Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC World Service radio, beginning with programmes aired before the vote took place.

[all emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) ‘OS‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Nuala McGovern, from 00:30 here.

McGovern: “You may have heard me say at the very top of the hour about the United Nations; that they’re preparing to vote on a resolution that would condemn president…US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, she’s just been speaking.”

Listeners then heard a segment from the US ambassador’s speech which would be repeated in additional BBC radio items relating to the same story.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.

But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered. Thank you.”

McGovern then brought in the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher, adding her own editorialised comments. 

McGovern: “Ahm…very strong words. I was struck by them listening to Nikki Haley. She is not prepared to apologise in any way obviously for the embassy moving but also seems to be standing firm as in there will be consequences to this vote.”

During the conversation with Zurcher, listeners heard a recording of statements made by the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the UN which were also repeated in other programmes.

Cavusoglu: “Before this meeting a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with the development aid cut. Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying and this chamber will not fall to do that. It is unethical to think that the words and dignity of member states are for sale. Let me put it this way: we will not be intimidated. You can be strong but this doesn’t make you right.”

Later on in the same programme, listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Sally Nabil at the UN.

2) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Julian Marshall, from 33:04 here.

Marshall: “Members of the UN General Assembly have been threatened by the Trump administration ahead of a vote later today on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On Monday the United States vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the US to withdraw its recognition. That same resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly and ahead of the vote President Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that go against the US.”

Marshall later brought in the BBC’s Nada Tawfik who told listeners that “when you speak to member states they do expect about 180 countries possibly out of 193 at the UN General Assembly to support this”. When the vote later took place, fifty-two fewer countries supported the resolution than predicted by Tawfik.

The item also included an interestingly timed report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 37:31) concerning evangelical Christian groups from the US touring Israel, with Bateman claiming that members of such groups had voted for Trump in huge numbers and were one of the reasons – together with “support from Jewish donors in the US” – for the US president’s December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC World Service also aired an item on the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

3) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Tim Franks, from 35:58 here.

Franks: “Not all votes at the United Nations are equal. Ones emanating from the UN General Assembly are non-binding but the effects of today’s vote in the assembly could, at least according to President Trump, be long-lasting. He’s warned that the US will remember those countries which voted for the resolution overwhelmingly passed today. The resolution calls on the US to withdraw its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr Trump said that the list of yea-sayers would be recounted next time they come asking for aid or help from Washington.”

Listeners then heard the same recording of the Turkish foreign minister’s statements aired in other programmes as well as part of the statement made by the US ambassador to the UN GA.

Franks next interviewed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi and began by asking him if he was “concerned about that threat from Nikki Haley and indeed from President Trump”.

Al Mouallimi: “Yes I do hope that this vote will be remembered by the United States because it is a vote in which the entire [sic] international community is making the point that the move taken by the United States is not within its right and it’s not appropriate and should not have been made – certainly not at this time and not outside the parameters of an agreed solution to the situation.”

Franks later asked the Saudi Arabian ambassador what he thought about the statement made by Nikki Haley according to which – in Franks’ own words – “the UN seems to have a particular thing about Israel and a particular thing about Jerusalem and its business is skewed towards taking what they hope are free hits against Israel and against Jerusalem”. Audiences heard the following unchallenged response.

Al Mouallimi: “Well the United Nations should have a special thing about Israel because Israel is an occupying power. It continues to occupy the Palestinian land for now more than 50 years. It continues to deny the Palestinians the right for self-determination. It continues to claim Jerusalem as its own capital without regard to the interests of the Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the city and in the area.”

As we see, the BBC World Service was far more preoccupied with informing audiences about what it portrayed as “threats” issued by the United States than it was with providing them with the context to this UN GA resolution and vote. Notably, with the exception of the recording of Nikki Haley speaking at the General Assembly, listeners did not hear the views of either American or Israeli officials on the story. 

 

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Unsatisfactory comments moderation on BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog

The ‘House Rules’ for BBC blogs include the following:BBC Online

“Comments on our blogs are checked by a team of trained moderators to make the blogs a safe and enjoyable place to be, and ensure that they meet the House Rules. […]

The blog author or host does not usually moderate the content of the boards, although it is their job to keep the discussions relevant to the topic and within the BBC’s guidelines. They may close off-topic or other rule-breaking discussions, and sometimes make a decision on comments that have been referred to them by the moderators. They may also alert the moderators to rule-breaking comments that they see in the course of their work.”

And:

“At the BBC, we allow as much freedom as possible to have relevant discussions on our blogs. However, we are also responsible for making sure that these discussions stay polite, safe and relevant and do not violate any laws or the BBC editorial policies. This is why we have a set of House Rules that we ask everyone to follow. Moderators only remove messages that break these House Rules.

Moderation is necessary so all users can participate in online communities without fear of intimidation by other users or being subjected to offensive content.”

Hot on the heels of its previously published article in which the manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera was given an unchallenged platform from which to defend his presentation of ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’, the BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog ran a piece by Anthony Zurcher titled “Free speech, ‘psychological rape’ and the Death of Klinghoffer” on October 23rd.

The item was opened to comments and some of them – which have passed moderation and hence can be assumed to have been judged as not breaching ‘House Rules’ (which include defamation) or “BBC editorial policies” (which include accuracy), “relevant to the topic” and not “offensive” – can be seen below.

The ‘ethnic cleansing’ canard passed BBC moderation:

Zurcher comment 1

The false description of a military operation against terrorism as ‘terrorism’ was also allowed: 

Zurcher comment 2

The antisemitic ‘Jews controlling the media’ trope passed BBC moderation:

Zurcher comment 3

The antisemitic act of holding Jews responsible for (falsely described) Israeli actions was deemed within ‘house rules’:

Zurcher comment 4

As was the false claim that any criticism of Israel is branded antisemitism:

Zurcher comment 5The well-worn canard of illegal use of white phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead is promoted using a link to a media outlet associated with the Iranian regime:

Zurcher comment 6

The inaccurate claim that all the casualties in this summer’s conflict were ‘innocent’ is promoted:

Zurcher comment 7Of course this is far from the first time that the moderation of comments on BBC blogs and articles has been unsatisfactory and failed to adhere to the BBC’s own rules.

In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.   

BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog promotes inaccurate information on kidnapped teens

h/t BK

The BBC News website blog titled ‘Echo Chambers’ (edited by Anthony Zurcher) purports to present audiences with “a review of the best commentary on and around the world”. Its June 18th edition included a section titled “BBC Monitoring’s quotes of the day” with the sub-heading:

“Israeli and Palestinian commentators offer their views on the three missing Israeli teens the Israeli government believes were kidnapped by Hamas militants.”

The first of those selected quotes comes from the pro-Fatah Palestinian daily Al Ayyam.

Echo Chambers 1

As we see, the words “of the three settlers” have been added to the quote in square brackets – presumably by BBC Monitoring.

The term “settlers” is of course used pejoratively by the BBC to describe people – specifically and exclusively Jews – living in towns and villages in geographical areas in which, according to the BBC’s political views, they should not be living. Those geographical areas are located on a particular side of the 1949 Armistice lines and apparently even children or teenagers whose parents decided to make their homes where the BBC thinks they should not have done so can be termed “settlers” , even if they had no part in that decision themselves or were actually born there.

In the case of the three kidnapped teenagers who are the subject of this quote, the assertion that they are “settlers” is not only loaded with political intent; it is also inaccurate. Sixteen year-old Gil-ad Sha’ar comes from Talmon: a village founded ten years before Gil-ad was born which is located in Judea & Samaria and hence would be classified as a ‘settlement’ by the BBC. Naftali Frenkel – also aged 16 – comes from Nof Ayalon and nineteen year-old Eyal Yifrach lives in Elad. Both those two latter communities are on the ‘right’ side of the 1949 Armistice lines according to the BBC world view.

map yishuvim

As we see, however, the BBC has chosen to describe all three of the kidnapped youths as “settlers” even though that description is both inaccurate and – quite frankly – irrelevant. Unless the BBC is trying to press a political point to readers of this blog post (and if it is, that is another topic altogether which goes far beyond mere inaccuracy), then the politically motivated epithet allocated according to the location (mistaken or not) of the family homes of the three missing boys is of no consequence to the story itself.

The second selected quote promoted in this post comes from ‘Filastin Online’ and there the three abducted youths are inaccurately described as “soldiers”.

Echo Chambers 2

No effort is made by the BBC to clarify to readers that this “quote of the day” includes inaccurate and misleading information.

As a reminder, BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality apply to all BBC content.