CAMERA Arabic prompts correction of three inaccuracies in one BBC report

A BBC article published on September 24th on the network’s Arabic website was corrected last week (no earlier than October 1st, based on the date attributed to a cached copy of the inaccurate version) following a complaint made by CAMERA Arabic on the day of publication.

The article – which aimed to provide a detailed, informed introduction to Israel’s major Arab parties – contained three factual errors, one memorable typo and one major omission – all in one subsection.

Under the headline “What are the components of the Joint Arab List in the Israeli Knesset and [what are] their orientations?”, the article discussed the Joint List – a union of four Israeli parties, three of which self-identify as “Arab” while the fourth, Hadash, describes itself as “Arab-Jewish” (although the vast majority of its voters are estimated to be Arab). 

The inaccuracies appeared in the part of the article portraying one of the Joint List’s components: the nationalist Arab party of the National Democratic Alliance (Balad). The correction addressed all the issues raised by CAMERA Arabic. (all translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified)

Inaccuracy 1: “Since the 2006 elections, the party maintained a representation of three members in the Knesset…”

That claim has not been accurate for over a year: between August 2018 and April 2019 (the last few months of the 20th Knesset), Balad had 4 MKs as a result of a deal within the Joint List. Until last week, it had 2MKs who were of the 21st Knesset (which was dissolved on Thursday, October 3rd, as the 22nd Knesset was sworn in)

The BBC’s corrected version reads: “Since the 2006 elections, the party maintained a representation of three members in the Knesset until 2018…”

Inaccuracy 2: “…among them is the first Arab female Knesset member, Haneen Zu’bi”

In fact Balad’s Haneen Zu’bi [Zoabi] – elected in 2009 – was the third MK who was an Arab woman. Prior to her were Meretz’s Hussniya Jabara (served as MK 1999-2003) and the late Nadia Hilou from the Labour party who served as MK between 2006-2009.

The BBC’s corrected version reads: “…among them the first female member to enter the Knesset as a representative of an Arab party, Haneen Zu’bi, having been preceded by two female representatives of Arab roots who entered the Knesset inside Israeli parties

This new phrasing is problematic in itself: why was Zu’bi described as “Arab” in the previous version but her two predecessors are described as being “of Arab roots”? Moreover, why are Meretz and Labour described as “Israeli parties” but the Joint List and its components – which compete solely in Israeli elections – described as “Arab”?

Inaccuracy 3: “MK Jamal Zahalka heads the party nowadays”

In fact Zahalka is no longer an MK; he confirmed that he would not seek re-election in December 2018 and indeed was not nominated at all in the election rounds of April 2019 and September 2019. Although he currently retains the title of “Chairman of Balad”, it was political scientist Mtanes Shehadeh, Balad’s secretary general, who was elected head of the party’s list of Knesset nominees last February. Since the April 2019 elections, Shehadeh heads the party’s parliamentary bloc.

The BBC’s corrected version reads “M[K] Mtanes Shehadeh, the party’s secretary general, heads Balad’s parliamentary bloc in the Knesset. Jamal Zahalka, who is no longer a Knesset member, holds the party’s chairmanship.”

Significant typo: “the representatives of the Democratic Alliance in the Joint Arab List refused to recommend that Bibi Gantz would be prime minister.”

The Joint List (with the exception of the Balad members who abstained) recommended Benny Gantz to be the new prime minister. Bibi is the nickname of Gantz’s opponent and incumbent prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Although the amended report’s portrayal of the Balad party includes the fact that its founder and first chairman – Azmi Bishara – fled Israel in 2007, no mention is made of the background to his departure: Bishara is suspected of supplying intelligence to Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group during its war against Israel in the summer of 2006.

 

BBC interest in Israeli politicians’ legal cases has its limits

As we know from our monthly overviews of reporting on Israel and the Palestinians, the BBC News website is rather fond of stories about criminal/legal cases in Israel – especially if they involve Israeli politicians or public figures.

February 28

Gonen Segev: Israel ex-minister admits spying for Iran

Israel police investigate ‘sex-for-judgeships’ allegations

Netanyahu and the allegations of corruption (discussed here)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges (discussed here)

Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption allegations? (discussed here)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges (discussed here)

Netanyahu charges: Is Israel PM in more trouble now than ever before? (discussed here)

Sara Netanyahu: Israeli PM’s wife ‘agrees plea bargain’

Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits misusing public funds (discussed here)

By contrast, since the beginning of the year visitors to the BBC News website have seen just one report about a possible criminal/legal case in the Gaza Strip (not involving politicians) and just one report about Palestinian Authority politicians (not involving a legal case).

Interestingly, the BBC is apparently rather less interested in potential indictments when they involve an Arab Israeli political party, even though it has in the past repeatedly given a platform to one of the people involved.

“Former lawmaker Haneen Zoabi and the Arab party Balad will be indicted pending a hearing for forgery and fraud relating to their reports on campaign funding filed to the state comptroller, the attorney general and state prosecutor announced Thursday. 

Balad is suspected of having received from abroad some three million shekels ($862,650) and using the funds while pretending that the money had come in as donations. The party rejected the accusations, claiming they were part of “political persecution.” […]

Zoabi and the others are suspected of aggravated fraud, attempted fraud, money laundering, aggravated forgery, using a forged document and forging corporate records.  […]

Party officials deposited around 2.4 million shekels ($690,000) in the party bank account before the 2013 general election.  In a financial report provided to the state comptroller in February 2016, the funds were described as donations. The report was accompanied by 1,300 receipts, found by police investigation to be forged, and a list of donors, also found to be forged, according to the prosecution.”

Despite its usually lively interest in legal cases and criminal investigations involving Israeli politicians and public figures and although this story about Balad broke last week, the BBC News website (once again) has to date not found it at all newsworthy.

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BBC News tells only part of an Israeli elections story

On the evening of March 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari” in which readers were told that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has disqualified the leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Michael Ben-Ari, from next month’s elections.

In doing so, it overturned an earlier decision by the electoral committee.

Mr Ben-Ari has faced criticism over his comments about Israeli Arabs. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said they amount to “incitement to racism”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did the court rule?” the BBC provided readers with further information about the comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification.

“The court backed an appeal from left-wing politicians who argued that Mr Ben-Ari had made racist remarks.

The Times of Israel website reports that the appeal cited Mr Ben-Ari from August 2018, saying: “We have to change the equation regarding anyone who dares to speak against a Jew.

“[Such a person] is a dead man. He must not come out alive. No expelling him, no stripping him of his citizenship. He does not live! A firing squad takes him out as the Arabs understand [best].”

Mr Ben-Ari has claimed that he was referring to Hamas leadership – not all Arabs.”

Only readers who bothered to click on that promoted link would learn that:

“Michael Ben Ari, party leader of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), has faced multiple appeals to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.”

In addition the BBC’s report told readers that:

“The court also reinstated Israeli Arab parties previously banned from contesting the 9 April poll.

They had been barred from standing for their critical remarks about the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.”

Notably those “Israeli Arab parties” were not named by the BBC and no further information was provided concerning their prior disqualification by the Central Elections Committee on the basis of what the BBC chose to euphemistically portray as “critical remarks”.

The parties concerned are Ra’am-Balad – currently running on a joint electoral list. BBC audiences were not informed that the Central Elections Committee had also earlier in the month “voted to disqualify Ofer Kasif, a Jewish member of the other Arab-Israeli party, Hadash-Ta’al”.

“The petition against Balad-Ra’am was filed by the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Otzma Yehudit parties, which claimed that the Arab-Israeli party is “seeking to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, and supports the violent Palestinian resistance and Hezbollah, and most of its members are supporters and backers of terror.” […]

In addition to Ra’am-Balad, the committee accepted a petition to disqualify Kasif of Hadash-Ta’al, citing provocative comments he has made in the past, including calling the justice minister “neo-Nazi scum.”

Along with his comment against Ayelet Shaked, Kasif in the past was accused of comparing Israel and the IDF to the Nazi regime, of calling to fight against “Judeo-Nazis,” and voicing support for changing the national anthem.

Last month, in an interview with Haaretz, Kasif said Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians.”

Kasif is also on record as having “voiced support for cancelling the Law of Return”.

In addition to incitement to racism, Israel’s election law – Basic Law: The Knesset – forbids any person or list that promotes “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and/or “support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel” from running in elections.

The Balad party rejects the existence of the Jewish State, promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and aspires to a bi-national state.

However, while the BBC did provide its audiences with details of the racist comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification in this report (tagged, inter alia, racism) it chose not to supply an explanation of the background to the Central Elections Committee’s decision – later overturned by the Supreme Court – to ban other candidates, while euphemistically framing their negation of Jewish self-determination as mere “critical remarks”.

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The prison story from Israel the BBC chose to report – and one it didn’t

On June 29th the BBC News website published an article titled “Ehud Olmert, Israel’s jailed ex-PM, to be released early” on its Middle East page. That report remained in situ until July 2nd when it was replaced by a follow-up article titled “Ehud Olmert, Israel’s jailed ex-PM, is released early“.

The article tells readers that:

“Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been released from prison on parole after serving two-thirds of a 27-month sentence for fraud.”

And:

“Earlier, the Israeli parole board said Olmert had undergone a “significant rehabilitation process” in prison and his behaviour had been largely “impeccable”.”

It does not clarify to audiences that Israeli law allows the possibility of reduction of a sentence by a third if certain conditions are met and so Olmert’s case is not exceptional. Neither are readers told of the terms of the parole.

If the appearance of two BBC reports on this topic in four days seems odd, it is worth noting that the BBC News website frequently displays a penchant for covering domestic Israeli stories involving public figures and legal or criminal issues.

Israel court extends ex-PM Ehud Olmert’s jail term by a month (10/2/16 to 11/2/16)

Sara Netanyahu: Israeli PM’s wife mistreated staff, court says (10/2/16 to 12/2/16)

Ehud Olmert jail term: Israel ex-PM begins sentence for bribery (15/2/16 to 16/2/16)

Israel’s Moshe Katsav to be freed on parole (18/12/16 to 19/12/16)

Israel’s Netanyahu denies wrongdoing ahead of investigation (30/12/16 to2/1/17)

Israeli police question PM Netanyahu in corruption probe (2/1/17 to 4/1/17)

Israel PM Netanyahu questioned again in corruption probe (5/1/17 to 8/1/17)

Israel bribery inquiry: ‘Audiotape’ adds to pressure on PM Netanyahu (8/1/17 to 9/1/17)

Netanyahus win libel case over car row in convoy story (11/6/17 to 14/6/17)

However, one story that would definitely fit into that category has not been covered at all by BBC News.

On the same day that Ehud Olmert was released, another former politician began serving a two-year prison sentence.

“Former Joint (Arab) List lawmaker Basel Ghattas on Sunday was set to begin his two-year prison sentence for smuggling contraband to Palestinian security prisoners in an Israeli jail.

In April, the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted the plea bargain reached between state prosecutors and Ghattas, who was convicted of exploiting his position to sneak cellphones and notes to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

After accepting the deal, the court handed down a two-year prison term to Ghattas, as well as 18 months probation and a NIS 120,000 ($33,000) fine.

He will be incarcerated at the Gilboa Prison.

Ghattas’s conviction was found to carry moral turpitude, meaning he will be barred from serving in the Knesset for seven years after completing his sentence.”

Despite its usually lively interest in legal cases and criminal investigations involving Israeli politicians and public figures and although this story has been ongoing for over six months, the BBC News website has not found it at all newsworthy.

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MK’s plea bargain resignation not newsworthy for BBC

Late last December we noted that the BBC had ignored the story of the arrest of a member of the Knesset from the Balad party on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to convicted terrorists.

The MK – Basel Ghattas – has now resigned from the Knesset.

“MK Basel Ghattas, accused of exploiting his position to smuggle cellphones to convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, resigned from the Knesset Sunday as part of a plea deal that will see him face two years in prison.

Prosecutors on Friday filed an indictment in the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court against the Joint (Arab) List lawmaker, formally charging him with smuggling phones into prison, smuggling documents and breach of trust.

The charges came a day after Ghattas signed a deal with the state in which he will resign from the Knesset and serve two years. In return he avoided more serious charges of aiding the enemy and being an accomplice to terror. […]

Ghattas was under criminal investigation after being caught on prison surveillance video passing envelopes to Palestinian security prisoners in January [sic – actually December].

Police said that the MK exploited his position as a member of Knesset — who cannot be subjected to a body search — during a visit to Ketziot Prison in southern Israel last year, where he met with Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner serving a 37-year sentence for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. The MK also met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence on a terror conviction.”

In the past the BBC has given its audiences incomplete and partisan portrayals of stories concerning Balad MKs and terrorism – see here and here.  

Despite its usual interest in the workings of the Israeli Knesset and its having produced no fewer than four articles in ten days (see here, here, here and here) on a different police investigation concerning an Israeli politician during the same period of time, on Basel Ghattas’ indictment and resignation the corporation has chosen to stay mum.

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Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part two

The January 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Balad MK Haneen Zoabi who was in London for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM and other speaking engagements.today-24-1-zoabi-int

As seen in part one of this post, the previous day MK Tzipi Hotovely had been interviewed on the same programme by Sarah Montague and listeners were reminded of that – and obviously intended to view the two interviews as being linked – in the introduction to the item (from 01:24:26 here) by presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “On yesterday’s programme Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs made clear how pleased her government was to see the Trump administration take office. Within 48 hours of the inauguration, Israel approved more than 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting President Trump at the White House next week [sic]. Here’s what Tzipi Hotovely told us yesterday:

‘We think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East…’

So how does the new era appear from the Palestinian perspective? Haneen Zoabi is a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Good morning.”

Notably, Husain did not inform listeners to which political party Zoabi belongs and provided no information concerning that party’s anti-Israel platform.

Zoabi: “Good morning.”

Husain: “What do you think President Trump means for the Palestinians?”

Zoabi: “As the Israeli says, it is an expression of deep friendship and unfortunately it’s an expression also of supporting the Israelis’ policies of expanding settlements, of Judaising Jerusalem, of the violence policies of Israel against the Palestinians. So we will be the victims of this and this is also the violation of the international law because according to the international law Jerusalem is an occupied territories. So this is to delete the position; to ignore the position of Israel as occupier. We should always remember that Israel is occupier and without…and what’s the US…eh… do is to give Israel a full immunity to its policies. I think the…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You’re referring to….let’s just take one of the issues you’re referring to which is the suggestion that under President Trump the US embassy is going to move from Tel Aviv…”

Zoabi: “Tel Aviv.”

Husain: “…to Jerusalem. Now, what the White House press secretary has said so far is ‘we are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject’. If it does happen, what will it mean do you think? Will it be a red line as far as the Palestinians are concerned?”

Zoabi: “I think yes and I think the reality after that would not be the same as the reality before that. We heard yesterday the Palestinian Authority saying that the Palestinian Authority will withdraw its recognition from Israel – eh…of Israel – and I think this will be the time that the Palestinian Authority will declare the end of the negotiation illusions because till now the negotiations were just illusions. The real word was that Israel steal the Palestinian land, expand settlements – not just in the West Bank. I am a citizen and I live inside Nazareth…”

Husain [interrupts]: “A citizen of Israel.”

Zoabi: “…of Israel and I live inside Nazareth. Israel also now is evacuating thirty thousand Palestinians from the Negev, destroying five Palestinian villages against citizens of Israel. I am not talking the occupied territories in the West Bank. I’m talking about Palestinians whom Israel didn’t expel in 1948.You remember: Israel has expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948. No-one is remembering that now. And now…”

Husain [interrupts]: “When we were talking to the Israeli deputy foreign minister yesterday, I mean, she was stressing that in their view settlements are not…are not the only issue; that there are other issues: obviously the status of Jerusalem, refugees, Israel’s security. Where do you think the best chance of peace lies, given what is happening on the ground at the moment?”

Zoabi: “I think it is so strange to talk about peace while reallocating the embassy, while Israel yesterday has announce 600 housing units. As long as Israel is going with full immunity from the international community, with…with that which is considered to be crimes against humanityit’s a war crime to build settlementsit’s a war crimes. And the problem is not just occupation and oppressing the Palestinians – which no-one talks about it. No-one’s talking about the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisoners [prisons]. We must talk about…eh…making Israel accountable. If you want peace, you want justice. And if you want justice you must make Israel accountable to its crimes. It cannot be…it is not logic to give…to vetoes the UN resolution – Security Council resolution – to give support as the British government gives support to Israel all….all…all along and then to talk about peace. If you want peace you must let Israel pay the price of its crimes, of its oppressions, of its settlements, of its 87 racist laws. In Israel there are 87 racist laws….”

Husain [interrupts] “There was recently a UN Security Council resolution which went against Israel…”

Zoabi: [interrupts] “Exactly: an exception, exception.”

Husain: “…and was supported by the British. Thank you very much Haneen Zoabi, member of the Israeli Knesset.”

Zoabi: “Thank you.”

While this interview was about a minute and a quarter shorter than the one with Tzipi Hotovely the previous day, we see that Zoabi was interrupted on four occasions (compared to seven interruptions in the Hotovely interview) – but with notably less hostility.

None of Zoabi’s blatant propaganda and incitement concerning Israel was challenged by Husain – including her inaccurate claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is “occupied”, the lie that Israel “expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948”, the falsehood of “87 racist laws” (with Zoabi adding yet another one since she made a similar claim at the PSC AGM just three days earlier) or the unsourced allegation that 30 thousand ‘Palestinians’ are being ‘evacuated’ “from the Negev” (it was 13,000 at the PSC AGM) – which of course actually relates to the Umm al Hiran story and the generously compensated relocation close by of Bedouin squatters.

In fact, the only time that Husain did intervene to correct misleading information was to clarify that Britain had voted in favour of UNSC resolution 2334.

In short, Haneen Zoabi was given a completely unfettered platform from which to spout her predictably one-sided propaganda (in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as victims and Arab belligerence and Palestinian terrorism are erased) in an obviously more sympathetic environment than was evident in the previous day’s interview.

The fact that Mishal Husain failed to challenge even one of Zoabi’s many falsehoods means that the BBC cannot possibly claim that this interview was intended to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

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BBC News silent on arrest of Israeli MK

In February of this year the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented listeners with a highly partial account of the temporary suspension of the anti-Zionist Balad party’s three MKs from Knesset activity after their participation in an event glorifying Palestinian terrorists.

A similarly whitewashed portrayal of that story appeared in a July 2016 report concerning what the BBC described as “controversial” legislation by the Israeli parliament allowing for the impeachment of MKs on the grounds of incitement to violence or racism or support for armed conflict against Israel. In that report BBC audiences were repeatedly told that Israeli democracy is being “undermined” by such legislation.

Given that ‘concern’ for Israeli democracy and keen interest in the workings of the Knesset, one might have thought that the recent story of the arrest of a member of Israel’s parliament would also have caught the BBC’s attention.No news

“Arab lawmaker MK Basel Ghattas was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of smuggling cell phones, SIM cards, and coded messages to convicted terrorists serving time in Israel’s prisons.

The arrest came immediately after a second round of police questioning under caution in as many days, and just hours after Ghattas, of the Arab Joint List in the Knesset, waived his parliamentary immunity. […]

According to Hebrew media reports, Ghattas allegedly passed as many as 15 cellphones and several SIM cards to inmates serving sentences for national security offenses in Ketziot prison south of Beersheba.

Ghattas was also suspected of handing “intelligence information” to one of two prisoners in encoded notes, a Channel 2 report said. The notes contained information from other security prisoners, the report claimed, as well as mentions of former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel in 2007 to escape a police and Shin Bet investigation into allegations he was paid by Hezbollah to help locate targets for rocket attacks within Israel.

One of the prisoners that Ghattas is alleged to have met with during a Sunday visit to Ketziot is Walid Daka, who was sentenced to 37 years for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam.

The phones, discovered concealed behind plastic molding surrounding a window in the visitors room, were allegedly intended to be collected by prisoners who belong to the Islamic Jihad terror group.”

Had a British, German or French member of parliament been arrested on suspicion of offences involving convicted terrorists (and subsequently placed under house arrest), one can be pretty sure that the BBC would have found the story newsworthy.

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The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

In mid-October the BBC World News channel aired a documentary by Jane Corbin titled “Israel’s Arab Warriors” and on November 8th, 9th and 10th the same programme was shown on BBC Arabic TV. A written article by Corbin on the same topic (which includes the video) was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 8th under the title “Israel’s Arab soldiers who fight for the Jewish state“. The same article was translated into Arabic and promoted on the same day on the BBC Arabic website.israels-arab-warriors-orig

It is of course good to see the BBC finally getting round to reporting on a topic which has long been off its radar and Jane Corbin is to be commended for enabling BBC audiences to see beyond the standard BBC narrative in her unusually nuanced presentation of Israeli society.

A distinctly less laudable aspect of Corbin’s filmed and written reports is their generous amplification of unqualified and unchallenged propaganda from the inadequately presented Haneen Zoabi.

Less than a minute into the film’s pre-title introduction viewers see Zoabi – unidentified – saying:

“This small, marginalized group that serves in the Israeli army against its people knows they are crossing a patriotic red line.”

At 08:33 Jane Corbin tells viewers that:

“Haneen Zoabi is an MP in the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – but she identifies herself as Palestinian and often clashes with the government.

A similar portrait of Zoabi is presented in the written article:

“Hanin Zoabi is an Israeli Arab MP who identifies herself as Palestinian and is a fierce critic of the state.”zoabi-israels-arab-soldiers-2-with-desc

When Zoabi is presented on screen, the description given is “Hanin Zoabi MK Joint Arab List”. While that description is of course accurate, it tells BBC audiences nothing about the ideology of the Balad party to which Zoabi belongs and the very relevant fact that she and her fellow party members reject the existence of the Jewish State, promote the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and aspire to a bi-national state. The absence of that information – along with relevant details such as Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Hamas-supporting violent flotilla and her glorification of terrorism – of course prevents BBC audiences from being able to put her “particular viewpoint” into its appropriate context.

Following that inadequate introduction from Corbin, viewers hear Zoabi say:

“Should we serve in an army that besieges our people in Gaza, occupies our people in the West Bank? A State which expelled my people and built its State on the ruins. 678 cities and villages were demolished by the State of Israel. There’s a conflict with a state that defines itself as a Jewish State; a state that grants privileges to its Jewish over its Palestinian citizens. We just can’t accept the situation.”

The BBC’s commitment to accurate and impartial broadcasting should of course have meant that if it was deemed necessary to include those allegations from Zoabi in the film, then Corbin should have clarified – inter alia – that Gaza is not ‘besieged’, that the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and that most of Palestinians who left what is today Israel in 1948 were not “expelled”. Corbin, however, failed to add any clarifying comments.corbin-art-in-arabic

At 15:28 Corbin tells viewers that:

“The Israeli government says Israeli Arabs have equal rights but they often complain that they are second class citizens. Haneen Zoabi – an MP here – accuses Israel of using bribery to get Arabs to join up.”

Zoabi: “Israel is after people who are poor with no work to serve in the army. 52 – 54% of our Palestinian people in Israel are under the poverty line. Only 10% of the Palestinian youth in Israel continue their university study. You are talking about a whole new generation. The government’s policy of creating poverty obliges people to look for the only solution they can.”

Not only does Corbin fail to challenge the falsehood that the Israeli government has a “policy of creating poverty” but she refrains from supplying any context to Zoabi’s propaganda (for example the fact that just 22% of Arab women of working age are employed or the fact that poverty among the ultra-Orthodox population stands at a similar 54.3%) or informing viewers of government investment in efforts to raise the proportion of Arab citizens in higher education.

Three minutes further on, Zoabi is again given an unchallenged platform.

19:19 Corbin: “Haneen Zoabi’s at a protest outside an Israeli hospital where a Palestinian from the West Bank is on hunger strike. He’s being held under Israeli administrative detention without being indicted or tried.”

Zoabi: “There are hundreds of Palestinians in administrative detention. It’s political persecution; part of the Israeli policy to criminalise the lawful Palestinian resistance. We are fighting for equality and our rights against Israeli racism and colonialisation against the people who have rights to this land.”

Once again, there is no comment from Corbin – not even an effort to distance the BBC from the claim that violent terrorism against civilians is ‘lawful resistance’ or an explanation of the fact that the particular hunger striker in administrative detention is associated with the terrorist organisation Hamas – as the BBC is aware.

At 20:26 viewers see Zoabi repeat the statement made in the programme’s introduction:

“This small, marginalized group that serves in the Israeli army against its people knows they are crossing a patriotic red line.”

At 20:37 Zoabi tells viewers that:

“[Father] Naddaf is a person rejected by Palestinian society – even by some Christians. Not only does he not represent anyone, he is being used by Israel. He is a tool in the hands of the Israeli authorities.”corbin-art-eng

The ability of audiences to put those statements into their correct context would of course have been enhanced had Corbin bothered to tell them of Zoabi’s attempts (together with other Balad MKs) to intimidate Father Naddaf. 

At 24:11 Zoabi returns:

“90% of the Arabs who serve in the Israeli army don’t have equality with Israelis. Israel does not need us to protect its security. Israel doesn’t want to treat us according to our national identity but divide us into Bedouins, country people, city people, Muslims, Christians, Druze. Any way to divide us.

At 40:07 Corbin yet again provides a platform for more unchallenged propaganda from Zoabi – this time at a Land Day rally in Sakhnin.

“Knesset member Haneen Zoabi is here to address the rally.”

Zoabi: “Our message is this army is the army of a country which is against us and kills our people in Jerusalem and in Gaza and in the West Bank. We are not going to play a part in killing our people.”

Following an interview with Mohammed Zoabi, audiences once again hear from Haneen Zoabi:

42:33 “Of course I do not represent those who serve in the Israeli army. I do not speak in the name of the person you just mentioned [Mohammed Zoabi]. Just because he’s part of my family doesn’t make me responsible for his actions. Of course I do not represent those who have identity disfiguration. I do not represent those who have no self-esteem, those with a slave mentality. I represent people with dignity who feel they are in their homeland and never left it.”

Haneen Zoabi appears no fewer than nine times in this 47 minute-long film and on none of those occasions does Corbin challenge her falsehoods and propaganda or correct the inaccurate impressions received by viewers. Although at one point in the film (40:39) Corbin does tell viewers that “a recent poll says a majority of the Arab-Israeli community identifies as Israeli in some way”, none of the sixteen other Muslim, Christian or Druze members of the Knesset are interviewed, meaning that BBC audiences are restricted to hearing Zoabi’s extremist views without understanding her place on the political map.

The vast majority of this programme’s viewers around the world will of course not be aware of the ideology of Zoabi and her political party and will not be familiar with the phenomenon of publicly funded MPs who advocate the destruction of the state they ostensibly serve. The failure to adequately explain the political motivations behind Zoabi’s propaganda means that not only does this film become a platform for its unchallenged amplification, but that viewers are misled with false and distorted information which overshadows and detracts from a long-overdue presentation of the seriously under-reported topic of co-existence between different ethnic communities in Israel.  

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Was BBC News presentation of a new Israeli law balanced and accurate?

On July 20th an article appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli parliament passes controversial impeachment law“.

The article included a brief portrayal of the new law which is its ostensible subject matter:

“Israel’s parliament has passed a law that would allow it to impeach an MP who incites racism or supports armed struggle against the state. […]

The law would require three-quarters of the Knesset’s 120 members to vote in favour of any impeachment motion.”

The Jerusalem Post has more details – which the BBC did not apparently find it necessary to report.

“The bill […] allows MKs to vote to dismiss a fellow lawmaker for incitement to violence or racism, and support for armed conflict against Israel, which are among the reasons cited in the Basic Law: Knesset for banning a party or person from running.

The impeachment process would begin with 70 MKs, 10 of whom must be from the opposition, petitioning the Knesset House Committee, and could only be finalized with a vote of 90 MKs in favor of the dismissal. If an MK is expelled, he or she would be replaced by the next person on his or her party’s list. […] the law will not apply retroactively to actions MKs took before it passed.”

In addition:

“The deposed lawmaker could then appeal the decision with the Supreme Court.

Under the terms of the law, Knesset members cannot be removed from office during an election period.”

The 415 word BBC News article included a twenty-three word portrayal of the point of view of a supporter of the law whilst one hundred and twelve words – and a link to an EU funded political NGO’s website – were devoted to portrayal of opinions opposing the law.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure ended an “absurd situation” whereby someone who “supports terror” was allowed to serve in the Knesset.

But critics said it was anti-democratic and aimed mainly at Israeli Arab MPs. […]

A spokeswoman for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel expressed similar concerns about the new impeachment law, which was approved by 62 votes to 47 early on Wednesday.

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy – the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation,” said Debbie Gilad-Hayo.

“Arab [MPs] whose actions and remarks do not find favour with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill – however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all,” she added.”

In addition, the article highlighted a previous statement from the EU – which does not relate to the specific subject matter concerned – both in its text and in a photo caption.impeachment law art

“The move comes a week after the European Union warned that the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech by approving legislation that requires NGOs receiving most of their funding from abroad to declare so publicly.”

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

The article made no effort to provide readers with the relevant context of impeachment laws in other democracies such as the United States and some EU member countries. It failed to provide readers with information concerning the type of actions to which the new law would presumably apply such as an MK’s participation in a flotilla in support of Hamas organised by a group proscribed under Israeli law.

As was the case at the time, the report gave a whitewashed portrayal of an event which took place earlier in the year.  

“In February, three of the 18 Israeli Arab MPs caused outrage and were suspended from parliamentary activity for several months by an ethics committee after they met the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.”

Clearly this article did not provide uninformed readers with a comprehensive view of the legislation itself or the types of activities to which it may apply. However, there is one specific take away message which it obviously tried very hard to get across to BBC audiences.

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

“But critics said it was anti-democratic…”

“… the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech…”

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy…” 

Reports of the death of Israeli democracy are of course greatly exaggerated – but notably, such reports frequently come from the media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

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BBC News ignores Hizballah terror designation development

BBC News ignores Hizballah terror designation development

Last week the BBC News website reported that the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – had decided to declare Hizballah a terrorist organization.GCC & Hizballah

The article states:

“The GCC’s designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation brings it into line with the United States and the European Union, although the latter has only blacklisted the group’s military wing.”

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.

It is obviously not in the least bit surprising that the following story is currently making waves in Israel.

“Hadash and Balad, two of the four parties that make up the mostly Arab Joint List in the Knesset, published condemnations Monday of Sunni Arab states that last week designated Shiite Hezbollah a terror organization. Both parties argued that the move serves Israel. […]

Hadash, which is helmed by Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh, denounced the blacklisting, which it said came “in the service of occupation and the continued occupation of Arab land.” Hadash backs the continued rule of Assad in Syria.

Balad followed Hadash’s lead Monday, posting a condemnation of the Gulf Cooperation Council on its website on Monday afternoon. “Even if there is criticism of its activities, there is no justification to condemn the organization,” Balad said of Hezbollah.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“The Balad faction, whose MKs recently were at the center of controversy for meeting with the families of Palestinians killed while perpetrating terror attacks against Israelis, said in a statement that “the GCC’s (Gulf Cooperation Council) decision to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization pours oil on the sectarian conflict and worsens the ordeal the Islamic nation has been witnessing.”

Balad argued that “no criticism of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria justifies this dangerous decision, which serves Israel and her allies who do not hide their colonialist aspirations in Palestine, Lebanon and the rest of the Arabic homeland.”

Hadash, led by Joint List head Ayman Odeh, also condemned the decision, attacking Saudi Arabia for spearheading the effort to blacklist Hezbollah.

“After Saudi Arabia failed in its attempt to harness Lebanese society and political forces against Hezbollah by halting its military aid to Lebanon and after the Syrian people have succeeded in keeping Syria united, comes the decision to label Hezbollah as a terrorist organization that proves that Gulf States are totally loyal to neo-colonialist and Zionist forces, the enemies of Arabs.””

Readers may recall that last month the BBC World Service presented audiences with a very one-sided view of the sanctions placed by the Knesset Ethics Committee on three members of the Balad party after that meeting with the families of terrorists. Despite the fact that the same committee is likely to be called to address the topic of this latest support from Hadash and Balad for a terror organization designated by Israel, the BBC has not seen fit to report the story to date.

And – although it rarely misses an opportunity to amplify a speech by Hassan Nasrallah – BBC News also passed up on last month’s story of the Hizballah leader’s threat to deliberately fire missiles at ammonia storage tanks in the city of Haifa and thereby cause mass casualties – including of course among the 10% of Israeli Arab residents of that city.

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