Uncritical amplification of NGO allegations on BBC One

For some years now we have been documenting the BBC’s ‘quote and promote’ editorial policy regarding NGOs. The overwhelming majority of the NGOs given a platform in the BBC’s coverage of Israel come from one side of the political spectrum and some of them are even involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

However, the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be clarified and audiences hence remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving is not only consistently unbalanced but often politically motivated.

Another example of unquestioning BBC amplification of politicised messaging put out by campaigning NGOs was seen in the November 5th edition of BBC One’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ during an interview (available here) with the Israeli prime minister.

In his introduction to the interview, Marr inaccurately presented the Balfour Declaration as a personal document from its signatory rather than one stating the position of the British government of the time. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marr: “Now in 1917 the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter announcing his conversion to the idea that the Jewish people should have a national home in Israel. This Balfour Declaration is regarded as one of the founding documents of the modern State of Israel and to celebrate its centenary, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come to London where he’s been in talks with Theresa May. To some he is the arch-defender of the Jewish people. To others he’s a bellicose hardliner dedicated to expanding the very settlements seen by the Palestinian Arabs as their obstacle to peace and he joins me now. Welcome Prime Minister.”

Netanyahu: “The good part was shorter than the bad part.”

Marr: “Well let me turn to the bad part: the second bit of Balfour Declaration which does say that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Can you really say that that has been held to by your government?”

After Netanyahu explained that Israel’s Arab citizens do have civic and religious rights, Marr went on to present context-free allegation as fact:

Marr: “In Israel and in the occupied territories there are pretty gross human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch – let me read you this – ‘whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during the 50 year occupation’. And again, Amnesty International say much the same thing – ‘Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians including children in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and detained thousands of Palestinians who opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and committed with impunity’. That is not in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.”

Leaving aside Marr’s attempt to promote the ridiculously contrived notion that part of the text of a statement produced by the British government a century ago is the litmus test for the policies and actions of modern-day Israel, as we see while presenting unquestioned allegations from two NGOs as ‘fact’, he completely failed to inform viewers of the political agenda that lies behind such tendentious claims from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Later on in the interview viewers saw additional examples of the failure to adhere to BBC’s professed editorial values of accuracy and impartiality when – referring to the district of Judea – Marr told his guest that “this is Palestinian territory”. When Netanyahu spoke of the extra-judicial execution of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Marr interrupted with the jibe “you’ve shot a lot of people there too”.

The BBC’s long-standing policy of uncritical amplification of politically motivated allegations against Israel from agenda-driven NGOs such as HRW and AI clearly does not serve its declared purpose of providing “impartial news and information” aimed at enhancing audience understanding of the complex topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

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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

 

 

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BBC News squeezes ‘settlements’ into internal PA affairs story

As regular readers know, the BBC does not as a rule cover internal Palestinian affairs and so – as was noted here in July – the absence of any reporting on a new Palestinian Authority “Cyber Crime” law came as no surprise. 

“The controversial Cyber Crime Law, signed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on July 11, permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet.

Critics say the law paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

The new law comes on the heels of the PA’s recent decision to block more than 20 Palestinian websites accused of publishing comments and articles critical of the PA leadership.

The law was approved by Abbas himself, without review by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC has been paralyzed for the past decade, as a result of the power struggle between Abbas’s PA and Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.”

Likewise, the BBC did not produce any English language coverage of the recent spate of detentions and arrests of Palestinian journalists and social media users by both the PA and Hamas.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 6th may therefore have been rather surprised to find a highly unusual article with the oddly punctuated headline “Palestinian Authority ‘detains rights activist over criticism’“.

“The Palestinian Authority is reported to have extended the detention of a prominent human rights activist who called on it to respect free speech.

Issa Amro, 35, was detained on Monday by Palestinian Preventive Security in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian officials have not commented, but a local non-governmental organisation says prosecutors have accused him of “causing strife”.”

However, rather than informing readers of the context to this story in its own words, the BBC assigned over half of this article’s word count to uncritical amplification of statements made by political NGOs, including a link to the Amnesty International website.

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the move.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East director.

Amnesty said Mr Amro, the co-ordinator for Youth Against Settlements group, had posted comments on his Facebook page criticising the arrest by Palestinian security forces on Sunday of a local radio journalist who had called for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months,” said Ms Mughrabi.

“Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely.””

Readers are not told that the man portrayed as “a prominent human rights defender” is actually an anti-Israel political activist with links to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). No information is provided concerning the agenda and activities of the non-transparently funded ‘Youth Against Settlements’ group which has in the past – along with Amro himself – been promoted in BBC reports (see ‘related articles’ below).

The absence of that background information is particularly relevant given that in the later paragraphs of this report the BBC chose to deviate from its supposed subject matter.

“Mr Amro is also currently being tried by an Israeli military court on several charges that include calling for illegal protests and obstructing the official duties of soldiers.

He has rejected the charges, which Amnesty has described as “baseless”.”

The charges against Amro also include several counts of assault, incitement and damage to property. As in any country, it is of course the role of the court – rather than a political NGO that the BBC elects to amplify – to decide whether or not those charges are “baseless”.

The final paragraph of the report is similarly gratuitous and unrelated to the story supposedly being told in this report.

“In Hebron, where Mr Amro is based, several hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily-guarded enclaves surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinians. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The Israelis living in Hebron of course do so according to the terms of the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron which was signed by the representatives of the Palestinians within the framework of the Oslo Accords but the BBC chose to omit that all-important context from its portrayal.

With 25.7% of the word-count of this report promoting Israel-related subjects unrelated to the story it purports to tell and 52.5% devoted to repetition of statements from a political NGO, the BBC can hardly be said to have deviated from its usual policy by taking the opportunity to provide its audiences with meaningful and comprehensive reporting on what the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau chief described as a human rights issue.

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BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

 

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

As noted in a recent post, the April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included a monologue from a person described as “the mother of a Palestinian inmate”. The monologue was also promoted to the BBC World Service Twitter account’s 303,000 followers and those who listened to the clip heard the following in a voice-over:

“I haven’t seen or visited my son for around maybe ten months. Israeli security won’t let me see him. When I used to visit Diya I felt as if I owned the world. Every visit request I put in only comes back with rejection, rejection, rejection. I’m 67 years old. What risk am I to Israel’s security? I am of no danger. All I want is to see my son, to check on him and he can check on me. This is all I want but they deprive even a mother from seeing her son and a son from seeing his mother.”

While BBC audiences are no strangers to the promotion of pathos-rich stories from the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists, the fact that listeners were not told who the speaker is or why her son is in prison and did not hear any response to her allegations from the Israeli authorities obviously does not inspire confidence in the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting of this story.

So who is this “mother of a Palestinian inmate”? A clue to that question comes in a video that appears on the BBC Arabic website and is also embedded in an Arabic language article titled “More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails begin hunger strike” that, like its English language equivalent, promotes the notion that Palestinian “detainees” might be seen as “political prisoners”.

The woman extensively profiled in that BBC Arabic video is called Najat al Agha and she lives in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Mrs al Agha is by no means publicity shy: she recently told a very similar story to the one promoted by ‘Newsday’ to ‘Amnesty International’ which, predictably, is supplying publicity for the current Fatah hunger strike.

“Najat al-Agha, a 67-year-old woman from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, told Amnesty International that her son, Dia al-Agha, 43, has been imprisoned in Israel for the past 25 years. At the age of 19 he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on murder charges.  He is being held in Nafha prison in Mitzpe Ramon in the south.

“I don’t know why I get rejected. I am 67 years old. What security threat am I to Israel? All I want is to see him and make sure he is well. I don’t know how long I will live, any visit can be my last. I am scared of dying without seeing him,” his mother said.

“Every time I apply for a permit I get rejected. It is almost a year that I haven’t seen my son, it is devastating. They are punishing us, they are trying to break us.””

Moreover, Najat al Agha – who actually has had two sons serve time in prison in Israel – appears to come forward to tell her story quite frequently and – perhaps not unrelatedly – has been the recipient of ‘honorary gifts’ from the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

The son she names in the ‘Newsday’ clip is Diya Zakariya Shaker Al-Agha “Al-Faluji”. He was convicted of the murder of Amatzia Ben Haim from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in a greenhouse in Ganei Tal in October 1992.

“…Amatzia worked as an engineer in the fledgling electronics factory of the kibbutz. The final product was a computer controlled irrigation and liquid fertilization system sold to farmers who owned greenhouses, small plots of land, who grew tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and flowers.

Amatzia would go to these farms, install the systems, and often go back to maintain them or to troubleshoot them if needed.  Some of these farms were in the Gaza Strip, prior to the Israeli evacuation of all farms and settlements in Gaza.

It was on one of these trips that Amatzia was helping one such farmer in the Gaza strip, focused entirely on an irrigation line that may have been clogged, or a computer lead that may have malfunctioned. He did not pay attention to the young teen working nearby with a hoe, weeding the furrows. It was to be Amatzia’s last day on earth, as the teen brought the hoe down on Amatzia’s head, killing him instantly, widowing Amatzia’s wife, and orphaning his children.”

A media organisation truly committed to accurate and impartial journalism would of course have provided its audiences with information concerning the “Palestinian inmate” and the act of terror he committed. The BBC World Service, however, chose to give completely context-free amplification to his mother’s claim that Israel is ‘depriving’ her of seeing her son, without any mention of the fact that her son deprived three children – the youngest of whom was only five years old at the time – from ever seeing their father again.

That, of course, is not accurate and impartial journalism but self-conscription to a political campaign.

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BBC News recycles a confusing Amnesty euphemism

On April 11th the BBC News website published an article titled “Death penalty: Global executions fall 37% since 2015 – Amnesty” which is little more than a rehashed version of the press release put out by Amnesty International on the same day to launch its annual report on the subject of judicial executions.  

In that article, BBC audiences find the following paragraph:

“Meanwhile, Belarus and authorities within the Palestinian territories resumed executions in 2016 after a year’s hiatus, while Botswana and Nigeria carried out their first executions since 2013.” [emphasis added]

Who exactly are those “authorities within the Palestinian territories” and how did that odd and confusing phrase come to be included in the BBC’s report? The answer to the latter question is found in the AI press release which states:

“Belarus, Botswana, Nigeria and authorities within the State of Palestine resumed executions in 2016…” [emphasis added]

One has to search out the full AI report (which is not linked in the BBC’s article) in order to learn that those “authorities” are not – as readers may understandably have concluded – the Palestinian Authority but in fact the terror group that violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and that the executions it carries out are in breach of PA law.

“Three executions were carried out in Palestine (State of). Mohammed Fathi Mohammed Othman, Yousef Mohammed Abu Shamleh and Ahmad Helmi Abdel Qader Sharab were executed on 31 May 2016 by the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip; the executions were carried out without the ratification of the death sentences by the Palestinian President, contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and the 2001 Penal Procedure Law. Amnesty International recorded 21 death sentences, all in the Gaza Strip. There were 12 death sentences issued by military courts and nine by civilian courts. At least 21 people were under sentence of death at the end of 2016.”

As we see, the BBC edited the information it took from the AI press release; according to its ‘style guide’ the corporation does not generally use the term ‘State of Palestine’ and so that terminology was replaced with “Palestinian territories”. BBC audiences would obviously have benefited had editing also included replacement of the euphemistic and unhelpful phrase “authorities within” with clear identification of the group responsible for those executions.  

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BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

 

BBC reporting on the use of ambulances by terrorists in Iraq and Gaza

On November 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Iraq suicide attacks: Ambulances used in Tikrit and Samarra“.ambulances-iraq-art

“Suicide bombers have used explosives-laden ambulances to kill at least 21 people and wound many others in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it had carried out both attacks. […]

The deadliest of Sunday’s blasts happened in Tikrit, some 200km (123 miles) south of Mosul.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped ambulance into a line of vehicles queuing at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city, once the hometown of executed former leader Saddam Hussein. […]

In Samarra, further south, another ambulance was detonated in a car park for the al-Askari mosque – one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Iranian pilgrims were among the dead.”

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ use of ambulances to transport armed terror operatives (a practice also seen in previous conflicts in Gaza and during the second Intifada) was documented on several occasions.

While the BBC refrained from informing its audiences of those cases (and others) of abuse of medical facilities, it did find it appropriate to repeatedly amplify falsehoods from a political NGO involved at the time in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and from a representative of one of the organisations operating ambulances in the Gaza Strip – the PRCS – see for example here, here and here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.

“Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.

“The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they are targeting are ambulances.”

Amnesty International said attacks on health facilities and professionals were prohibited by international law and amounted to war crimes.”

The abuse of medical facilities protected by international conventions during conflict is obviously an issue of interest to international journalists. However, as we see from the examples above, the BBC’s reporting of such abuses lacks consistency.

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A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

SONY DSC

One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

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BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

Just over a year ago we posed the following question on these pages: “Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?“. That question was prompted by the fact that at the time – nearly two years after Rouhani’s election – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran had just published a report which found that the number of executions in Iran has risen under Rouhani’s presidency.

On April 6th 2016 the BBC News website published an article titled “Amnesty highlights ‘disturbing rise’ in global executions” which has the following fifty-eight words to say about the country which, according to the quoted report, had the second highest rate of executions in the world in 2015.executions art

“Iran executed at least 977 people in 2015 – the vast majority for drug-related crimes – compared with 743 the year before, according to Amnesty.

Those put to death, the group found, included at least four people who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they had been convicted. This, it said, violated international law.”

Although no mention of it is made in this BBC report, additional organisations have raised questions regarding Iran’s dubious use of charges concerning drug-related crime and the lack of due process for those detained on such charges. According to the organisation ‘Iran Human Rights’:

“…Iranian authorities have carried out more executions in 2015 than any other year in the past 25 years.”

A recent report from the same NGO notes that:

“Since the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, at least 2162 people have been executed. A comparison between the 2.5 years after Hassan Rouhani’s election and the 2.5 years before his election show an increase of 43% in the number of executions.

Although it is the judiciary which issues and implements death sentences, neither President Rouhani nor members of his cabinet expressed any dissatisfaction about the large number of executions. On the contrary, on the few occasions when President Rouhani or Foreign minister Zarif made statements about the death penalty they have defended Iran’s high number of executions.”Iran elections

Nevertheless, as recently as late February the BBC was still telling its audiences that Rouhani is “Iran’s reformist President” and describing him as heading a “reformist camp”. A BBC profile of Rouhani last updated in February 2016 tells audiences that ‘Mr Rouhani says he wants to steer Iran towards “moderation”‘ and another profile dated August 2015 states that:

“Although he was seen as part of the establishment, Mr Rouhani’s promises to relieve sanctions, improve civil rights and restore “the dignity of the nation” drew large crowds on the campaign trail.” [emphasis added]

Towards the end of that profile, however, readers learn that:

“Mr Rouhani had pledged to help free reformist opposition leaders, held without trial since 2011, but hardliners have stood firm and they remain under house arrest.

He also promised to usher in an era of more freedoms in the country where human rights abuses are rife. However, few believe there has been much improvement here, and in some areas the situation may have worsened.

There are still many journalists, and opposition activists in jail, and the number of executions carried out in Iran has soared.”

Clearly then the BBC knows full well that in the nearly three years since his election, Rouhani has done very little to justify the “reformist” and “moderate” labels it regularly appends to him. The question which therefore must be asked is why does the BBC continue to employ such editorial framing given that it clearly hinders the corporation’s obligation to enhance its funding public’s “awareness and understanding of international issues”?. 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

A photography exhibition currently on display in London was the subject of an article appearing in the BBC News website’s ‘culture’ section on October 7th. The same exhibition was also the topic of an item (available from 15:42 here) broadcast in the October 18th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

Here is how presenter James Coomarasamy framed the report’s subject matter in his introduction: [emphasis added]

“Now, getting to the truth of the ultimate crime of murder – whether that of an individual or genocide – is a painstaking job. Photographs are integral to the evidence gathering process. They’re used in courtrooms around the world as an essential tool for justice. Now, ‘Burden of Proof’ is the name of a new exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery here in London and it charts the changing history of the form, from photographs of a crime scene in the 19th century to the graphic reconstruction of a recent bomb attack on Gaza.”

And indeed, tucked in between depictions of Victorian-era murder scenes, victims of Stalinist purges and the Holocaust and Joseph Mengele’s skull, is the following exchange (from 19:08) between Coomarasamy and the venue’s Head of Exhibitions Clare Grafik.

Commentary: [sound of explosions] “This is the bombing of the Tannur neighbourhood: the deadliest attack of the first of August 2014. [sound of screaming]

Coomarasamy: “This is the ‘Gaza Book of Destruction’; we’ve got video and this is a graphic reconstruction of what would have been there.”

Grafik: “What it shows is how ‘Forensic Architecture’ use digital technology to reconstruct a bombing. What they’ve done is they’ve taken footage of the bombing and they’ve frozen literally a few seconds in time around that bombing and have picked it apart with satellite imagery, with architectural software, to try to reconstruct what happened.”

JC: “And this is being done, I see, in collaboration with Amnesty International. What’s the goal of this reconstruction?”

CG: “To try and prove that certain strengths of bomb were used in this attack that were originally denied.”

JC: “So we now have moving images trying to make sense of how people died?”

CG: “Yes – essentially – and also how those moving images become increasingly subservient to software and data.”

Coomarasamy did not tell listeners is that the incident portrayed in this exhibit took place during the 51-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 or that the Tannur neighbourhood is located in Rafah and that the August 1st 2014 counter-offensive there took place because Hamas had broken a ceasefire by kidnapping Lt Hadar Goldin. Neither did Coomarasamy clarify that of the 41 Gazans killed in that particular counter-offensive in Rafah, 12 have been identified as terrorists and 13 as civilians, with the rest categorized as undetermined, but “of fighting age”.

Coomarasamy also refrained from informing audiences that Amnesty International’s campaign of ‘lawfare’ against Israel includes the use of this incident and he likewise made no effort to explain what the organization called ‘Forensic Architecture’ is and who is behind it or that it also partnered Amnesty International in the production of an app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare partners – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

So, whilst failing to make any effort to provide BBC audiences worldwide with either the context or insight into the political motivations behind the exhibit to which he gave amplification, Coomarasamy did propagate the notion that Israeli actions during a military campaign brought about by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians should be lumped into the same “ultimate crime” category as criminal murders, political murders and genocide.

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BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

On July 29th Amnesty International released yet another one of its reports concerning last summer’s conflict between Israel and assorted terrorist groups based in the Gaza Strip. Predictably, the BBC News website’s Middle East page quickly came up with an article headlined “Gaza: ‘Israeli war crimes’ followed soldier’s capture – Amnesty” and viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a filmed item which was also posted on the website under the title “Gaza conflict: Amnesty report says Israel committed ‘war crimes’“.AI report Rafah

There is of course nothing surprising about that: the BBC has faithfully and unquestioningly amplified the Amnesty International material produced on that subject since the hostilities came to a close, just as it also blindly reproduced statements made by that NGO during the conflict itself. And there was also nothing unexpected about that because Amnesty International is one of the NGOs most regularly promoted and quoted by the BBC.

Common sense would obviously dictate that if a media organization amplifies an NGO’s material it should tell its audiences what that NGO’s political agenda includes and report any relevant details concerning its connections to the subject matter. BBC journalists do not however have to rely on common sense: the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly 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.”

None of the BBC’s Amnesty International-related material produced over the past year has informed audiences that AI is one of a group of political NGOs which launched a lawfare campaign against Israel just days after the summer 2014 conflict began. In none of that content have audiences been told that 72 hours into the conflict, Amnesty International called for an arms embargo to be imposed on a country defending its civilian population from hundreds of daily attacks by terrorist organisations and its MENA director Philip Luther (who appears in both these latest BBC reports) was already tossing around unproven accusations of ‘war crimes’.

Nowhere has the BBC informed its audiences about the all-important context of Amnesty International’s long history of obsession with Israel – which includes the production of the numerous ‘reports’ so faithfully amplified by the BBC – or of its connections with known anti-Israel campaigners and its employment of radical activists.  

In this latest article published on July 29th, readers are informed that:

“Amnesty’s report says Israeli actions in the Rafah area between 1 and 4 August 2014 might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Its study was carried out with the Forensic Architecture, a research project specialising in spatial analysis, at Goldsmiths’ College in London.”

Audiences are not however informed that the academic sounding (and by implication, neutral)  ‘Forensic Architecture’ also partnered Amnesty International in the production of a recently launched app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare buddies – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

Neither are they told who exactly is behind ‘Forensic Architecture’ (originally funded by the European Research Council) or that it describes itself as “a team of architects, artists, filmmakers, activists, and theorists” (in other words; not military or legal experts) and that its chief researcher is veteran political activist and BDS supporter Eyal Weizman.

In this latest amplification of AI’s pseudo-legal ‘human rights’ report the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that Amnesty International is not a neutral observer but a player in a campaign of politically motivated lawfare. As long as the BBC fails to tell its audiences the full story behind the political agenda of Amnesty International and the many other NGOs it uncritically amplifies, its claim that it provides audiences with accurate and impartial reporting in order to meet its public purpose of building an “understanding of international issues” is clearly untenable.

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BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)

On May 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Gaza: Hamas killed and tortured, says Amnesty” which opens as follows:

“Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip committed serious human rights abuses including abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings of Palestinian civilians in 2014, a report says.

Most of the victims were accused of collaborating with Israel, Amnesty International investigators report.”

Later on in the report, readers are provided with ‘analysis’ from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which includes the following ‘explanation’ of Hamas’ actions:

AI report Hamas Connolly

Connolly also produced a filmed report on the same topic which, in addition to being broadcast on BBC television news programmes, appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Amnesty International: ‘Hamas killed and tortured Palestinians’“. Connolly opened that report with those same words:AI report filmed

“Hamas exercises undisputed authority within Gaza, and Amnesty’s powerful report depicts an organisation responding to the relentless pressure of Israeli military operations with a brutal campaign against its own enemies within.” [emphasis added]

In other words, Kevin Connolly would have BBC audiences believe that the terrorist organisation’s abduction, torture and execution of fellow Palestinians (during a conflict it initiated itself and refused for fifty days to bring to an end despite numerous opportunities to do so) only happened because of “relentless pressure” on the part of Israel.

Of course not only is there no factual evidence to support Connolly’s ridiculous claim, but even a partial look at Hamas’ record of extra-judicial killings shows that they have been carried out regardless of whether or not the terror organization happened to be simultaneously engaged in conflict with Israel.

“In 2009 Human Rights Watch produced a report which stated that thirty-two suspected collaborators had been killed between December 2008 and April 2009 and at least 49 people from the rival Fatah movement had been shot in the legs by masked gunmen.

In March 2010 Hamas announced that it would reinstate the death penalty in the Gaza Strip. As HRW pointed out at the time:

“Most of those facing the death penalty in Gaza are affiliated with the rival Fatah movement or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.”

In April 2010 two people were executed and in December of the same year three more men were convicted of ‘collaboration’ with one sentenced to death. In July 2011 two men were executed.

In November 2012 at least six summary executions took place with Hamas claiming responsibility in a note attached to an electricity pole. Those events got 29 words of coverage from the BBC at the time. In June 2013 the BBC failed to report on two executions and two more in May 2014 were likewise ignored.”AI report Hamas main 

Kevin Connolly’s feeble attempt at ‘contextualisation’ of the actions of a lawless terrorist organization which seized  – and holds – control of the Gaza Strip by means of violence and intimidation obviously says much about the ‘group think’ which enabled such a ridiculous claim to pass through the editorial process.

During last summer’s conflict, reports of extra-judicial killings like those included in this Amnesty International report appeared in the local media and yet – despite having numerous reporters on the ground at the time  – the BBC (and most of the other foreign media) chose to ignore them and only covered the one instance in which Hamas itself was interested in publicity.  

One cannot but wonder if, in light of this report, journalists from the BBC and other international news organisations still believe that their unwavering adherence to Hamas’ dictates to the foreign media throughout the 50 days of conflict can be justified. 

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