Another BBC item promotes falsehoods about Israel’s anti-terrorist fence

On January 3rd BBC Radio 4’s ‘Archive on 4’ re-ran an hour-long programme first aired in November 2019 under the title “Build the Wall!”.

“On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Katy Long asks why political leaders are celebrating the occasion while building new border walls of their own.

From the United States, where ‘build the wall’ has become a symbol of the Trump presidency, to Norway, India and South Africa, dozens of walls have gone up since 1989, with many more being built, planned or imagined. In this programme, Katy tells the modern history of border walls to ask why they are being built, and why now, when new virtual technologies increasingly offer alternatives to concrete barriers.

Katy will examine the complicated history of the Berlin Wall, and what it meant during the Cold War. She’ll examine border walls and border communities in Northern Ireland, the United States, South Africa and Israel, exploring what happens when walls are built – for good and ill – and whether it’s possible to take them down again. She’ll look at the difference between walls to keep people in, and keep them out, and whether the walls are really about safety, or certainty, or just about ‘us’ and ‘them’.”

Katy Long is not a BBC journalist. As readers may know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

BBC audiences however are told nothing of Long’s affiliations and hear nothing about the “funding and particular viewpoints” of the think tank for which she works.

According to its webpage, the BBC Radio 4 programme will be available “for over a year” and so the substantial section relating to Israel – which begins at 43:55 – is worthy of examination. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Long: “And the closer I look the more it seems like border walls run along the hidden fault lines of our liberal democracies. They’re monuments of the political impossibility of balancing national sovereignty with ideas of universal freedom, human rights and equality. That’s certainly the case of Israel – a state that is now almost entirely surrounded by walls. Danny Tirza.”

Tirza: “In 2000 the government decided to construct a security barrier between the West Bank and Israel and that was the project that I was the head of.”

Israel is of course not “entirely surrounded by walls” – in most places the border is protected by a fence. Long began by casting doubt on the information her interviewee had yet to provide.

Long: “For Tirza, the architect of the West Bank security fence, the logic of the barrier is simple and can be measured in the number of Israeli lives he believes it has saved.”

Tirza: “From 2000 till the end of 2006 we had in Israel more than three thousand terror attacks. We lost in this period 1,562 people that were murdered by terror attacks from the West Bank to Israel. At that period we had from Gaza Strip only three terror attacks because Gaza Strip was already fenced before that. But from January 2007 till today we had from the West Bank to Israel only 50 terror attacks and we lost in this period 41 people. You can see the differences.”

Long proceeded to signpost that information from a contributor  – who is the former head of the Strategic Planning Unit of the Judea and Samaria Division, IDF Central Command (1994-2009), a former senior security adviser and negotiator in diplomatic talks with the Palestinian leadership and a former advisor to prime ministers, the president of Israel, defense ministers, the National Security Council, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, the IDF Planning Branch, and senior IDF commanders – as unreliable. She did not inform listeners by whom that information is “contested” or whether that claim has any merit.

Long: “The exact numbers here are contested and correlation is not always causation. But what is beyond dispute is that there’s been a dramatic drop in Israeli deaths from terrorism since the barrier was built. But from the other side of the wall, the story looks very different.”

The contributor chosen to present the view from “the other side of the wall” is a London-based Iranian-American academic whose frankly often ridiculous claims did not receive any questioning, challenge or signposting from Katy Long.

Khalili: “This wall functions more as an offensive measure rather than as a defensive one.”

Long: “Laleh Khalili is professor in Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.”

Khalili: “So what do I mean by this? I mean that it has a certain series of functions that are used to control populations. Not only are you controlling people’s movements but you’re also by cutting the territory into different segments – and I think that in part explains the shape of the wall in the West Bank – what you’re doing is you’re creating areas with variegated modes of military control in them so that people can be subjected to surveillance in those spaces, they can be subjected to control of movement but also, should there be for example demonstrations or protests or forms of mobilization, the wall actually functions as a military means to limit those protests. And the third function is land grab so some of the areas where we see the wall have really – the wall in the West Bank – have some really very odd contours. In those instances the wall actually functions as a kind of a means to grab a bit of land and annex it.”

Those claims are of course complete nonsense but listeners heard no challenge from Long, who went on to promote an inaccurate claim of her own.

Long: “The West Bank’s wall sits to the east of the pre-1967 borders meaning that about 10% of the West Bank is now on the Israeli side of the barrier and some Palestinian villages are entirely encircled by the fence.”

There is of course no such thing as “pre-1967 borders”: as the BBC’s own style guide recognises, the 1949 Armistice Line is not a border.

“In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.”

Moreover, Long’s claim that all of the anti-terrorist fence “sits to the east” of what she wrongly described as a border is untrue. She went on to promote pure conjecture as fact.  

Long: “This means that while the wall may have brought Israel temporary security, it will make negotiations for a lasting peace still more complicated.”

Tirza: “No, this line is not a border. The border had to be decided only on the table of the negotiation. So the line will change there because there are other concerns that we can deal with on the negotiation table. That’s not that line.”

Long: “How permanent are those walls?”

Tirza: “As I was the territorial expert in all the negotiations with the Palestinians, I want to be the one that will take off the fences around the West Bank. I love this area very much. I have so many friends on the other side so really I hope that they will come and there will be no need for the security fence and we can remove it and live normally and quietly with our neighbours the Palestinians.”

Long: “I was reading as I was preparing for this that on some of the concrete slabs there are holes at the top. Is that right?”

Tirza: “That’s right. We call it the hole of hope. That it will be very easy to come with a crane and to take it off and remove it.”

Listeners then heard a recording, apparently from a news report, followed by the repetition of the false claim that Israel is “encircled with walls”:

“It’s a project shrouded in secrecy and there are plenty of denials today that this barrier is even being built.”

Long: “But despite Tirza’s hope that one day, when there is peace, the walls in the West Bank can come down, Israel is still building new barriers. Today the entire state is encircled with walls physically reinforcing the sense of the state existing under siege – a sense which has informed so much of Israeli politics in recent years.”

BBC audiences did not get to hear anything about the relevant issues of ISIS in the Sinai, Iranian-backed terror groups in the Gaza Strip or the terror group Hizballah in Lebanon and the Syrian Golan at that point or any other in the programme.

Apparently confusing the border with Egypt with that of the Gaza Strip – and making absolutely no mention of cross-border attack tunnels – Long went on:

Long: “On the border with Egypt a new barrier is being built. Not just up but also down underground, as Christian Fraser reported.”

The recording of Fraser’s report continued:

Fraser: “Sources say the new barrier is made of super strength steel that extends 80 meters below the surface. They believe it is manufactured in the United States. From descriptions it appears to fit together like a jigsaw and they say it’s been tested to ensure it’s bomb proof, it can’t be cut, it can’t be melted. In short, it sounds almost impenetrable.”

Long: “Ultimately, so much depends on where you’re standing when you look at Israel’s walls. For Israelis the fences are tolerable, even welcome, because they are held to keep terror out and because for most Israelis they are out of sight, out of mind.”

What evidence Long has to support that dubious claim is unclear. She went on:

Long: “For Palestinians, especially in overcrowded Gaza where nearly 2 million people live on just 350 square kilometers of land, they are hated as an assault on basic freedom because the walls limit everyday lives by keeping people in. Laleh Khalili explains.”

Khalili: “In Gaza the wall is so all-encompassing, in some ways so incredibly difficult to penetrate, that in fact it acts as a kind of a very large-scale prison. People often use that terminology to define…to describe Gaza as a large open-air prison but in fact the walls that surround it, at least on the land side, feels like anybody who’s in Gaza is stuck there.”

That ‘open air prison’ propaganda got no challenge from Long and listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip has a land border with Egypt or that thousands of people travel out of the territory every month. Of course the crucially relevant topic of the terrorism perpetrated by factions in the Gaza Strip did not even get one word of mention.

Long then joined some agenda-revealing dots for her listeners.

Long: “It’s tempting, standing here on the US border with Mexico, to talk about the many links between the barriers in Israel and the increased border enforcements here under President Trump. To point to the Israeli companies competing for contracts or the advice that Danny Tirza has given to the US Sheriff’s Association. To think about the increasing militarisation of this border between allies.”

As we see, the BBC is apparently quite happy for a programme which includes numerous inaccuracies to remain available on its platform for “over a year”.

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The BBC’s biased Bethlehem binge continues

Yesterday we documented an overtly politicised Christmas report by Barbara Plett Usher which was aired on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ on Christmas Eve.

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

An extended version of that audio report was also broadcast on three additional BBC radio programmes on December 24th with the following introductions:

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

1) BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ (from 46:37 here)

Mishal Husain: “Now, Bethlehem relies on tourists at this time of year and this Christmas looks like being the best for some years after a time of relative peace. It is a Palestinian city in the West Bank which is feeling the economic effect of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Barbara Plett Usher reports from there.”

2) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ afternoon edition (from 45:04 here)

Tim Franks: “Bethlehem is preparing for what it hopes will be the best Christmas in years as the city now boasts a fragment of wood believed by some to have formed part of Jesus’ manger. The relic’s been returned from the Vatican where it’s been since the 7th century. But even with that boost, the biblical town revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ remains fragile. The once thriving local Christian community is dwindling – partly because of the economic effect of the Israeli occupation with restrictions on freedom of movement which Israel argues are for security reasons, which Palestinians say damage not only their economy but their dignity as well. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight this Christmas.”

3) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ evening edition (from 36:59 here)

Julian Marshall: “Pilgrims from around the world are preparing to begin Christmas celebrations with midnight mass in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Modern Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Its holy sites are administered by the Greek Orthodox and Latin patriarchies. But the once thriving Palestinian Christian community has dwindled. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Palestinians say these measures significantly harm their freedom and their economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight at Christmas.”

Once again we see BBC journalists using the term “Israeli occupied” without any mention of the fact that Bethlehem came under complete Palestinian Authority control twenty-four years ago in December 1995.

Yet again listeners were not informed that no “restrictions on freedom of movement” existed until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada in the year 2000 and they heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism that murdered and wounded thousands of Israeli civilians and which brought security measures such as checkpoints and the anti-terrorist fence into existence.

The BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation under the terms of an agreement signed by the Palestinians as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence, as was promotion of the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

And yet again BBC audiences were not provided with the context which would enhance their understanding of why the Palestinian Christian community is ‘dwindling’ – including the issue of Palestinian Authority persecution and discrimination – or any significant information concerning Bethlehem’s economy beyond the trite politicised slogans blaming Israel.

The extended version of Barbara Plett Usher’s report (a filmed version of which was also aired on BBC television on Christmas Eve) includes an interview with a man dressed up as Santa in Manger Square during which listeners heard that “Bethlehem is a city of peace” despite the fact that it has been the source of many terror attacks and plots. The part of Plett Usher’s report describing St Catherine’s church and an Airbnb in Deheishe are expanded and we discover that she badgered more than one American tourist in order to promote her own political agenda.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist 1: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist 1: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist 1: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist 1: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then. That so it’s about the future as well.”

Tourist 2: “We’re from the US, yes.”

Plett Usher: “And what do you think of Bethlehem?”

Tourist 2: “Ah, it’s beautiful.”

Plett Usher: “What about the politics? Do you know…”

Tourist 2: “I don’t know much about it. All I know is my saviour Jesus Christ. That’s all I know. That’s all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. Yeah, and my eyes are open now that I’m here.”

Plett Usher: “What have you seen now that your eyes are open?”

Tourist 2: “Oh well, it’s as if I was coming to life, so yes.”

There is of course nothing novel about a BBC journalist exploiting the ‘season of goodwill’ to promote her own political agenda which includes misinformation about a structure built to protect Israeli civilians of all faiths and ethnicities from Palestinian terrorism. Many BBC employees have done the exact same over the years while studiously avoiding any serious reporting on the topic of the beleaguered Christians living under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule.

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BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

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BBC Radio 4 religious show airs anodyne report on Palestinian Christians

Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

 

 

 

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

The December 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included yet another example (from 13:00 here) of the BBC’s politicisation of Christmas.

Presenter Alex Ritson introduced the report by Barbara Plett Usher.  

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

Ritson: “Bethlehem – regarded as the birthplace of Jesus – typically sees a tourism boom at Christmas and this year looks like it could be one of the busiest in recent memory. But as a Palestinian town in the West Bank, Bethlehem is also feeling the economic effects of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Barbara Plett Usher reports from the holy city.”

Bethlehem of course came under complete Palestinian Authority control exactly twenty-four years before this item was aired, in December 1995. Listeners heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism which made security measures necessary but the BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence.

Plett Usher: “There’s an enormous Christmas tree in Manger Square, sparkling with many, many, many lights and the place is packed with people coming for the opening of the Christmas fair. Lots of kind of anticipation, excitement, Christmas cheer. This is really when Bethlehem comes into its own. This is really Bethlehem’s time of the year. There’s plenty of good cheer. Tourism is a bright spot despite dark times for the Palestinian economy.”

Plett Usher avoided informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes are largely self-inflicted and that they are the result of its insistence on paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

Plett Usher: “Across the square in the Church of St Catharine’s [sic] a procession of priests in a cloud of incense is descending to the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born. This happens every day but this Christmas is special because they have a piece of the manger – a gift from the Vatican. It’s a tiny splinter but a big boost for Bethlehem’s Christians, decimated by waves of emigration.”

Plett Usher made no effort to enhance her audience’s understanding of the context to those “waves of emigration”.

Obviously unable to distinguish between concrete and cement, Plett Usher went on to promote the false notion of Bethlehem being ‘squeezed’ by security measures for which she once again failed to provide any context.

Plett Usher: “Tourists vastly outnumber the Palestinian Christians. They roll into the little town of Bethlehem past what Israel calls its security barrier – the towering cement wall, as residents call it – as part of a system of controls that’s squeezing Bethlehem into an ever-shrinking space. That doesn’t stop the tide of visitors but many know more about the past than the present.”

Listeners then heard Plett Usher badgering a tourist in order to promote her own political activism while advancing the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then that so it’s about the future as well.”

photo credit: Adam Levick

Refraining from informing listeners that it is located on land purchased by Jews before 1948, Plett Usher then visited a ‘conflict tourism industry’ site in the Deheishe refugee camp. Listeners were of course not informed why ‘refugee camps’ still exist in an area under Palestinian control for nearly a quarter of a century.  

Plett Usher: “Not everyone can avoid the politics or wants to. So this is Deheishe refugee camp. Ahmed has come to take me to his Airbnb. Ahmed Fararja is renting a room near Bethlehem to a young Slovenian student, Clara Suroneg [phonetic]. She’s the latest adventure tourist to respond to his advertisement offering an alternative kind of holiday.”

Clara: “The refugee camp is actually like a…they’re all connected between each other, you know, all the people know each other and in the end of the day you see that you really think in the same ways but you come from two different places in the world.”

Plett Usher: “It’s that connection to the world that Ahmed is looking for.”

Ahmed: “You know the people here are not…most of them are not allowed to go outside and especially to the outside world and they see the outside world in your eyes.”

No effort was made to counter that propaganda by informing listeners that thousands of Palestinians “go outside” every day. Plett Usher closed her report with another politicised portrayal of Bethlehem’s economy.

Plett Usher: “There’s a children’s choir now in Manger Square. Business is really booming here this year. But you never know; next year could be a bust. When you can’t control your own space, things are very fragile. The one constant is faith. The faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen.”

Once again we see the BBC indulging its own political activism by exploiting Christmas to produce blatantly partial reporting which hinders audience understanding of the topic.

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BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

In addition to the BBC News website’s written puff piece relating to the latest agitprop in Bethlehem from Banksy, the corporation also promoted the same story on television and radio.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 22nd heard an item (from 33:52 here) which not only gave uncritical amplification to what is clearly no more than an exercise in delegitimisation of Israel but also gravely misled BBC audiences.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item.

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

Menendez: “The British street artist Banksy has made a big name for himself with his witty, provocative and usually political graffiti. His most famous images have been widely reproduced. Perhaps less well-known is his campaigning against Israel’s separation barrier: the high wall dividing Israel and the West Bank and in places cutting deeper into Palestinian territory. The UN’s highest court has advised that it contravenes international law.”

Menendez made no effort to inform listeners either at that point or any other in the four and a quarter minute item that – despite his description of a “high wall” – over 95% of the anti-terrorist fence is made of wire mesh.

His claim that in places the fence cuts ‘deeper into Palestinian territory’ fits in with the BBC narrative according to which areas that the Palestinians agreed under the terms of the Oslo Accords would have their final status determined through negotiations with Israel (in this case locations in Area C) are described using the pre-emptive phrase “Palestinian territory”, which is of course unhelpful and even misleading to audiences.

Predictably Menendez made no effort to inform listeners that the cited ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation before continuing with a coy description of ownership as “an interest”:

Menendez: “Well it turns out Banksy has an interest in a small hotel in Bethlehem called the Walled Off Hotel – that’s walled off, not Waldorf – and has just produced a new work to sit inside the lobby. It is a Christmas manger scene called ‘the scar of Bethlehem’ and it shows the manger by Israel’s separation barrier which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star. Well the hotel manager Wissam Salsaa has been telling me more.”

Salsaa: “The holy family is just a classical holy family but the background of the holy family is a replica of the separation wall that Israel built round the Palestinian cities and of course there’s a big part of it around the town of Bethlehem. And on the middle there is a kind of shell hole carved the wall as a scar. So this nativity scene…I mean it looks like the star of Bethlehem but Banksy called it the scar of Bethlehem.”

Menendez refrained from telling listeners that Israel did not build a “wall” – or a fence – “round the Palestinian cities” at all – including Bethlehem. Indeed, the BBC presenter proceeded with the false claim that “the wall runs through Bethlehem”:

Menendez: “And the background that people should understand as well is that – as you say – that the separation barrier, the wall, runs through Bethlehem but specifically runs right round the back of your hotel. I mean I think all the rooms overlook the barrier; is that right?”

As the B’tselem map below shows, the anti-terrorist fence (marked in red, with planned construction in purple) does not ‘run through’ Bethlehem at all – that claim is a complete falsehood.

Salsaa: “Yes, the Walled Off hotel – a hotel that was created by Banksy in 2017 – located about 4 meters away from the separation wall. It is known as the hotel with the worst view in the world. Usually our room sells according to the view: the worse the view is, the more expensive the room becomes.”

Menendez made no effort to clarify that the location of the propaganda exercise that is the hotel was selected precisely because of its proximity to the small section of the anti-terrorist fence made of concrete at that location.

Menendez: “But how has this work gone down in Bethlehem? What’s been the response to it?”

Salsaa: “Yeah I mean I heard some of the responses. I think people so appreciative to this contribution by Banksy to Bethlehem because Christmas started in Bethlehem but unfortunately we in Bethlehem we don’t live normal Christmas because of our situation. So it’s putting the spotlight on our pain.”

Menendez then came up with the falsehood that no terror attacks have taken place “for…three years now”. Since the beginning of this year alone 218 attacks have taken place in Jerusalem and on the Israeli side of the ‘green line’ – some of which were perpetrated by residents of PA controlled areas in Judea & Samaria.  

Menendez: “Israel of course says the barrier is necessary to prevent terror attacks and there hasn’t been one for, what, three years now. I mean have they got a point do you think?”

Salsaa: “Building the wall?”

Menendez: “Yeah, building the wall, yeah.”

Salsaa: “Actually I mean if you come over here and you could see in your eyes that there are thousands of Palestinians – Palestinian labourers – sneak into Israel every day to go and work. They use ladders and grappling hooks to climb the wall. So I don’t think that the wall could prevent terrorism or violence. I completely disagree with that.”

The Palestinians who illegally enter Israeli territory do so – according to Israel’s former Chief of Staff – in places where the anti-terrorist fence has yet to be constructed rather than in locations where a ‘wall’ has to be climbed. Salsaa went on – unchallenged by Menendez – to promote more baseless propaganda.

Salsaa: “Beside that, the wall is not built on a border. So like if you look at the map of the wall you would see that the wall is strangling for example Bethlehem; is converting Bethlehem into an open-air prison. So the wall is not the border. You cannot talk about the border between two countries. You are talking about a different set-up, OK, and this is the problem. Of course I mean security is important for everyone. We talk about peace; peace should be for everyone. So walls cannot be an answer for the circumstances of the conflict that we are living in.”

Menendez: “And given the way things have been going, do you have any optimism that the wall will come down any time soon?”

Salsaa: “Well honestly I mean…yeah I mean the political situation are not so much encouraging but of course as human beings we should have some hope and the hope that I have is a big support by Banksy and through art we try to speak out and raise our voice. The set up of the Walled Off Hotel and the activities have been mainly led by Banksy in our part of the world are so essential in promoting creativity and positive way of resistance instead of violence. So today we Palestinians can raise our voice in a very positive way.”

Menendez closed the item at that point, with BBC audiences having been exposed to over four minutes of totally unchallenged and entirely one-sided propaganda concerning the anti-terrorist fence, without even one mention of the hundreds of Israeli civilians murdered in the attacks which were the reason for its construction.

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BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

For years the BBC has uncritically promoted the recurrent anti-Israel propaganda produced by the anonymous English political activist known as Banksy.

It hence came as no surprise to see that the lead report on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of December 22nd did not concern the tens of thousands of people forced to flee Idlib province in Syria after over 400 airstrikes by Syrian and Russian forces but instead promoted yet another piece of the graffiti artist’s agitprop.

In addition to the report headlined “Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel” audiences were offered links both on the ‘Middle East’ page and in the body of the article to two previous examples from the same BBC genre:

Multiplatform BBC amplification for anti-Israel ‘political statement’ PR campaign

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

The report recycles messaging which has previously appeared in related BBC content.

“A manger scene by British artist Banksy has appeared at a hotel in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Dubbed the “Scar of Bethlehem”, the work shows Jesus’s manger by Israel’s separation barrier, which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star.

On Instagram, the artist said the work was a “modified Nativity”.

Israel says the barrier is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land.

The International Court of Justice has called it illegal.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content relating to the anti-terrorist fence, audiences are not informed that 95% of the structure is made of wire mesh or that the paraphrased ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation.  While the article  includes the standard employment of the qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to portray the structure’s purpose, the view presented to BBC audiences excludes any mention of the murders of hundreds of Israeli men, women and children by Palestinian terrorists that preceded the fence’s construction.

Readers are later informed that:

“All the rooms in the Walled Off hotel overlook a concrete section of the controversial West Bank barrier.”

Apparently the BBC is quite happy to employ the word “controversial” in relation to the anti-terrorist fence which has dramatically reduced Palestinian acts of violence but does not find it necessary to use the same terminology to describe the hundreds of terror attacks against civilians which brought about its construction.

Readers also find the following:

“Hotel manager Wissam Salsaa said Banksy had used the Christmas story to show how Palestinians in the West Bank were living.

“It is a great way to bring up the story of Bethlehem, the Christmas story, in a different way – to make people think more,” he said. […]

“Banksy is trying to be a voice for those that cannot speak,” Mr Salsaa added.”

There is of course nothing at all “different” about this latest exploitation of the nativity story for political ends – as the BBC obviously knows full well seeing as two years ago it collaborated with precisely such an initiative. And clearly the notion that the Palestinian people “cannot speak” is ridiculous given the amount of airtime and column space devoted to their views by the Western media- including the BBC.

This latest Christmas exploiting self-conscription to a long-running PR campaign promoting anonymous agitprop intended solely to delegitimise Israel continues to further erode the BBC’s claim of ‘impartiality’.

 

BBC report on Palestinian affairs promotes gratuitous Israel references

BBC Watch regularly documents the comparatively little coverage given by the BBC to internal Palestinian affairs and so it was interesting to note the appearance of a report headlined “Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between September 12th and 15th.

On September 16th an additional article relating to the same story appeared in the ‘features’ section of the same webpage under the headline “Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching”, where it remained for three days.

Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman, the article opened with a gratuitous references to Israeli counter-terrorism measures and an editorialised – but context-free – reference to the anti-terrorist fence. [emphasis added]

“When a young woman was admitted to Al Hussein hospital with a fractured spine and bruises on her body and face, doctors began to treat yet another case of traumatic injury.

Everyone here was used to young patients arriving with devastating wounds.

The hospital is located close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, whose streets lead past packed suburban refugee camps to Israeli army checkpoints and the foreboding separation barrier – all frequent flashpoints for violence.”

Bateman’s reference to “flashpoints for violence” of course fails to inform readers that such violence is usually the outcome of Palestinian terrorism.

Seeing as the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau decided to produce a feature article on the under-reported topic of violence against Palestinian women, one would have expected some factual information concerning the broader legal and social background and indeed the final section of the article included some fairly generalised discussion of those topics – and a rare reference to the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria.

“Campaigners blame a culture of impunity towards male perpetrators, bolstered by a penal code dating from the 1960s in the period that Jordan occupied the West Bank.

Some of its provisions create a loophole used by Palestinian courts to pardon or issue lenient sentences to men who commit violence against women when they plead they acted out of family honour.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2011 amended the law with the aim of deterring the so-called “honour killings” excuse.

But a 2017 report by the United Nations said judges in most cases still resorted to articles 99 and 100 of the code, “whose application mitigates the penalty of killing, including if the victim comes from the same family of the perpetrator”.

It also said Palestinian women suffered “multiple sources of discrimination and violence” both in public and private.”

However, Bateman apparently could not resist including another gratuitous reference to Israel taken from that politicised report by UN rapporteur Dubravka Šimonovic.

“”They suffer the violence of the Israeli occupation, whether directly or indirectly, but they also suffer from a system of violence emanating from the tradition and culture, with embedded patriarchal social norms,” the report added.”

In other words, even when producing an extremely rare feature article on the very serious issue of discrimination and violence suffered by women in Palestinian society, the BBC’s Tom Bateman could not resist promoting irrelevant politicised references to Israel.

BBC radio audiences hear one-sided reports from Yolande Knell

In the news bulletin at the beginning of the July 22nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ listeners heard the following report (from 04:17 here) presented by newsreader Neil Sleat. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Sleat: “The Israeli security forces have begun pulling down at least ten buildings in a Palestinian village close to the separation barrier in the occupied West Bank. The United Nations and the European Union have called for the demolitions near East Jerusalem to stop, claiming it’s undermining the chances of peace and a two-state solution to the conflict. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell.”

Knell: “Bulldozers and hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers moved into Sur Baher early this morning. A Palestinian official said some thirty people were forced to leave their homes and the demolitions began. Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled that these properties, some of which were still under construction, were too close to Israel’s separation barrier and for security reasons the owners should have sought permission from Israel’s military commander. Palestinians said that as their buildings were just inside the occupied West Bank, they had taken their permits from the Palestinian Authority. They argue that the clearance of their homes could set a precedent for further demolitions along the length of the barrier.”

As we see the unsupported UN/EU statement was uncritically amplified with listeners denied any information which would enable them to judge its veracity and relevance for themselves. Likewise, Yolande Knell uncritically amplified PLO messaging concerning “a precedent”.

“The PLO Negotiation Affairs Department slammed the court’s ruling last week, stating that it “aims to set a precedent to enable the Israeli occupying forces to demolish numerous Palestinian buildings located in close proximity to Israel’s Annexation Wall.””

Knell’s portrayal of the Supreme Court ruling did not clarify that it came after years of court cases.

“The court’s dismissal of the case brought an end to the residents’ seven-year legal battle against a military order that halted work on the 16 apartment buildings. Though the permits for the buildings were issued by the PA’s planning ministry nearly 10 years ago, Israel in 2012 ordered a halt to construction work in Wadi al-Hummus, citing its close proximity to the security barrier. […]

…the justices sided with the Defense Ministry, saying in their decision that major construction along the barrier would “limit [military] operational freedom near the barrier and increase tensions with the local population.

“Such construction may also shelter terrorists or illegal residents among the civilian population, and allow terrorist operatives to smuggle weapons or sneak inside Israeli territory,” justices Menny Mazuz, Uzi Fogelman and Yitzhak Amit wrote… “We therefore accept that there is a military-security need to restrict construction near the barrier.””

According to one Israeli news website reporting on that court ruling:

“In the year 2016 alone there were 170 security incidents in the area of Sur Baher, including the infiltration of terrorists who carried out attacks throughout the country.”

Neither did Knell’s portrayal adequately inform BBC audiences that:

“In its ruling, the Court said: “The original construction ban order and the orders extending it were publicized as required. The petitioners took the law into their own hands when they started and continued to build structures without receiving a special permit from the military commander.””

At no point were BBC audiences informed that the area in question lies outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundary and that misleading omission was repeated the next day – July 23rd – when listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter Tim Franks introduce an item (from 40:17 here) as follows:   

Franks: “House demolitions in and around Jerusalem – particularly occupied East Jerusalem – are not that unusual. But Monday’s destruction by Israeli forces of at least ten Palestinian buildings has drawn particular attention and criticism. The UN and the EU had called for the demolitions not to go ahead, saying they’d undermine the prospects of peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

As we see, banal UN/EU messaging was again uncritically amplified.

Knell: [sound of shouting] “Cries of protest as Palestinian families are moved out of their homes. In the darkness, hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police had entered Sur Baher. Residents had feared this moment since the deadline for them to demolish their own properties expired last week. Soon, the bulldozers got to work, demolishing buildings that Israel’s Supreme Court says violated a ban on construction too near Israel’s separation barrier. Owners such as Ismain Obediyeh [phonetic] said they’d built properties just inside the West Bank and took permission from the local Palestinian council.”

Voiceover: “I have a permit to build this house from Bethlehem, from the Palestinian Authority.”

Knell: “Sitting near the rubble of his home, Ismain – a father of six – said his family was left with nowhere to live.”

Voiceover: “This was the most difficult day I have known in my life. I’m so sad and tired. Today my house was demolished. My dreams were destroyed. They shattered the dreams of my entire family. It’s really difficult.”

It then became apparent that Knell does in fact know that the Wadi Hummus area is not part of the Jerusalem municipality but she made no effort to inform listeners that it lies on the Jerusalem side of the anti-terrorist fence because the residents of Sur Baher petitioned for that to be the case in 2004.

Knell: “The village of Sur Baher straddles the boundary line between occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. A double fence – part of Israel’s separation barrier – runs near the edge. Emmanuel Nahshon – a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry – said construction isn’t allowed here for security reasons.”

Nahshon: “The Palestinians know fully well that they are not allowed to build near the security fence and Israel is totally within its rights when it destroys those buildings. And the destruction order has been approved by our Supreme Court.”

Knell closed her report with more unquestioning promotion of PLO talking points.

Knell: “This year there’s been an increase in house demolitions by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem. Palestinians say it’s difficult for them to get building permits. And now these homes have been cleared, they worry it could set a precedent for many more that lie along the route of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

In neither of these reports were BBC audiences told why the anti-terrorist fence had to be constructed or how it has dramatically reduced the scale of terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Had they been given that information listeners could have decided for themselves whether the demolition of mostly partly built buildings or the politically motivated murder of Israeli civilians contributes more to “undermining the chances of peace and a two-state solution to the conflict”.

As well as the omissions and largely one-sided content in these two reports, we see the exclusive use of partisan language such as “occupied West Bank” and “occupied East Jerusalem” which severely erodes the BBC’s claim to ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

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BBC News report omits significant information

On the morning of July 22nd a report headlined “Israel demolishes ‘illegal’ homes under Palestinian control” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. The original version of the report – which was in situ for around four hours – told readers that:

“Israel has begun demolishing a cluster of Palestinian homes it says were built illegally too close to the separation barrier in the occupied West Bank.

Hundreds of police and troops moved in to Sur Baher as bulldozers tore down structures said to house 17 people.”

Readers were not informed that most of those “homes” were in fact multi-storey buildings in various stages of construction – and hence for the most part uninhabited – or that a halt to that building work was ordered in 2012.

They were however told that “Palestinians say it is an attempt by Israel to grab West Bank land” before the report went on to state that:

“Israel’s High Court had rejected appeals against the demolition order, saying the homes had been put up within a no-build zone next to the barrier.”

The BBC did not inform readers that while that no-build zone has been in force since 2011, construction of the said structures commenced after that date. Neither were they told that the court addressed the background to that no-build zone.

“…the justices sided with the Defense Ministry, saying in their decision that major construction along the barrier would “limit [military] operational freedom near the barrier and increase tensions with the local population.

“Such construction may also shelter terrorists or illegal residents among the civilian population, and allow terrorist operatives to smuggle weapons or sneak inside Israeli territory,” justices Menny Mazuz, Uzi Fogelman and Yitzhak Amit wrote […] “We therefore accept that there is a military-security need to restrict construction near the barrier.””

Readers next found the BBC’s standard framing of the anti-terrorist fence, which does not include presentation of the factual evidence of its efficacy.

“The barrier was built in and around the West Bank in the wake of the second Palestinian uprising which began in 2000. Israel says its purpose is to prevent infiltrations from the West Bank by Palestinian attackers, but Palestinians say it is a tool take over occupied land.” [emphasis added]

The report continued:

“The demolitions are particularly controversial because the homes, in the village of Wadi Hummus on the edge of Sur Baher, are situated in part of the West Bank under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but were built on the Israeli side of the barrier.”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers that that is the case because – as documented by the political NGO ‘Terrestrial Jerusalem’ the residents of Sur Baher petitioned against the original route of the anti-terrorist fence which excluded those Area A and Area B designated areas.

“In 2004, when the separation barrier was under construction, the route of the barrier was to leave the area of Wadi Hummus on the West Bank side of the separation barrier. After the residents despaired of stopping the construction of the barrier altogether, they appealed to the IDF to change the route of the barrier so as to include Wadi Hummus on the Jerusalem side of the fence. They had two major considerations: they sought to maintain the geographical integrity of the neighborhood, and to preserve access to one of the few areas of the neighborhood where additional construction could be carried out.”

As we see the BBC’s original reporting of this story seriously downplayed the security issues which are its context. While additional information – most of which was available at the time of the original publication – was subsequently added, the fact remains that the BBC was apparently quite content to promote an incomplete story for four hours, knowing full well that people who read the article during that time would be unlikely to return to it later in the day.

Related Articles:

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BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

A filmed report titled “Is peace between Israel and Palestinians out of reach?” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on June 24th. Narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, the video does not appear to have been filmed recently if the winter clothes worn by Knell and other people appearing in it are anything to go by.

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

Against a background of archive footage from the September 1993 signing of the declaration of principles – Oslo I – at the White House, Knell opened the report by asking:

“How did we get from this…to yet more of this?”

The second “this” was spoken as viewers saw footage of an air-strike in the Gaza Strip.

One answer to that question is the fact that such air strikes come in response to acts of terror by Hamas and other factions which were never included in the Oslo peace process but viewers of Knell’s report were not informed of that fact at any point and she went on to promote the misleading notion that “the Palestinians” as a whole were party to the Oslo Accords, continuing:

“It’s more than 25 years since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to make peace. But right now, as many see it, actual peace seems more out of reach than ever.”

After a heading reading “Why has it got harder to make peace?”, Knell went on:

“Politics has shifted on both sides. In recent years, Israeli coalition governments have been increasingly dominated by right-wing, nationalist and religious parties that are more hard-line and don’t believe giving up land will bring peace.”

Knell made no attempt to explain that such views are the result of Israel’s experiences after having withdrawn from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Neither did she bother to point out that the thirty-third Israeli government conducted negotiations in 2013/14 despite including the types of parties she specifies.

“During the campaign for the last election, won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was little talk of the two-state solution. Public support has fallen for this idea of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Among Palestinians, a deep political split has left the nationalist project in disarray. On one side you have the Islamist movement, Hamas, widely seen as a terrorist group. It doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

Viewers then saw an interesting portrayal of the violent coup conducted by Hamas in 2007 – and its result.

“Hamas won the last Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 but after in-fighting, ended up just governing Gaza.”

Knell went on:

“Then there’s the Palestinian Authority which governs parts of the West Bank. It’s headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the ageing president. He’s led past peace talks with Israel. Nowadays, many Palestinians feel disillusioned with their leaders.”

Viewers were then led to believe that Palestinians have been “promised” a state.

“Palestinians say their promised state is becoming less viable because of a big increase in the number of Israeli settlers living in occupied areas. There were just over 200,000 in 1990. Now the number is three times bigger.”

Next viewers discovered that the BBC’s long-standing and partial mantra on ‘international law’ has been expanded to include not only places but people.

Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.”

Apparently the BBC has no qualms about portraying over half a million Jewish Israelis as “illegal”.

Knell went on:

“Palestinians say they won’t return to peace talks without a freeze on settlement building.”

Knell did not bother to tell viewers that when such a freeze was imposed in 2009/10, the Palestinians refused to “return to peace talks” for nine out of ten months or that they rejected another offer of such a freeze in 2013.

While showing viewers only parts of the mostly wire-mesh anti-terrorist fence constructed from concrete, Knell then promoted the “land-grab” fiction seen in so much past BBC reporting.

“And here’s something else that’s changed since the 1993 peace deal – this wall is part of Israel’s West Bank barrier. Work on it started during the second Palestinian uprising. Israel said it was to protect Israelis against attacks but the Palestinians see it as a land grab as it encroaches on land they want for their future state.”

Knell then promoted equivalence between Israeli victim of terrorism and Palestinian casualties resulting from either responses to terrorism or rioting and attempted attacks.

“Of course violence increases mistrust and thousands of people have been killed in this conflict in recent years. Many weren’t soldiers or militants. Israeli civilians have been killed and injured by Palestinians in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and in stabbings, shootings and car rammings. On the Palestinian side, many civilians have been killed and injured in Israeli air strikes or have been shot by Israeli security forces mostly during operations or clashes.”

Knell did not bother to clarify that the “Israeli air strikes” come in response to the rocket attacks.

“For a long time, the US had the job of peace mediator. But the Palestinians cut off ties with the Trump administration saying it was biased towards Israel. They’re furious at its decision to recognise contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and open this embassy here and with the issue dropping down the agenda for Arab states, there’s now no peace broker trusted by both sides.”

Once again we see that in the run-up to the Bahrain economic workshop, the BBC’s pre-emptive framing of the topic does little to contribute to in depth audience understanding of the issues at hand.

 

 

 

 

BBC Travel serves up politicised narrative in food item yet again

h/t YM

May 19th saw the appearance of yet another BBC Travel article belonging to the genre of ‘promotion of a political narrative in an item ostensibly about food’.

Titled “Meet the chefs reinventing Palestinian cuisine”, the article was written by freelancer Tessa Fox who has previously had content published at ‘Middle East Eye’ and who is a contributor to the controversial Qatari network Al Jazeera.

As is so often the case in BBC content concerning “the Palestinian kitchen”, readers are told by one interviewee of supposed culinary appropriation by Israelis.

“We’re facing a daily threat of [our food just] being called ‘Middle Eastern cuisine’ or ‘Israeli cuisine’. Today, you have Israeli chefs selling [Palestinian recipes] as Israeli food.”

Readers also find unquestioning promotion of political narratives from the same interviewee, who has appeared previously in BBC content.

“Kattan emphasised that foraging, once popular with many Palestinians, gives residents a strong link to their land. He says that so long as Israel continues its settlement program in the West Bank and confiscates Palestinian territory, this connection among Palestinians to their land is increasingly important.”

Another interviewee is quoted as claiming that:

““As a Palestinian, I realise how much impact ‘the occupier’ has had on our culture. We feel a little ashamed [of our] Palestinian roots,” he added, citing the increased number of restaurants in the West Bank serving non-Palestinian fare.”

The article includes one-sided political messaging served up with Western buzz words such as “farm-to-table” and “land-to-table”.

“As the bitter, decades-long conflict with Israel continues, the Palestinians’ traditional cuisine is under threat, as families have been separated from the farms and valleys that supplied their regional ingredients for hundreds of years. As a result, locals worry that their once-proud culinary identity is disappearing and their food is losing its distinct land-to-table flavour.”

“Israeli settlements, which the UN Security Council has deemed illegal, are sometimes built on Palestinian farmland, thereby destroying the crops or rendering them inaccessible to Palestinians due to security checkpoints. Crops that traditionally require large swathes of land, like wheat, have become increasingly difficult to grow. In addition, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians importing fertiliser, which Israel deems as ‘dual-use’ item along with certain chemicals that could be used to manufacture weapons, have had a “detrimental impact on Palestinian agriculture,” according to a UN study, causing Palestinians’ agricultural production to decline by up to a third.”

That “UN study” was produced by UNCTAD and relies on information sourced from political NGOs such as ARIJ.

“Like Kattan, Bukhari feels strongly that the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank and its restriction of movement of Palestinians is not only disconnecting Palestinians from their land, but dissolving their distinct culinary identity.

“They say ‘Arab’, not ‘Palestinian’,” Bukhari said. “They’re doing their best to remove Palestine from the map, from history. So, anything that is Palestinian should be mentioned more and more.””

“Daher believes that since the erection of the barrier and restriction of movement from the West Bank into Israel, many Palestinians living in the Occupied territories have forgotten the importance of the sea in Palestinian cooking. Outside the Gaza Strip and coastal Israeli communities like Acre with sizeable Palestinian populations, most Palestinians no longer have access to the Mediterranean and have stopped cooking traditional seafood dishes.”

As is all too often the case in BBC reporting, readers are wrongly told that Palestinians began leaving their homes “after Israel declared its independence in 1948”. In fact, roughly half of those who fled did so between November 1947 – when Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence – and May 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent State of Israel.

“Mustafa explained that on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, there are cities such as Nazareth where the majority of people are still Palestinian, but are now residing in Israel. After Israel declared its independence in 1948, many Palestinians fled or were forced to flee their homes in the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence.”

Notably, this one-sided account makes no mention whatsoever of the Arab violence, the invasions by Arab armies or the Palestinian terrorism which made measures such as the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints necessary.

Readers also find misrepresentation of history:

“One such chef is Yousef Hanna, the owner of Magdalena – an upscale restaurant on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in the village of Migdal. Now located in north-east Israel, Migdal was built on top of a Palestinian village depopulated in 1948 called al-Majdal.”

In fact Migdal was established in 1910 – adjacent to the village of al Majdal rather than “on top” of it – and is named after the Second Temple era Jewish town of Magdala, on the site of which the Arab village was constructed.

As we see, BBC Travel’s promotion of partial political messaging by freelance writers of ‘life-style’ articles that potentially reach audiences less familiar with the political ins and outs of the Middle East continues.

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In which BBC World Service listeners hear that barbecue is ‘Palestinian food’