BBC Arabic radio promotes Israel-free map of ‘Palestine’ for children

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

h/t: YCD

The October 24th episode of BBC Arabic’s radio show “Dardasha Layliya” (‘Nightly Chat’) included an interview with an Israeli Arab environmental engineer called Omar Asi who identified himself as being a resident of “the interior of Palestine” and who was described by the BBC presenter as calling from “Palestine”.

In that interview – presented by BBC Arabic’s Heba Abd al-Baqi – listeners were acquainted with Asi’s project: a child-friendly map of “Palestine” from the river to the sea. The map and a link to the programme were also promoted on the BBC News Arabic Facebook page.  

(all translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks by CAMERA Arabic):

“(26:55) What distinguishes this map is that we see a lot of diversity, a lot of colours in it, and the colours […], indeed, aren’t coincidental, I mean, Palestine is always characterized by [this], it is said that during certain times [of the year], it has four seasons on the same day, in the Negev you’d see summer, in the North you’d see winter, and there’s a lot of diversity in Palestine, in terms of climate, even in terms of biodiversity, I mean, if we look at the map we’ll see that in Jaffa there are oranges, in Hebron there are grapes, in Nablus there’s kenafeh [a type of dessert], and in Jerusalem there are bagels, all of this diversity, it would be impossible for the child to get it from maps he sees in schools, the traditional maps. That is if he [even] sees maps of Palestine, I mean, many children like me, who went to schools which are called ‘Arab-Israeli schools’, children from the interior of Palestine, they don’t see maps of Palestine, they see maps of Israel…”.

The map promoted by BBC Arabic is devoid of anything Israeli or Jewish including population (all the people portrayed are visibly Arab and/or Muslim), landmarks (the sole Jewish landmark shown is the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron – see below), or cities (Jaffa is surrounded by orchards with no indication that Tel Aviv ever existed or that Jews make up a majority in the mixed cities such as Haifa and Acre which appear on the map). This is obviously intentional since Asi himself mentioned later in the interview (30:27) that he lived and studied in Tel Aviv and came in contact with Jewish students at the beginning of his adult life.

In response to further questions by Abd al-Baqi, Asi elaborated on the role of the map in shaping young Palestinian minds and educating them about what both he (30:06) and his interviewer (32:48) referred to as “the Palestinian cause” (Arabic: al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya). The activist expressed his conviction (32:59) that the illustrations of places on the map would prompt children to find out more about stories behind them which relate to the Palestinian national struggle.

“(33:43) If he goes and visits Hebron, he will see that the Abrahamic Compound [i.e. Cave of the Patriarchs] today is divided between Jews and Muslims, I mean, they [the Jews] took control over a large portion of it. He will also see the military barriers”

Providing another example, Asi also revealed (32:17) that the seemingly innocent illustration of “Jerusalem bagels” is actually a reference to “the Prince of Shadows” – an autobiography of Hamas’ mass-murderer Abdullah Barghouthi in which he expressed his love of this local food. Barghouthi is a bomb-maker who was given 67 consecutive life sentences for his part in the murder of 66 Israelis in numerous suicide bombings during the early 2000s. Notably, in an blogpost that Asi wrote in 2017 for Hamas-related Gaza news agency “Shehab” he admitted that the arch-terrorist’s book had “impressed” him.

The interview concluded with Abd al-‘Baqi wishing (36:35) Asi and his team of illustrators “good luck to you all”. This was after she already heard him make the following statement in the introduction to the item:

“(0:40) My dream is that every Palestinian child would hang the map [in] his bedroom, so that he will be able to view at the characteristics of the Land of Palestine and love them the same way they love him”.

Asi’s project is of the “greater Palestine” genre that Israelis have become accustomed to see from some radical activists, including (as in this case) fellow citizens of their own country. However, this form of hate speech is rarely amplified by media outlets in the West; certainly not in such an unreserved manner.

Nevertheless, at no point during the interview did the BBC’s Abd al-Baqi challenge, criticize or even contextualize Asi’s ideas about indoctrinating young children using a map of an imagined “Palestine” which erases Israel. Nor did the BBC Arabic journalist ask him how “the Palestinian cause” which he promotes relates to the millions of Israeli Jews who are native to the land no less than him. Rather, she herself described the item as coming from “Palestine” (0:38), as did the BBC News Arabic facebook page.

By promoting this item BBC Arabic normalises the negation of Israel’s right to exist within any borders and the denial of the right of Israeli Jews to live peacefully in their homeland. Asi’s mention of Abdullah Barghouthi also mainstreams implied support for terrorism against Israeli civilians.

The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that BBC journalists “should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” but apparently its writers had not taken into consideration that BBC content might promote the use of the term ‘Palestine’ instead of Israel.

Similarly, neither BBC nor OFCOM guidelines on ‘harm and offence’ relate to content promoting the negation of a sovereign country’s existence and the right to self-determination for people of a specific ethnicity – presumably because their authors did not consider such a scenario likely in ‘enlightened’ 21st century Britain.

BBC editorial guidelines on ‘controversial subjects’ (4.3.6) state that:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.”

Obviously no alternative perspective was given to this item’s negation of the State of Israel and the BBC Arabic journalist clearly disregarded the editorial guideline (4.3.11) stating that:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal opinions of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.” 

Once again we see that the BBC’s Arabic language content fails to meet the standards of journalism which the publicly-funded corporation claims to embrace.  

 

Sunday morning political propaganda on BBC Radio Scotland

BBC Radio Scotland has a programme called “Sunday Morning with…” which is described as providing listeners with “Two hours of music and stimulating conversation from a faith and ethical perspective”.

The August 11th edition of that programme included an item billed in its synopsis thus:

“Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson live in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. They’re both writers and campaign for Palestinian civil and political rights. They talk to Sally about their writing and their life together.”

The hook for that item was the couple’s participation in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with links to a site selling tickets provided on the programme’s webpage and those links promoted by presenter Sally Magnusson at the end of the item.

However what listeners mostly heard throughout the twelve-minute item (from 1:08:30 here) was political propaganda which went totally unchallenged by the presenter even though – as the synopsis and her introduction showed – the BBC is well aware of the fact that both interviewees are political campaigners.

Although the BBC Academy’s style guide on Israel and the Palestinians clearly states that “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” and “you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” because “it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”, listeners heard both Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson repeatedly refer to “Palestine” with no comment from Magnusson.

“You know in Palestine we don’t get rain from April until November…”

“Well we met in Palestine…”

“I came to Palestine…”

Having asked Johnson about what she termed their “intifada wedding” – because it took place in 1988 – Magnusson went on:

Magnusson: “And just remind us; the, you know, the intifada – of which there have been more than one of course – tell us…tell us about…about that.”

Unsurprisingly, listeners heard whitewashed and romanticised accounts of those two periods of intense Palestinian violence.

Johnson: “Well the first intifada which was mass civil resistance, pretty much led by the young but involving everybody. The second intifada was violence-racked: a very difficult period and a very difficult time, a very difficult kind of struggle. So if it’s the first intifada we probably go back to, sometimes perhaps with maybe too much nostalgia but also with all the lessons we learned.”

Shehadeh: “There was so much hope during the first intifada that we were building a new society, that we were coming to an end of the conflict through negotiations and indeed the first intifada did lead to the negotiations. But unfortunately the outcome of these negotiations was not good and we’re still suffering that terrible outcome.”

With no clarification of the fact that the premeditated second intifada put paid to any positive outcome to those negotiations, listeners next heard Magnusson claim that Ramallah – which has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995 – is “occupied”.

Magnusson: “And indeed your latest book, Raja, ‘Going Home’, is a kind of homage to Ramallah after fifty years of Israeli occupation and a reflection on what it’s meant.”

The nineteen-year-long Jordanian occupation of Ramallah was of course not mentioned in the conversation but listeners did hear that the scarcity of gardens in the city can be blamed on Israel, despite the city having been under PA control for nearly a quarter of a century.

Shehadeh: “…Ramallah used to be very attractive with houses with gardens. Almost every house had a garden around it and now having a garden is a great luxury and there are no open spaces because of the restrictions that the Israelis have put. It’s very crowded and people build high up – high rises – rather than having houses that are surrounded by open space and a garden.”

Listeners later heard Magnusson opine that “home of course has been a complicated and agonising matter for you, as for every Palestinian, over the years…” before going on to ask Johnson about her book’s claim that “the lives of animals help us to understand what’s happening to the humans in the West Bank”.

Johnson: “…we used to walk in the valleys near Ramallah and one of the heart-lifting sights was always a mountain gazelle picking her way up the olive groves. Those gazelles are largely gone and they are now endangered; on the red list of endangered species. But what I think we share is both a common life and a common fate. We share a frightening loss of habitat because in the 61% of the West Bank that is Area C and under Israeli control and the home of a hundred settlements, the shepherds and their flocks and the villages that they live in are not…it’s not their own development. It’s not Palestinian development. It is restrictions because of a land grab. Of a grab of water, grab of grazing land. And a desire to get the Palestinians out.”

The mountain gazelle (which suffered from reduced numbers in the mid-1980s due to foot and mouth disease) is not on the WWF 2019 list of endangered species but it does appear on a “red list” drawn up by an organisation called the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The factors cited by the scientist who recommended the gazelle’s inclusion on that list four years ago include construction, paving of roads and erection of fences as well as growth in the number of predators and feral dogs. Those factors are of course not limited to what the three participants in this item call the West Bank: the gazelle’s numbers have also fallen elsewhere.

Magnusson made no effort to challenge her interviewee’s equally tendentious claims of “a land grab”, “grab of water” and “a desire to get the Palestinians out”.

Listeners next heard Shehadeh complain about rising urbanisation during the past two and a half decades.

Shehadeh: “We were so fortunate until the mid-90s to be able to leave our home and just immediately be walking in the hills away from the noise of cars and people and take long walks as we like without encountering any difficulties and any settlements. And this is mainly gone now. If we want to walk we have to take the car to a distant place to start a walk and then we often encounter settlers and settlements and problems and it’s not the same as it used to be so we had a golden period in the 70s and 80s that we often reminisce about…”

In fact the Israeli communities in the vicinity of Ramallah – for example Beit El, Psagot and Kochav Ya’akov – were established during that “golden period” of the 70s and 80s and – as the BBC well knows – construction of new communities did not take place after the Oslo Accords were signed.

Magnusson then gave the cue for some overt political comment:

Magnusson: “What’s your sense of the political situation now and where might it be heading next?”

Shehadeh: “It’s a very difficult time now because of, you know, the American government is giving Israel a carte blanche to do whatever it wants and the Israeli government, which is dominated by settlers, is taking that licence to grab as much land as it can and destroy as much of the landscape and the beauty of the landscape by building more and more settlements.”

Not only is the currently inactive cabinet not “dominated by settlers” but Shehadeh’s allegations of ‘land grabs’ and “building more and more settlements” – along with a subsequent claim that Israel makes “attempts at making [Palestinian] people leave” – are patently false.

Magnusson however again failed to make any effort whatsoever to challenge those blatant falsehoods and closed the item shortly afterwards with yet another misleading reference to “fifty years of occupation”.

In short, BBC Radio Scotland audiences heard twelve minutes of entirely predictable yet totally unquestioned political propaganda which not only failed to “help people understand” the subject matter but actively hindered that BBC obligation.

Related Articles:

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

 

 

 

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

As we have had cause to note in the past, the BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

That guidance was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

On June 3rd visitors to the BBC News website saw yet another example of that BBC adoption of PLO terminology in the synopsis to a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman titled “Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site”.

“Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers broke out at Al Aqsa mosque compound, the holy site also known to Jews as Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

What that synopsis describes as “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers” [sic] was actually violent rioting initiated by people who certainly were not ‘worshipping’ at the time.

“Following the report that Jews will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Sunday, according to the Police Spokesperson’s Unit.

The commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, ordered the police to enter the Temple Mount and take care of the rioters.

As the police attempted to enter the place, Arab worshipers began throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the forces. The forces responded with riot dispersal means.”

The report itself opens with similar terminology promoting the notion that the violence ‘broke out’ all by itself and with no account of what the rioters actually did. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Clashes broke out at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Palestinians were angered by this Jewish visit to the compound. It came on a day of high tensions.”

Audiences were not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism or that under existing agreements, while non-Muslims have the right to visit the site, they do not have equal prayer rights there. The report continued:

“Later in the day, outside the walls of the Old City…

Bateman: “This is a pretty potent mix of religion and nationalism for these Israelis. They’re just passing through Damascus Gate into the Muslim quarter of the Old City, populated with Palestinian shops and homes. The message from these people is that the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Of course the Palestinians they’re about to walk past think very differently.”

Man [voiceover] “What’s happening in Jerusalem today is a robbery of Jerusalem. If this is the capital of Isreal [sic], why do you need all these forces to show everyone that this is your undivided capital.”

The use of the term ‘Isreal’ in the subtitles is either a grave spelling error or promotion of a term which is frequently used by anti-Israel activists to negate the country. The report went on:

“The parade is known to Israelis as the ‘March of Flags’. It celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war of 1967.”

Bateman then showcased one of the participants who presumably gave him the answer he was looking for.

Bateman: “What do you think of these Palestinians here watching people go past?”

Woman: “We don’t have this country, Palestine. Only Israel. The Palestinians can live with us. It’s good but it’s [us] who own the country.”

Bateman’s own retort to the woman was not shown in the subtitles.

Bateman: “You get a real sense of the confrontation at a moment like this. The Israelis dance with flags and the Palestinians are being stopped behind lines of police.”

The report ends:

“The march ends at the Western Wall…the holiest site at which Jews can pray. Israelis couldn’t access it for two decades before the war of 1967.”

Remarkably, this report on the topic of Jerusalem Day – the day marking the reunion of Jerusalem – avoided telling BBC audiences that the reason Israelis couldn’t “access” the Western Wall “for two decades” was because Jordan had belligerently invaded and occupied the area, ethnically cleansing Jews from the Old City in the process.

 

BBC R4 newsreader refers to a state the BBC knows does not exist

As we all too frequently have cause to note here, the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” (published in the wake of the 2006 Thomas Report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) states:

There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…”” [emphasis added]

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on the evening of March 25th heard an item (from 02:24 here) presented as follows by newsreader Zeb Soanes:

Soanes: “President Trump has signed a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a strategically important plateau which was seized from Syria in 1967. Syria’s government has described Mr Trump’s action as a blatant attack on its integrity. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed the signing at a ceremony in the White House. He said it was important for his country’s security.”

Following a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that ceremony, Soanes went on:

Soanes: “Mr Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington because of escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. Israel launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a long-range rocket attack which injured 7 people near Tel Aviv. The targets included the office of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed but there’s been no confirmation from Israel.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no point in having a style guide if journalists, presenters and producers – particularly it would seem at BBC Radio 4 – ignore its guidance. Given that the style guide correctly states “there is no independent state of Palestine today”, there is obviously no reason whatsoever for BBC staff to be promoting the inaccurate impression that such a state exists – and even more so when they are in fact referring to a terror organisation that violently seized power from the representatives of the Palestinians recognised by the international community.

Related Articles:

Increase in breaches of BBC’s style guide

 

 

 

 

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

Increase in breaches of BBC’s style guide

Back in January 2018 BBC Watch prompted an amendment to the synopsis of a Radio 4 programme which breached the corporation’s own style guide.

The BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” – published on the recommendation of the BBC Governors’ independent panel report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2006 – instructs the corporation’s staff not to use the term Palestine (as was originally the case in that synopsis) except in very specific circumstances.

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”. […]

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, throughout 2018 we saw increased cross-platform employment of the term ‘Palestine’ by BBC journalists and presenters as well as by contributors. Some of the examples we documented appear below. [emphasis in bold added]

January 2018:

Radio 5 live item promotes apartheid analogy, breaches style guide

Adrian Goldberg: “Whether or not people agree with it will be down to their personal view of the State of Israel and its occupation of Palestine.”

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

Stephen Sackur: “Is the resistance in Palestine now in the hands of ordinary people – young people particularly – not with veteran leaders like you?”

February 2018:

BBC R4 airs partisan portrayal of Jenin masked as ‘entertainment’

Mark Thomas (contributor): “Well what happened was I went to Palestine in 2009 and I walked the length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank.”

Thomas: “I look at it very, very simply that people confuse Israel and Palestine as a conflict and it’s not a conflict. It’s a military occupation.

Thomas: “What I want to do is confound people’s ideas of what refugees are and to make people challenge their own ideas about how their relationship is with places like Palestine, with people who are refugees…”

May 2018:

BBC R4 FOOC report on Palestinian music promotes one-sided politics

Robin Denselow: “Promoting culture in Palestine is absolutely crucial, he told me. It’s a form of resistance, protecting the national heritage. The minister, who enthused about the years he spent studying at Cardiff University, gave us a personal tour of an uncompleted but palatial new building on a Ramallah hilltop. Originally intended as a grand guest-house for visiting dignitaries, it’s to be Palestine’s new national library and cultural hub. […] He claimed that what is happening on the cultural front in Palestine is a miracle it’s exceptionally hard to achieve under occupation.”

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one

Roisin McAuley: “International attention is once again focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict.” 

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

Roisin McAuley: “You mentioned a youth bulge. There is a youth bulge in Palestine as well.”

August 2018:

Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

Paul Henley: “Do you think he was disappointed that his vision for peace between Israel and Palestine was not achieved in his lifetime?”

November 2018:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ highlights Quaker hypocrisy but still fails listeners

Justin Webb: “Are you saying that you would not invest in other places where governments are, in your view, oppressing people or is it just in Palestine?”

That trend appears to be continuing:

January 2019:

One to watch out for on BBC Two

“…will international signing be a bridge for them to meet in the middle and discuss the issue of Israel and Palestine?”

There is of course little point in having a style guide if journalists, presenters and producers – particularly it would seem at BBC Radio 4 – ignore its guidance. Obviously given that the style guide correctly states “there is no independent state of Palestine today”, there is no reason whatsoever for BBC journalists to be promoting the inaccurate impression that such a state exists.

Related Articles:

Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part one

 

 

 

 

 

One to watch out for on BBC Two

BBC Two has a programme called ‘See Hear’ which is described as a “Magazine for the deaf community highlighting the issues affecting the community”. The programme has in the past included a series called “On Tour” in which a deaf presenter has visited foreign cities in order to “explore deaf culture in other countries” and to ask:

“What is life like for the local deaf community and what are the highlights for deaf travellers seeking out a short city break?”

The current “On Tour” series – now presented by deaf British actor Nadeem Islam – has already visited Reykjavik:

“Nadeem Islam visits Reykjavik in Iceland, the land of ice and fire. The birthplace of the legendary Vikings, who pillaged and plundered their way around the world, today’s Icelandic people are more laid back – but there are still living, breathing deaf Vikings around – and Nadeem is going to meet one.

Nadeem experiences a dip in one of the hot springs that are dotted around Iceland’s mountainous landscape, watches a geyser erupt, tries on a few animal furs, enjoys a spot of knitting, does some whale watching and tastes one of the most revolting foods ever – fermented shark fat!

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention Nadeem’s trip to the world-famous penis museum!”

And Rome:

“Nadeem Islam visits Rome in Italy, also known as the Eternal City, to see what sights there are for deaf people to see. Starting with a guided scooter tour, Nadeem also meets the deaf signing guides who work at the Colosseum, and imagines being a deaf gladiator thousands of years ago.

Nadeem then has the opportunity to spend some time with one of the most powerful deaf men in Rome – Roberto Wirth, the proprietor of the five-star Hotel Hassler. Rome is a city where the inhabitants express themselves freely through gesture and body language – but do deaf people get equal status? With the campaign for legal recognition of Italian Sign Language still ongoing, it is a big issue.

Nadeem then rounds off his trip with a visit to One Sense, a deaf-owned restaurant, and gets to try his hand at a spot of Italian cuisine!”

The episode scheduled to be aired on the morning of January 16th is titled “On Tour: Tel Aviv” and its synopsis suggests that viewers may see a departure from the disabilities and travel genre.

“Nadeem Islam visits the city of Tel Aviv in Israel, also known as The Miami of the Middle East. Wandering the sunny boulevards and beaches with his deaf Israeli guide Omer, they take in the beautiful Bauhaus architecture and a show at the famous Nalaga’at theatre of the deafblind. Nadeem has a Muslim background, and Omer is Israeli – will international signing be a bridge for them to meet in the middle and discuss the issue of Israel and Palestine?

Nadeem also takes on a couple of deaf volleyball champions, meets a deaf Holocaust survivor, learns the Israeli fingerspelling alphabet, and joins Tel Aviv’s Pride march – one of the largest in the world!” [emphasis added]

The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ of course tells BBC journalists that “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.

Remarkably BBC Two appears to believe that this particular episode of its half-hour travel show should include a political discussion simply because its British presenter “has a Muslim background”.

Now there’s a stereotype for you.

Related Articles:

BBC Travel Show inaccurate on Jaffa demography

Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

 

 

 

Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part one

Among the channels offered to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer is one called S4C.

While S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru – Channel Four Wales) is not a BBC channel, it does get some of its programming from the BBC under what the director of BBC Wales has called “a partnership”. S4C receives most of its funding from the obligatory licence fee paid by UK households and currently also gets funding from the UK government. Its content, as seen above, is available on BBC iPlayer which is subject to OFCOM regulation.

Among the Welsh-language programmes produced by that media organisation which are currently available to users of BBC iPlayer are three episodes of a series called ‘Y Wal’ (‘The Wall’). One of those episodes is described as follows in Welsh:

“Ffion Dafis visits one of the world’s most controversial boundaries – the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

And in English:

“Presenter Ffion Dafis visits the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

Those unable to view BBC iPlayer can see that programme here. English language subtitles can be activated by clicking the subtitles icon in the lower right corner and choosing ‘Saesneg’.

According to the credits at the end of the programme – which is one of the least impartial pieces of content that we have seen aired on any British channel for a long time – it was made with the cooperation of the Welsh government. The person presenting this programme – Ffion Dafis – is apparently an actress (rather than a journalist) on her first visit to the region and she makes no effort whatsoever to present audiences with an accurate and impartial account of its subject matter.

As readers are no doubt aware, the anti-terrorist fence constructed after hundreds of Israelis were murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers is mostly – over 90% – a metal fence. Viewers of this programme, however, do not see even one camera shot of those parts of the fence: throughout the entire 48 minute programme they are exclusively shown dozens of images of the minority part of the structure that, due to danger from snipers, is made out of concrete. Throughout the whole programme viewers also hear the entire structure called a ‘wall’ even though that description is inaccurate.

Another feature of this programme is its exclusive use of the politically partisan term ‘Palestine’. As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC’s style guide instructs journalists that “There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel” and hence “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.

The programme begins with an airbrushed account of Palestinian terrorism during the Second Intifada.

Dafis: “The year 2000 – and once again there was increasing tension between Palestine and Israel. A wave of terror attacks swept through Israel. Israel responded with the full force of its military might. In 2002, Israel decided to build a wall. A wall to stop the killings and restore peace. But the wall has bred hatred on both sides. I’m going to visit one of the world’s most controversial walls. I want to understand why it was built and see the effect it has had on life in Palestine. As we meet brave individuals who dare to challenge the system, what are the chances of us seeing this wall coming down?”

After the Welsh actress on her first visit to the region has told viewers that Jerusalem “is a familiar sight to me even though I’m looking at it for the first time” because she “went to Sunday School as a child and I suppose it’s part of my history”, she goes on:

Dafis: “But people have fought over this holy land for generations. While some have tried to build bridges, others have fuelled the conflict.”

Viewers then [02:05] see an image of the US flag and hear a recording of the US president saying “it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” So much for media impartiality.

Additional commentary that does not meet any definition of journalistic ‘due impartiality’ (and concurrently promotes inaccuracies) is seen throughout the entire film.

[04:30] Dafis: “What goes through my mind as I stand here is the audacity of the wall. Just the way it ploughs through villages, through streets, through rivers and orchards. The devastation it leaves in its wake is plain for all to see. But according to the Israelis, it is here for a purpose [shrugs].”

[15:23] Dafis: “This wall has been built on foundations of fear and a need to protect. But the major question I have is where is the respect? This isn’t a cute white picket fence in a garden but a huge monstrosity knocked into the front room of a neighbour. Maybe one side feels safe but the other side definitely feels like it’s being suffocated.”

[19: 04] Dafis: “It’s clear that I’m standing in one of Palestine’s most fertile valleys. That much is evident. What’s also clear is that there’s a monstrosity being built on both sides of this valley. But the truth is that until you sit with an 84 year-old [Palestinian] woman who could be my grandmother, until you look into those eyes and realise the pain and the injustice then I don’t think people will ever understand one another. Maybe that is fundamentally the problem. I don’t know.”

[25:36] Dafis: “I think it’s extremely important for them [children in Aida refugee camp] to realise that growing up like this, without rights and surrounded by a high wall, is not right. It’s not normal for any child.”

[30:03] Dafis: “Imprisonment is the only word to describe what Palestinians go through here. Going through the checkpoints is like being in a big livestock mart. The wall is ludicrous. There is no other word.”

[46:58] Dafis: “The horrors taking place here can no longer be denied. Names like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Judea, Jericho are part of a great silent war. These are not peaceful places at all. I’ve touched and met people in these places and if something like this doesn’t alter me then I don’t think my heart is actually beating.”

One possible clue as to why this film is so one-sided comes at 31:37 when Dafis tells the camera that “our sound man, our driver and our fixer are Palestinian” while claiming that “they could end up being detained overnight”.

Referring to a non-incident in which she and her crew could not proceed along a particular road due to maintenance work being carried out, Dafis told viewers: “That experience with the Israeli army really shook me” and viewers then saw the unidentified fixer launch into a long monologue which provides some context to the backdrop to this film.

Fixer: “What’s the worst thing that can happen? To die? Many people have died before us for Palestine. We are not more precious than they are or than their life. You just say ‘OK, whatever, let it happen how it is or let it come’. Many people start to think OK only God protects me and others say what if I die now? Nothing will happen. So that’s why we lose the sense of life. No-one cares and then we face fear, we face…we see our rights being smashed on the floor and that we are treated as if we weren’t even human beings with soul and feelings and emotions. It’s like creatures or insects anyone can step on then and just walk. So when you feel that you stop caring.”

Part of a fixer’s job is to set up interviews and in this film viewers see twice as many Palestinian participants as Israelis. In addition to three farmers with unsubstantiated stories, a resident of al Walajah and Ahmad Sukar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council, viewers hear from representatives of assorted NGOs without any explanation being given of the political agenda of organisations including the Society of St Yves, al Rowwad, Combatants for Peace or Parents Circle Families Forum.

Among the four Israeli interviewees one is a staff member at a Yeshiva in Gush Etzion and two are members of an NGO which self-describes as “a joint Palestinian-Israeli grassroots peacemaking initiative”. The only Israeli interviewee to have lost a family member in a Palestinian terror attack is also co-director of the Parents Circle, Rami Elhanan. Despite Palestinian terror being the reason for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence which is supposedly this programme’s subject matter, that information is only revealed to viewers three-quarters of the way into the programme, just after Elhanan has told viewers:

[34:02] Elhanan: “The Palestinians live in their cages unable to go out in any way. The Israelis are sitting in their coffee houses, drinking coffee. They don’t want to know what is going on down [under] their noses, 200 meters behind their backs. They prefer not to know. The Israeli media is cooperating with this and the whole situation is like a false paradise. A bubble if you like.”

As the above examples show, this S4C programme does not even pretend to present its subject matter in an impartial fashion. In part two of this post we will review the programme’s accuracy.  

Related articles: 

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 1

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 2

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

Resources:

S4C complaints

BBC complaints

 

 

 

 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ highlights Quaker hypocrisy but still fails listeners

The final item in the November 22nd edition of BBC 4’s ‘Today‘ programme related to an announcement put out a few days earlier by the UK Quakers. In that announcement the Quakers stated that their church would not “invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine” while simultaneously stating that “we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation”.

Apparently unaware of the UK Quakers’ existing practices – including a seven and a half year-old “decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine ‘until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended’“, presenter Justin Webb introduced the item (from 2:54:08 here) by telling Radio 4 listeners that:

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

Webb: “The Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends – do not generally upset people. They regard themselves as peaceful, cooperative, thoughtful. So when they became the first British church to disinvest from any company that profited from activities in the occupied Palestinian territories it raised eyebrows – and more: the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it was appalling.”

Webb went on to introduce two contributors: the recording clerk of the Quakers – Paul Parker – and James Sorene of BICOM. Parker’s response to the question “why was the decision taken?” likewise included references to “Palestinian territory”.

Parker: “Well this is really a moral and spiritual question for us. Being a Quaker means letting your faith determine the choices you make in life and for us that includes how we use our money and where it comes from. We’ve been listening to and watching the situation in Israel-Palestine, which is a region of the world that we know well, and feeling increasingly that we can’t support businesses which profit financially from the occupation of…of Palestinian territory. The settlement…ahm…Israeli government policy on settlements in Palestinian territory is illegal under international law and so we don’t think it’s morally defensible to profit from companies or to invest in companies which profit from that occupation. So we’ve adjusted our investment policy to [unintelligible] that.”

Obviously it would have been helpful to listeners trying to reach an informed opinion on this story had they been told at this point that all Israeli communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the PLO as representative of the Palestinian people – has yet to have its final status determined in negotiations between the two parties and therefore it is at best premature to describe those areas as “Palestinian territory”. Likewise, it would have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that the same Oslo Accords place no limitations whatsoever on building in Israeli communities in Area C and that the claim that such towns and villages are “illegal under international law” is by no means the sole legal opinion on the topic.

However Justin Webb did not bother to provide his audience with any of that relevant information before bringing in James Sorene and neither did he challenge a very obvious red herring subsequently introduced by Paul Parker.

Parker: “We would absolutely agree that dialogue is the only way out of this. For a viable, peaceful solution to happen, without recourse to some of the terrible violence that we’ve been seeing in the region over the last many years, we do need to sit down and talk to each other. Our experience is though that the policy around settlements is making that dialogue harder. It’s…it’s skewing the conversation, making it very difficult for people to meet and talk on equal terms.”

Listeners were not told that the BDS campaign that the Quakers have publicly supported for the last seven and a half years opposes ‘normalisation’ – i.e. talking to Israelis – or that its ‘end game’ is not a “peaceful solution” but the eradication of the Jewish state. Neither were audiences informed that “policy around settlements” has been shown in the past to have no effect whatsoever on “dialogue”: the Palestinians have managed to hold talks when construction was taking place in Judea & Samaria and managed not to hold talks when it was frozen. Justin Webb also failed to challenge Parker’s claim that pressure needs to be brought exclusively on one party to the conflict.

Parker: “And so this decision not to invest in companies which profit from the occupation is really a non-violent way of saying we need to bring some pressure to bear on the Israeli government to change how they approach this situation.”

Webb did however manage to place the existence of Israeli communities in a region designated by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland in the same category as “terrible things” including genocide.

Webb: “And the point being of course that there are all sorts of governments who do terrible things around the world. Are you also disinvesting from companies that, for instance, have investments in Myanmar which is accused of genocide?”

When Parker replied that “our policy is at the moment specific to the occupation of Palestine”, Webb asked:

Webb: “Are you saying that you would not invest in other places where governments are, in your view, oppressing people or is it just in Palestine?”

As noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC’s ‘style guide’ instructs journalists not to use the term Palestine because “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today…rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.  

While Justin Webb’s focus on the hypocrisy of this latest announcement from the Quakers is obviously relevant to the story, it is unfortunate that he made no effort to provide listeners with additional essential information. The fact that for so many years BBC audiences have been denied information concerning the aim of the BDS campaign, denied information concerning legal opinions which do not follow the BBC’s chosen narrative on ‘international law’ and presented with a monochrome and politically partisan view of ‘settlements‘ clearly hampers the ability of listeners to reach an informed opinion of this story.  

Related Articles:

Pacifist Aggressive: the Quaker echo chamber which empowers terrorism (UK MediaWatch)

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

 

Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

As we have had cause to note on several occasions in recent months, the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” (published in the wake of the 2006 Thomas Report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) states:

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…”” [emphasis added]

Over the past few months BBC audiences have heard both contributors and BBC journalists refer to ‘Palestine’ with increasing frequency – for example:

BBC amends style-guide breach in R4 synopsis

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

BBC R4 FOOC report on Palestinian music promotes one-sided politics

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

BBC R4 airs partisan portrayal of Jenin masked as ‘entertainment’

Another example of BBC journalists ignoring their own corporation’s definition of best practice was heard in the August 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ when, during an item concerning the death of Uri Avnery (from 38:15 here), presenter Paul Henley asked his Israeli interviewee:

Henley: “Do you think he was disappointed that his vision for peace between Israel and Palestine was not achieved in his lifetime?”

As the BBC Academy rightly notes, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel”.

Nevertheless, BBC journalists continue to refer to a non-existent state – paradoxically even while discussing the failure of the process which has to date not brought it into being.