BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

“In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

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BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

Readers may recall that in March of this year the BBC refrained from reporting on the ‘Taylor Force Act’ passed by the US Congress and also ignored the passing of the first reading of a bill relating to the same issue in the Israeli Knesset. On July 2nd that bill became law.

“The Knesset voted into law on Monday a bill to slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

The bipartisan law passed by 87 to 15. […]

The bill says that welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives, as well as the families of slain attackers, must be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body. The money withheld in this way would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of terror attacks.”

Around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $350 million. Nevertheless, the BBC has serially avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic in May 2017, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

On the afternoon of July 3rd the BBC News website finally got round to mentioning the Israeli legislation that has been making its way through the Knesset for months – as well as the previously ignored US legislation – in a report titled “Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts“.

In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

The 14 paragraph report includes four paragraphs on the practicalities of the new Israeli law. Two paragraphs are devoted to reactions from Israeli politicians while Palestinian officials’ reactions are given five paragraphs of coverage.

However, a press release concerning “Reallocation of aid to the Palestinian Authority” that was put out by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on July 2nd apparently did not reach the BBC’s correspondent in Sydney. 

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“Australia has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday that funding to a World Bank trust fund was cut after she wrote to the Palestinian Authority in late May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not being misspent.

 In a statement, Bishop expressed concern that providing further aid would allow the PA to use the funds for activities that “Australia would never support.””

So while on the positive side BBC News website visitors at long last got to see a mention of American and Israeli legislation related to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists, an Australian announcement related to the same topic was ignored.

Related Articles:

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

BBC News website framing of Israeli PM’s Australia visit

Last week the BBC News website published two articles relating to the Israeli prime minister’s official visit to Australia.

1) ‘Israeli PM criticises UN ‘hypocrisy’ on historic Australia visit‘, February 22nd 2017.

2) ‘Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd berates Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu‘, February 23rd 2017.australia-visit-1

The first article is 447 words long including sub-headings. Two hundred and thirty of those words were devoted to the topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and a further 86 words to a version of an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?” which has been seen in previous reports.

Twenty-three words were used to promote a theme which has been evident in several recent BBC reports: a supposed ‘policy shift’ on the two-state solution on the part of the US administration.

Sixty-one words were devoted to amplification of criticism of the visit, together with a link to a partisan statement from individuals including anti-Israel activists.

Background information concerning the official visit was provided in 27 words and just seventeen words were used to describe its aim.

“Mr Netanyahu is in Australia for talks about expanding co-operation in cyber security, technological innovation and science.”australia-visit-2

The second article is 349 words long including sub-headings. Forty-nine words were devoted to background information. The rest of the article was given over to amplification of criticism of the visit including a link to statements made by one individual.

In summary, 45% of the 796 words produced by the BBC concerning the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Australia amplified criticism of that visit. 39% of the total word count was given over to the topic of ‘the conflict’ while 9.5% of the word count provided background information concerning the visit.

A mere 2% of the total word count related to the aim of the official visit, with BBC audiences receiving no information whatsoever about the research and travel agreements signed between the two countries.

Clearly the framing chosen by the BBC for this story was a lot less about providing audiences with an objective and informative account of the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister to Australia than it was about influencing audience perceptions through promotion of a politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

 

 

Selective BBC News reporting on terror arrests

On December 23rd the BBC News website published an article titled “Germany arrests two on terror charges” in which readers were informed that:terror-germany-23-12

“Two men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack on a shopping centre in Oberhausen near the Dutch border, police say. […]

It is not yet known how advanced the preparations for the attack were, or if others were involved, the statement said.”

(The two men were subsequently released)

An additional article – headlined “Melbourne Christmas Day ‘terror attack’ foiled, say Australia police” – also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day.

“Australian police have foiled a major terror attack in Melbourne on Christmas Day, officials say. […]terror-aus-23-12

The plot involved the use of explosives and other weapons, police say.

The alleged targets included high-profile locations around Melbourne, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and the main train station.

Six men and a woman were detained in Friday’s raid on suspicion of “preparing or planning a terrorist attack”, police say.

The woman and two men were later released.”

The arrest of a terror cell in an additional location had been announced the day before those two articles appeared.

“Israeli security agents busted a 20-member Hamas cell that was plotting suicide bombings and shootings against Israeli citizens in major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet disclosed on Thursday. […]

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons.”

That story, however, was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC mum on arrests of two Hamas terror cells

BBC’s Donnison returns with inaccurate promotion of armistice lines as ‘borders’

The BBC’s former Gaza Strip and West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison was back on the BBC News website’s Middle East page (and Asia page) on June 9th with an article titled “Israel and Australia: New best mates?” in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section.Donnison Israel Australia

Readers who are wondering about the connection between the image used to illustrate that article and the obviously unconnected caption appended by the BBC may be interested to learn that the original photograph was captioned as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the original flag Israeli paratroopers waved at the Western Wall during the 1967 Middle East War, before a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem May 28, 2014.”

Donnison begins by implying that there is something untoward about the fact that the Israeli prime minister congratulated Egypt’s new president on his win of elections which Donnison appears to believe lack legitimacy.

“After a quick call to congratulate the new President of Egypt Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on his election victory, which many regard as far from democratic, Mr Netanyahu singled out Australia for high praise at his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.”

Of course President Sisi also received congratulations from many other nations, including the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and China, but that point does not seem to concern Donnison quite as much.

Next Donnison moves on to the real topic of his article: the recent statement by Australia’s Attorney General on the issue of the use of the term ‘occupied’ to describe specific neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. Donnison, however, only quotes part of the statement:

“Last week the Australian Attorney General George Brandis issued a statement saying: “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful.” “

That quoted line would of course have been better understood by BBC audiences were it placed within the context of the words coming before it:

“Australia supports a peaceful solution to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian people, which recognises the right of Israel to exist peacefully within secure borders and also recognises the aspiration to statehood of the Palestinian people,” Senator Brandis said.

”The description of areas which are subject to negotiations in the course of the peace process by reference to historical events is unhelpful.

”The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

Jon Donnison, however, is apparently of the opinion that the Australian government is incapable of deciding on its approach to this subject all by itself and so he goes on to provide readers with obviously speculative ‘explanations’ for the Attorney General’s statement which involve “extreme right-wing Israeli lobbyists” who have “influence”.

“Australia’s support for Israel is contentious here.

The former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr has recently said that extreme right-wing Israeli lobbyists here had an extraordinary influence on Australian policy in the Middle East under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that he regarded as “very unhealthy.”

Mr Carr’s comments were strongly criticised by the Israeli government and some of the country’s supporters.

Why Australia has chosen now to change its position is not clear.

It’s possible Mr Brandis was speaking off the cuff or out of turn, but the clarifying statement suggests not.

The country has a relatively small Jewish population of about 100,000 (0.4% of the total).

The Arab population is much larger: roughly 300,000 people, mostly of Lebanese origin, but including around 7,000 Palestinians.

Israel’s critics will say the change on policy shows the influence of the lobby group Mr Carr talked about.”

As someone who spent over three years reporting from the Middle East, Donnison should be capable of avoiding the breaches of accuracy and impartiality evident in other parts of this article.

“Jerusalem is at the heart of the Middle East’s most intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Donnison provides no evidence for his claim that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is “the [..] most intractable” in the Middle East or that it is any more intractable than, say, that between Sunni and Shi’a which has been going on for considerably longer and with much more lethal consequences.

“Israel captured East Jerusalem along with Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Six Day Arab Israeli war.”

Donnison fails to provide any context to that statement and of course neglects to inform readers that the eastern part of Jerusalem was only separated from the rest of the city for the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation and that its later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community. Likewise, he fails to inform audiences that Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria and the Gaza Strip are all areas designated for the creation of the Jewish homeland under the terms of the Mandate for Palestine.

Next comes a statement which must have crept past the BBC editorial checks.

Donnison piece deal

Donnison cites assorted countries and organisations in order provide backing for the viewpoint he wishes to promote, but fails to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing readers of opposing opinions.

“Almost the entire international community, including the United States, does not recognise Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem

The United Nations and the International Court of Justice regard East Jerusalem as occupied territory.

President Obama has called for the ending of “the occupation, which began in 1967″. Although in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly he did not specify if he was referring to East Jerusalem.”

He then goes on to state:

“The United States, European Union and the United Nations all believe a future Palestinian state should be based around the pre-1967 borders.”

There is, of course, no such thing as “pre-1967 borders” because – as Donnison surely should know – the 1949 Armistice lines were not borders, as the agreement which created them specifically states.  [emphasis added]

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;

2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI

8. The provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement.

9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Donnison’s inaccuracies are outdone only by his lack of impartiality in what is a blatantly political polemic barely disguised as ‘analysis’.