BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

Ever since the BBC began covering the media-orientated ‘Great Return March’ at the end of March it has avoided providing its audiences with a clear picture of the bodies behind its conception and organisation.

BBC audiences have however heard repeated promotion of the theme of Palestinian ‘ancestral lands’ and that was again the case in the introduction given by presenter James Coomarasamy to a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was aired in the May 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 14:08 here). [emphasis in italics in the original]

Coomarasamy: “Protests along Gaza’s border with Israel are expected to reach their peak in the coming week as Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of what they call the catastrophe – the displacement of more than 700 thousand people following the creation of the State of Israel. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed and thousand [sic] injured during five weeks of demonstrations. Israel says that many of the dead were members of armed groups. Palestinians want the right to return to their ancestral homes which are now in Israeli territory. Israel rejects that demand, saying that it is a threat to its Jewish majority. Well, in the first of three reports about the key issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell considers the future of Palestinian refugees.”

Coomarasamy’s use of the euphemism “armed groups” obviously did not adequately clarify to listeners that some 80% of those killed during the six weeks of violent rioting to date have been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

Knell’s opening description of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop severely downplayed its violent nature.

Knell: “A young Gazan man is shot by an Israeli sniper and raced to hospital. Palestinians have been hurling stones at soldiers across the border here and launching kites carrying fire bombs. Israel’s army says its troops open fire to stop anyone trying to cross the perimeter fence illegally and to protect Israelis living nearby from possible attacks. I’ve come to find out what’s driving these deadly demonstrations.”

Obviously after making that latter statement any serious journalist would have clarified the involvement of various Gaza Strip based terror factions in the organisation of the weekly rioting but Yolande Knell instead uncritically painted precisely the picture that the agitprop’s organisers wish to promote.

Woman: “We want to go back to our land. Those are our lands that the Jews took and this is our right.”

Knell: “In the protest camp I meet Najla. Like most of Gaza’s 2 million residents, she’s a refugee.”

Woman: “We have to return to al Aqsa Mosque and all our lands. All of the land is Palestine.”

Failing to explain which party initiated the “Arab-Israeli war” or why, so many decades later, Palestinian refugees are deliberately kept in that status and in refugee camps, Knell went on:

Knell: “In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes as the Arab-Israeli war began. Today many of their descendants still live in refugee camps. Past peace deals promised a fair solution but there are questions about what President Trump will now put forward in his promised peace plan. Another protester, Mohamed Rantissi, says this Gaza action sends a message.”

Rantissi: “It came in the critical time when the world neglected our rights of return back. They are trying their best to dissolve this Palestinian issue by what is called the Trump [unintelligible].”

Listeners then heard a relatively rare mention of the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab lands

Knell: “Well I’ve moved now to Jerusalem’s bustling Mahane Yehuda market to get an Israeli perspective. Long before the country was founded this was a popular spot for Jewish stall holders who’d come from other parts of the Middle East but many more arrived in 1948 and the years that followed. They were Jewish refugees escaping persecution.”

Man: “We have the Kubeh soup which is sort of dumplings stuffed with meat in a vegetable soup. This is the most popular food because you have many Jewish Israelis that come from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds Jewish; this is the traditional food.”

Knell: “Moshe Shrefler works in his father’s restaurant Azura.”

Man: “My father was born in Turkey and was having a problem with the Turkish people because they didn’t like their Jewish neighbours and my mother she came from Iran with all the family. They left everything over there and they came here just to save their lives.”

Knell: “Jewish refugees left behind land and property in Arab countries and were absorbed into the new Israeli state along with Holocaust survivors from Europe. Like many Israeli politicians former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon argues that Arab states must now assimilate Palestinian refugees, making them citizens – as most aren’t at present – and he questions the way the refugees have inherited their status.”

Ayalon: “If really there is an earnest and honest will to bring about peace in the Middle East, I think there is only one humane, fair and logical solution for the Palestinian refugees and this is either to absorb them where they are – remember, we are talking about second, third, fourth generation, you know, so they should be Lebanese, Syrians or whatever – or, if there is a Palestinian state, these refugees, if they want to leave their host countries, should go into this Palestinian entity.”

Knell then revisited a subject that was covered very generously by the BBC back in January and February but yet again BBC audiences heard no in-depth reporting on the issue of UNRWA’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

Knell: “Here in Amman there’s a rally in solidarity with the protesters in Gaza. Across the Middle East there are 5 million Palestinian refugees supported by the UN agency UNRWA. This year UNRWA’s biggest donor, the US, cut the donations it planned to give, saying it needed to make reforms and now in Jordan there’s concern about what that could mean financially and symbolically. Muhammad Momeni is the information minister.”

Momeni: “We have more than 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan and hundreds of thousands of students in UNRWA schools.”

Knell: “So how worried is Jordan about this big hole in UNRWA’s finances?”

Momeni: “We’re very worried. Not only because it will immediately reflect on the type of services but also because it’s a political commitment by the international community to resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees. If you stop financing UNRWA, basically you are telling the world that you are not committed to this issue any more and according to international resolutions, this is a final status issue and it must be dealt with through negotiation and in a way that will bring justice to them.”

Knell refrained from making any effort to clarify to listeners to which so-called “international resolutions” Momeni was referring – and whether or not they actually exist.

Knell: “Back at the Gaza protest camp there’s traditional Palestinian dancing. Here the case for right of return is uncompromising but Israel rejects that demand, pointing out it would destroy its Jewish majority. Leaks on previous peace talks suggest they focused on compensation for Palestinian refugees and return for just a token number. It remains to be seen what Washington will propose on one of the most painful issues in this long-running conflict.”

As we see, notwithstanding that rare mention of Jewish refugees, Knell’s report was essentially superficial. She failed to clarify that the whole point of the demand for ‘right of return’ is the destruction of the Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees have for decades been used by their leaders as pawns to further that aim. UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.  

While giving the impression of balance with her visit to Mahane Yehuda and interview with Danny Ayalon, Knell nevertheless managed to both avoid the real issues behind the topic she ostensibly set out to ‘consider’ and promote a portrayal of the topic that amplifies the messaging of the ‘Great Return March’ organisers.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

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More narrative-driven ‘history’ from the BBC World Service

The August 8th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is titled “The Murder of Naji al-Ali” and it is described as follows in its synopsis:

“The acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist was gunned down in London in 1987. His attackers have never been identified. Naji al-Ali’s cartoons were famous across the Middle East. Through his images he criticized Israeli and US policy in the region, but unlike many, he also lambasted Arab despotic regimes and the leadership of the PLO. His signature character was called Handala – a poor Palestinian refugee child with spiky hair, who would always appear, facing away with his hands clasped behind his back, watching the events depicted in the cartoon. Alex Last has been speaking to his son, Khalid, about his father’s life and death.”

Despite that synopsis, listeners actually hear very little about the substance of Ali’s criticism of Arab regimes and the Palestinian leadership and even less about how that may have been connected to his murder. They do however hear promotion of the familiar context-free narrative of displaced Palestinians with no responsibility for or connection to the events that resulted in their displacement.

Erasing the essential words ‘British Mandate’ from his use of the term Palestine, presenter Alex Last introduces his guest:

Last: “Some fifty years earlier Naji al Ali was born in a village in Galilee in 1936 in what was then Palestine. Khalid al Ali is Naji’s eldest son.”

 Ali: “The village had Muslims, Christians and Jews and they’re all playing together and sharing things together, I mean, in the village square, so he had a happy life, a normal life.”

The 1931 census shows that the village concerned – al Shajara in the sub-district of Tiberias – had at the time 584 residents: 556 Muslims and 28 Christians – but no Jews. A similar demographic make-up appears in the 1945 census. In contrast to the idyllic impression created by Ali, the villagers of al Shajara frequently attacked their Jewish neighbours in the moshava Sejera (known today as Ilaniya) during the ‘Arab Revolt‘ that began in 1936.

Listeners then hear Last say:

Last: “But in 1948, following the creation of the State of Israel and in the fighting that ensued, at least three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs either fled or were driven from their homes. Naji, his family and the other Palestinian Arabs in their village were among them. They became refugees. Naji ended up in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. It was an experience that would define him.”

Contrary to the impression given by Last, the fighting did not break out after and because of “the creation of the State of Israel” but had begun well before that event took place following Arab rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947. Listeners are not informed of the all important context of the infiltration of the Arab League’s ‘Arab Liberation Army’ into the Galilee in early January of 1948 and the series of attacks it launched against Jewish communities in the region, including the moshava Sejera. The fighting in Naji al Ali’s village of al Shajara actually took place on May 6th 1948 – eight days before Israel declared independence.

The narrative of passive victims with no responsibility for the conflict that saw them displaced is then further promoted by Ali.

Ali: “Being used to your surroundings, being part of the family, the wider villages, this overnight ended completely and that was a great shock. And suddenly [they] became refugees in a tent. There’s no income. They lost their land. They’ve lost their businesses. No end of [in] sight in a way. It was imprinted on them. I mean my father, his main agenda is Palestine. For him, till the last day of his life he wanted to go back to his village, he wanted to go back to Palestine. It’s very straightforward, it’s very simple. He could not see why not.”

A similarly context-free representation comes at 05:05 when Last tells listeners:

Last: “In 1982 Naji was in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps; events which, says Khalid, had a profound effect on his father.”

Audiences are not informed that – despite the impression they may very well have received from Last’s portrayal – the Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out by a Lebanese Christian militia.

The programme ‘Witness’ purports to provide BBC World Service audiences with “the story of our times told by the people who were there”. All too often, however, we see that when the story relates to Israel, narrative takes priority over history.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘The Fifth Floor’ highlights cartoonist known for antisemitic imagery

BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist 

 

 

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

BBC News website coverage of the terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 14th included reporting on the temporary closure of Temple Mount while police investigations were being completed.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.” BBC News website, 14/7/17

BBC radio reports on the same story amplified Palestinian objections to that closure but without adequately explaining why it had been implemented or clarifying the political background to those ‘protests’.

“There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.” BBC World Service radio, 14/7/17

“After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.” BBC Radio 4, 14/7/17

The only follow-up to those reports came in an article on a different topic in which visitors to the BBC News website were correctly informed on July 16th that:

“The holy site was closed after shooting but it reopened on Sunday.”

Hence, as far as BBC audiences are aware the story ended there. That, however, is not the case but the BBC has not produced any reporting on events that followed the reopening of Temple Mount two days after the temporary closure.

Audiences have not been told of the false and inflammatory claims made by Waqf officials or statements put out by the OIC and the Arab League.

“The Arab League condemned Israel for the closure, with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit saying in a statement on Friday that Israel’s “banning Palestinians from praying” will only “inflame extremism and escalate tension” in the region. He stressed “the high sensitivity of issues related to religious places,” and chastised Israel for handling the situation with “carelessness.”

The statement made no mention of the terror attack that caused the temporary closure.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella group of 57 nations, also lambasted the closure, calling it “a serious crime and a dangerous precedent.””

Neither have they been informed of inflammatory actions in the Jordanian parliament.

“On Saturday, there was an anti-Israel/defend Al-Aqsa march in Amman. On Sunday, the speaker of the Jordanian parliament read out a eulogy for the “martyrs of Palestine and the Jabarin family,” from which the killers hailed. He termed their attack a heroic act. All this, even as King Abdullah and Netanyahu had spoken by phone and agreed to reopen the Mount.”

BBC audiences have not been informed that although Temple Mount was reopened to visitors two days after the terror attack, some Muslims are refusing to pray there, citing the new security measures installed after the terror attack.

“At noon on Sunday, Israel reopened one of the entrances to the Mount to all Muslim residents of Jerusalem, regardless of age or gender. However, metal detectors were installed at the gate, which Israel had set up in the past but later removed, in order to improve security.

Waqf officials, who oversee the religious management of the Temple Mount, refused to enter the site and instigated a protest outside the entrance, with dozens of worshipers conducting their afternoon prayers next to the gate. “We will not accept security checks at Al-Aqsa… Don’t go through the gates,” one official shouted to the crowd outside the gate, who responded with cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

Police said the Waqf officials were not required to pass through the sensors. Channel 2 reported that Waqf officials initially entered the compound by a side entrance, without being required to go through the metal detectors, but later came back out and instigated protests against the new arrangements.”

Inflammatory statements from several parties concerning the new security arrangements (which are similar to those already in existence at the entrance to Temple Mount used by non-Muslims) have also been ignored by the BBC.

“Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy head of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, told Palestinian media on Sunday that posting metal detectors at the Temple Mount was “illegitimate,” and security would only be ensured at the site by preventing the entry of “settlers” and removing “Israeli soldiers” — a reference to Border Police officers stationed at the site — from the compound.”

Even the propaganda of BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Mustafa Barghouti did not receive any BBC coverage.

“”We have been under occupation for 50 years, and we will not ‘get used’ to the new injustice,” Barghouti told The Jerusalem Post. “People will try entering in every possible way without going through the electronic devices,” he added.

Barghouti pointed his finger at the Israeli government as the source to these tensions, saying it just waited to get an excuse to install the metal detectors at the gate.

“These measures were preplanned,” he said. “Nobody is convinced that due to the incident these measures were taken.”

“The measures are completely unacceptable,” Barghouti added.

“There is no place in the world that collective punishment is used against the whole population… We feel that their aim and nature is to change the situation at al-Aksa mosque.””

BBC audiences have also not been informed of the violent incidents that have taken place in recent days or of the incitement from the PA president’s party Fatah.

“Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.

The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” in protest against new measures, including metal detectors installed following a deadly terror attack at the end of last week. […]

Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.

The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.”

For years Palestinian and Muslim figures – including the PA president himself – have been inciting violence by means of made-up ‘threats’ to the Muslim holy sites on Temple Mount. While the BBC’s Middle East correspondent described that site as “one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict” as recently as last Friday, the corporation in fact has a long record of consistently under-reporting incitement and glorification of terrorism from such sources and on occasion has even amplified their conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount.

The absence of any sober, factual BBC reporting on this latest example of anti-Israel delegitimisation and dangerous incitement dressed up as faux outrage (once again) over the installation of security measures of the kind already found at public places in Israel and around the world is not merely a technical issue of record. On the BBC’s home turf – where it is obliged to “contribute to social cohesion” – there are elements that are already promoting misinformation on this story to sectors of the UK population.

Such misinformation thrives in the vacuum created by the absence of responsible, accurate and impartial reporting by the media organisation with the broadest outreach in the UK.

Related Articles:

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell 

BBC Radio 4 amplification of PA messaging on Israeli construction

As readers may recall, the BBC’s standard narrative on the topic of Israeli construction in Area C and the parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967 was contradicted by its own reporting in March of this year when it had to tell audiences that “Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades”.

Another stage in that particular building plan was reached on June 20th when work began on preparations for the laying of infrastructure at the site. Curiously, the production team at the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ decided that event justified a report over eight minutes long and the resulting item is particularly notable on several counts.

1) Although the item concerns Israeli construction, it did not include any response from Israeli officials: the two Israeli politicians heard in the report were not speaking to the BBC.

2) The item did however present the Palestinian Authority’s reaction to the story and ostensibly neutral back-up was brought in to reinforce the PA’s messaging.

3) Presenter Ritula Shah repeatedly referred to an ‘announcement’ concerning the building of a new ‘settlement’ without clarifying to listeners that it is the same project that they already heard about in February and March of this year.

4) Listeners heard an inaccurate and partial representation of ‘international law’ concerning Israeli communities in disputed areas.

The item (from 23:45 here) was introduced by Ritula Shah as follows:

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

Shah: “When Donald Trump met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February he had this to say about settlements and the crucial question of whether any peace deal should work towards separate Israeli and Palestinian states or just a single state.”

Listeners then heard an edited recording dating from February 2017:

Recording Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. [edit] That’s a possibility. So let’s see what we do. [edit] So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two.” 

Shah continued:

Shah: “Well this morning Mr Netanyahu tweeted a picture of a bulldozer and a digger breaking ground on a rocky hill. His message read ‘after dozens [actually ‘tens’ – Ed.] of years I have the privilege to be the prime minister building a new settlement in Judea and Samaria’ – that’s the Hebrew term for the West Bank. Known as Amichai, this will be the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for more than twenty years.”

That statement is of course accurate but that fact was soon forgotten as the item progressed. Shah then gave the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of the existence of alternative legal opinions. She continued with an ‘explanation’ of that ‘international law’ which is patently inaccurate: those who do claim that ‘settlements are illegal’ do so citing Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention – not because of any Palestinian claims to the disputed land.  

Shah: “Settlements are illegal under international law – although Israel disputes this – as they’re built on land the Palestinians claim for a future state. Amichai will accommodate some 40 families whose homes were cleared from the unauthorised settler post of Amona and its creation has been welcomed by the settler movement. Motti Yogev is a member of the Knesset for the far-right Jewish home party.”

A translated voice-over of a recording of MK Yogev speaking was then heard.

Recording Yogev voice-over: “Here the settlement of Amichai will be built and established for those evicted from Amona and will strengthen our hold in the very heart of the land of Israel.”

For reasons best known to the programme’s production team, Shah then went on to mention a completely unrelated meeting held by the Israeli prime minister on June 20th:

Shah: “Well somewhat incongruously Mr Netanyahu met a delegation of former American football players today. And although he chose not to speak about the settlement decision, he did draw some parallels between their game and leading Israel.”

Recording Netanyahu: “If you’re not strong you’ll never get peace and if you’re not strong you’ll be in war, in turmoil and the worst thing is you lose. So I’m sure when you prepare for your games you don’t say ‘well, do I need to be strong, fast, nimble’. Is that a question? No; your game is not different from ours. The only difference is, if we lose the consequences are immutable. And we’ve had enough of that in our history so we won’t let that happen again.”

Listeners next heard Palestinian Authority messaging on the topic of Netanyahu’s Tweet, with Shah neglecting to inform listeners that the PA spokesman concerned had been appointed to the Fatah Central Committee the previous day.

Shah: “Well today’s announcement comes as President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner is due in Israel tomorrow to take part in talks on restarting the peace process. Nabil Abu Rudeinah is a spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He called today’s move a grave escalation and questioned the timing.”

Recording Abu Rudeinah: “The resumption of these activities is a clear message to the American administration and to the efforts of President Trump. The American envoy is already in the area. Tomorrow President Abbas will be receiving him. This is an obstacle to the efforts of President Trump to resume the peace process.”

Shah then brought in her ostensibly ‘neutral’ back up – clearly intended to reinforce that PA messaging. She did not, however, bother to inform the audience that her interviewee was previously Algeria’s foreign minister and an Arab League envoy.  As Shah told listeners, on the same day as this report was broadcast Lakhdar Brahimi was at the UNSC. At that meeting, Brahimi quoted a woman from Gaza whom he said told him that “Israel has put us in a concentration camp” but of course Radio 4 listeners were not told of the use of that inaccurate and offensive terminology before they heard from the ‘neutral’ commentator.

Shah: “Lakhdar Brahimi is a former senior diplomat. He’s now a member of the Elders – the independent group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela. He was speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian question at the UN Security Council in New York today. I asked him what today’s announcement of a new settlement might mean for securing peace.”

Brahimi promoted the old canard – frequently heard by BBC audiences – whereby ‘settlements’ are the main obstacle to peace.

Brahimi: “I don’t think it’s very good news for Palestine [sic], for Israel, for the people who want settlement of this problem. The biggest hurdle to peace is the settlement activity and the international community – the United Nations – have called again and again for it to stop. Successive American administrations have done the same; evidently without raising their voice really.”

Shah then supposedly ticked the impartiality box but failed to clarify to audiences that until the Obama administration demanded a construction freeze in 2009, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians took place regardless of the rate of Israeli building, that during the first nine months of a ten month freeze on construction in 2009/10, the Palestinians failed to come to the negotiating table or that when every last Israeli community was removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the ‘peace process’ did not progress.

Shah: “But Israel suggests that building settlements is not an impediment to peace and indeed the idea has an awful lot of support in some sections of the Israeli population.”

Brahimi: “Yeah it has a lot of support in the section of the Israeli population who think that all Palestine belong to them from the river to the sea and that the Palestinians had better go somewhere else. This is clearly not the view of the international community. I think there is near unanimity there. Even their best supporters who are the Americans think that yes, settlement activity is an impediment to peace.”

Shah did not at that juncture bother to remind her listeners – or her interviewee – that the League of Nations assigned what Brahimi described as “all Palestine” to the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people. She continued:

Shah: “Are you confident that the Americans’ position hasn’t changed? After all, today Jason Greenblatt – a Trump advisor on Israel – met Mr Netanyahu and Jared Kushner arrives in Israel tomorrow – a very senior Trump advisor. That doesn’t necessarily suggest an Israeli government that is worried about US reaction.”

Brahimi: “They probably are not because even with previous administrations, they have always managed to let, you know…maybe there is a little bit of anger or a statement here or there but at the end of the day the Americans let them do what they want. Lately Mr Trump has said very mildly that perhaps, you know, you should slow down settlement building it will be good, but not much more than that.”

Shah next gave Brahimi the cue for reinforcement of the previously heard PA messaging and further promotion of the notion that construction of homes for 40 families in Area C is intended to sabotage American diplomatic efforts.

Shah: “Well do you then support the Palestinian president’s spokesman when he suggested that today’s news – he called it a grave escalation and an effort…an attempt to foil efforts by the American administration to revive negotiations. Does it seem like that to you? Is it deliberate?”

Brahimi: “I’m sure it is deliberate. I’m sure that…”

Shah [interrupts]: “Because of the timing.”

Brahimi: “Yeah. You know it’s not the first time that they do that. You remember when the vice-president with Mr Obama…on the day of his visit they announced the building of 3,000 – or I don’t know how many – settlement units. I think it must be a message to the Americans that you speak about peace but then the peace is what we think it is – not what you or anybody else say it is.”

Shah refrained from clarifying to listeners that the 2010 announcement to which Brahimi referred related to construction of 1,600 housing units in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo that had already been in the pipeline for three years when VP Biden arrived in Israel or that the construction freeze which was in effect at the time did not include Jerusalem. Neither did she bother to tell listeners that the same Nabi Abu Rudeinah said at the time that the project was “a dangerous decision that will torpedo the negotiations and sentence the American efforts to complete failure” even as the PA continued to refuse to come to the negotiating table despite the settlement freeze. Shah continued with more impartiality box ticking:

Shah: “But if there is to be international pressure on the Israelis, surely there also has to be international pressure brought to bear on the Palestinians, on Hamas to recognise the State of Israel, to renounce violence and so on.”

Brahimi: “Yes absolutely. There is a minority amongst the Palestinians, including within Hamas, who, you know, saying that, you know, all Palestine is ours and that we don’t want to recognise Israel. Or some others who say we don’t want to recognise Israel until they recognise us. On the Israeli side there is a minority just as extremist as that.”

Failing to challenge that equivalence between Israelis and a terrorist organisation and refraining from reminding her listeners that “minority” Hamas – with its platform of destruction of Israel – won Palestinian elections the last time they were held, Shah closed the item.

Shah: “So just finally then, judging by what you’ve been saying, do you have any hope that there could be progress in the peace talks in the near future?”

Brahimi: “I think it would not be realistic to say that today, tomorrow and after tomorrow we are going to move towards the kind of peace that, once again, the international community wants, that a lot of Israelis want and of course the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians. I don’t think it would be realistic to say that we’re going that way anytime soon.”

Shah: “The diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.”

While this entire item was ostensibly built around one Tweet from the Israeli prime minister it is of course blatantly obvious that was merely a hook upon which to hang yet another chapter in the BBC’s long-standing politically motivated portrayal of Israeli construction as the prime factor preventing resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC contradicts years of its own narrative on Israeli construction

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

September 1st marked the 49th anniversary of the Arab League’s issuing of the Khartoum Resolutions.Khartoum summit

“…the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, “their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.’ The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent ‘phone call’ from the Arab world might be a pipe dream”.”

For years the BBC has cited the Six Day War as the central factor in its portrayal of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and even beyond. In 2007 the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen told radio audiences that:

“The legacy of 1967, military occupation and violent resistance, the unresolved refugee crisis and the competition for control of land and water…lies behind most of the shameful brutal and tragic events I have witnessed in 16 years of covering the Arab Israeli conflict for the BBC.”

“It would be bad enough if the misery of the past 40 years was confined to the Palestinians and the Israelis. But now at the start of the 21st century, their war affects all of us.. It’s at the center of the conflict between the West and the Islamic world… Ignoring the legacy of 1967 is not an option.” [emphasis added]

One might therefore expect that audiences would be able to find information concerning the Khartoum Resolutions on the BBC News website but a search for that term yields no results whatsoever.

The website’s current profile of the Arab League offers no information on that subject either and neither does its predecessor which is still available online. An old ‘timeline’ of the Arab League dating from 2011 includes the following entry for 1967 and a subsequent ‘timeline’ from 2013 offers the same information.

Arab League timeline

Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War and no doubt the BBC’s coverage of the topic will be extensive. Whether or not that coverage will finally include the provision of BBC audiences with information concerning the Arab League’s rejection of peace after losing that war remains to be seen.

Arab League terror designation absent from BBC’s Hizballah profile

Following on from its recent reporting on the subject of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation, the BBC News website produced an article on March 11th titled “Arab League brands Hezbollah a terrorist organization“.Arab League Hizb

Like its predecessor, this article too gives readers a partial overview of the designation of Hizballah worldwide.

“The Arab League and GCC decision to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation bring them into line with the United States and the European Union – although the latter has only blacklisted the group’s military wing.”

As was noted here before the Arab League reached its decision:

“That statement of course provides audiences with only a partial view of Hizballah’s terror designations: in addition to the EU, the so-called ‘military wing’ of Hizballah is also designated by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The entire organization is now designated by the six GCC member states, the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands and of course Israel.”

Notably, the BBC’s backgrounder on Hizballah has not yet been updated to include the Arab League designation and the relevant section still reads:

“Hezbollah has been accused of carrying out a string of bombings and plots against Jewish and Israeli targets and is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel and Gulf Arab countries.”

A previous profile of Hizballah – dating from 2010 but still available online – only mentions the US designation and a 2006 profile also still accessible online cites designation by the US, Israel and the UK.

Clearly the failure to update the most recent profile renders it inaccurate and the fact that even older ones remain available online without any indication that they have been replaced by newer material further exacerbates the likelihood of BBC audiences being misled.

Related Articles:

BBC News website profile of Hizballah gets airbrushed

BBC News misleads audiences on Arab-Israeli conflict

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 27th under the headline “Israel ‘to open UAE diplomatic mission’” opens as follows:UAE art

“Israel is to open its first diplomatic mission in the UAE, Israel says, despite the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Israel’s foreign ministry says its office will be part of an international energy organisation based in Abu Dhabi.

Israel has opened trade and other offices in some Gulf states before, but there are no official ties.

The UAE, like most other Arab states, has not recognised Israel since the Arab-Israeli conflict began in 1948.”[emphasis added]

Whilst it is true to say that most Arab states have not recognised Israel since its establishment in 1948, the wording of that sentence inaccurately suggests to BBC audiences that the Arab-Israeli conflict began at the time of – and because of – Israel’s birth, thus erasing important historical context essential to audience understanding of the issue.

However, the BBC knows full well that the Arab-Israeli conflict did not begin in May 1948 – as its own profile of the Arab League indicates:

“The idea of the Arab League was mooted in 1942 by the British, who wanted to rally Arab countries against the Axis powers. However, the league did not take off until March 1945, just before the end of World War II.

At that time the issues that dominated the league’s agenda were freeing those Arab countries still under colonial rule, and preventing the Jewish community in Palestine from creating a Jewish state.” [emphasis added]

Indeed, as has been noted on these pages on a prior occasion:

“That same founding document – dating from March 22nd 1945 – includes an “annex on Palestine”. At its second session in December 1945 the Arab League declared a formal boycott of “Jewish products and manufactured [goods] in Palestine”, declaring them to be “undesirable in the Arab countries” and opining that “to permit them to enter the Arab countries would lead to the realization of the Zionist political objectives”.

Having already rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the day after Israel declared independence the Arab League issued a statement claiming that its members “found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine solely in order to help its inhabitants restore peace and security and the rule of justice and law to their country, and in order to prevent bloodshed” – even as five of its member countries’ armies were in the process of invading the nascent Jewish state.”

And even before the Arab League was established, the Preliminary Committee of the General Arab Conference produced the Alexandria Protocol in October 1944 which included “a special resolution concerning Palestine”.

Clearly BBC audiences cannot properly understand the factors underpinning the Arab-Israeli conflict if the BBC erases the crucial context of the Arab states’ pre-existing opposition to the establishment of the Jewish national home mandated by the League of Nations even before the State of Israel was founded.

 

BBC misleads in article on refugees in Lebanon

On April 3rd the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) announced that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had passed the one million mark. That news apparently prompted the appearance on the same day of two items on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the topic of Syrian refugees in Lebanon by Julia Macfarlane – one filmed and one written – both of which focus on Syrians now living in Sabra and Shatila. Macfarlane art

Perhaps a function of the choice of location, Macfarlane’s otherwise informative written report ends with a statement likely to mislead BBC audiences.

“As the conflict rages on though, many Syrians living with Palestinian refugees – whose community has now been in Lebanon for more than 60 years – fear they could share the same fate in years to come.”

Of course the reason there are still Palestinian refugees in Sabra, Shatila and the other ten refugee camps in Lebanon is that the Lebanese government adheres to Arab League policy dating from 1959 according to which:

“Arab states will reject the giving of citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their integration into the host countries.”

Hence, for well over six decades those refugees have been deliberately kept in that artificial status for purely political reasons, suffering severe discrimination throughout the entire time.

The fears of Syrian refugees with regard to being forced to remain in Lebanon for an extended period of time in refugee status are undoubtedly well-founded. According to the UNHCR:

“Lebanon has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, although it has signed most other human rights treaties relevant to the protection of refugees. Constitutionally, the latter take precedence over domestic law but this is rarely observed by the courts, and there is no domestic legislation or administrative practice to address the specific needs of refugees and asylum-seekers.”

However, the political motivations and strategies of the Arab League which have kept Palestinian refugees in that status for so many years do not apply to Syria and refugees under the care of the UNHCR are not entitled to the same hereditary refugee status as those under the authority of the designated agency for Palestinian refugees – UNRWA – and so the two cases are not, as Macfarlane suggests, in any way comparable.  

 

 

BBC News ‘analysis’ romanticises the Arab League

Below is an extract from an article titled “The deep discord bedevilling the Arab world” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 25thButt article Arab League

“This latest heads-of-state meeting, like all previous ones, is being convened by the Arab League, which was established nearly 70 years ago to foster mutual co-ordination in order to achieve “the close co-operation of the member-states”.

In the euphoria of that post-colonial independence era much more than co-operation seemed possible.

Millions of Arabs dreamed of smashing down the border fences erected by the British and French colonists to achieve unity from Morocco in the west to the Gulf states in the east.

All the ingredients seemed to be there as energetic young leaders took power: shared religion, language, history and culture – and a craving for a return of Arab self-esteem.”

Leaving aside the fact that the utopian dream of “smashing down the border fences” promoted here by the article’s writer Gerald Butt is contradicted even by the Arab League’s founding document which states clearly in Article 8 that each member country “shall pledge itself not to take any action tending to change” the form of government of the others, Butt also misleads BBC audiences by eliminating from view one very important part of the Arab League’s raison d’etre.

That same founding document – dating from March 22nd 1945 – includes an “annex on Palestine”. At its second session in December 1945 the Arab League declared a formal boycott of “Jewish products and manufactured [goods] in Palestine”, declaring them to be “undesirable in the Arab countries” and opining that “to permit them to enter the Arab countries would lead to the realization of the Zionist political objectives”.

Having already rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the day after Israel declared independence the Arab League issued a statement claiming that its members “found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine solely in order to help its inhabitants restore peace and security and the rule of justice and law to their country, and in order to prevent bloodshed” – even as five of its member countries’ armies were in the process of invading the nascent Jewish state.

Of course for the subsequent 19 years, Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively, with no attempt made to establish an independent Palestinian state in either of those regions during that time and with the charter of the PLO – established by the Arab League in 1964 – explicitly stating that it had no claims to either of the two areas. Eight Arab League member states were also responsible for the Khartoum Resolutions of 1967.

In other words, possibly the most outstanding product of 69 years of “close co-operation of the member-states” of the Arab League has been the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and – rather than Butt’s touted pan-Arab “unity” – the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian refugees.

“In the year 1959 the Arab League accepted decision number 1457 and this is its text: “Arab states will reject the giving of citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their integration into the host countries.”.”

Given that Gerald Butt’s romanticized cameo of the Arab League totally ignores that major aspect of its existence (as well as its British Foreign Office midwife), it comes as little surprise that his article continues with the unsourced – and most likely unverifiable – assertion that the aspirations driving the ‘Arab Spring’ included “the plight of Palestinians” – which Arab League member countries have deliberately and cynically perpetuated for so long.

“But the hope was that they [“the new regimes”] would at least work together in the common cause of facing shared regional challenges: Israel, the plight of Palestinians, inequality in wealth distribution, youth unemployment, failing education systems, paltry intra-Arab investment, and so on.”

Whilst BBC audiences will certainly not have gleaned much accurate and realistic information about the Arab League from this article, they may at least perhaps have gained some insight into the writings of a former BBC Beirut and Jerusalem correspondent.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC advances political propaganda on Jerusalem

An article appearing in the Middle East section of the BBC News website on March 26th – entitled “Qatar proposes $1bn fund for Palestinians in Jerusalem” – is notable for its particularly blatant one-sided adoption and promotion of a specific narrative on the subject of Jerusalem, with no attempt whatsoever made to balance that narrative with factual information

Qatar Jerusalem fund

The report opens with a loaded picture of the anti-terrorist barrier, captioned “Israeli policies have restricted the development of Palestinian communities”. No proof whatsoever is offered to back up that sweeping assertion and no context is given as to why that barrier had to be built.

The article continues:

“The emir of Qatar has called for the establishment of a $1bn (£660m) fund to help Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and offered to contribute $250m.

Addressing an Arab League summit in Doha, Sheikh Hamad Al Thani said its member states should be serious about defending the city’s “Arab character”.” 

Amazingly, the BBC sees no need to balance that statement by reminding its readers of the historic ties of the Jewish people to the city, stretching back thousands of years to the time when in was the capital of the Kingdom of Yehuda or of the fact that in more modern times, Jerusalem has maintained a Jewish majority for at least the last century and a half.

The BBC report goes on:

“Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. An estimated 200,000 settlers now live there, alongside 280,000 Palestinians.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, whereas Israel sees the city as its undivided capital.”

Once again we see the BBC adopting a narrative whereby Middle East history begins in 1967. That narrative of course completely ignores the Jordanian conquest of part of the city and its subsequent division for the first time in its long history, as well as the fact that the Jordanian occupation was never recognized as legitimate by the UN. The same narrative also ignores the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem neighbourhoods during the waves of Arab violence in the riots of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as during the 1948 Jordanian invasion. 

Jews fleeing Jerusalem’s Old City after 1929 pogroms

Jews being evacuated from the Old City by British soldiers during the 1936 Arab revolt

1948 – The Red Cross helps Jewish refugees fleeing the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem

The article continues:

“Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law, and its formal annexation of the area in 1980 was rejected by the UN Security Council.

Despite this, the Israeli authorities have pursued policies which have encouraged the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements.”

The reference to neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements” (and – in the previous paragraph – to almost half the Jewish residents of the city as “settlers”) is another example of the adoption of the Arab/Palestinian narrative by the BBC, as is the presentation of the city’s unification as “occupation…illegal under international law” without the equal representation of any conflicting legal opinions. The BBC’s presentation of “East Jerusalem” as a political rather than geographical entity is also evidence of its embracing of a specific narrative and is especially egregious when one considers that the BBC does nothing to explain to its audiences what that erroneous terminology actually means on the ground.  

Next, readers are spoon-fed another portion of the narrative as they are told that:

“Palestinians complain their residency status and access to basic services have been affected, along with their ability to develop communities.”

The Hurva Synagogue, May 1948

Unquestioningly repeating this unsourced hearsay from anonymous Palestinians, the BBC makes no attempt whatsoever to provide evidence of the veracity of these claims or the extent to which they reflect opinions in general – a point which is particularly relevant seeing as they contradict more tangible evidence available. That is also the case in the next paragraph, in which once again the BBC blindly reproduces politically motivated hearsay. 

“Opening the Arab League summit on Tuesday, Sheikh Hamad said East Jerusalem was in “serious danger” and “serious action” was required.

“Palestinian, Arab and Islamic rights in Jerusalem cannot be compromised. Israel must realise this fact,” he said.

“I propose that this summit, in a move that reflects it is serious about defending the Arab character of Jerusalem and in a bid to save whatever can be saved, establishes a $1 billion fund,” he added. “Qatar will contribute $250 million to the fund and the remaining amount should be paid by the other Arab countries.” “

Obviously, the BBC did not see fit to point out to its readers that rather than representing any reality on the ground, the Emir’s statement forms part of a broader propaganda campaign which cannot be seen as disconnected from Qatar’s provision of financial support for Hamas, its cosy connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and its broader ambitions in the region. 

For a wider appreciation of the context of the statements made by the Emir of Qatar at the recent conference of the Arab League (an organization which of course came into existence through British midwifery and with one of its aims being the prevention the establishment of a Jewish state), one can take a look at some of Mahmoud Abbas’ comments at the same meeting. Those remarks provide the background to this latest example of the use of Jerusalem as a political propaganda weapon – background which the BBC chose not to present to the readers of this article.

” “The Israeli occupation is systematically and continuously working toward judaizing east Jerusalem,” Abbas told the Arab heads of state.

May 1948: destruction of the Porat Yosef Synagogue

He said that Israel was also seeking to change the character of the city, expel its Arab residents and assault Islamic and Christian holy sites.

Abbas urged the Arabs and Muslims to go to the United Nations and other international organizations to stop Israel from pursuing its “destructive scheme.”

He also sought their help in putting pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, whom he described as “brave.”

The prisoners were being subjected to “grave violations,” he said.

Abbas hailed Qatar’s announcement that it would establish a special fund for Jerusalem with a $1 billion budget to support the Arab residents of the city and foil Israel’s attempts to “judaize” east Jerusalem.”

Had BBC audiences wished to read undiluted propaganda, they could have turned to the Emir’s pet TV channel or to some of the Palestinian news agencies. From the BBC, however, one would expect a more discriminating style of reporting, with at least some effort made to establish the facts behind the claims, to provide background and context and to adhere to BBC obligations to accuracy and impartiality.

Instead, we see the unquestioning regurgitation of unbalanced, one-sided propaganda which contributes nothing to BBC audiences’ knowledge or comprehension of the issues at hand and in fact does much to actively prevent understanding of the way in which the spreading of unfounded rumours concerning Jerusalem has long been employed to cynically stir up passions and often violence – in the region.