BBC’s ECU upholds ‘Andrew Marr Show’ complaint

Readers may recall that back in April the BBC’s Andrew Marr managed to shoehorn Israel into a discussion about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.

During the papers review in the April 8th edition of ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ show guest journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer spoke about a Guardian report on the previous evening’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma in Syria, stating:

Hartley-Brewer: “We’ve got to stop the nonsense that they’re not using chemical weapons. They are using them. And of course I would say I do think we need to remember that it was our country that chose not to get involved even after chemical weapons attacks as a result of votes in Parliament led by former Labour leader Ed Miliband.”

The “light” Andrew Marr then chose to shine on the issue of international inaction despite repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria was as follows:

Marr: “And the Middle East is aflame again. I mean there’s lots of Palestinian kids being killed further south as well by the Israeli forces.”

As the Daily Mail reports:

“Anti-semitism campaigner Jonathan Sacerdoti complained, writing: ‘When talking about a story on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Andrew Marr for some reason decided to talk about Israel (which was unrelated anyway). He stated there’s a lot of Palestinian kids being killed further south by Israeli forces.

‘This is completely incorrect and is made up. This was irrelevant to the conversation on Syria… and also actually completely false.’

BBC producers initially tried to defend Marr’s comments by pointing to the fact that five ‘younger people’ had been killed between the beginning of the year and the date of the programme.

They also said several Palestinian children and younger people were killed in the week following the broadcast, but Mr Sacerdoti argued that later events could not be used to justify Mr Marr’s comments.

His complaint has been upheld.”

Mail on Sunday

The relevant part of the ECU’s response stated:

Note the BBC’s use of a WHO document (which is based on figures supplied by the same terror group that organised the violent rioting) as a source of information concerning “a large number of children injured” even though Marr’s comment referred to “Palestinian kids being killed”.

BBC’s Andrew Marr squeezes Israel into discussion on Syria chemical attack

h/t AS, KS

BBC One describes its Sunday morning programme ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ as follows:

“Andrew Marr, former BBC political editor, interviews key newsmakers and shines a light on what’s happening in the world. Includes a review of the Sunday newspapers, weather forecast and news bulletin”

During the papers review in the April 8th edition of that show (available here or for UK audiences here) guest journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer spoke about a Guardian report on the previous evening’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma in Syria (from 05:06 in the video below), stating:

Hartley-Brewer: “We’ve got to stop the nonsense that they’re not using chemical weapons. They are using them. And of course I would say I do think we need to remember that it was our country that chose not to get involved even after chemical weapons attacks as a result of votes in Parliament led by former Labour leader Ed Miliband.”

The “light” Andrew Marr then chose to shine on the issue of international inaction despite repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria was as follows:

Marr: “And the Middle East is aflame again. I mean there’s lots of Palestinian kids being killed further south as well by the Israeli forces.” [emphasis added]

Marr’s factually incorrect portrayal of events on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel during the past ten days obviously implies that Israeli soldiers defending their border from infiltration by adult rioters and terrorists are to be viewed in the same light as the perpetrators of chemical attacks on the Syrian children mentioned moments earlier by Hartley-Brewer. 

Not only is that linkage completely redundant but Marr’s ‘whataboutery‘ patently has no relevance whatsoever to the discussion of the Assad regime’s brutal chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. 

 

Gaza terror smuggling again not newsworthy for the BBC

Earlier this month BBC One viewers heard Andrew Marr portray Israeli counter-terrorism measures along the border with the Gaza Strip as follows (at 05:45 here) during an interview with the Israeli prime minister:

Marr: “Now what is also clear, however, is that your policy for Gaza is not working: the policy of having a kind of cordon around Gaza, restricting what can come in and out – a kind of blockade of Gaza – has actually increased the power of Hamas in Gaza and mobilised the population behind Gaza because of the appalling human rights situation inside Gaza. This policy is simply not working.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the BBC’s portrayal of that topic is usually at best superficial and at worst misleading and politically motivated. In the past audiences have seen or heard restrictions on the movement of people and very specific materials in and out of the Gaza Strip inaccurately described as “collective punishment” or a “siege”.

“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” BBC News website, February 13th 2017.

“…the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” BBC World Service radio, February 1st 2017.

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.” BBC World Service radio, May 19th 2015.

However, beyond the ‘Israel says’ mantra, BBC audiences rarely hear about the reasons why restrictions placed on the border with the Gaza Strip are necessary because Hamas terrorism is consistently ignored, downplayed or erased – with the result being that BBC audiences are therefore ill-equipped to put portrayals such as the one by Marr into their appropriate context. 

Another story which would help BBC audiences understand the real reasons for counter-terrorism measures, including restrictions on the entry of weapons and dual purpose goods into the Gaza Strip, recently came to light.

“An Israeli laboratory at the Kerem Shalom Gaza crossing recently thwarted an attempted smuggling of several tons of explosive substances that were headed for terror groups in the strip.

The lab, which was recently established at the crossing at the behest of the Land Crossings Authority in the Ministry of Defense, was called into action after a truck arrived at the area that was carrying what was said to be a large load of car oils.

Guards conducting the security checks grew suspicious of the truck’s content, and transferred specific oil types to the lab for further investigation, where it transpired that the oils were not intended for car engines, but were rather dangerous substances intended for the production of large quantities of explosive devices.”

The BBC – which is of course committed to helping its funding public understand “the world around them” – has so far ignored this story, thereby passing up yet another opportunity to help its audiences understand why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – even as it continues to focus their attentions on the “appalling human rights situation inside Gaza”.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

 

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:

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