BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

 

 

Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

Christmas is coming and with it – if the BBC’s record over the past five years is anything to go by – the usual politicised reporting from the Middle East.

Christmas Eve of 2011, for example, saw Jon Donnison piling on the pathos in a reworking of the well-worn ‘Bethlehem shepherds’ theme on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  

“There are still shepherds in Bethlehem 2000 years on from the nativity but as our West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison reports, Jewish settlement expansion there has made the life of the shepherd increasingly limited.”knell-2011-nativity

On the same day the BBC News website published a particularly egregious example of campaigning propaganda produced by Yolande Knell under the transparent title of “Bethlehem’s modern-day nativity characters“. 

In 2012 Kevin Connolly reported on Christians in the Middle East while managing to omit any mention of the one country in which they thrive and Jon Donnison produced a politically opportunistic report from Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was also the location for a 2013 report from Yolande Knell in which she promoted inaccurate information about the anti-terrorist fence.

“In the Bethlehem Governorate there are more than twenty Pal..err…Israeli settlements and now Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. It appears as a high concrete wall around Bethlehem and the people here complain that it has strangled their economy. Israel says of course that it was built for security but the Palestinians view it as a land grab.”

A multi-platform item promoted a smear from a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.Knell Bethlehem main

Political messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence also dominated a Christmas 2014 report on the BBC News website and Yolande Knell produced an audio report and a written report from Bethlehem in which she blamed “the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land” on “Israel’s occupation”.

Reporting again from Bethlehem in 2015, Yolande Knell revisited the ‘nativity characters’ theme in a multi-media feature focusing on politicised messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence. An audio report by Knell broadcast on the BBC World Service was notable for its adherence to PLO media guidance.

Let’s hope that this year the BBC Jerusalem bureau can resist the temptation to exploit Christmas for the promotion of opportunistic politicised messaging and perhaps even come up with some original reporting about the Middle East’s beleaguered Christians. 

Impressions of Israel from BBC WS radio’s ‘The Cultural Frontline’

The November 6th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Cultural Frontline’ (“where arts and news collide”) included an item (from 07:30 here) described in its synopsis as follows:cultural-frontline-ws-6-11

“Reporter Sahar Zand meets a member of the Broken Fingaz street art collective from Israel. Against the colourful backdrop of his latest mural in Hackney, east London, they discuss the controversial group’s international presence and deep roots in their native Haifa, Israel.”

Seeing as some of Zand’s questions were clearly intended to prompt responses relating to Israel, it is interesting to take a look at the unchallenged impressions of that country received by audiences.

For example, listeners were informed that Israelis “don’t have much of a history”.

Zand: “How does your work reflect where you come from; your society?”

Unga: “The chaos and like the colours and the intensity. But at the same time we are very open to be influenced by other cultures – maybe because we don’t have much of a history then we are more open to search for something new.”

Audiences also heard that one “cannot avoid propaganda” in Israel.

Zand: “How do you think that Broken Fingaz murals are responding to what’s going on in Israel at the moment?”

Unga: “Anyone who’ve [sic] been to Israel know that it’s one of the most political places in the world and you cannot avoid propaganda. There are specific works that really talks about it and they are more political.”

Listeners were told that the anti-terrorist fence is “not normal” – but not why it had to be erected – when the artist described a mural in Haifa which shows:

“….Prime Minister Bibi and his wife in vacation clothes with the polo shirt and everything nice and they’re with a selfie stick posing next to the separation wall. It’s all about this normality and, like, trying to portray this like everything is normal, nothing really happening, but obviously it’s not normal – it’s not supposed to be like this…”

Audiences were inaccurately informed that Haifa is the only place in which Jews and Arabs live together.

Unga: “It is really a special place. In this crazy area called the Middle East we create our own community in Haifa the city that we live. There is this thing of Arabs and Jews living together which you don’t see anywhere else, not in this way.”

And listeners also learned that the Israeli media ‘glorifies death’.

Unga: “I can say about death that it’s always surprising for us that people in Israel can be shocked about drawing of skeletons while the whole place is just surrounded by death and they keep talking about death. That’s the only thing that they talk about in the news; is, like, glorifying it. But then when they see this they will suddenly get offended; like, how dare you, like.”

The BBC Trust states that:

“The BBC’s journalism for international audiences should share the same values as its journalism for UK audiences: accuracy, impartiality and independence. International audiences should value BBC news and current affairs for providing reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth.”

Clearly this item intended for “international audiences” did not meet those standards.

In which BBC Radio 4 links Israel’s anti-terrorist fence to Donald Trump

h/t LO

BBC coverage of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has never stood out as a shining example of journalistic impartiality but nevertheless, on August 2nd Mishal Husain – presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – managed to plumb new depths with the following introduction to an item which can be heard from 44:23 here.Today 2 8

“We hear a lot from Donald Trump about the wall he’d like to build along the US-Mexican border: an idea perhaps inspired by Israel’s security barrier.”

Does Donald Trump have anything to do with this story? Obviously not. Does Husain have any evidence-based information which would back up her speculation? Highly doubtful. That however did not prevent her from promoting tabloid-style false linkage between the two unrelated topics. Husain continued:

“Construction began in 2002 after a series of suicide bombings and it is now 60% complete. In the wake of recent attacks on Israelis, the government has promised to reinforce parts of it and make it harder for Palestinians to cross. Katy Watson reports now on what the strategy has achieved.”

The investigation into the terror attack at Sarona Market in June showed that the terrorists had infiltrated via a breach in the fence near Meitar and the government did indeed immediately allocate a budget for repair of the fence in that area.

While many would consider the human cost of a suicide bombing visually – and morally –more offensive than a structure erected to prevent such sights, Katy Watson’s opening to her report shows that her concept of aesthetics is clearly different. [All emphasis in bold added]

“Israel’s separation barrier is an eyesore that’s become part of the landscape. Mostly fence, it turns into a grey concrete wall around communities, cutting through them like a guillotine, separating Palestinians from their Jewish neighbours. Every so often there’s a checkpoint. It’s here that the thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel have to pass every day.”

Listeners then heard a male voice say:

“I need this wall to protect the Israeli houses here from sniper shooting from the other side.”

Watson continued:

“A colonel in the army, Danny Tirza was in charge of planning the separation barrier during a particularly violent time.”

Without providing listeners with any concrete information about what she euphemistically terms “a particularly violent time” – such as the fact that hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands more wounded and maimed in an unprecedented campaign of terrorism beginning in September 2000 – Watson’s report went on to present a selected quote from Col (Res.) Danny Tirza.

Tirza: “The people in Israel they ask the government ‘separate us from them. We don’t want to see them anymore. Don’t let them come to Israel for any reason.”

Watson continued, failing to inform listeners that the “West Bank territory” she is about to mention is in fact subject to final status negotiations or that the boundary she inaccurately allocates to that territory is in fact nothing more than a defunct ceasefire line:

“The route Danny mapped is hugely controversial. 85% of it is on West Bank territory.”

She went on:

 “The International Court of Justice says it’s illegal and should be pulled down.”

Watson refrained from informing listeners that the highly politicised ‘advisory opinion’ produced by the ICJ has no legal standing. Providing a very tepid description of the Sarona Market terror attack and failing to clarify that the terrorists passed through a breach in the fence, she went on to provide an inaccurate description of its physical characteristics:

“But in the wake of a shooting in Tel Aviv in early June, the government said it would step up efforts to finish the barrier. We’ve driven about an hour and a half south of Jerusalem…eh…along the West Bank. The fence goes for miles and miles. Most of it is metal barbed wire. There are sensors so if the fence is breached then alarms go off but you can also see areas with big holes that have been patched up and the community here says that this is an area which is breached quite a lot by Palestinians trying to get over the fence illegally.

But in the past few weeks they started putting up a wall. Concrete blocks 8 or 9 meters high are being positioned and razor wire placed on the top to stop the flow of people. Most of them are Palestinians who want to work in Israel but don’t have a permit. Authorities say this is also a common route used by attackers.”

Listeners then heard a woman say:

“I believe that if we want to be good neighbours, we need some fence between us.”

Watson next introduced the speaker, who is actually the head of Bnei Shimon regional council:

“Sigal Moran is the mayor of a nearby town. She’s been campaigning for a wall for years to make her community safer.”

Moran: “Israel and the Palestinians have a long history of conflict. In the base, this conflict is about trust and when you don’t have trust you can’t live together.”

Watson continued:

“On the other side of the razor wire is the Palestinian town of Al Burj. There they have a very different perspective. Sirhan al Amayra is a town councillor and says people’s lives are restricted.”

[voiceover]: “Israel’s practicing collective punishment. If somebody for example attacks in Tel Aviv, why should this little village be punished?”

Watson refrained from providing any information which would help her listeners understand the context of counter-terrorism operations to apprehend accomplices of terrorists. She then went on to make herself the focus of the story:

“A group of Israeli soldiers on the other side of the barrier watch us while we speak to Sirhan. We then try to drive to speak to a farmer whose land is near the new wall. The soldiers who were watching us do the other interview have been following us and they’ve just come up the bank from the other side; from Israel into the West Bank through the fence and they’ve stopped us going any further, told us to turn back. Frustrated 80 year-old farmer Yassir says this sort of thing happens often.”

[voiceover]: “When the wall was built things went from better to bad to worse. Now we’re so handcuffed it feels like we are living in a prison.”

Watson made no effort to inform listeners that the anti-terrorist fence neither ‘handcuffs’ nor ‘imprisons’ the residents of the Area B village of Al Burj.

Al Burj

Watson went on:

“I travel north to the Qalandiya checkpoint which connects the West Bank city of Ramallah to Jerusalem. It’s an area where tensions often run high. There I meet Xavier Abu Eid – an advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

As is to be expected from that PLO official, listeners then got a dose of propaganda which went unchallenged by Watson.

XAE: “What this wall does is not to divide Palestinians from Israelis. It’s actually to divide Palestinians from Palestinians.”

Watson: “And of Israel’s claim that the barrier is about security, Xavier says it’s about protecting Israeli interests, taking land away from Palestinians and control.”

XAE: “Israel cannot ask to have peace at the same time that it occupies and denies the right of a people. There will be people that react. Of course we’re against attacking civilians and that’s a very clear position but you cannot just control a people, deny them rights and from the other side say we’ll continue dominating them, controlling them so we’re safe.”

Watson of course did not enlighten audiences with regard to the PLO’s record of terrorism and glorification of terrorism. She closed:

“Israelis call it a security fence, the Palestinians an apartheid wall. Its architects say it saves lives but there’s a huge amount of resentment among Palestinians that the barrier creates more problems than it solves.”

According to Mishal Husein’s introduction, the purpose of this report was to inform BBC audiences about “what the strategy has achieved”. Notably, the anti-terrorist fence’s prime achievement – the dramatic reduction of the number of Israelis murdered in terror attacks – did not even get a proper mention in this report. BBC audiences did however hear falsehoods such as “illegal”, “an apartheid wall”, “collective punishment” and “taking away land from Palestinians”.

Readers may recall that visiting BBC journalist Katy Watson previously produced some very reasonable reporting on the topic of the Second Lebanon War. Sadly, Watson’s trip to Israel appears to have included a process of journalistic socialisation because this item is nothing more than yet another politicised campaigning report on the topic of the anti-terrorist fence, the likes of which have been produced by many a BBC journalist in the past.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

Casually reinforcing the narrative on BBC Radio 4

Kate Adie’s introduction to an item about rock-climbing which was broadcast in the July 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (from 17:09 here) sounded promising.FOOC 16 7

“In sixty years this programme has broadcast many dispatches from the Middle East – particularly the West Bank. They’re often about religion or politics and all too often about violence. Many journalists have written about the scene in Ramallah; just six miles from Jerusalem. But Ed Lewis has found something different: a sports centre that’s opening up new horizons.”

So was that item about a Palestinian rock-climbing club really “something different” and did it indeed manage to avoid politics? Not quite.

Tourism consultant and freelance journalist Edward Lewis managed to get a gratuitous, context-free mention of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence into his introduction – but without of course informing listeners why the construction of that fence (only a small percentage of which is actually “wall”) was necessary.

“Ramallah has a new wall. Not a vertical grey concrete wall but a bright blue, green and white one. It has no look-out posts, razor wire or steel gates. Instead there are bungee ropes, crash mats and colour. Far from emitting a message to stay away, this wall is encouraging Palestinians to approach and explore.”

The context of Palestinian terrorism was also erased from later remarks made by Lewis, as were the Oslo Accords arrangements which divide the region into Areas A, B and C.

“Despite the challenges of mobility in the West Bank…”

“In the wake of a rash of violent incidents since October 2015, tension with Israel has risen and it has become harder for single Palestinian men to get work permits in East Jerusalem.”

“The West Bank has not become an adventure playground overnight – nor will it anytime soon. Israeli restrictions and the designation of many parts of the West Bank as military zones or nature reserves severely restrict the scope for more outdoor activity.”

Could Lewis have reported on that climbing club in Ramallah without the insertion of that unnecessary and context-free mention of the anti-terrorist fence which contributed nothing to his report? Of course he could. But as we all too often see, even the most seemingly benign subject matter can be opportunistically used by self-conscripted journalists to casually reinforce an adopted narrative.  

BBC’s Knell yet again politicises Christmas in Bethlehem report

The Christmas season inevitably brings with it opportunistic, politicised messaging from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and this year was no different. Apparently short on fresh ideas, Yolande Knell casts local residents in the role of nativity story figures in her report titled “Christmas in Bethlehem: Hopes and fears for the future” (December 24th, BBC News website Middle East page) – a device she previously used in her 2011 seasonal report.Knell Bethlehem main

Including both text and video clips, the report promotes the themes of a low-key Christmas and economic hardship for Bethlehem residents. No mention is made of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

The surge in Palestinian terrorism that began in mid-September and which has obviously had an effect on the tourist industry in the region receives minimal coverage in Knell’s account, although when it is mentioned she portrays it as equivalent “Israeli-Palestinian violence” and – in line with PLO messaging – downplays the incitement fueling that violence. Instead, Knell focuses more on what she terms “protests” and “clashes” whilst erasing the agency of Palestinian rioters and terrorists sabotaging their own community’s all-important tourism industry.

“Young Palestinians regularly join protests that result in confrontations with Israeli soldiers. There are flashpoints across the West Bank including on the edge of Ramallah and in Bethlehem.”

“Nowadays clashes regularly take place by one of these gates. Typically, young Palestinians throw stones, marbles and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, skunk water and live rounds.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media. Father Jamal says that on the Palestinian side there are feelings of hopelessness and despair.”

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 1

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 2

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 3

The predominant messaging in this report relates to the anti-terrorist fence. In line with the corporation’s usual portrayal of that subject, Knell fails to provide BBC audiences with an objective and transparent account of the reasons behind the fence’s construction and its proven record of reducing the number of terror attacks against Israelis.

“Israel has also built part of its separation barrier here. It says this is needed for security, but Palestinians see it as a land grab.”

“In 2003, an 8m (26ft)-high concrete wall was erected in Bethlehem – part of Israel’s barrier built in and around the West Bank. A series of gates were constructed in the wall so that church leaders could continue to pass.”

“About 40% of the Bethlehem economy relies directly on tourism. However since the town was separated from Jerusalem by Israel’s barrier, most tourists now enter through an Israeli checkpoint.”

Knell Bethlehem fence 1

Knell Bethlehem fence 2

Knell Bethlehem fence 3

The fence is also the hook for promotion of the theme of restricted access resulting in reduced business.

“Local souvenir sellers say that restricted access to the city has greatly affected their trade.” 

Video clip 5: “…Bethlehem is now surrounded with a wall; not easily accessed in and out like before between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This limited the number of tourists who come to Bethlehem to doing shopping for Christmas. “

Knell Bethlehem access 1

In fact, the crossing used by tourists going from Israel to Palestinian-Authority controlled Bethlehem is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and foreign tourists do not need permits. As usual, this year too arrangements have been put in place to enable Palestinian Christians to celebrate the holiday with their relatives.

An additional theme in this report relates to ‘settlements’ – alleged to be “expanding” – with the standard BBC mantra concerning ‘international law’ appearing together with a recycled map.

“Recently shepherding has become much more difficult because of a lack of open land. Jewish settlements are expanding nearby. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

Knell Bethlehem economic 1

Absent from Knell’s reporting is any mention of non-Israel related factors which might have an influence on Christmas celebrations and tourism in Bethlehem such as crime or violence related to internal Palestinian politics.

“The car taking Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, was struck Friday, Christmas Day, in Bethlehem by rocks thrown by Palestinian rioters. […]

Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces said Friday that they arrested two suspected Islamic radicals for burning a Christmas tree in the northern West Bank.

A Palestinian security officer said Friday the suspects set fire Wednesday to the tree in Zababdeh, a village near Jenin populated mainly by Christians. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.

He said both suspects were under investigation for possible ties to extremist Islamist groups.

He also said Palestinian security forces arrested Wednesday about a dozen suspected radical Islamists in Bethlehem.

A report in the Palestinian Ma’an news agency put the number of detainees at 16. According to the report, the group are Salafi radicals who were preparing to carry out a terror attack against Western tourists arriving in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas there.”

Yolande Knell’s selective portrayal of Christmas in Bethlehem is clearly designed to promote a political agenda and there is no reason to be surprised about that given her past record and her openly displayed identification with such political causes. Amazingly for a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting, the BBC continues to countenance her annual exploitation of Christmas for the opportunistic force-feeding of its audiences with trite anti-Israel delegitimisation.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

‘Tis the season for the BBC to avoid adopting other people’s anti-Israel memes

More narrative-inspired reporting from Bethlehem by BBC’s Yolande Knell

BBC report on Christmas in Bethlehem amplifies PA political messaging yet again

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

 

More inaccuracies and political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet

h/t: DK

In addition to the filmed report she recently produced in Beit Sahour, the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet also recorded an audio report on the same topic in the same location. That report – which includes different but no less egregious inaccuracies and political propaganda than the filmed version – was broadcast on the November 24th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour” and can be found from 45:09 here.Doucet Newshour 24 11

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item using a dose of the kind of equivalence seen all too frequently in BBC reporting:

“He is not promising a recipe for peace but, on his first visit to Israel and the West Bank in a year, the US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he is trying to find ways to restore calm. Today he condemned the recent wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinians on Israelis as ‘acts of terrorism’. Well, tensions remain high between Israelis and Palestinians and the lives of young people on both sides are being affected. Two and a half years ago two Danish activists and a Palestinian basketball player started a group of runners. What began as a Palestinian marathon has grown into a global event that’s as much about proclaiming rights as it is about athletic prowess. Newshour’s Lyse Doucet went to meet the co-founder of the Right to Movement in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour.” [emphasis added]

As was the case in her filmed report, Doucet interviews George Zeidan without making any attempt to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by telling listeners of the political agenda behind the organization he represents.

Zeidan: “My name is George Zeidan and right now we’re walking on the place where we found[ed] the Right to Movement group.”

Doucet: “And we’re walking along a dirt road and it’s taking us through olive groves and some terraced fields: absolutely beautiful countryside here in the West Bank. And it…but it’s very much reflecting of the political situation. This is a Palestinian village…the city of Beit Jala – very close to Bethlehem. And here on this hilltop is a Jewish settlement.”

Zeidan: “The settlement of Har Gilo. It’s an old….quite an old settlement on the Palestinian territory.  It’s very important for us to emphasise on the importance of our right to movement on our own property. And we believe that this land’s our own property. This is what the United Nations and the international world has given us. So we’re not asking for anything else.”

Doucet fails to relieve listeners of the inaccurate and materially misleading impression that the United Nations “has given” that particular portion of territory – or any other – to the Palestinians. She goes on to provide Zeidan with the cue for promotion of more political propaganda.

Doucet: “But you’ve stopped running here – why?”

Zeidan: “With the current…the current unstable situation…we don’t feel that it’s the best idea to take a risk and come here very close to a settlement. So we just try to stay away from this issue.”

Later on in the report Doucet promotes more political propaganda using a cue from another one of the people she describes as “running for exercise, running to make a statement about their right to move here”.

Woman: “My story is to destroy the wall.”

Doucet: “The wall that Israel erected to separate off Israeli…Israel from Palestinian areas – they say to stop suicide bombings.”

Apparently the BBC’s chief international correspondent has no qualms about deliberately misrepresenting the reason for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence.

Listeners later hear another woman claim that the Palestinian terrorists who have carried out the recent attacks against Israelis are “doing it because they’re seeing, like, their families being stabbed or killed or hurt by them”.

The item closes with George Zeidan saying:

“It will be better if we soon can run from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without being stopped on a checkpoint. So that’s what we look forward to.”

Doucet’s narrative has no room for clarification to BBC audiences of the fact that checkpoints did not exist anywhere in the area before the Palestinians decided to launch the terror war known as the second Intifada fifteen years ago.

Once again Lyse Doucet has produced a report which does nothing to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues” but which is a vehicle for the amplification of opportunistic political propaganda by both herself and members of an inadequately presented NGO.

It is precisely reports such as these which undermine the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial broadcaster and it is especially disturbing to see such a senior BBC correspondent engaged in blatantly political reporting. 

Palestinian rioter gets unchallenged BBC platform for promotion of dangerous libel

The cornerstone of BBC Editorial Guidelines on accuracy reads as follows:

“We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content.  We may need to clarify the nature of some content by labeling (for example, verbally, in text or with visual or audio cues) to avoid being misleading.”

That might seem like stating the obvious for a media organization which describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” and claims that its standards of accuracy and impartiality are what make it “the most trusted and objective international news provider” capable of delivering its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

Consider then the following report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes on October 13th and promoted in two separate links on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Bethlehem clashes: Protesters on streets during day of unrest” as well as being embedded into a written report titled “Three Israelis killed in Jerusalem attacks“.Knell Bethlehem 13 10

Reporting from Bethlehem on what had been declared a ‘Day of Rage’ by Palestinian factions, Yolande Knell opens her item with the standard BBC portrayal of violent rioters as ‘protesters’.

“There are currently scenes like this taking place across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Here in Bethlehem there have recently been clashes every single day and it’s taken a familiar pattern. The Palestinian protesters come down the street – they’ve been throwing stones – and the Israeli soldiers go out firing teargas and rubber bullets. I’ve been speaking to one Palestinian protester about why the violence has been escalating.

Knell then allows an unidentified masked man to promote a highly inflammatory, dangerous and completely fabricated libel – along with other blatant falsehoods – with none of the above-mentioned “labeling” to inform viewers (not least those in the Middle East) that the claims are entirely baseless.

Voiceover: “It’s because of the invasion of our Al Aqsa Mosque and disrespecting the Palestinian holy sites. This is a red line and we won’t allow it. All our lives we’ve been dealing with Israeli occupation as a political struggle. But now, they’re fighting our religion. There is pressure on people’s lives, on our economy already. This wall [the anti-terrorist fence – Ed.] is a symbol of racism. There are also incursions of our city every day. Arrests, people being taken to prison and martyrs. This all puts pressure on the Palestinian man. Until now, this is not a full uprising. But, God willing, it will be soon.” [emphasis added]

Knell then asks:

 “Is anyone from the political leadership telling you to go out on the streets?”

Masked man voiceover: “In my opinion politics doesn’t interfere in what we are doing. All incidents – whether they are stabbings or shootings – are personal decisions; not decisions by politicians. What you see on Facebook, sometimes it pushes young Palestinians forwards and shows us what’s happening in all of Palestine. When people post things they are not trying to order people what to do.”

Failing to inform audiences of the very relevant issue of the daily incitement coming from assorted Palestinian sources and factions including Hamas, Fatah and the highest ranks of the Palestinian Authority, Knell also manages to erase the second Intifada and Mahmoud Abbas’ recent UN speech telling Palestinians that they are no longer bound by existing agreements from the picture presented to BBC viewers.

Knell: “So what’s happening on the streets isn’t yet organised in any meaningful way. There’s no clear and unified goal. But many of these young Palestinians don’t respect their leaders. They’re a generation that’s grown up with the failure of peace talks to deliver an independent Palestinian state and there are feelings of anger and humiliation. And for all of those reasons, it’s very hard to predict what happens next and whether those who are trying to bring this situation under control really can do so.”

To date, the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has refrained from carrying out any serious reporting which would inform its audiences of the very significant role played by incitement and glorification of terrorism in fuelling this latest wave of terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Moreover, we are seeing a rising number of BBC reports which uncritically amplify the libel-cum-conspiracy theory which is the main rallying point in this current wave of terrorism: the claim that Israel is changing the status quo on Temple Mount and seeks to ‘destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque’. We have also recently seen BBC correspondents promote the related false narrative that the entire Temple Mount compound is the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Such reporting not only irresponsibly amplifies very dangerous myths and contributes to the atmosphere of incitement, but clearly fails to meet the BBC’s declared standard of “not knowingly and materially mislead[ing] our audiences with our content”.

Resources:

BBC News – contact details  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

 

BBC’s Knell continues Cremisan crusade with promotion of inaccurate information

Yolande Knell’s journalistic crusade against a section of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley has long been a permanent feature in BBC Middle East reporting and her latest contribution to that political campaign came on August 21st in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian Christians urge help against West Bank barrier“.Knell Cremisan 21 8 main

Knell opens her article by telling readers that:

“Palestinian Christians are appealing for international support to oppose renewed construction of part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.

Residents of Beit Jala – a town along the planned barrier route – made the appeal at an open-air mass among centuries-old olive trees on Friday.

They have also been waging a long legal battle, backed by the Vatican.

The barrier will separate over 50 families from their land – but Israel says it is a vital security measure.” [emphasis added]

So BBC audiences learn that “renewed construction” of this particular section of the anti-terrorist fence (which began last week) “will separate over 50 families from their land”. That, however, is not true. The recent history of this case is as follows: [all emphasis added]

“On April 2, 2015, the High Court of Justice upheld the need for the construction of the security fence in the area on security grounds. That said, the Court found in favor of the petitioners regarding the proposed route of the security fence, and ruled that it may not separate between the Monastery and Convent and that the route must be crafted in consultation with the clergy, allowing both bodies to remain on the Palestinian side, preserving their territorial contiguity and their physical connection to the communities that they serve in the nearby villages.

Following and in line with this ruling, the Israeli authorities began work to construct 1200 meters of the security fence, excluding a 225 meter area in the vicinity of the Monastery and Convent in which no barrier will be constructed at this time. This gap enables the territorial contiguity of the monastery and convent, free approach by and to the local Palestinian population, and maintains for the Monastery unfettered access to their agricultural lands, thus respecting the High Court of Justice decision.  

Following the initiation of this construction, the 37 Beit Jala residents petitioned the High Court and requested a contempt of court order against the State in the Cremisan Valley Case (HCJ 5163/13).

On July 6, 2015, the High Court of Justice dismissed the contempt of court petition. The High Court of Justice noted that the actions of the State at present do not negatively affect contiguity between the Monastery and the Convent, nor their access to their vineyards and farmlands. Moreover, access to the town of Beit Jala is also not affected, nor is the daily routine of the population in the area. Accordingly, the current construction of the barrier in the area which excludes the 225 meter gap, are in full compliance with the April 2, 2015 High Court of Justice decision on this matter.”

Obviously then neither the issue of access to agricultural lands nor the previously cited topic of separation between the convent and the monastery is the real reason why political activists are still opposing the construction of this section of the anti-terrorist fence.

Knell then throws some  additional ‘reasons’ into her cocktail, including further promotion of the myth of locals ‘losing access to their land’ and an absurd claim relating to Palestinian Christians: [all emphasis added]

“The mayor of Beit Jala has written to diplomats from the European Union and the United States, asking them to put political pressure on Israel not to continue.

“We want people outside to come and say ‘enough is enough’,” says the mayor, Nicola Khamis. “Christians all over the world must stop being silent.”

“What Israel is doing here is against peace. It will prevent a two-state solution [to the conflict].”

Last year, Pope Francis met residents who stand to lose access to their land in the Cremisan Valley, when he visited nearby Bethlehem.

Foreign dignitaries have also expressed their concerns to Israeli authorities, listing the separation barrier among pressures that are pushing Christians to leave the Holy Land.”

Knell continues with the following obviously inaccurate paraphrasing of the Israeli side of the story:

“Israel says the barrier is needed in the valley as a security measure to protect the Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo.”

Despite the fact that legal status has no bearing on the need for security measures, she then inserts the standard BBC mantra:

“Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has done little over the years to inform its audiences of the fact that the fence has proven to be effective in thwarting suicide bombers and other types of terrorist attacks and Knell’s half-hearted ticking of the context box does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

“Construction of the Israeli barrier began in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, after a series of suicide attacks.

In the Beit Jala area, at this time, there was shooting at the settlements.”

She then predictably inserts a specious claim regularly touted by the BBC over the last thirteen years:

“Palestinians believe the ultimate aim of the barrier – which includes stretches of high concrete walls and barbed-wire fences – is to grab land.”

Towards the end of the article readers are presented with the following opaque information which does nothing to clarify that Knell’s earlier allegations regarding access to land are inaccurate.

“In April, Israel’s High Court appeared to rule against proposed routes for the barrier in the Cremisan Valley, a local beauty spot filled with olive groves and orchards.

However, the court later said this prevented work only in a small area near a Salesian convent and school, and a monastery and winery.”

Knell ends her piece with the following hyperbole:

“Local church leaders – Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox – have been involved in the campaign to prevent the construction of the barrier.

“When you kill the olive trees, you kill the people here,” said the Catholic priest, Faisal Hijazin, during the mass. “We pray for God to protect the olive trees, the land and the people.””

Seeing as they do not even get a mention in this report, it is obvious that the 1,100 Israelis actually killed between 2000 and 2006 and the thousands more maimed and injured by Palestinian terrorists are of much lesser concern to both the quoted priest and his BBC amplifier.

It of course comes as no surprise to those who have followed Yolande Knell’s self-conscription to this political campaign and others over the years to find such inaccurate, misleading and one-sided ‘reporting’ on the BBC’s website.  Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that the BBC is supposedly obliged to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” by means of accurate and impartial reporting and that its editorial guidelines on accuracy state that “[t]he BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences”.

By telling readers that the renewed construction of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley “will separate over 50 families from their land”, Yolande Knell has done precisely that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Knell’s follow up on Cremisan Valley marred by BBC mantras

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

Resources:

BBC News Online – contact details

 

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

Recent weeks have seen the appearance of a relatively large volume of BBC reports relating to the subject of fences.

A 175 km-long fence being constructed along the Hungarian-Serbian border with the aim of keeping migrants and asylum seekers out of Hungary has been the topic of several BBC reports – written and filmed.

“…it’s an ugly reminder of the Iron Curtain that used to divide Europe from east to west. […] The government’s out to send a double message: to prospective asylum seekers – stay away; there’s no place for you here. And to the Hungarian tax payer – we will pull out all the stops to protect you from the foreign hoards.”

Decidedly less polemic language is seen in BBC reports concerning the British government’s £12 million investment in fencing and other security measures in Calais – also with the aim of keeping migrants out of their country. Interestingly, fact that the UK is paying for fence construction on French soil does not appear to be an issue and insinuations of racism as a factor influencing the British approach to the issue of migrants do not appear in the way they frequently do in BBC coverage of the topic of African migrants in Israel.Tunisia ct fence

Last month the Tunisian government announced a plan to construct a 160 km-long barrier along its border with Libya as part of its counter-terrorism strategy. Notably, the BBC News website article informing audiences of that news portrayed the reason for the construction of that barrier in clear terms. Originally titled “Tunisia to build Libya wall to counter terror threat” and now going under the headline “Tunisia to build ‘anti-terror’ wall on Libya border“, the article opens:

“Tunisia has announced plans to build a wall along its border with Libya to counter the threat from jihadist militants.

It would stretch 160km (100 miles) inland from the coast, and be completed by the end of 2015, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid told state TV.

The Tunisian army would build the wall, which would have surveillance centres at certain points along it, Mr Essid said.”

In contrast with the terminology regularly used to portray Israel’s anti-terrorist fence, the BBC does not qualify the structure’s aim with “Tunisia says” and obviously did not find it necessary to ‘balance’ the Tunisian government’s description of the wall’s purpose with input from the terrorist organisations it aims to thwart. Insofar as we are aware, the BBC has also not found it necessary to issue its journalists with a ‘style guide’ instructing them on the approved terminology for this barrier or any of the others above in order to “avoid using terminology favoured by one side or another in any dispute“.

However, despite that factual portrayal of the Tunisian government’s plan, audiences were also provided with an opinion piece titled “Big walls can cause big problems” from a person with no apparent qualifications on the subject of counter-terrorism. The messaging in that article is very clear.Big walls art

“In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene looks at the problems around building big walls. […]

But more often than not, and if you are a country instead of a person, you can’t move and so you try to find ways to keep out the unpleasantness.

And so we build walls. But then walls can cause more trouble than they solve. […]

We build walls to divide and keep out and therein lies the problem.[…]

There is nothing in history that would lead us to believe that the highest walls can keep out unwanted people or keep in people who want to get out.”

That article includes an insert presented under the subheading “Great divides: Past and present” and its first entry reads:

“Israel began building barrier in and around the occupied West Bank in 2002: 720km planned by completion”

As is all too often the case in BBC coverage, readers are not told why Israel reached the decision to build that fence and its record of preventing what Ms Ohene coyly describes as “unpleasantness” is concealed. Had it not been, her claim that “[t]here is nothing in history that would lead us to believe that the highest walls can keep out unwanted people” would have been considerably less convincing.

In May of this year the IDF published figures relating to the anti-terrorist fence’s efficacy. Since the fence’s construction, suicide bombings have decreased by 100% and shooting attacks by 93.5%, bringing a dramatic fall in the number of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists. Unfortunately for members of the BBC’s audience trying to put both the Israeli security barrier and similar measures in other countries into context, that information is not included in the BBC narrative on the subject.

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Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3