BBC WS radio amplifies claim that a country called Palestine “existed”

The November 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Boston Calling’ – titled “Power and diplomacy” – included an item (from 14:21 here) which was introduced by presenter Carol Hills (of PRI) using some very obvious sign-posting.

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

Hills: “…let’s duck into a museum in Washington DC that’s trying to do its own kind of diplomacy without a diplomat in sight. It’s a museum dedicated to Palestinian history with a mission to spark conversations about Palestinian culture, focused on its people not its politics. Mikaela Lefrak went to check out the Museum of the Palestinian People.”

In fact this is a recycled and slightly edited version of a report produced by Lefrak for PRI’s ‘The World’ in early July which begins with the same sign-posting.

Lefrak: “When visitors walk into the one-room museum the first object they see is a leafy-green water jug. It’s made of glass from Hebron; a city in the West Bank known for its glass-blowing traditions. What visitors won’t see is overtly political content, even in a museum about an area that’s at the centre of a decades-long geo-political conflict.”

Despite the claims from Hills and Lefrak, as we noted when BBC World Service radio previously promoted the museum and its founder back in June, it is essentially the continuation of a project that is very much political – even if Lefrak fails to identify it as such.

Lefrak: “Museum founder Bshara Nassar says his goal is to create a space that’s more personal than political.”

Nassar: “We want to really transform the story and put Palestinians in the light that we’re human beings, right? We’re artists, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re in politics and we contributing a lot to the US as immigrants as well.”

Lefrak: “Nassar immigrated to the US from the West Bank in 2011. When he came to Washington he saw a city full of museums but he didn’t see one that reflected him.”

Nassar: “Really I could not see a place where the Palestinian story can be told.”

Lefrak: “So he decided to open a travelling exhibition that would eventually become the museum. One of the objects in the collection is a 1946 passport for the Palestine Mandate. It was rendered useless the following year after the United Nations voted to establish the State of Israel. Curator Nada Odeh wants visitors to understand that history.”

That passport was of course in fact “rendered useless” in May 1948 when the British terminated their administration of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine – the purpose of which was to create a Jewish national home. In 1947 the UNGA passed a resolution (181) recommending that the area then still under British administration should be partitioned between Jewish and Arab states – a recommendation accepted by the Jews but rejected out of hand by the Arabs and hence never implemented. BBC world Service listeners heard nothing of that history – or the Arab attacks which followed that UN vote – but they did hear the ‘non-political’ museum’s Syrian-born head curator promote the falsehood that a country “called Palestine” used to exist.

Odeh: “We want them to learn that there is a country was called Palestine. It existed.”

Lefrak: “Odeh maintains that the museum is not political and there isn’t any mention of political leaders, protesters or human rights abuses on either side of the conflict. But there are certain phrases that some people will inevitably take issue with like signage about the Nakba or catastrophe – that’s the word Palestinians use to describe the time surrounding the creation of Israel. As Odeh puts it:”

Odeh: “There is a true story. There is people who were displaced because of…ah…someone came and took the land.”

That politically motivated, dumbed-down caricature of history went completely unchallenged by Lefrak – and unedited by the producers of this BBC World Service programme.

Lefrak: “The museum is just a mile away from the White House. President Trump has been a staunch supporter of the Israeli government but Nassar says he started dreaming up the museum before Trump was elected. He wants it to be a place of conversation, not protest.”

Nassar: “We welcome people with open hearts, you know, with open hearts – right? – to come and have a conversation with us. And it doesn’t matter if they agree or not; it’s the most important the conversation.”

Lefrak then came up with a debatable description of the J Street campaigning group.

Lefrak: “In the museum’s first few weeks a group of monks visited and a group from the liberal pro-Israel organisation J Street. But most of the visitors have been Palestinian Americans like one young man named Yussef Hamid. He showed off his Palestinian flag necklace.”

Having interviewed that visitor, Lefrak closed her report.

Lefrak: “Hamid said that seeing a museum like this about people like him gave him hope that the long-standing conflict might one day end.”

Carol Hills also had closing comments to make:

Hills: “Mikaela Lefrak at the Museum of the Palestinian People. It opened in Washington DC this past summer. As we heard, Ahmed [sic] wants his museum to provide hope: hope that the Palestinian people will finally find peace. That has long defied diplomatic efforts.”

A fitting end indeed to a ‘report’ in which Palestinians were portrayed as passive victims with no responsibility for their situation, history was distorted to the point that BBC audiences were led to believe that a country called Palestine “existed” and the political motivations behind a ‘museum’ were repeatedly whitewashed.

Related Articles:

Context-free political slogans go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

BBC News website gives platform to political campaigning article

 

 

Examining the BBC’s claim of Palestinian support for the two-state solution

Back in May, in a report concerning Palestinian rejection of the as yet unpublished US peace initiative, BBC News told its audiences that:

“It is unclear whether the [US] plan will be based on the so-called “two-state solution” – a long-standing formula for resolving the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem a shared capital.

The Palestinians and most of the international community support this approach in principle, while the Israeli leadership is cooler towards it.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has been promoting the theme of Palestinian support for a two-state solution at least since December 2016 – while amplifying the PLO’s interpretation of that shorthand.

“In addition to avoiding the obviously inconvenient fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the two-state solution which the BBC claims they “support”, the BBC’s implication that there is one unified Palestinian voice which supports the two-state solution is clearly inaccurate and misleading. […]

…the BBC’s wording does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.”

So what really is the approach of the PLO/Fatah/Palestinian Authority clique to the idea of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? Earlier this month the University of Chicago’s ‘Pearson Institute’ held a conference in Berlin. One of the speakers was Husam Zomlotcurrently head of the Palestinian mission to the UK – who readers may recall gave a briefing to BBC journalists just before the Bahrain economic workshop in June and who has been a regular contributor to BBC content.

For those interested in the topic of how the PA promotes its selective narrative in the West – and the contradictions and falsehoods that lie behind that narrative – Zomlot’s contribution (from around 2:30:00 here) is worth watching in full.

But one section in particular (from 3:04:43) has gained attention on social media because it reveals what actually lies behind that BBC claim that the Palestinians support the two-state solution.

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

Zomlot: “OK: about the two-state solution. Let me explain something that I think is missed in the discussion. People think the two-state solution is a Palestinian demand. Wherever we go now they tell us ‘oh I know that you demand a two-state solution’. […] This really, really must end. Number one, the Palestinians…you know the two-state solution was never a Palestinian demand. It was a Palestinian concession. And it was a Palestinian concession towards becoming aligned with international [inaudible]. For Palestinians it doesn’t make sense that early on, the starting point of forgoing 78% of what was rightly yours. You don’t start there. You start somewhere else. Having said that, for us, the Palestinians, let me confirm we have two positive acceptable outcomes for the future. The first is two states on the 1967 borders [sic]. A state of Palestine, sovereign – we’re not talking about Mickey Mouse state – sovereign, independent. East Jerusalem is our capital. Not a capital in East Jerusalem. Not shared capital in Jerusalem. Not the fantasy that we will establish a capital in Abu Dis. East Jerusalem from the exact line […] and this is final by the way. It’s final. One of the biggest mistakes that people thought that us accepting and recognising the two-state solution was the beginning of our concessions. No, no, no: it was the end of our concessions. […]

The second option is one person, one vote: one democratic, egalitarian state that provides for all of its citizens regardless of your language, your religion, your colour, your height, your width. A state in the meaning of a state. And I say it maybe on behalf of my Palestinian side: we will accept either. It’s not like we are obsessed. We are obsessed about a solution. But we know that the second option is a non-starter in Israel. We know that. And you know why? Do I need to dwell on it? Because Israel see us, the Palestinians, primarily as a demographic threat. Because the dream of establishing a state of all its citizens might be generations away. Because only few months after the Israeli state…nation state law that discriminated against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and deliberately told them that they can never have the right of self-determination – it’s exclusive to Jews. In such an environment to aspire to that is really to be almost like wanting to fight a heavyweight boxer when you are unable to even defeat a lightweight. And that’s why we are more in the area of possibility than desirability and from a possibility point of view we remain to be convinced that the two-state solution is still possible. And we remain convinced that it is the best course to the immediate future.”

In other words, Zomlot is saying that although the Palestinians would prefer a more ‘desirable’ one-state option which would eradicate the Jewish state and bring an end to Jewish self-determination, they are prepared to settle in “the immediate future” for their partisan interpretation of a two-state solution which – notably – does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state because they consider all of Israel to be “rightly” theirs.

That of course is significantly different to way in which the BBC portrays the Palestinian position to its audiences. The problem is not that Palestinian officials such as Zomlot and Saeb Erekat do not get enough BBC airtime to explain their stance but that BBC journalists refrain from asking challenging but relevant questions such as why the PA’s interpretation of the two-state solution does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Related Articles:

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

More simplistic BBC framing of the US peace proposal

The June 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend’ included an item billed:

“…a senior governing party politician in Israel reflects on the need to hold elections again in three months.”

The item began with a fairly unremarkable interview (from 32:57 here) with former Jerusalem mayor, Likud party member and Knesset rookie Nir Barkat concerning his party’s failure to form a coalition government and the repeat general election to be held in September.

Presenter Julian Worricker then asked for comment from his two studio guests who had been introduced at the beginning of the programme as:

“Shaista Aziz – British journalist, writer, comedian and politician for the British Labour Party and Frank Langfitt, who’s London correspondent for the US National Public Radio network.”

Listeners were not informed that Shaista Aziz’s CV also includes stints with various political NGOs including Oxfam, Islamic Relief and Save the Children as well as a position on the management council of War on Want or that she spent two weeks in Schem as an ISM volunteer during the Second Intifada. Neither were they told of her current projectspokeswoman for the ‘Stop Trump Coalition’. 

Apparently uninterested in domestic Israeli politics, Langfitt chose to take up Worricker’s second question of “what it means for this Jared Kushner initiative”, opining that the upcoming Israeli election “gives the Americans a little more time to sell a plan that they haven’t really told people what it might be” and going on:

Langfitt: “The second thing to remember is that it’s going to be met with scepticism in part, certainly the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. You know the United States at times was seen as an honest broker in the Middle East but it’s very hard for Palestinians or most Arabs to see that when you move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Later on Langfitt added:

Langfitt: “I don’t think it’s going to be an easy sell for the Americans with this administration, frankly with President Trump and the things that he’s done that have been very provocative to Arabs and Palestinians.”

Listeners heard no explanation as to why the relocation of the US embassy to an existing facility in an area of Jerusalem to which the Palestinians ostensibly make no claim should be “very provocative”.  Neither were the discussion’s participants interested in analysing Worricker’s observation that “the Palestinians have already been highly critical of what they anticipate to be in this report [sic] even though it’s not been published”.

Shaista Aziz’s contribution to the conversation began with the presentation of unevidenced and simplistic allegations as ‘fact’.

Aziz: “Well, you know, Netanyahu is widely regarded as one of the most Right-wing leaders in Israel’s history. He’s not a man known for compromise or nuance – let’s be clear about that. We know that the war drums are beating over Iran which this…this election will impact that as well I think…”

Worricker made no effort to challenge those facile claims before Aziz brought up the unrelated topic of infrastructure problems in the Gaza Strip caused by Palestinian infighting.

Aziz: “I’m very glad that the Palestinians have been named and mentioned here because, you know, Gaza – the UN is saying – is almost uninhabitable. You’ve got a sewage system that’s collapsed, a water system that’s collapsed, agricultural issues and then at the heart of this is people who’ve lost hope so you’ve got large numbers of young people in Israel and Palestine who cannot see a way out of this for them in terms of their political leadership finding a just solution and a just peace…”

Speaking on a radio station where barely a day goes by without at least one report concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, Aziz went on to claim that:

Aziz: “…an international solution will only be accepted if it’s a just solution and I think the issue of Palestine’s dropped off the radar and I do believe that these elections are going to end up being a big destruction and used by extremists on both sides.”

And so pre-emptive BBC framing of the as yet unpublished US administration initiative plods on with yet more superficial commentary that herds audiences towards the view that if the US peace proposal goes nowhere, that will be due to internal Israeli politics and because the US administration has done “provocative” things – not because the Palestinians have rejected the proposal before even seeing it.    

Related Articles:

BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

Looking beyond BBC framing of the US peace proposal

Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

As noted here previously on May 14th the BBC News website published a backgrounder apparently intended to mitigate weeks of context-free amplification of (unsuccessful) calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv.  

Produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – the department of BBC News which purports to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience” – and titled “Eurovision 2019: The Israeli-Palestinian situation explained”, the unattributed article is tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’.

The article opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“This year’s Eurovision has an extra layer of controversy – because it’s being held in Israel. […]

But there have been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

What “Israel’s policies” are is not properly explained anywhere in the article. Policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. Readers are then materially misled by the following portrayal of the conflict:

“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has gone on for decades, and the dispute over land is at its heart.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s adoption of that inaccurate notion of course means that it does not have to explain to its audiences the issue of Muslim objection to the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

The article continues with a sub-section purporting to outline the history behind the conflict in which the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s are whitewashed. Ignoring the Arab violence which followed the UN Partition Plan vote, the article moves on to “The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’”.

“In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.

Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

That link leads to a problematic article published a year ago in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as totally passive victims and all mention of the responsibility of the Arab leaders who rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and subsequently started the war that led to their displacement is missing. 

The displacement of Palestinians did not take place – as the BBC would obviously have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. In fact:

“Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine).”

The BBC carefully avoids thorny topics such as Palestinian hereditary refugee status and the reasons why Palestinians living in Palestinian controlled areas are still defined as ‘refugees’. The issue of certain Arab countries’ deliberate policy of discriminating against Palestinians and keeping them in perpetual refugee status for over 70 years is of course not mentioned in this ‘backgrounder’.

Readers are told that:

“Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.” [emphasis added]

No explanation of the background to that highlighted statement is provided.

In a sub-section titled “What’s happening now?” readers are told that:

“Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.” [emphasis added]

Hamas has of course never “fought Israel” in the accepted sense of the term: rather, it is a terror group which targets Israeli civilians. Unsurprisingly the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israeli civilians have no place in this dumbed-down BBC backgrounder.

In the final section of this article readers are shown a video captioned “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on”. That filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was first aired in May 2018 and it includes a section narrated by Bowen as follows:

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.”

Moreover, Hamas subsequently removed the baby’s name from its list of casualties and further information concerning the circumstances of her death later emerged.

Despite those developments, the BBC failed to remove multiple items from its website (available to this day) in which viewers are given to understand that Israel was connected to the baby’s death. BBC Watch therefore submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue in June 2018 and two months later received a reply concerning some of the items from Sean Moss at the BBC News website which included the following claims:

“1: ‘Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44116340).

In this piece we attribute both the baby’s death and the wider figures to the “Hamas-run” health ministry. We don’t mention the cause of death or otherwise draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action.

2: ‘Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-44133897/gaza-the-bullets-stop-the-burials-go-on).

Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army and he leads into this part of his report by saying ‘poverty and grief breed anger – and so do the deaths of children,’ which is true.”

BBC Watch subsequently contacted both the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit and OFCOM, pointing out in regard to the first item that:

“…the report is specifically about Palestinians who died during those “protests” and it is obviously not about Palestinians who coincidentally happened to die for other reasons at the same time. Readers would therefore understandably conclude that the baby was among those “killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire” and Moss’ claim that “We don’t…draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action” is inaccurate and disingenuous.”

With regard to Bowen’s report we noted that:

“The synopsis […] states “More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday” and so again obviously viewers would understand that its topic is ‘Palestinians killed by Israeli troops’. Given that and the fact that immediately before showing footage of the funeral of “Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old” Jeremy Bowen had profiled a person described as having been “shot through the eye during the protests”, it is clear that Moss’ claim that “Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army” is also disingenuous: Bowen did not have to say that because the case had already been signposted.”

To this day BBC Watch has not received a satisfactory response on this serious issue from either the BBC or OFCOM. Now – one year on – we see that the BBC continues to promote the claim that Israel was responsible for the death of a baby in the Gaza Strip in 2018 despite the fact that even Hamas backtracked on that allegation twelve months ago.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s double helping ‘Nakba’ backgrounder

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

As has been documented here previously, since the end of January 2019 BBC coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest has included repeated amplification of the BDS campaign’s call to boycott the event being held this week in Tel Aviv.

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

That editorial policy of unquestioningly and simplistically amplifying the boycott campaign without the provision of context and factual background information and with no explanation of the BDS campaign’s aims was also evident in two additional recent reports. Interestingly though, the BBC finally got round to mentioning a counter call which it initially ignored.

Madonna Eurovision performance in doubt” by Mark Savage, BBC News website, 14 May 2019

“But there have been calls for performers and broadcasters to boycott the competition over Israel’s human rights record.

In January, British figures including Dame Vivienne Westwood, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Mike Leigh, Maxine Peake and the band Wolf Alice signed a letter calling on the BBC to cancel coverage of the 2019 song contest.

The signatories criticised Israel over its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. “Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” they wrote.

Others denounced the proposed boycott, saying that Eurovision’s “spirit of togetherness” was “under attack”.

Public figures including Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Marina Abramovic and pop mogul Scooter Braun signed a counter-statement, claiming “the cultural boycott movement [was] an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition”.”

Eurovision Song Contest 2019: Why Wolf Alice are boycotting” Newsbeat, BBC News website, 15 May 2019

“The group’s guitarist Joff Oddie describes Eurovision as “a wonderful idea, if a bit naff at times”.

But rather than being a secret fan, Joff is one of several artists who’ve been calling on people to stay away from this year’s event in Israel.

He supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which wants a complete cultural boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

“This is the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest that’s ever happened,” says Joff.

He’s DJing at an anti-Eurovision gig in London this weekend, which is due to take place while the grand final is being broadcast.

“The boycott is like any grassroots movement. Instead of feeling disempowered, we can feel empowered.”

The Israeli government says BDS opposes Israel’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. […]

In recent months, many high profiles names have come out to either support or oppose a boycott of Israel.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s record of reporting on the anti-Israel – and anti-peace – BDS campaign is abysmal. For years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state – even while providing the campaign and some of its supporters with free PR

And so once again in these two articles we see BBC journalists recycling trite campaign slogans such as “Israel’s human rights record”, “occupation”, “violation of Palestinian human rights” and “treatment of Palestinians” without providing (in clear breach of the corporation’s public purposes) any of the background information essential for audience understanding of the issue.

However, on May 14th the BBC News website purported to ‘explain’ the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its audiences, as we shall see in a future post.  

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The April 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:11 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life in hotly contested elections next week, trying to win another term in office despite facing possible indictments on corruption charges. His election campaign has made much of his ability to deliver dividends from Israel’s relationship with America and has highlighted his friendship with President Trump but for some time his Right-wing policies have been chipping away at America’s strong bi-partisan support for the Israeli government and that fracture is becoming ever more public. Barbara Plett Usher takes a closer look.”

Listeners heard no justification for the use of the buzz words “Right-wing policies” and no explanation of what those policies supposedly involve. They were given no evidence to support the claim that American support is for “the Israeli government” rather than Israel as a whole. Neither was any evidence provided supporting the claim that such support has been diminished solely and exclusively because of the Israeli prime minister’s policies. Plett Usher’s report opened with a recording of the Israeli prime minister speaking.

Recording Netanyahu: “Thank you President Trump. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship.”

Plett Usher: “Benjamin Netanyahu has always believed he’s best at reading the wind when it comes to Americans and he felt that wind at his back on a trip to Washington last week.”

Recording Trump: “Under my administration the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”

Barbara Plett Usher went on to repeat the buzz words heard in the introduction but while this time listeners learned that those policies supposedly relate to “the Palestinians and Iran”, they were not told what those policies are or in what way they are “Right-wing”.

Plett Usher: “President Trump has embraced him and his Right-wing policies on the Palestinians and Iran.”

As Jonathan Spyer recently pointed out, there is in fact “an almost complete consensus between a broad mass of the Israeli (Jewish) public” on the issue of Iranian threats against Israel and “a decline in the level of polarisation within the Jewish voting public over the last two decades” concerning “the security challenge of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinian Arab national movement”.

“Regarding Iran, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, which forms the main challenger to the ruling Likud party in the 2019 campaign, has made clear that there are no disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the question of Iran and the threat it poses.

The consensus, however, goes beyond the rightist Likud and centrist Blue and White party. Labor and Meretz, representing the centre-Left and left-wing spots on the political map, are similarly supportive of the government’s stance on Iran.”

Quite how Plett Usher justifies her claim of “Right-wing policies on Iran” is therefore unclear.

On the subject of the conflict with the Palestinians, Spyer notes that:

“…this debate has lost much of its passion. On the Left, the belief that a partner for historic compromise had been found in the PLO lost many adherents after the collapse of the peace process and the commencement of Palestinian insurgency in late 2000. On the Right, the fervent and ideological commitment to avoidance of any land concessions west of the Jordan River also faded.

This has been reflected in the 2019 campaign. The main contenders – Likud and Blue and White, are clearly competing for the centre ground. “

Once again the justification for Plett Usher’s use of the slogan “Right-wing policies” is unclear.

She continued with a segment including unidentified interviewees at the recent AIPAC conference –using another label for which she did not bother to provide evidence.

Plett Usher: “But outside the White House the wind is shifting. [music] Not here. Support was rock solid at this conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – or AIPAC. It has promoted Israel’s relationship with the US for decades in both political parties. But a few young, newly elected Democrats have been challenging that orthodoxy, triggering a controversy over charges of antisemitism and the level of bi-partisan support.”

Man 1: “The three vocal Democratic representatives are just vocal. They’re loud mouths. And I feel their uproar – people like uproar, they like a tumult, OK – and I think it’ll die down.”

Man 2: “I think that there’s enough love and support in the United States for Israel and an understanding of the importance of the alliance that it really will not affect the relationship.”

Referring to a small demonstration against AIPAC in March, Plett Usher went on to introduce a representative of a political group which, interestingly, she did not find it necessary to locate on the political spectrum.

[shouting: ‘Free Palestine, Free Gaza’]

Plett Usher: “Only a handful of demonstrators showed up but in fact opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s policies has been building for some time, especially when it comes to treatment of the Palestinians and especially in the younger generation. [shouting] That includes many American Jews who say Israel has lurched so far to the Right they no longer share its values. Ethan Miller belongs to a protest group called ‘If Not Now’.”

Miller: “You know, we’re a rising movement – a rising grassroots movement – of American Jews but I think we’re starting to see changes in Congress as well. We’re starting to see members of Congress both in the house and in the Senate actually start to speak up for Palestinian human rights in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”

The group ‘If Not Now’ claims to be “working to transform the American Jewish community’s support for occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all”. Apparently Plett Usher would have her listeners believe that “the occupation” – which of course began as the result of a defensive war during the term of a Left-wing government when the current Israeli prime minister was still four months short of his eighteenth birthday – is one of “Mr Netanyahu’s policies”.

Plett Usher: “It’s a trend that’s never been so pronounced or contentious.”

Recording: “Breaking news coming out of the House of Representatives where a resolution has just passed condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”

Plett Usher then presented a highly selective version of a story from February, failing to clarify that the congresswoman did in fact use an antisemitic trope.  

Plett Usher: “A Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was accused of using antisemitic language. That broke open divisions within the party in a public and messy way. Still, there was an upside says Jeremy Ben Ami. He heads a liberal pro-Israel lobby called J Street that is challenging AIPAC and he organised a conference call on the controversy.”

Recording Ben Ami: “The space that we need to have is the space to discuss the occupation. I think that we are in a place now where those conversations can actually start to be had.”

Plett Usher did not bother to inform listeners that J Street – which some would dispute is “pro-Israel” – was founded in 2007 when the prime minister of Israel was Kadima’s Ehud Olmert or that, in contrast to AIPAC which does not donate to candidates or campaigns, J Street donated some $4 million to exclusively Democratic candidates in 2018. She went on:

Plett Usher: “Or maybe not.”

Recording Trump: “But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

Plett Usher: “President Trump has seized the moment to go after the Democrats, even though he’s been accused of enabling antisemitism. Republicans are claiming to be better defenders of Israel and Democratic lawmaker Tom Malinowski says there’s now less space for conversation about Israel within the party – not more.”

Malinowski: “I am absolutely convinced it is possible to have a debate about our foreign policy towards Israel or any other country but when people start using blatantly antisemitic tropes in that debate, it actually makes it harder. It actually tends to shut down serious debate about foreign policy because everybody becomes defensive and angry rather that thoughtful about the choices that are before us.”

Plett Usher finished by building up what she apparently knows to be an imaginary story about a ‘boycott’ of the recent AIPAC conference.

Plett Usher: “The young and outspoken lawmakers have received an outsized amount of coverage but it is not just about them. Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for president include a mix of liberals and ethnic minorities who have also been more critical of Israeli policy.”

Recording Pence: “And as I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”

Plett Usher: “The vice-president Mike Pence brought up the 2020 election at the AIPAC conference.”

Recording Pence: “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Plett Usher: “In fact only one candidate – Bernie Sanders – explicitly said he was not attending because of policy differences. But it does look as if Israel will be an issue in America’s presidential campaign long after the Israeli prime minister has finished his.”

Plett Usher’s framing of this story is abundantly clear: ‘liberal’ Americans are, according to her, abandoning Israel solely because of its prime minister’s “Right-wing policies”. Unsurprisingly she ignored the relevant issue of the Democratic party’s leftward shift over the years in order to uncritically and unquestioningly promote a narrative advanced by the anti-Israel group showcased in her report.

“My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change,” said Simone Zimmerman, 28, a co-founder of a progressive group, IfNotNow, that opposes what it calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Ms. Zimmerman scorned what she called “the Trump-Netanyahu” alliance and said “too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let them off the hook.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” intended to “build people’s understanding of…the wider world”. 

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Weekend long read

1) Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman explains why “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’”.

“There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides. […]

If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer asks “Will Turkey invade north-east Syria?”.

“The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 19 of his intention to rapidly withdraw US forces from eastern Syria led to expectations of a rapid move by Turkish forces into all or part of the area currently controlled by the US-aligned, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.  The precipitating factor that led to Trump’s announcement, after all, was a phone call between the President and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayepp Erdogan.  For Turkey, control by what Ankara regards as the Syrian franchise of the PKK of a large swathe of the 900 km Syrian-Turkish border has long been seen as entirely unacceptable.  The Kurdish dominated SDF are capable and proven fighters.  But without US help, and facing Turkish air power and artillery, they would be able only to resist for a while.  This had been already proven in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in January, 2018, when Ankara invaded and destroyed the Kurdish canton of Afrin in north-west Syria. […]

For a number of reasons, however, the prospect of an early large-scale entry of Turkish forces into north-east Syria now seems less likely than it did a couple of weeks ago.”

3) Tony Badran discusses “Arafat and the Ayatollahs” at Tablet magazine.

“When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.” There was some truth in Arafat’s flowery words. Having developed and nurtured a decade’s worth of relationships with all the major forces, from Marxists to Islamists, which had toppled the shah, he had good reason to feel like the victory of the revolution was in some part his own.

Although the heady days of February 1979 would soon give way to tensions, the Palestinians were integral to both the Islamic Revolution and to the formation of the Khomeinist regime. For Arafat, the revolutionary regime in Iran carried the promise of gaining a powerful new ally for the Palestinians. In addition, Arafat saw a chance to play the middleman between Iran and the Arabs, and to encourage them to eschew conflict with each other in favor of supporting the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Yet it soon became clear that Arafat’s double fantasy was unattainable, and would in fact become quite dangerous to the Palestinian cause.”

4) Belgian Friends of Israel have produced a series of short videos featuring conversations with residents of the area close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

See the additional videos here.

 

One to watch out for on BBC Two

BBC Two has a programme called ‘See Hear’ which is described as a “Magazine for the deaf community highlighting the issues affecting the community”. The programme has in the past included a series called “On Tour” in which a deaf presenter has visited foreign cities in order to “explore deaf culture in other countries” and to ask:

“What is life like for the local deaf community and what are the highlights for deaf travellers seeking out a short city break?”

The current “On Tour” series – now presented by deaf British actor Nadeem Islam – has already visited Reykjavik:

“Nadeem Islam visits Reykjavik in Iceland, the land of ice and fire. The birthplace of the legendary Vikings, who pillaged and plundered their way around the world, today’s Icelandic people are more laid back – but there are still living, breathing deaf Vikings around – and Nadeem is going to meet one.

Nadeem experiences a dip in one of the hot springs that are dotted around Iceland’s mountainous landscape, watches a geyser erupt, tries on a few animal furs, enjoys a spot of knitting, does some whale watching and tastes one of the most revolting foods ever – fermented shark fat!

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention Nadeem’s trip to the world-famous penis museum!”

And Rome:

“Nadeem Islam visits Rome in Italy, also known as the Eternal City, to see what sights there are for deaf people to see. Starting with a guided scooter tour, Nadeem also meets the deaf signing guides who work at the Colosseum, and imagines being a deaf gladiator thousands of years ago.

Nadeem then has the opportunity to spend some time with one of the most powerful deaf men in Rome – Roberto Wirth, the proprietor of the five-star Hotel Hassler. Rome is a city where the inhabitants express themselves freely through gesture and body language – but do deaf people get equal status? With the campaign for legal recognition of Italian Sign Language still ongoing, it is a big issue.

Nadeem then rounds off his trip with a visit to One Sense, a deaf-owned restaurant, and gets to try his hand at a spot of Italian cuisine!”

The episode scheduled to be aired on the morning of January 16th is titled “On Tour: Tel Aviv” and its synopsis suggests that viewers may see a departure from the disabilities and travel genre.

“Nadeem Islam visits the city of Tel Aviv in Israel, also known as The Miami of the Middle East. Wandering the sunny boulevards and beaches with his deaf Israeli guide Omer, they take in the beautiful Bauhaus architecture and a show at the famous Nalaga’at theatre of the deafblind. Nadeem has a Muslim background, and Omer is Israeli – will international signing be a bridge for them to meet in the middle and discuss the issue of Israel and Palestine?

Nadeem also takes on a couple of deaf volleyball champions, meets a deaf Holocaust survivor, learns the Israeli fingerspelling alphabet, and joins Tel Aviv’s Pride march – one of the largest in the world!” [emphasis added]

The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ of course tells BBC journalists that “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.

Remarkably BBC Two appears to believe that this particular episode of its half-hour travel show should include a political discussion simply because its British presenter “has a Muslim background”.

Now there’s a stereotype for you.

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A BBC programme from Jerusalem – and you can take part

The BBC television and radio programme ‘Global Questions’ will be visiting Jerusalem next month.

“As the state of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Jerusalem to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, Israel has been dominated by conflict with Palestinians and its neighbouring Arab states. Is more conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war?

The Middle East is awaiting President Trump’s much anticipated peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century”. But the Palestinians see America’s Embassy move to Jerusalem as a dangerously provocative gesture.

Global Questions brings together a high-profile panel and an audience of young Palestinians and Israelis to see whether they believe the next 70 years could bring an end to the conflict that has scarred the region for so long.”

Members of the public can take part in that December 5th programme by emailing globalquestions@bbc.co.uk.

Alternatively, questions can be submitted using the webform here.

BBC One’s ‘Sunday Morning Live’ erases a third of the royal visit

h/t TG, MF

BBC One has a programme called ‘Sunday Morning Live’ – currently presented by Sean Fletcher and Cherry Healey – which purports to provide BBC audiences with “thought provoking discussions of ethical questions of the week“.

The July 1stedition of that programme (available in the UK here) included a papers review together with guests presented by Fletcher as “journalist and writer Christina Patterson and comedian Aatif Nawaz“.

Sean Fletcher began by erasing one-third of the itinerary of the recent royal visit to Jordan, Israel and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Fletcher: “And this week in – well – his biggest diplomatic test, Prince William became the first member of the royal family to make an official visit to the Palestinian territories. The Duke of Cambridge, who started his Middle East trip in Jordan, toured a market in Ramallah and spent a moment in quiet prayer at the holy Wailing Wall [sic] in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

Healey: “Christina – such a sensitive issue: how do you think he did?”

Patterson: “I thought he did amazingly well I must say. People tend to speak about Prince William as if he’s, you know, nice bloke, not Einstein, ehm…and, you know, that may be true but I have to say this is a diplomatic minefield and he was clearly very, very carefully briefed. But he didn’t put a foot wrong and he managed to win both sides over.”

Viewers then saw the journalist Patterson – who, as a person on record as claiming that Israelis “raze homes and build new ones on someone else’s land” and “destroy their neighbours’ crops and treat them like criminals” may not have been the most objective commentator on Israel related topics that the BBC could have come up with – make the following pseudo-legal pronouncement:

Patterson: “I think one or two people have said oh, he shouldn’t have talked about the occupied territories. Well they are the occupied territories – that was just factually and legally accurate.”

With the programme’s presenters making no effort to inform audiences of the existence of alternative legal views concerning an issue on which Patterson is clearly not qualified to tell viewers what is “accurate” or not, she went on to potentially confuse them with a reference to the president of a country that they had not been told was included in the visit.

Patterson: “But really, to have got the Israeli president and the Palestinian president and all those people in all those different factions on his side [sic] was an astonishing achievement. And it was also very touching to see how he related to people and I think in particular he was profoundly moved by the plight of the Palestinians and I think, you know, good on him. He really brought quite…something quite tricky off.”

Fletcher then went on to refer to an article in the Sunday Mirror.

Fletcher: “Yeah, Aatif: the front of the Sunday Mirror – ‘Wills: Middle East peace is my life mission’ so according to the Mirror. That, I mean, that’s a tall order. In terms of religious and political tightropes, this is as high as they get, isn’t it?”

Nawaz: “Well I like that he’s up for the challenge, you know, because it is very challenging. You see a lot of heads of state and, you know, people in positions of influence or privilege avoid these situ…or avoid talking about the Middle East or avoid talking about the conflict or the two-state solution or whatever it is that’s brought up about it. But he’s going for it and I really like that because, you know, there’s this perception about the royal family – sometimes they’re very passive and they don’t play a role or they certainly want to avoid talking about anything controversial and it’s a very ceremonial thing. Whereas this is like a really noble, admirable aim for his [unintelligible]. He’ll win a lot of supporters in the Muslim community for acknowledging the occupied Palestinian territories and Palestine and the life of the Palestinians. So I think it’s great and if he could…listen, I’m backing it.  What can I do to help, prince? You tell me ‘cos that’s like let’s bring peace to the Middle East.”

That identity politics dog-whistle closed what apparently passes for “thought-provoking discussion” at BBC One.

Resources:

Contact ‘Sunday Morning Live’