said Iran needed to be stopped, telling the UN the country could build a weapon next year.

But a Mossad report said Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”, according to al-Jazeera and The Guardian.”

Readers can study the leaked cable for themselves here. The spin put on it by the Guardian and Al Jazeera (and faithfully parroted by the BBC) is aimed at persuading the public that the Israeli prime minister deliberately misled the world with regard to Iran’s nuclear intentions in his 2012 speech at the UN and that statements in that cable from none other than the Israeli security services (a nice poetic touch) prove the point. Obviously, the timing of this leak needs to be viewed within the context of both the current stage of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and PM Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the US Congress next week – as this paragraph in the Guardian’s report indicates:

“The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned address to the US Congress on 3 March.”

We would not of course expect anything else from the Seumus Milne-Clayton Swisher stable of politically motivated ‘journalism’, but is there actually anything in the leaked cable which backs their claim? As several observers have already noted, the answer to that question is no.

“A cable from October 2012, apparently from the Mossad, assesses the state of Iran’s nuclear program. Al Jazeera notes that the document says that “Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” but “is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” They contrast this with “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its ‘plans to build a nuclear weapon’” and (in their video report) with his line that “by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage.”

The Mossad report doesn’t actually contradict this.

Making nuclear weapons is complicated. A working warhead is the result of several distinct lines of technical development. You need enough enriched uranium to sustain a rapid chain reaction (the core of the bomb), and you need a way to induce that chain reaction (the mechanism of the bomb). (You’ll also probably want a way to deliver the bomb, a third line of technology.) Netanyahu’s argument rested on this distinction: he said that the world must draw a red line on Iran’s activities that could be useful for making a core because those activities are much harder to hide than those for making the mechanism:

For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear [detonation mechanism]….it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in very big industrial plants. Those Iranian plants are visible and they’re still vulnerable. In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator…in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months. The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop…So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

Bibi was, in other words, not asserting that an Iranian nuclear device was coming soon—he was saying that Iran was approaching the end of the phase in which its nuclear program would be easiest to interrupt. The Mossad’s statement that Iran “is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” doesn’t contradict that, particularly when read with their line that Iran’s activities at the time would “reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” Iran was taking steps that made weaponization easier, even if it wasn’t weaponizing. A closer reading of the speech, and a better understanding of the underlying technical issues, would have revealed the harmony between the two positions.”

Either the BBC did not bother to check out the substance of the Guardian/Al Jazeera story before deciding to replicate it on its own platforms or it has no qualms about playing the role of amplifier for politically motivated ‘scoops’ originating from a media outlet owned and controlled by a terrorism-supporting Middle East dynasty. Perhaps Steve Herrmann would like to tell us which it is. 

BBC Arafat binge continues to promote conspiracy theories

The BBC’s recent Arafat overdose – which began on November 6th when no fewer than six reports were placed on its website within hours – continued the next day with the appearance of additional items. 

Those included a written article titled “Arafat polonium findings confirmed by Swiss scientists“, a filmed report by Yolande Knell titled “Palestinians react to Arafat report“, a filmed item by John Simpson who apparently now remembers that “Yasser Arafat death ‘was always suspicious’” and another filmed report by Nick Childs titled “Swiss scientists confirm polonium in Yasser Arafat remains“. All three of the filmed items appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website. 

Also on November 7th, at the same URL as a previous item originally titled “Arafat widow’s ‘shock and anger'” (and hence replacing it), a filmed piece entitled “Widow: Yasser Arafat ‘had many enemies’” appeared.

Like most of the articles of the previous day, the written report amplifies evidence-free speculations of Israeli involvement in Arafat’s death.

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat. There have also been allegations that he had Aids or cancer. Israel has consistently denied any involvement.”

Once again too, the article downplays the scale of the role of Al Jazeera in the manufacturing of this story.

“France began a murder inquiry in August 2012 after the preliminary findings of polonium by the Lausanne scientists, who have been working with an al-Jazeera documentary crew.”

The synopsis to Knell’s filmed report states:

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat but Jerusalem has consistently denied any involvement.”

Knell provides a platform for the promotion of ‘man in the Ramallah street’ conspiracy theories regarding speculations of Israeli involvement and then embellishes them with her own narrative.

Simpson’s report presents an over-simplified view of the Swiss laboratory’s findings and also amplifies the Israel-related Palestinian conspiracy theories on the subject. 

In Nick Childs’ report he erroneously describes Arafat as “a guerilla leader”. As we noted here a year ago when Jon Donnison also whitewashed Arafat’s terrorism by describing him as a “guerilla fighter”:

“A guerrilla fighter, by definition, “acts as a member of an irregular usually politically motivated armed force that combats stronger regular forces, such as the army or police”.

In other words, guerrilla fighters act against official security forces – not against civilians. […]

Yehuda Ohayon (aged 10), Yafa Batito (8), Mimon Biton (7), Haviva Biton (7), Chana Biton (8), Shimon Biton (9), Shulamit Biton (9) and Aliza Petretz (14) were not soldiers or policemen. They were pupils on their way to school on May 22nd 1970 when two bazooka shells were fired at their school bus by the PLO – under Yasser Arafat’s command.

Neither were the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by the PLO’s ‘Black September’ group at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 a military target.

The 25 Israelis killed in the Ma’alot massacre – 22 of them children – in 1974 were not soldiers or policemen either. The 38 Israelis – including 13 children – murdered in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre carried out by the PLO under Arafat were also not a military target.”

On November 8th the BBC News website added two more reports to its collection of Arafat-related items:  a written article titled “Palestinian officials: Israel only suspect in Arafat death” and a filmed report titled “Yasser Arafat forensic studies ‘will continue’“, both of which relate to the press conference given on that day by Tawfik Tirawi and amplify the PA’s unfounded accusations against Israel.

To sum up, in a period of less than 48 hours the BBC News website promoted thirteen different reports (shown below) on the subject of the publication of the Swiss findings and related subject matter, with nine of those items amplifying conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death. None of the items attempted to propose any other explanation for the as yet unproven poisoning theory. 

website 6 to 8 11

Related articles:

BBC goes into Arafat overdose mode – again

 The BBC’s Arafat overdose

BBC: Al Jazeera in US market to promote football tournament

The recent acquisition of ‘Current TV’ by Al Jazeera has been making headlines. Al Jazeera’s English-language arm has been trying to break into the American cable TV market for considerable time but until now, the station’s reputation has largely scuppered those efforts. 

Of course Al Jazeera is no ordinary television company: it is the mouthpiece of a Qatari hereditary dictatorship with a less than illustrious human rights record and a penchant for funding and enabling Hamas terrorists.  

It is well known that Al Jazeera’s English language operation (launched in 2006) tones down its coverage in comparison to its less subtle Arabic department, which has fawned over the terrorist child-murderer Samir Kuntar and features as its most popular programme the weekly rantings of Qatari-based Yusuf Qaradawi – spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and a virulent homophobe and antisemite. Nevertheless, Al Jazeera English remains firmly on target as the vector of the Qatari regime’s agenda, as some of its former employees have disclosed.  

According to a recent BBC programme, however, there is a specific reason for Al Jazeera’s aspirations in the US market.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme of January 5th 2013 brought in media analyst Claire Enders to explain the half billion dollar takeover to listeners. The relevant section – which was also promoted on the Middle East page of the BBC News website – can be heard here.

At 1:03 the presenter asks:

“And is it a commercial decision, though? Because I mean it’s a very crowded market, the US, and Al Jazeera’s brand there is not altogether loved and appreciated by everybody. Is it a commercial decision by Qatar or do they just want to buy some presents?”

His guest replies:

“They want to buy some presents but you have to understand that Al Jazeera doesn’t actually generate revenue now anyway. I mean for some time it is really a cost to the Qatari government and it doesn’t generate…it’s not really a commercial decision. It’s really a very long-term decision from a very oil rich state to set the scene for the World Cup in 2022 which is going to take place in Qatar.” [emphasis added]

Ah! So it’s all about sinking half a billion dollars into promoting a four-week football tournament almost a decade away. That’s alright then.

Later, at 2:47, the presenter says:

“There is sort of pent-up resistance and resentment really against Al Jazeera because many people – rightly or wrongly – see it as somehow, you know, being anti-American.”

Ms. Enders, however, is having none of it:

“Well, I don’t think that’s seen in that way actually. Al Jazeera has got – as one of its vocations – to present a different perspective, perhaps than ones that the Americans are used to, on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and so I really wouldn’t say that there is an anti Al Jazeera feeling in the US, but simply that, you know, it’s a very crowded market…” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s broadcast of this airbrushing of Al Jazeera and its financer’s agenda by Claire Enders seems quite amazing – until one remembers that the BBC has its own dealings with the Qatari regime.  Since 2005 the BBC has broadcast the Doha Debates (described as a partner by the BBC) and the licence to do so is purchased from the Qatar Foundation – which is also run by the Qatari dictatorship and has warm ties with Yusuf Qaradawi

The Doha Debates are – in the BBC’s own words – “a public forum for dialogue and freedom of speech in Qatar”. The fact that “freedom of speechdoes not extend to criticizing the Qatari regime either in the Doha Debates or on Al Jazeera appears to be of little concern to the BBC, which continues to provide a veneer of ‘progressive’ respectability to Qatar’s unelected head of state and his media mouthpiece.