BBC R4 reveals what ‘really’ threatens to reignite Hamas-Israel conflict

On June 9th – the day after the terror attack at Sarona Market in which four people were murdered and 17 wounded – BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The World Tonight’ broadcast an item apparently intended to convey to audiences that any future outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas would be down to one prime factor.

As readers may be able to guess, that factor was not terrorism: the word did not appear even once throughout the report. Presenter Shaun Ley set the scene (from 18:13 here):R4 the world tonight 9 6

“Now, Israel’s newly appointed defence minister Avdor [sic] Lieberman has issued an order preventing the return of the bodies of any Palestinians who are killed in attacks there. The gunmen who shot dead four people and injured six [sic] others at a shopping centre in Tel Aviv last night were captured alive but this is a signal by Mr Lieberman – a political hardliner. In addition, permits for 83,000 Palestinians who were planning to come to Israel have been revoked and more troops are to be deployed in the occupied West Bank. Our reporter Andrew Hosken reports now from Jerusalem.”

Ley did not inform listeners that Lieberman’s order constitutes a return to previous policy or that the entry permits for Palestinians were frozen rather than “revoked”.

Hosken began his report with a description of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, going on to say:

“But in recent months Damascus Gate has also been the scene of a string of knife attacks, mainly by young Palestinians of both sexes, on Jewish Israeli policemen and women.”

Over a dozen attacks have taken place at Damascus Gate since October of last year. Contrary to the claims from Hosken, the attacks were not directed exclusively at members of the security forces and many Israeli police and border police officers are not Jewish. At least four civilians were wounded in attacks at that location. Neither were all the attacks at Damascus Gate “knife attacks” as inaccurately claimed: at least five shooting attacks took place, including the one on February 3rd in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was murdered.

Hosken continued:

“The attacks here have earned this wave of assault that began last October the not terribly subtle title ‘the Intifada of knives’. But the latest assault involved machine guns and at the heart of Jewish Israel – Tel Aviv – some fifty miles or so west of Jerusalem. The Israeli government, led by the Right-wing Likud party, has promised a severe reaction against any Palestinian entity – individuals, organisations, even families – it considers culpable.”

Listeners then heard some general statements from MK Dr Anat Berko before Hosken went on:

“Raids were conducted today by Israeli security forces in Yatta – a small town which is home to at least two of the attackers. It’s in the Palestinian West Bank area where so many Israeli Jews have created settlements in defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions.”

There were two terrorists involved in the Sarona Market attack and both came from Yatta which is in Area A and under full Palestinian Authority control. There are of course no ‘settlements’ in Areas A or B.

Hosken next went to Kibbutz Alumim in the Western Negev.

“Jeremy Maisel [phonetic] lives on the Alumim kibbutz in south-west Israel just two and a half miles from the Gaza Strip – home to 2 million Palestinians.”

As of July 2015 the population of the Gaza Strip was 1.87 million.

“In the summer of 2014 during the conflict between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist organization that controls Gaza – the Alumim kibbutz came under rocket attack. No fewer than 282 code red alerts were issued to the people here, giving them 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. Jeremy Maisel remains pessimistic about any prospects of peace with the Palestinians.”

Maisel: “Hamas is a very extremist government there and they don’t hide their goals of destroying Israel, of killing Jews.”

Hosken continued:

“Most of the leaders of Hamas are based in Gaza and as far as the Israeli government is concerned, Hamas – which has often vowed to destroy Israel in the past – remains suspect number one when it comes to the attack in Tel Aviv.”

The Hamas movement in Yatta claimed that the two terrorists belonged to its organization soon after the attack.

Hosken then journeyed to Gaza.

“I’ve just crossed over from Israel into Gaza and the dysfunctionality of the place is clear on entry because after passing through Israeli passport control you have to negotiate two checkpoints on the Palestinians’ side operated by separate and differing organisations that have fought bitterly in the past for control of the Strip. The first is operated by Fatah and the second manned by Hamas.”

The checkpoint is actually Palestinian Authority – rather than “Fatah” – operated. Hosken then gave an inaccurate account of how the Gaza Strip came under Hamas control, completely erasing the terror organisation’s violent June 2007 coup from audience view.

“Hamas has controlled Gaza since winning elections here in 2006. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority which holds sway on the West Bank – home to two of the Tel Aviv attackers.”

Listeners heard entirely unchallenged statements from three interviewees in Gaza, the first being “a prominent Fatah leader” whom Hosken asked about “the so-called Intifada of knives”.

“It is a reaction more than Intifada. It is a reaction from the people. The humiliation they face on the borders and cross points of the Israelis. They are using a very, very bad way in dealing with the Palestinians. They keep them for long time on the cross points, on the entrances and they don’t allow them to go to Jerusalem. They touch the feelings of the people so it is not an organized act. It is just a reactionary act.”

Hosken did not bother to clarify to listeners that Palestinians can in fact travel to Jerusalem with the appropriate paper work or that the security measures at crossings into Israel are the direct result of Palestinian terrorism.

Listeners also heard from a similarly unchallenged porter whom Hosken asked “what he thought about the attack in Tel Aviv”.

“I feel happy because they have taken Jerusalem, they have taken our land and it’s right to defend ourself. The operation is a natural because they took our land and look what they are doing in Gaza: they cut the electricity, they close the border.”

Hosken did not explain to listeners that the electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip have nothing at all to do with Israel and are the result of a dispute between Hamas and the PA. He went on:

“…but could there be another war soon? Even before Tel Aviv there was concern at the appointment as Israeli defence minister of Avigdor Lieberman – a hawk when it comes to the Palestinians and a man who has supported the assassination of Hamas leaders in the past.”

Listeners then heard from an associate professor of politics at Gaza’s Al Azhar University.

“The Palestinian elite in Gaza are a little bit concerned that maybe the bringing of Lieberman as defence minister might mean another war is in the making between Israel and Hamas within the next six months or a year. Lieberman in the past year or so since the Israeli elections have asked Netanyahu to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and have pushed Netanyahu to assassinate the political leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip so it could mean military activity against Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza strip in the foreseeable future.”

Hosken then closed with the following trite statement:

“Tonight for many people here, recent attempts by both France and Egypt to broker peace talks have never felt more forlorn.”

Hamas – along with several other Palestinian factions – clearly has no interest in peace talks, as one presumes Hosken himself knows, and has spent the last two years rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Nevertheless, listeners to this item were led to believe that the main factor threatening to lead to a renewal of conflict is the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defence rather than Palestinian terrorism. Apparently that is what passes for ‘reporting’ at BBC Radio 4. 

 

BBC bungles basics in report on Israel’s new coalition

The consensus in Israel is that the May 25th agreement which brought the Yisrael Beiteinu party into the coalition government means that it now has a total of sixty-six seats in the Knesset whilst the opposition is left with 54.

From the Jerusalem Post:

coalition JP

From the Times of Israel:

coalition ToI

From Ha’aretz:

coalition haaretz

The BBC, however, has a different idea:

coalition

That statement appeared in an article published on the BBC News website on May 25th under the headline “Avigdor Lieberman named as Israel’s defence minister“. Five days earlier, before the agreement had been reached, BBC audiences had been told that:coalition art

“The deal would shore up Mr Netanyahu’s one-seat majority in parliament. […]

If his [Lieberman’s] six-seat Yisrael Beiteinu party joins the coalition, it will become the most right-wing in Israel’s history.”

As was noted here at the time:

“In fact, the day before this article was published, Yisrael Beiteinu had already become a five-seat faction due to the resignation from the party (but not from the Knesset) of MK Orly Levy-Abekasis.”

Whilst the May 25th article was later amended to include some decidedly predictable comment from Saeb Erekat and ‘analysis’ from Kevin Connolly which includes the apparently now standard mention of “a former nightclub bouncer”, the very simple – but distinctly less colourful – topic of how many seats the coalition government now holds remained inaccurately portrayed.

BBC’s WHYS discusses Israel’s ‘moral compass’

In recent weeks the BBC News website has published a variety of articles on the topic of political trends in Europe and the United States which include:

Is Europe lurching to the far right? Katya Adler, April 28th 2016

Guide to nationalist parties challenging Europe May 23rd 2016

Widespread revolt against the political centre Gavin Hewitt, May 24th 2016

However, BBC audiences have not been invited to ponder the question of whether the citizens of Austria (or America, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Finland or Denmark) have lost their moral compass en masse.  

That question was posed –literally – in relation to a country which the BBC has long portrayed as ‘lurching’ to the right of the political map – regardless of the inaccuracy of that framing.WHYS 20 5

The May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (titled “Has Israel Lost its ‘Moral Compass’?“, from 00:48) based its discussion around the resignation of Israel’s Minister of Defence on the same day and presenter Anu Anand was joined by four telephone interviewees.

In contrast with usual practice, the BBC ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page did not run a parallel discussion and so members of the public were spared the antisemitic discourse which all too often accompanies WHYS Israel-related programmes.

Presenter Anu Anand chose to open the item with a particularly long introduction which included some interesting terminology. [emphasis added]

“But first, in Israel a political drama that cuts to the heart of the country’s troubles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a hawk whose coalition has a one-seat majority in the Knesset – seeks to shore-up his political strength. He’s invited an ultra-nationalist to join his cabinet, creating what many are calling the most extreme administration in Israeli history. The re-shuffle was already contentious and then today his current Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to resign rather than stay in government. At a press conference today he didn’t mince his words. ‘I’m resigning both from the position of Defence Minister and as a member of parliament’ Moshe Ya’alon told the nation. He said ‘I fought with all my strength against the phenomenon of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society. In general Israeli society is sane and seeks a Jewish, democratic and liberal state without distinction of religion, race, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. But to my great regret’ he went on, ‘extremists and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement. The general public needs to understand the serious consequences of this take-over by an extremist minority and needs to fight this phenomenon’. So; very strong words indeed from Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister. And the man who could replace him – although this hasn’t been confirmed – is Avigdor Lieberman; a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova and today one of Israel’s most outspoken and divisive figures.”

Anand did not clarify the relevance to the discussion of a job Lieberman did for one year whilst he was a student at the Hebrew University but apparently she believes that it is more important for listeners to know about that than his previous positions as Minister of National Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Strategic Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

Throughout the technically challenged discussion, three of the four interviewees – including the Jerusalem Post’s political analyst Gil Hoffman – tried to explain Israeli politics in general, the context of the broadening of the coalition government in particular, the previous negotiations with the Zionist Union party for the same purpose, the background to Ya’alon’s statements and the myth of a ‘move to the right’. Anand, however, could not let her hyperbolic headline go.

“…to help our listeners understand what’s going on. We heard there the words of Moshe Ya’alon. These are pretty strong words coming from a pillar of Israeli society. He’s the head – or he was the head – of the armed forces. What’s been the reaction?”

“But some of his words are really, really strong. For example ‘has Israel lost its moral compass?’. I mean he’s talking about the country losing its moral compass. Is there any sympathy for those words, any agreement?”

“Michael, I want to put to you the outgoing Defence Minister’s words. He accuses Israel of losing its moral compass. […] What do you think about his words today in his speech?”

(In fact, Ya’alon’s reference to a ‘moral compass’ was not made in his resignation speech, but the previous day.)

“I want to steer the conversation back to the issues that Moshe Ya’alon has raised. Whether or not, you know, he’s being political – the words themselves; he’s talked about Israel losing its moral compass, about the government being hijacked by an extremist minority.”

“We’re discussing the comments of Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He resigned this morning. He had some very, very strong words for Israel’s politicians. He talked about fighting against extremism, violence and racism. He said that extremists and dangerous forces had taken over Israel and the Likud movement and were destabilizing the country.”

Towards the end of the item, as Gregg Roman tried to provide listeners with insights into the Israeli political scene, Anand interrupted and refocused the discussion on the programme’s real topic:

“But can I just move you guys back to the…the….you know, the talk about how Israel is losing its values. I do understand there are heavy politics involved, but perhaps for a global audience…”

The last word was given to Anat Hoffman of IRAC when Anand asked her:

“When you talk about the erosion of values, what specifically – quickly – in your day-to-day life do you feel is being eroded?”

Hoffman’s answer included claims of “ethnocentrism, chauvinism, racism”: labels which might equally be found in any discussion of contemporary European politics.

The point is, of course, that the BBC has not to date seen fit to superficially promote to its audiences worldwide the notion (based on the words of one politician) that citizens of a rather large number of nations in Europe are losing their values or their ability to judge what is right and wrong.

Now why would that be?

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Not Right: why did the BBC get the Israeli elections so wrong?

BBC audiences get a blinkered look into Israeli politics