Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – November 2019

Throughout the month of November 2019, thirty written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Eight reports concerned an escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad:

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza (12/11/19) discussed here, here and here

Israel-Gaza violence: Rockets and air strikes follow militant death (12/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant (12/11/19 to 13/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death (13/11/19 to 14/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire holding despite rocket fire (14/11/19 to 15/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets and air strikes (15/11/19)

Israel-Gaza: Israel vows to investigate civilian death claims (16/11/19 to 19/11/19)

Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint Barbara Plett Usher (18/11/19 to 23/11/19) discussed here

Three reports concerned other external security issues:

Iran nuclear deal: IAEA finds uranium particles at undeclared site  (11/11/19 to 15/11/19)

Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes  Jonathan Marcus (20/11/19 to 26/11/19 and 28/11/19 to 1/12/19)

Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria (20/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Seven items related to political/diplomatic stories:

Jordanians detained by Israel for months freed after diplomatic crisis (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers (10/11/19 to 11/11/19) discussed here

US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal (18/11/19) discussed here and here

Pompeo: Previous US stance on Israeli settlements ‘hasn’t worked’ (18/11/19 to 24/11/19)

US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians (19/11/19 to 21/11/19) discussed here and here

US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal Barbara Plett Usher (19/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

Israelis and Palestinians on US settlement move (19/11/19 to 21/11/19 and 23/11/19 to 29/11/19)

Two items related to historical content:

WW2 Jewish survivors in rare reunion with Greek rescuer (4/11/19 to 5/11/19)

Greek rescuer, 92, meets families of WW2 Jews she saved (4/11/19 to 18/11/19)

One report related to religion:

Jesus manger: Relic returns to Bethlehem in time for Christmas (30/11/19 to present)

Of nine items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, one concerned politics:

Benny Gantz unable to form Israel coalition government (20/11/19 to 24/11/19)

Seven items related to legal stories:

Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal (5/11/19 to 6/11/19) discussed here

Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned (25/11/19 to present) discussed here

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’ (21/11/19 to present)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM charged with corruption (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption charges? Originally published in February 2019 (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in face of ‘coup’ (22/11/19)

Israel’s Netanyahu facing fight of his political life Barbara Plett Usher (22/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

One report concerned planning:

Jerusalem: Israel approves controversial Old City cable car plan (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs with visitors having seen no coverage of that topic whatsoever during the month of November.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – October 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

 

BBC WS breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality with Gaza report

h/t JP

The November 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included an item (from 20:10 here) which was introduced by the presenter as follows:

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

Presenter: “Earlier this month there was further fierce fighting over Gaza triggered when Israel assassinated a senior militant leader from the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. These rounds of violence have become almost routine, as have accounts of humanitarian suffering blamed largely on Israel’s blockade of the territory.”

Notably absent from that portrayal is of course any mention of the Palestinian terrorism which is the reason for “Israel’s blockade of the territory” as well as the last round of escalation during which about 560 rockets and mortars – conveniently whitewashed from this introduction – were fired at Israeli civilians.

The introduction continued:

Presenter: “But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news. They are Issam Adwan, Asmaa Tayeh and Ahmed Elqattawi. On a recent trip to Gaza our correspondent Barbara Plett Usher spoke with them about the recent violence. Ahmed begins the conversation.”

Listeners then heard nearly five minutes of unchallenged one-sided monologues.

Ahmed: “I want to live. I want to live like any other human being in the world. This is my right. I want to be respected. I want to have it and I want to see it like happened in the Gaza Strip. This is my…my city. I should feel safe in my city. Why would I walk in the street without feeling safe? I mean even like the horrific fear I witness. I mean during these three days was [unintelligible] for me. I have been like a victim to the sound of bombing and shelling. I couldn’t take it anymore, really. I was just…I was scared. I mean I’m 24 years old but I was really scared. Yeah.”

Issam: “But trust me this is not like the worst thing that could happen to the one who is living in Gaza, who lived through three wars and, you know, partially fourth one. The worst thing that could happen to you is that you’re not feeling fear anymore. Not because of being brave but because of, like, you have suffered so much. There are so many levels of being empty. Some people here in Gaza Strip they just want to die because they are suffering so much. At my point I’m…I’m fearless not because of being brave but I’ve seen so much. For them they are fearless because they have suffered so much. They just want to end it. I believe a lot of people exceeded what they can handle.”

Asmaa: “My sister-in-law two days ago was saying if they bomb us they should kill us all because we don’t want anyone to stay and live and keep crying on the others. I told her no. You all die and I want to live. Because I really didn’t live. I’m still twenty – twenty-three – and I didn’t live. I really need to live more so I can maybe find some sense of safety or joy or anything. It also makes me laugh when I see some Israelis comment on our posts on social media saying ‘you’re killing our children, you’re terrifying us, you’re doing this and that’. And they don’t get the fact that we’re trying to defend ourselves. They don’t get the fact that they every time start this. And when we do the same, or at least done the same because we don’t have the same equipment, they cry about it. And they tell us that we are violating their human rights. They were violating the international law. But they don’t think about themselves. They are doing the same or worse.”

Listeners heard no challenge from Barbara Plett Usher to those falsehoods and were not provided with any background which would help them put the propaganda into context. Instead, in the first of just two brief interventions throughout the whole item, Plett Usher chose to question the definition of the actions of Hamas and the PIJ as terrorism.

Plett Usher: “Do you think that Palestinian leadership bears any responsibility? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they have this doctrine of resistance, for example, that Israel and the international community call terrorism.”

Asmaa: “Well for me I don’t support anyone. I think we’re all Palestinians. But let me ask you: what do we really have as a choice? What can we do? Do we have equipment? Do we have anything that we didn’t try before? Tell me what we can do? What options do we have?”

Issam: “Such a response is just a representation of – fine representation – of what Gaza is not having, which is life. Also I would condemn Hamas and the PLO for such division which kill the Palestinians in the first place, especially the people in Gaza Strip. We are responding, we are shooting, we are, like, protesting at the Great March of Freedom because we don’t have hope. Israel is a great part of that. The PLO is also part of that. Hamas like makes the ideology of terminating others’ existence; they are responsible for that. I’m also blaming the lack of vision, the lack of – let’s say – a position that can lead us to move forward with the Palestinian case. They are responsible for that, not the occupation. I know that the occupation is imposing a lot of pressures and blows but they are responsible on that in the first place. They have responsibility. They cannot do with…these just [unintelligible] to step back and let other people to lead.”

Plett Usher: “What about you? How do you feel about the future, Ahmed?”

Ahmed: “Well I remember like a report was issued by the UN and they said that Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020. So 2020 is coming in January so I’m trying to just receive the shock when it comes.”

Asmaa “But for me, to be honest, I don’t think this is gonna be the last Israeli attack. So you will never feel safe. So I don’t have hope. No, I’m sorry, I don’t [laughing].”

Presenter: “Asmaa Tayeh ending that report from Barbara Plett Usher in Gaza and we also heard from Issam Adwan and Ahmed Elqattawi.”

It of course comes as no big surprise to hear such a blatantly one-sided report from Barbara Plett Usher: a report which does nothing to advance audience understanding of the topic it purports to address. But below the surface of this five minutes of unchallenged propaganda is another layer which once again highlights the issue of the BBC’s supposed impartiality.

Listeners were told in the introduction to this item that the three interviewees had set up a website:

“But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news.”

In fact, all three interviewees are involved with a website – called ‘We Are Not Numbers – that was set up in early 2015 by a political NGO called EuroMed Rights which is funded by a variety of foreign donors and has as members organisations engaged in lawfare against Israel. The website itself is funded by a US registered organisation called ‘Nonviolence International’ which was founded by Mubarak Awad who was deported by Israel due to his role in the first Intifada.

Issam Adwan is listed as the website’s ‘special projects coordinator’ and described as having joined it in May 2018. Asmaa Tayeh is listed as its ‘social media coordinator’ and Ahmed Elqattawi features in a 2015 report by anti-Israel activist Joe Catron for the infamous ‘MintPress News’. The website has also been promoted on the notoriously anti-Israel ‘Mondoweiss’ site by its founder Pam Bailey who is a contributor to that site as well as others includingMiddle East Eye’ and Al Jazeera.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate that:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

Not only did Barbara Plett Usher’s report fail to inform listeners of the name of the website it inaccurately claimed was “started” by her three interviewees but BBC audiences were given no “appropriate information” about the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of the real founders and funders of that website and their very relevant political agenda. 

BBC News’ Plett Usher fails on fact checking

On the evening of November 22nd the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu facing fight of his political life” on its Middle East page.

Written by Barbara Plett Usher who is currently based in Jerusalem, the article was one of six items relating to the announcement of indictments against Israel’s acting prime minister to have appeared on that page in less than 24 hours, indicating that the BBC considers it a major story.

In the rush to publish content, fact checking however fell by the wayside with Plett Usher telling readers that:

“A lot will depend on senior members of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party. Until now they have maintained their tribal loyalty to the prime minister, but he is facing a possible challenge from within.

The education minister, Gideon Saar, has called for party primaries to replace him. There may well yet be others.” [emphasis added]

Gideon Sa’ar has not been the Minister of Education for over six years. He held that post between March 31st 2009 and March 18th 2013 and since then there have been three other ministers.

Plett Usher also told readers that:

“He’s [Netanyahu] been preoccupied with efforts to form a right-wing government that would vote to grant him immunity from prosecution.

Despite failing to do so, his status as a member of the Knesset gives him 30 days to ask the legislative body to grant him such immunity. The indictment cannot be formally filed unless this process happens.

But that request for immunity cannot be made until there is a functioning government. There isn’t one now and won’t be for even longer if Israelis are forced to vote yet again.”

As Lahav Harkov explains at the Jerusalem Post, there are in fact two stages to that procedure : [emphasis added]

“…when an MK is charged with a crime, the attorney-general must submit a copy of the indictment to the Knesset. Then the MK may go to the Knesset House Committee and ask for immunity. At that point, the legal proceedings against him or her are frozen and [Attorney General] Mandelblit cannot submit the indictment to the courts.

The House Committee would then vote, and if it grants the lawmaker immunity, it must go to a second vote in the plenum. […]

It does not look like Netanyahu has enough votes in the Knesset, in its current makeup, to get immunity. The religious-Right bloc that supports him has 55 seats, and the Center-Left has made it very clear they oppose the move.”

BBC Watch has written to the BBC News website requesting a correction.

BBC News ignores rockets on northern Israel but reports response

When sirens warning of rocket fire from Syria sent residents of the northern Golan Heights and Upper Galilee scurrying for shelter shortly before 5 a.m. on November 19th, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

“Four projectiles were fired at northern Israel from Syria in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said. All four were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli military believes the rockets were fired by Iran or one of its proxies.”

The Israeli response which came the next day was however considered worthy of BBC News website coverage and on the morning of November 20th a report originally confusingly headlined “Israel hits ‘dozens of Iranian and Syrian targets’” and now titled “Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria” was published on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Apparently not having bothered to verify details of the previous day’s incident itself, the BBC reported it as something that ‘Israel said’ happened.

“The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel. […]

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said it had intercepted four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel. It said the rockets did not hit the ground.”

As usual in coverage of such incidents, the BBC’s report uncritically amplified claims made by the infamous Syrian state news agency.

“Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defences shot down most of the missiles over Damascus. […]

Syria’s state news agency Sana said that the country’s “air defence confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles”.

It said that Syria destroyed “most” of the Israeli missiles.

The news agency added that the strikes on Syrian territory were carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories”.”

Also in line with longstanding BBC editorial policy, the report presented an unnecessarily qualified account of Iran’s activities in Syria.

“Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.

It has been trying to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” there and block shipments of Iranian weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

Readers were told nothing of the list of Iranian attacks on Israel throughout the past two years.

Later the same day the BBC News website published an additional article by its diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes” and inaccurately tagged “Syrian civil war”.  

The BBC News Twitter account promoted that article with the claim that “Israel’s strikes in Syria risk broad conflict with Iran”.

So there we have it: according to BBC-think it is not Iran’s funding and arming of terrorist organisations to Israel’s south and north or Iran’s support for the establishment of Hizballah infrastructure in the Syrian Golan or even Iran’s reported deployment of missiles in south-west Syria which raise the risk of “broad conflict” but Israel’s response to Iranian aggression.

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post between the evening of November 18th and the evening of November 19th the BBC News website published three written reports, totalling 2,420 words, relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

November 18th 2019: ‘US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal’ by Barbara Plett Usher

All those articles include quotes from various Palestinian officials and/or unnamed terrorist organisations.

Article 1: “Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the US decision was a risk to “global stability, security, and peace” and said it threatened to replace international law with “the law of the jungle”.”

Article 2: “Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said it threatened to replace international law with the “law of the jungle”. […]

“Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes,” said Mr Erekat. “Once the Trump administration decides to undermine international law… this constitutes a major threat to international peace and security.”

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The United States is neither qualified nor is authorised to negate international legitimacy resolutions, and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement.”

Palestinian militant groups also weighed in, calling it the official funeral of the Oslo peace process – which laid the foundations for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – and urging stepped-up resistance to the Israeli occupation.”

Article 3: “Palestinian militants have described the US shift as the funeral of the Oslo peace process, and called for resisting the occupation.”

The second report also quoted other sources promoting the notion that the US announcement and/or ‘settlements’ threaten the ‘peace process’. [emphasis added]

Article 2: “The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc’s position was that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace“.

Ayman Safadi, Foreign Minister of Jordan – the custodian of a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount – said the change would “kill” a two-state solution, calling the settlements “a blatant violation of international law”.”

The BBC’s own commentary promoted similar framing:

Article 1: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of all settlements, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Articles 1 & 2, analysis from Barbara Plett Usher:

“Dismissing the international legal prohibitions on Jewish settlements undermines the legal framework for the peace process, including the notion of Palestinian national rights and the principle of self-determination. […]

Palestinian analysts I have spoken with say the growth of Jewish settlements has essentially killed the potential for a viable two-state solution.”

Article 2: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, where about 600,000 Jews live, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Article 3: “And it [the US statement] decreases even further the chances of a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. […]

…it creates problems for the rest of the world, which has been operating under an internationally accepted framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The international community has focused for more than two decades on working towards a two-state solution. The European Union and United Nations have been warning that Jewish settlements are eroding that possibility. Now that a main player has withdrawn opposition, the way forward is even less clear: there is no Plan B. […]

Palestinians do not have many options.”

As we see, both the selected quotes and the BBC’s own commentary steer readers towards the view that the prime obstacle to “a negotiated peace deal” and a “two-state solution” is the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. That framing of course dovetails perfectly with the narrative long promoted by the PLO.

Notably, the BBC made no effort at all to remind audiences of other factors which might affect the chances of a “negotiated peace deal” such as Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or the fact that the Palestinians are split into various irreconcilable factions and cannot even agree among themselves on a unified approach to negotiations with Israel.

Neither did the BBC bother to ask why, if this latest US statement is so detrimental to the peace process, was absolutely no progress made during the three years prior to Secretary Pompeo’s announcement.

As anyone familiar with prior efforts to bring the conflict to an end is aware, the various proposals have all included annexation of the main blocks of Israeli communities in return for land swaps. Since December 2016, however, the BBC has taken it upon itself to repeatedly amplify the PLO’s maximalist interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’. Sadly for BBC audiences hoping to gain better understanding of the issues behind this story, these three articles do not deviate from that editorial policy.

Related Articles:

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

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

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

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Between the evening of November 18th and the evening of November 19th the BBC News website published three written reports, totalling 2,420 words, relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

November 18th 2019: ‘US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal’ by Barbara Plett Usher

The first article includes – albeit near its end – a reasonable portrayal of the positions held by various US administrations over the years.

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

The second article opens with the erroneous claim that: [emphasis added]

“Palestinians have condemned a decision by the US to abandon its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law.”

In fact, as explained in the first report and indeed again towards the end of this one, Secretary Pompeo’s statement marks a return to the policy of US administrations between 1981 and December 2016. In other words, the “position” described by the BBC is three years old rather than “four-decades-old”.

The third report by Barbara Plett Usher makes no attempt to inform readers on the issue of the policies of past US administrations.

The first article promotes the BBC’s own standard but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

Article 1: “The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.

About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

In the second article readers are told that:

 Article 2: “The UN regards the settlements as being illegal under international law.”

BBC audiences are not informed that UNSC resolution 2334 dating from December 2016 was adopted under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter 6 and is hence non-binding.

The BBC chooses to describe settlements as follows:

Article 1: “Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

They have long been a source of dispute between Israel and the international community, and the Palestinians.”

Article 2: “Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. They have long been a source of dispute between Israel and the international community, and the Palestinians.”

Article 3: “Settlements are Jewish communities built on territory occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.”

As we see, the BBC does not bother to inform its audiences of the background to that war or of the fact that in the case of Judea & Samaria, the same territory was under Jordanian occupation for 19 years. That omission enables Barbara Plett Usher to state that:

“…Americans do not make international law: that is up to bodies such as the United Nations and treaties such as the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its civilian population to occupied territory.”

Only in the second article do readers find any alternative view to the BBC’s standard mantra or reference to events before 1967 and that is presented as something that “Israel says”.

Article 2: “Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal. The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people to occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power. It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there, as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, was preserved under the UN’s charter.”

Those three paragraphs are taken from a backgrounder originally published in December 2016 and since amended several times to which a link is provided in all three reports. All three reports also promote a map titled “West Bank settlements” sourced from the foreign funded political NGOB’tselem’. As has been the case with previous maps from the same source used by the BBC, this one too portrays places such as Neve Ya’akov and Gush Etzion as ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in those areas long before they were ethnically cleansed by the invading Jordanian army in 1948. 

Part two of this post will review additional aspects of these three BBC reports.

Related Articles:

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A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

 

 

BBC’s Plett Usher does ‘ode to a reasonable Hamas’

On November 18th the BBC News website published an article by Barbara Plett Usher titled “Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint”.

Plett Usher began with two inaccurate statements, one of which she later repeated.

“Last week’s surge of violence over Gaza was notably different from previous cross-border fighting: Hamas stayed out of it and Israel did not target its traditional foe. […]

Hamas, which governs Gaza, did participate in a joint operations room with other factions to discuss tactics. But it conspicuously did not launch any attacks.”

So did Hamas really ‘stay out of it’? Not exactly, according to Israeli officials:

“Hamas terror organization is responsible for the launch of two rockets at the southern city of Be’er Sheva overnight, sources in the defense establishment said Saturday. […]

Military officials estimate the launch was carried out by low-level Hamas militants on the ground, contrary to the position of the organization’s leadership that wants to put the latest flare-up behind them.”

And did Israel “not target its traditional foe”? Again, that claim is inaccurate.

“Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza after Palestinians launched two rockets towards the southern Israeli city of Beersheba early on Saturday morning. The IDF believes Hamas was responsible for firing the rockets. […]

In retaliation the Israeli military said it struck a military camp, a compound for the group’s naval forces and underground terror infrastructure.”

Plett Usher went on to claim that the PIJ is “more radical” than Hamas.

“Paradoxically it confirmed that Israel and Hamas – Gaza’s main Islamist movement – are committed to pursuing strategic understandings to help keep the peace.

The fighting started when Israel carried out what it called the targeted killing of a top commander in the smaller, more radical Islamic Jihad group, claiming he was planning attacks that posed an imminent threat.”

Of course both the PIJ and Hamas are Islamist groups which reject Israel’s existence, strive for its eradication by means of terrorism and reject any efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiation. Plett Usher however did not trouble her readers with the finer points of either terrorist organisation’s ideology before extensively – and uncritically – quoting an official from Hamas’ ‘international relations office’. [emphasis added]

“That is because it was “in the Palestinian interest” to avoid an escalation, a senior Hamas official, Basem Naim, told the BBC. Gazans were already suffering enough due to dire conditions on the ground, he said, and “the regional and international atmosphere is not so helpful at this time”. […]

Basem Naim played down the differences between the two groups. He insisted Hamas had not abandoned its commitment to armed resistance against the Israeli occupation, what Israel and many Western countries call terrorism.

“Maybe we, based on our interests, sometimes decide to postpone or decrease our response [to Israeli strikes], but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to continue our struggle,” he said. “It is not our role to work as a police force for the occupation, and if we have to decide internally to stop, this is based on Palestinian dialogue, not a response to Israeli wishes or plans.””

Plett Usher of course did not bother to explain to BBC audiences that what Hamas means by “Israeli occupation” is the existence of Israel itself or that Israel withdrew every last soldier and civilian from the Gaza Strip fourteen years ago.

She did mislead readers with the claim that “Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip when Hamas reinforced its power there in 2007…” while failing to clarify that the Israeli security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” in September 2007 – three months after Hamas’ violent take-over – due to a severe increase in terror attacks.

Plett Usher whitewashed twenty months of weekly violent rioting that regularly includes border infiltrations, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and arson attacks which have caused serious damage to thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in Israel as “protest marches”. She portrayed restrictions on the import of dual use goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip as “crippling” while failing to clarify that Israel facilitates the entry of thousands of tons of goods including medical supplies, food, fuel and building materials to the Gaza strip every week.

“But the trade-off is for Hamas to lower the temperature of weekly protest marches along Gaza’s border with Israel, and for Israel to ease its crippling blockade.”

Notably however, readers of this transparent amplification of Hamas’ narrative learned nothing of the long-standing tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the former’s failure to rein in Baha Abu al Ata which is the background to the recent round of conflict.

Related Articles:

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Rocket attacks on Israel prompt BBC WS interview with serial Gaza contributor

As we saw in an earlier post, in the lead item in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presenter Paul Henley and Jerusalem based reporter Barbara Plett Usher managed to spend five minutes discussing that morning’s strike on a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander and the hundreds of subsequent missile attacks against Israeli civilians while diligently avoiding the use of the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorists’.

Notably, the only reference to the victims of those attacks heard in that item came in the form of two very brief recorded statements from Israelis who were not identified, their locations not disclosed and what actually happened to them and their property left unexplained.

In contrast, ‘Newshour’ producers did find it appropriate to devote the item’s last four minutes of airtime to the views of an inadequately introduced “resident of Gaza”.

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

Henley [from 05:42 here]: “Najla is a resident of Gaza and she gave me her reaction to the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata and the exchange of fire that’s followed.”

Once again Henley made no effort to clarify to listeners around the world that while Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. 

Najla: “Every few weeks we have some kind of an episode of escalation but this time is quite different. I would say it started with this…the serious assassination of the Islamic Jihad leader which was perceived by people in Gaza as a major event that reminds us in Gaza with some previous wars…ah…bigger significant escalations. So it is serious and people are very concerned over…”

Henley [interrupts]: “Is he a well-known figure in Gaza this man who’s been killed?”

Najla: “He is but usually the names are not very popular because they don’t go public. They’re not on media or anything but usually within the factions they have big position, big status I would say so…”

Henley [interrupts]: “But among citizens there, among people living in Gaza, will it be a big deal that he personally has been killed?”

Najla: “I mean anyone who would be killed by Israel is an issue to…”

Henley [interrupts]: “That’s not what I’m asking though. Is this a particularly significant figure to the general population of Gaza?”

Najla: “Being who he is as part of Islamic Jihad, as a leader, yes. But the name may not be known very much by the general public.”

Henley: “And does the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel have support among people you know?”

Najla: “To put it in a way that this is how Palestinian factions have been partially responding to such violations by Israel on such attacks but you also should remember that the situation in Gaza has been fuelling for the past years without any resolution and…”

Henley [interrupts]: “I suppose what I’m… I suppose what I’m trying to find out is whether there is generally public support in Gaza for firing more rockets into Israel in direct response to this killing.”

Najla: “People do expect that this to happen. Some agree and some disagree. I can’t give you exact figures on how popular exactly this kind of response is.”

At that point Henley abandoned his obscure line of questioning and provided his interviewee with an uninterrupted one minute and forty second platform from which to promote her unchallenged claims.

Henley: “Sure. How worried are you the situation will spiral into more violence on both sides now though?”

Najla: “We are very worried to be honest and we are waiting to see how things develop tonight. It’s been already a heavy day since 5:30 a. m. this morning but it’s been like the past hour or so kind of quiet and everyone is just watching, watching the news and waiting to see what will come out. So we are greatly worried. We’ve been through this before and unfortunately people in Gaza are…have lost hope in resolving the situation because it’s been just failing…we’ve been failed by everyone and we’ve been punished by all sides. And the situation is really dramatically deteriorating within Gaza in terms of the very basic aspects of life. We’re under blockade, we’re under serious restrictions. Two million people are not able to move, not able to work, the increase of unemployment is massive and I think that this doesn’t make news unfortunately. But people’s lives are being really compromised by the day and everyone, even those who consider themselves advantaged, they do suffer from basic rights such as movement, electricity, proper water etcetera. And the economic situation is deteriorating dramatically and people would probably know that unemployment has reached the highest around the world. So the situation has been really boiling and unfortunately people are not hopeful.”

Henley of course did not challenge the debatable claim that the Gaza Strip has the highest unemployment rate in the world (47% according to the latest figures from the World Bank as opposed to 50% in Syria and 48% in Senegal). Neither did he bother to provide any context to Najla’s claims concerning electricity and water or to explain the background to the blockade.

Najla is in fact Najla Shawa who works for Oxfam and was previously an UNRWA employee. Since 2015 she has been repeatedly interviewed by the BBC – including by Henley – more often than not without proper identification and with no information given to BBC audiences concerning her “particular viewpoints”.

And so, just as it did a year ago, while civilians in Israel were under relentless attack from rockets launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the BBC found it appropriate to all but ignore their voices and instead to spend four minutes showcasing an unchallenged ‘voice from Gaza’.

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‘Quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach’: guess what the BBC is describing

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are all too used to reading and hearing whitewashed portrayals of the perpetrators of terrorism against Israelis but listeners to a report aired in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ encountered a new level of euphemistic jargon.

Titled “Israel-Gaza violence escalates”, the synopsis on the programme’s webpage tells audiences that:

“Rocket fire is exchanged after Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander.”

That portrayal of events of course does not clarify an important distinction: the fact that while Israel carried out strikes against purely military targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks against Israeli civilians. Neither was that point made clear during the entire nine-minute item.

The webpage is illustrated with an image described as follows:

“Picture: An image taken from CCTV video made available by Israel’s national roads authority showing the moment a rocket, apparently fired from Gaza, struck a road near the city of Ashdod, Israel, 12 November 2019. Credit: EPA / Netivei Israel.”

Although by the time the programme was aired terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired over 190 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities, towns and villages as far north as Tel Aviv, listeners heard presenter Paul Henley claim in his introduction that “fighting” was taking place in one sole location.

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

Henley: “Coming up in a moment: fighting erupts again in Gaza after Israel kills a senior militant. That’s our top story.”

Henley introduced the item itself (from 00:45) thus:

Henley: “First, the killing by Israel of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza seems to have led to a significant escalation of violence in the dispute between Israel and militants in the Palestinian territories. Baha Abu al-Ata died along with his wife in a strike on his home. More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation and Israeli war planes have carried out more strikes of their own.”

Once again the BBC created a false sense of equivalence by failing to clarify that while the Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. Henley went on:

Henley: “Here are some views from the Israeli side.”

Listeners then heard two people speak very briefly (one with a voiceover translation) but were not told their names, their locations – Sderot and Netivot – or what actually happened. Henley next introduced “the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Jerusalem”.

Henley: “She told me more about the man whose killing had sparked this latest flare-up in violence.”

Plett Usher: “He is a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and he has been talked about quite a lot by Israeli military officials and in the Israeli press recently because they see him as somebody who’s ready to take risks, who is ready to operate independently and who’s quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach.”

Yes, that really was apparently the best that Barbara Plett Usher could come up with to describe a senior member of a proscribed, violent, radical Islamic terrorist organisation which seeks to destroy the State of Israel.  

With the BBC having completely ignored the PIJ’s November 1st attacks on Israeli civilians, Plett Usher was then able to present an unnecessarily qualified account of the background to the story.

Plett Usher: “So they [Israeli officials] would blame him for many of the rocket attacks that have taken place in recent months and they say that he was planning more attacks imminently and therefore they had to act. They also say that…ehm…although Palestinian Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran, he has taken on that mantle more so than other such leaders and so they did see him as a threat.”

Henley then asked a rather pointless question to which he got an obvious answer.

Henley: “And when the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu says that all this could prove a protracted conflict, what does he mean?”

Plett Usher: “I think he means that they were very aware when they carried out the targeted killing that Islamic Jihad would respond and that it has lots of rockets to do that and so I think he was telling the Israeli public that…to expect rocket attacks certainly over the next couple of days. That seems to have been the calculation of the Israeli Defence Forces. And then they’re hoping that it will not broaden out into a wider escalation. They have said quite clearly they do not want to escalate although they are prepared if that happens. And they have framed this very much as a strike about this man and these circumstances, that he was seen as a threat and they signalled quite strongly also to the main Islamist movement in Gaza, Hamas, which is governing Gaza, that this is a confrontation with Islamic Jihad. They…they seem to be signalling they do not want Hamas to join the conflict and they want to try and keep it focused in this narrow way.”

Henley: “And what has Hamas been saying?”

Plett Usher replied with a romanticised portrayal of Hamas’ agenda.

Plett Usher: “Hamas is in an interesting position…ahm…because it has a different strategy than Islamic Jihad. It is the governing body and it has in recent months and years been working at tacit truce arrangements with Israel in order to alleviate the humanitarian and economic suffering in Gaza. And Islamic Jihad under this commander has been disrupting that; challenging it with these rocket attacks. So what Hamas has said, so far together with Islamic Jihad, is that Israel has crossed red lines and that it will be responsible for the consequences but it’s not clear what action it will take, you know, it must be calculating whether further conflict – a wider war – is going to be something that the Gazans will be wanting at this point – I think almost certainly not – but at the same time it wouldn’t want to look like a collaborator when such a senior militant commander has been killed. So it has not made clear what action it will take.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, BBC World Service radio listeners had by this point not heard the words ‘terrorism’, ‘terror’ or ‘terrorist’ even once and had not been informed that rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel are an act of terror. They did however hear an inaccurate portrayal of the current status of efforts to form a government in Israel and amplification of speculation.

Henley: “And what effects are likely on Israeli politics as Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the end of the period he’s allowed to form a coalition government?”

Plett Usher: “It is certainly happening at this very politically sensitive time because he twice failed to form a coalition government and now his chief challenger Benny Gantz is trying to do so and as you said his time is coming up. There have been accusations from centre-Left politicians and from Arab politicians that that’s the reason for the timing of this strike; that it was done for political reasons to bolster Mr Netanyahu’s image as Mr Security. He’s constantly said he’s the man Israel needs to keep the country safe and also as a way of dragging his opponents into a unity government saying ‘look, this is a security situation, you need to join a unity government with me in charge’ so that way he can keep his job. Mr Netanyahu has tried very hard to push against that view. He stressed that he took military advice and that the military was even pushing for this targeted killing and also the operation does seem to have a fairly wide backing from different political elements but having said that, it’s certainly not happening in a political vacuum and if it does escalate, if there does…if it does become something much bigger it would be hard to think that wouldn’t affect the political negotiations in some way.”

So as we see, in the first five minutes of this report BBC audiences were given little or no information about the size of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in the Gaza Strip, the size of its arsenal, the source and scale of its funding or its agenda and ideology. They also heard nothing of significance about what was happening to Israeli civilians who had been under attack by terrorist organisations for seventeen hours by the time this programme was broadcast. The relevance of that will be discussed in a future post.  

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An article titled “Trumplomacy: Are we seeing the end of a close Israel-US relationship?” appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on October 9th. Its writer – Barbara Plett Usher – opened with a scornful account of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister.

“There was an element of the bizarre in the swearing-in ceremony of Israel’s Knesset (parliament) last week.

Only five months had passed since the last time newly elected members took the oath and, given continued political paralysis after another round of inconclusive elections, they may have to do it all over again soon.

Added to that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grim, almost apocalyptic speech could not have been less festive. He warned of an imminent war with Iran and unprecedented security challenges, saying it was unlike any remembered since the days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Granted, his words were seen by many commentators as familiar campaign rhetoric aimed at making the case for why he should continue to lead the country, even though he failed to win a majority in the September vote.

“Ladies and gents, I give you The Great Iranian Threat,” wrote Ma’ariv columnist Ben Caspit in a sardonic take-down of Mr Netanyahu’s “time-honoured security threat”.”

In fact, Netanyahu’s mention of the Yom Kippur War related to budgetary considerations connected to security needs. [translation: BBC Watch]

“Secondly, [we] need to make budgetary decisions which we have not known for many tens of years. It is possible to go back very many years, maybe to the end of the Yom Kippur War, in order to understand what is demanded of us.”

Plett Usher refrained from informing readers that the Israeli journalist she quoted also wrote the following words:

“Deep concern seems to be spreading among Israel’s top security leadership that a rapid deterioration of the situation on the Iranian front is a distinct possibility. […]

All signs indicate that Iran decided to respond forcefully to the many aerial attacks against Iranian and other Shiite targets in Syria and Iraq, which tend to be attributed to Israel.”

Referring to what she described as “an apparent Iranian attack on Saudi oil installations”, Plett Usher later told readers that:

“The Israelis have been pushing back more aggressively and more openly against Iran’s proxies in the region, determined to halt the proliferation of Iranian missiles near their border. But the Saudi attack rang new alarm bells.

If Iran could directly hit Saudi Arabia with cruise missiles, went the thinking, it could do the same to Israel.”

However, providing audiences with factual information about the activities of Iran and its proxies near Israel’s border has long – to put it mildly – not been a BBC priority. BBC audiences have not, for example, been informed on the topic of the deployment of Iranian missiles in south-west Syria as explained in a backgrounder produced by the JCPA in August.

“Since July 2018, press reports have pointed at Iranian missiles deployed in the area near Suweyda, definitely not within the territorial demarcations announced by the Russians to Israel. According to the reports, Iran deployed missiles that were previously in the T4 airbase to the Ledja (a vast rocky lava area north of Suweyda) and to two additional airbases in the area…”

Neither have they seen any meaningful reporting on the activities of Iran’s partner Hizballah in that area.

“Since 2018, Hizbullah has succeeded in recruiting 3,500 young people in the Daraa Department. Hizbullah has succeeded in establishing a presence through local allies in almost all villages and towns of the Daraa Department […] while in the Suweyda Department, Hizbullah’s main ally is the former deputy commander of the Al ‘Amari brigades (active in the Daraa area) who is deployed along the Jordanian-Syrian border and the Ledja area with his Bedouin fighters. […]

Hizbullah has succeeded in establishing four permanent training bases, which also serve as ammunition depots, and short and medium-range missile bases, three of which are in Daraa and the fourth in the area of Quneitra. […]

Hizbullah commands five Shiite militias in the Golan area, each numbering several thousand fighters, and has been busy preparing a military option against Israel since the recovery of the southern provinces of Syria in case of a surge of hostilities between Israel, Iran, the Syrian regime, and Hizbullah. This deployment in the area facing Israel in the Golan provides Iran (and Hizbullah) the ability to open a second front. […]

Unprecedented until now, in June 2019, new positions manned by Hizbullah Lebanese fighters were deployed adjacent to the Israeli lines. These include positions in Tellet Aldrai’at and Tellet Al Mahir in the vicinity of the two small villages of Rafid and El ‘Isha, approximately 200 meters from the UNDOF checkpoint, controlling the central access from the Israeli Golan through Quneitra and from there to the main highway to Damascus.”

Obviously such information is crucial to anyone trying to put Plett Usher’s portrayal of the Israeli prime minister’s speech into its appropriate context but BBC audiences have instead for a long time had to make do with superficial reporting which all too often includes unnecessary qualification of Iran’s regional military entrenchment.  

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