BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Section 4.4.13 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality states:

“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 prejudices 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.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […] advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

Not for the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) a clearly identified BBC employee – who describes his position as “BBC News Arabic service producer in Israel and the West Bank” – has allowed himself to “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” on social media, thereby contradicting the BBC’s editorial guidelines and compromising its impartiality.

Clearly that Tweet from Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on that legislation. 

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

Advertisements

CAMERA Arabic website launched

As readers may recall, recognition of the absence of monitoring of Arabic language content produced by Western media organisations – including the BBC – prompted CAMERA to initiate a new project last summer.

The CAMERA Arabic website is now live.

A number of corrections have already been secured, including the removal of Hamas propaganda from the Huffington Post’s Arabic website and a correction to a Reuters report in Arabic.

Related Articles:

Huffington Post Arabic Removes Hamas Propaganda  (CAMERA)

CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

Meet CAMERA’s new media monitoring project

As regular readers know, BBC Watch has on occasion secured corrections to articles published on the BBC Arabic website – see, for example, here and here . However, regular monitoring of BBC content produced in the Arabic language (which according to the BBC reaches some 37 million people a week) is beyond our remit and capabilities.

Recognising the absence of monitoring of Arabic language content produced by Western media organisations including the BBC, CAMERA has initiated a new project, as recently reported by the JNS.

“The Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) recently announced it has hired Syrian-born researcher Ahed al-Hendi to spearhead the organization’s new Arabic-language media department.

According to CAMERA, the new department will monitor Arabic versions of major Western media outlets including the BBC, Sky News, CNN, Agence France-Presse, France24, The Associated Press, Reuters, the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera.

“No organization currently monitors Arabic-language media for accuracy and adherence to professional codes of journalistic practice,” CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin said. “Other excellent organizations monitoring Arabic-language media, such as MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), are doing vital but different work, providing translations of Arabic-language media reports. CAMERA’s Arabic project has an entirely different objective and will complement but not overlap with MEMRI and other related groups.”

CAMERA hopes to build off its decades of work holding English, Hebrew and Spanish media accountable for bias and misreporting when it comes to Israel. 

“My staff and I will begin by addressing influential outlets such as the BBC and CNN, reviewing their Arabic coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and communicating with editors to promote accurate, complete news,” Hendi told JNS.org.”

We will of course keep readers updated about the launch of this new project.

 

Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?

As we noted here recently, there was no coverage whatsoever of the two terror attacks which took place in Rishon Lezion and Netanya on November 2nd on BBC News’ English language website.  A search for reporting of those events on the BBC Arabic website showed that it did publish an article about an earlier incident at the Jalame crossing on the same day but the later stabbing attacks did not receive any coverage on that website either.

However, that November 2nd article – published under the context-free title “Palestinian death toll rises to 74” – is also notable on other counts.BBC Arabic occupation forces 1

BBC Watch asked a professional translator to take a look at the report and he confirmed that in its seventh paragraph, readers are told that the victims of the ongoing wave of terror attacks are “Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers”. Below is his translation of paragraphs six and seven: the absence of punctuation or a joining word between “occupied Palestinian lands” and “Arab areas inside Israel” appears in the original text, along with the questionable timeline of events.

“Tensions have been rising for weeks in the occupied Palestinian lands Arab areas inside Israel between the Palestinians and the Israeli security apparatuses. A number of cities and towns witnessed protests and demonstrations which the Israeli authorities confronted forcefully.

After that, the confrontations developed into individuals deeds/operations/actions in which Palestinians have stabbed Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers, and the Israeli army reacted by killing the attackers and arresting those who cooperated with them (with the attackers).” [emphasis added]

Obviously not all the victims of the recent attacks have been what the BBC would describe as “Jewish settlers” – i.e. Israeli Jews who reside in places the BBC thinks they should not live. At best then, that description is inaccurate. At worst, it may reflect promotion by the BBC of the ideology according to which all Israeli Jews are “settlers” and all Israeli communities ‘illegitimate’.

Another notable point about this article is its use of the politicised term “occupation forces” to describe the IDF in paragraph 5. That terminology is regularly used by Hamas and other terrorist organisations as well as by anti-Israel campaigners.

And it would appear that the use of that politicised term in this particular article is not a one-off mistake: an additional article which appeared on the BBC Arabic website on November 3rd employs the terms “Israeli occupation forces” and “occupation forces” no fewer than three times.BBC Arabic occupation forces 2

Five years ago, the then director general of the BBC told an audience at Chatham House that:

“The BBC’s motto is ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’ – the idea being that access to news, information and debate about different countries and cultures can ultimately help foster mutual understanding and tolerance. The motto and the services which flowed from it belong to a very different period in world history, but it would be a brave person who claimed that those aspirations are any less necessary today than they were then. They still form part of the bedrock of the BBC. And they still inform our decisions every day, whether in the safety and security of London or Washington or in the cities and lonely places of Afghanistan.”

“Mutual understanding and tolerance” are not fostered by the employment of inaccurate, inflammatory, politicised terminology such as that seen above – especially when delivered in Arabic to the BBC’s Arabic-speaking audiences.

Clearly BBC Arabic needs to take very prompt action to ensure that its staff report the news accurately, impartially and in language which is free from the kind of terminology – and ideology – used by those who seek Israel’s destruction. 

Breaches of editorial guidelines in BBC WS ‘Newshour’ special Sharon broadcast

Just one hour after the official announcement of Ariel Sharon’s death on January 11th, the BBC World Service’s ‘Newshour’ programme went on air with an edition titled “Ariel Sharon dies” presented by Lyse Doucet which can be heard here.

Newshour 11 1 14

The programme opens with an item by BBC World Affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge in which the second Intifada myth is once again promoted.

“It was as Likud leader in opposition in September 2000 that he paid a visit that was to go down in history, like other actions of his. Ariel Sharon simply going to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem – a site also holy to Jews – turned out to be one of the sparks for the second Palestinian uprising or Intifada.”

Wooldridge even includes in his account a recording of former Arafat advisor Ahmad Tibi deliberately misrepresenting geography:

“He [Sharon] came here in order to burn up the area. Al Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic place. Al Aqsa is in the Palestinian territory.”

The editorial decisions behind the presentation of the various interviewees in this programme of course remain a mystery, but the very first person to be interviewed by Doucet is Mustafa Barghouti who is presented as a “prominent Palestinian politician”, with of course no mention of hisanti-Israel activism. Barghouti opens: 

“Well of course there is no gloating in death – nobody should celebrate any death – but unfortunately I have to say that Mr Sharon left no good memories with Palestinians. Eh..he was responsible for the terrible invasion of Lebanon in 1982. He was personally accused even by Israeli courts for responsibility for the massacre in Sabra and Shatila which took the lives of thousands of Palestinians. He himself provoked the Intifada – the second Intifada – when he visited Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, killing practically the Oslo process and then he engaged in a unilateral redeployment in Gaza, refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian side. And the worst thing – the worst memories I have in this period was when they invaded us again in an act of invasion that destroyed our houses, killed hundreds of Palestinians and practically re-established occupation again of the West Bank. And he is accused also of the assassination of President Arafat, so all in all unfortunately he had a path of war and aggression and a great failure in making peace with the Palestinian people.”

If one is expecting Lyse Doucet to jump in at this point and clarify to her millions of listeners that the Lebanon war began in response to Palestinian terrorism and that the Kahan Commission was not a court but a commission of inquiry and that it found that Sharon bore indirect responsibility for the massacre by Lebanese Christian Arabs of Palestinian Arabs, then one will be sorely disappointed.  Likewise, Doucet makes no effort to explain that the second Intifada was pre-planned long before Sharon set foot on Temple Mount , that Operation Defensive Shield was brought about by unprecedented Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians or that two recent reports have shown that Arafat died of natural causes. Instead, Doucet allows Barghouti free rein to continue his tirade of falsehoods by asking him if – had he not been taken ill – Sharon would also have withdrawn from the PA controlled territories in Judea & Samaria. Barghouti replies:

“I doubt that totally because there are big differences between West Bank and Gaza. Actually what he did in Gaza helped destroy the Palestinian internal unity because he really did not withdraw from Gaza. He did not end the occupation of Gaza. All he did is redeployment and establishment of a new form of occupation where Gaza is besieged by air, by land and by sea. And his main goal was to separate the West Bank from Gaza and thus by getting rid of 1.3% of the land he could keep the rest of the land and this way he could get rid of one third of the demographic formula.”

No comment is made by Doucet regarding Barghouti’s use of that figure of 1.3%, even though it reveals the true nature of his agenda seeing as the Gaza Strip comprises 1.3% of the land which was under British administration at the time of the Mandate. Neither does the frankly comic notion that Sharon destroyed “Palestinian internal unity” raise any reaction from Doucet and she offers no clarification of the fact that the partial blockade on the Gaza Strip came as a direct response to Palestinian terrorism.  Barghouti goes on:

“The other issue of course which will remain for history to decide, is whether one day he will be judged also in the court of justice for crimes against humanity, especially what happened in terms of the invasions and also in Sabra and Shatila – these were his orders.”

In spite of the fact that Barghouti has just claimed that the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila was carried out upon the “orders” of Sharon, Doucet makes no attempt to inform listeners of the false nature of that claim, instead closing with “thank you for joining us from Ramallah”. To make matters worse, parts of Barghouti’s uninterrupted monologue of lies and defamation are later rebroadcast twice in the programme.

Doucet’s other interviewees include two Israelis (Zalman Shuval and David Horowitz ), three additional BBC correspondents (Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Bowen and Karim Gohary of the BBC Arabic Service), former US negotiator Dennis Ross and Palestinian journalist Ghassan Khatib. 

Karim Gohary is brought in at around 27:37 to inform listeners of the reaction to Sharon’s death in the Arab world. His contribution is seasoned with terms such as “war crimes” and “criminal court” as well as what are clearly his own interpretations of events, which also go unchallenged by Doucet.

“..in addition to what I’ve already spoken about, the starting of the second Intifada – actually going to the Al Aqsa Mosque, unannounced as well – it has a lot of meaning for many Arabs…”

In fact, Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount (he did not enter either of the mosques) was pre-coordinated with Jibril Rajoub of the PA security forces, so it can hardly be described as “unannounced”.  Of course the “meaning” of that event might perhaps be a little different were it reported accurately by the media – including the BBC – both over the past thirteen years and at the present time.

Doucet’s final guest is Ghassan Khatib who, when asked by Doucet for his “thoughts today”, says:

“Well, I thought that we only have negative and bad memories of Sharon. I think the consensus among Palestinians is that Sharon needed to be treated as a war criminal more than anything else. In all his political life he was a leading figure in the Israeli political camp that worked by all possible means, legal and illegal, in order to maintain the illegal control of Israel over the Palestinians and the Palestinian territories in West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. He was responsible for massacres. He pulled out of – from – Gaza in order to consolidate the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and he did it in a way that contributed to marginalising the peace camp in Palestine and he did it in a way that played to the hand of the opposition of the peace process in the Palestinian territories. There’s a consensus among Palestinians that he is the worst ever leader in Israel from prospective [the perspective] of Palestinians. Palestinians – I think most Palestinians, all Palestinians, would like to see him and his memory resting in the [unintelligible] history, worst possible place in history.”

Neither Khatib nor Doucet of course bother to inform listeners that Sharon’s successor Ehud Olmert, who became acting prime minister when Sharon was taken ill in January 2006 – less than five months after the Gaza disengagement – and then was elected (having run on a platform of withdrawal from Judea & Samaria) to continue the post in April 2006, offered Mahmoud Abbas a peace plan which demonstrates just how disingenuous claims of ‘consolidation’ of Israel’s presence there – as promoted by Khatib – actually are.  

BBC editorial guidelines do not apply merely to content spoken or written by BBC employees. Hence, an interviewer has the responsibility to ensure that when interviewees make grossly misleading or defamatory statements, they are countered with facts. 

“As it is not possible to guarantee the compliance of live programmes in advance of transmission we should take special care to minimise the risks involved such as inadvertently causing harm or offence, giving undue prominence to products, organisations or services or creating legal problems. This applies to anyone appearing live on air or online including our contributors, our own presenters, journalists and reporters, commentators and analysts, and even the live audience. The risks of live broadcasting may include:

 the inappropriate use of strong language;

the inadvertent inclusion of strong language in song lyrics (both English and foreign language versions), film clips, poetry readings, extracts from literature and so on;

issues of portrayal including racism and national stereotyping;

broadcast of derogatory or libellous comments;

failure to achieve impartiality;

misleading of audiences;

detailed and inappropriate identification of child contributors;

undue prominence of a product, for example, a film, book or sponsors logo;

unexpected and potentially inappropriate coverage of injuries and loss of life in national or international emergencies;

inappropriately graphic or insensitive coverage of sporting fatalities or severe injuries;

failure to alert viewers who may have photosensitive epilepsy to the inclusion of editorially justified flashing images or strobing.

[emphasis added]   […]

“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. “

In this broadcast Doucet and her producers were not even going through the motions of pretending to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC revamps anti-Israel campaigner as “democracy activist”

BBC promotes Avaaz report but stays mum on group’s Syrian ties

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” erases pre-1967 Jewish history in Jerusalem

Since we last visited the subject of the BBC’s four-part series of articles titled ‘Obstacles to Peace’, their presence on the BBC website has been extended. No longer accessible only via the ‘country profile’ for Israel on the Middle East page, the four articles now appear as links at the bottom of an item titled “Core Issues” in the standard collection of links coming under the heading “Mid East Crisis” which is appended to most Israel-related articles. 

Core Issues on profile page

The link titled “Core Issues” leads to an article titled “Middle East peace talks: Where they stand” which was amended in July 2013 and the links to the “Obstacles to Peace” series appear at the bottom of that. 

Obstacles

As we have previously pointed out here, despite being dated September 2010, all four of the articles were originally written in 2007 and were the subject of critique by CAMERA at the time. Their author – Martin Asser – has also recently undergone a change, moving from the BBC’s Search Engine Optimisation department to the post of Digital Editor at the BBC Arabic Service – possibly in the framework of the latest personnel changes at that beleaguered department. 

Asser linkedin

Previously we have discussed Asser’s articles on the subjects of water and refugees (see ‘related articles’ below). Another of Asser’s pieces is titled “Obstacles to Arab-Israeli peace: Jerusalem“.

Obstacles Jerusalem

Asser opens by citing Karen Armstrong – known for her partisan writings on the subject of Jerusalem.

“The ancient city of Jerusalem has changed hands many times, its religious significance exerting a powerful pull on Jewish, Christian and Muslim conquerors.

Religious writer Karen Armstrong has observed that those who held it longest are those who showed the most tolerance to devotees of other faiths.

She cites two Muslim leaders – Caliph Omar and Saladin – as exemplars of this approach, and the Crusaders as the city’s most blood-soaked ravagers.

More than 40 years ago, Israel’s army captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the June 1967 War.

The area fell in the heat of a deadly battle, but Israel did not massacre its Palestinian inhabitants or destroy its holy shrines like the medieval Christian knights.”

So we have “Muslim leaders” (not, one notes, imperialist conquerors), Crusaders and modern-day Israelis – but no mention of ancient Jewish Jerusalem, of six hundred years of Jewish sovereignty over the city before the Babylonian conquest in 587 BCE, of two Temples which were the focus of thousands of years of Jewish pilgrimage and prayer or of a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the mid-nineteenth century. That airbrushing of Jerusalem’s Jewish history allows Asser to go on to write: SONY DSC

“From the Jewish perspective 1967 brought the “reunification” of the holy city, restoring a divine plan after centuries of interruption.

But history has yet to decide if Israeli rule over the city is a doomed enterprise, that will founder – on Karen Armstrong’s analysis – because of the very measures taken to make Jerusalem Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital.”

It is not made sufficiently clear to readers that Jerusalem had only been divided for the nineteen years of the Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967, or that both the division and the reunification of the city occurred due to the decision by surrounding Arab countries to wage war on Israel.

Asser’s unsourced claim of Jewish belief in the restoration of a “divine plan” deliberately implies that religious motivation lay behind the military operations which removed the Jordanian occupation in 1967. He coyly side-steps the very worldly subjects of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from parts of the city conquered by Jordan in 1948 (whilst at the same time taking the trouble to mention the demolition of the slum housing in the Mughrabi  Quarter) and the systematic desecration and destruction of Jewish burial grounds and places of worship by the Jordanians by stating:

“Under Arab control since 1948, the Jewish holy places had been tantalisingly out of reach to Israelis – in violation of the Israel-Jordan armistice agreement.”

Asser neglects to mention that Muslim holy sites were also out of reach to Israel’s Muslim population during the Jordanian occupation and that access for Israeli Christians was severely limited. His use of the sub-heading “Modern Fortress” to describe post-’67 Jerusalem conceals the fact that free access to – and self-administration of – the holy sites of all religions has only been guaranteed under Israeli rule.

Asser’s breaches of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality continue, coming to a head with his misrepresentation of the ‘corpus separatum’ issue.

“The international consensus has never recognised Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem – the city and its surroundings were designated a corpus separatum by the UN in 1947, to be given a special international status and government.”

In fact, the ‘corpus separatum’ proposal (limited to a ten-year period) was one of the non-binding recommendations (not, as Asser claims, a ‘designation’) which formed Resolution 181 – or the Partition Plan.  The Arab nations of course refused to accept the plan – including the aspects of it pertaining to Jerusalem – and in fact vowed to oppose its implementation by force.

Asser’s disingenuous attempt to resurrect the ‘corpus separatum’ issue and to suggest to BBC audiences that it (along with the rest of the Partition Plan) has any standing – legal or otherwise – is a blatant breach of BBC editorial guidelines. Revealingly, Asser makes no attempt to explain to his readers why, during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem, the ‘international city’ idea was not enacted.  SONY DSC

In the latter part of his transparent attempt to delegitimize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, Asser focuses on what he terms the “precarious lives” and “strange half-existence” of the Arab residents of Jerusalem – so ‘precarious’ that the city’s Arab population grew from 26% of Jerusalem’s population in 1967 to 36% in 2009 and in 2010, whilst the city’s Jewish population rose by 1.4%, its Arab population grew by 3.3%.

Asser misleads his audience by not making it clear that Arab residents of Jerusalem can apply for Israeli citizenship (as increasing numbers are indeed doing) and that residency permits are provided to those who choose not to take full citizenship.

“Allowed special Israeli residency permits, they enjoy advantages over those in the occupied West Bank – but many feel their future in the city is not guaranteed.”

Replete with omission and inaccuracy, including on the subject of building, Asser’s portrait of Jerusalem’s Arab population makes no attempt to hide its political motivations.

“Israel has allowed the Palestinians of East Jerusalem to remain, but it has hemmed them in, squeezed them, left them in no doubt the city is no longer theirs.”

No less blatantly political is Asser’s portrayal of Jerusalem neighbourhoods as “settlements”.

“Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have been allowed, or encouraged, to move to the occupied east of the city – an area the Palestinians hope to establish as the capital of their future state.”

Asser portrays what would be seen in the rest of the world as unremarkable procedure – border controls for foreign travellers from a hostile entity – as some sort of discrimination.

“Palestinians from outside the city – in the West Bank and Gaza – are rigorously excluded by a ring of roadblocks and Israeli military checkpoints.”

He also describes Israeli attempts to curb terrorism as “controversial”.

“In recent years, Israel has been building the controversial West Bank barrier around Palestinian population centres, a response to the suicide bombings of the 1990s and after 2000.” SONY DSC

 Asser even goes so far as to dramatically equate modern Palestinian political aspirations regarding Jerusalem with the millennia-old cultural and religious Jewish links to Jerusalem.

“They now find themselves experiencing the same sense of deprivation and longing for Jerusalem, and determination to make it theirs again, that the Diaspora Jews once did.”

It is, of course, bad enough that this one-sided political polemic has been allowed to stand on the website of an organization supposedly committed to accuracy and impartiality for well over six years. It is even worse that this misleading article and its accompanying ones in the same series are now being promoted by the BBC as additional reading for audience members seeking to learn more about the issues surrounding the talks between Israel and the PLO. That promotion comes in direct conflict with the constitutional basis according to which the BBC’s defined public purposes include building “a global understanding on international issues”.

Related articles:

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 1

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

BBC’s ‘Obstacles to Peace’: wrong on right of return – Part 1

BBC’s ‘Obstacles to Peace’: wrong on right of return – Part 2

Salafist quoted in BBC rejection of complaint supports Jihad in Syria

Readers will no doubt remember our recent publication of the reply from the BBC News website’s Middle East desk received by a reader in response to a complaint concerning Ahmed Maher’s article of May 1st 2013 in which he claimed that he could not find video evidence of Tunisian Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews.

The BBC reply based its dismissal of the complaint upon statements procured by BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Maher from one Sheikh Bashir bin Hassan. 

“I spoke to Sheikh Bashir Bin Hassan, one of the most prominent Salafi, Wahabi sheikhs in post-revolution Tunisian, and asked him again about two things: the chants and the protest in front of the Tunis synagogue. He said: ‘The chants were not aimed at the Tunisian Jews; make no mistake. It was directed at Israel because Israel is a very sensitive issue in the Muslim world. Our Prophet Muhammad asked us to take good care and protect non-Muslims living in our countries like Christians and Jews.’

“Regarding the Tunis synagogue video, Sheikh Bashir Bin Hassan said it was ‘misleading because it was taken out of context. The protest was not against the Tunisian Jews but rather it was in support of Salafists and other Islamist forces in Egypt. The protesters were heading towards the Egyptian embassy in Tunis and they stopped for moments in front of the synagogue to express their anger at the Zionist entity’s policies’.”

As we remarked at the time:

“Get it? According to the BBC, if Tunisian Islamists (and presumably any elsewhere too) chant “Killing the Jews is a duty” or “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud” or ”the army of Mohammed will return”, then local Jews have nothing whatsoever to worry about because in fact they are not referring to them – or indeed to Jews at all – but to Israel, which should apparently be perfectly understandable. And the BBC website’s Middle East desk is quite sure of that because a prominent Salafist – who obviously thinks it unremarkable to chant hate speech relating to “the Zionist entity’s policies” in front of a synagogue in Tunisia – told them so.”

In another recent report by Ahmed Maher (“Syria conflict: Why did my Tunisian son join the rebels?“, May 15th 2013, filmed version here) we learn that Maher’s reliance upon – and amplification of – the opinions of the Saudi Arabia-educated Sheikh was not a one-off event. We also gain further insight into the views of the man the BBC News website’s Middle East desk apparently considers a quotable authority. Ahmed Maher & Salafists 2

“Many imams, like Sheikh Bashir bin Hassan, endorse jihad in Syria openly and are proud of what they see as the “heroic acts of the young jihadists”.

“They are on a humanitarian mission. The West insists on associating jihad and Salafism to terrorism, which is not true,” Sheikh Bashir told me in an interview inside a mosque in the town of Masakin, 200km (124 miles) south of Tunis.

For Sheikh Bashir, it is justifiable for Sunni Muslims to take arms against the Assad forces, who belong to a Shia sect, to protect oppressed fellow Sunnis – a stance that reflects the sectarian overtone of the conflict.

And he accuses the West of double standards.

“Let’s imagine that the British government decided to attack a county with scud missiles to stamp out a peaceful rebellion. Europeans would be watching entire families being slaughtered day in day out. What would the young do? They would flock in droves to England to protect the oppressed.” “

BBC licence fee payers will no doubt be very interested to know that the BBC considers it acceptable to judge the merits of a complaint on the basis of the opinions of a man who not only subscribes to the inherently antisemitic Wahhabi ideology, but is also openly supportive of jihadist violence. 

 

 

BBC whitewashes anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia

h/t LS

On May 1st a report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the heading “At Ease” and with the by-line “Tunisia’s tiny Jewish community unruffled by troubled past”.

Tunisia Jews 1

The link leads to a piece entitled “Tunisia’s last Jews at ease despite troubled past” by BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Maher who appears to have recently visited Djerba at the time of the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage.   

Tunisia Jews 2

The article’s overall tone suggests that today, in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, everything is sweetness and light for the few remaining Jews in Tunisia and that media reports of tension are exaggerated. Maher writes:

“Several media reports spoke about YouTube videos that showed radical Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews. Despite searching extensively, I did not find any of them.

The only one I came across was of Tunisian Islamists vowing support to the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. Security has been a big issue at the Ghriba synagogue since a militants linked to al-Qaeda attacked it with a truck bomb, killing 21 people.”

So let’s help Mr Maher out a bit.

Here is the welcome for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Tunis airport in January 2012. The sentiments are pretty clear:

“Killing the Jews is a duty.

Sweeping the Jews away is a duty.

Driving out the Jews is a duty.

Crushing the Jews is a duty.”

Here is footage of a demonstration outside the Grand Synagogue in Tunis on February 11th 2011 with chants of “Wait, wait Jews. The army of Mohammed is returning.”

This footage, filmed on the Avenue Habib Bourgiba in Tunis, is also from 2012:

This is footage of a rally held in February 2012 on the occasion of a visit to Tunisia by the Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghoneim. Cries of “Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud” can clearly be heard. 

Here is a report about some Tunisian Jews – apparently not very much “at ease” – protesting some of the above incidents.

Should Ahmed Maher choose to hone his internet search skills, there is also plenty of additional information concerning anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia freely available. 

Once again, the BBC’s refusal to report accurately on issues relating to Jews in Arab countries past and present both compromises its impartiality and prevents BBC audiences from forming realistic, fact-based opinions. Maher’s whitewashing of Islamist extremism in Tunisia is all the more egregious given that his colleague Magdi Abdelhadi produced a refreshingly candid report on the subject only last October.

Finally, perhaps someone at the BBC Online Middle East desk could correct the rather obvious mistake in this passage from Maher’s report:

“Tunisian Jews consider the synagogue the most sacred Jewish place of worship in Africa. According to tradition, the first synagogue on the site was built with a stone or gate brought from King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed in 586.”

That should, of course, be 586 BCE. 

Related articles: Bataween at the ‘Point Of No Return’ blog writes about the same report by Ahmed Maher. 

                                        CiF Watch: “Guardian/AP story on Tunisia’s Jews omits history of antisemitic persecution“.

BBC Arabic on Jews from Arab lands

BBC Arabic recently featured a programme and an article about Israeli Jews with origins in Arab countries, by Omar Abdel-Razek, titled “Arab Jews in Israel between marginalisation and integration”. The audio version can be heard here and the written version read here

Fortunately, the wonderful ‘Point of no Return’ blog has a much better version of the written article than automatic translation can provide, together with valuable insights. 

“On the plus side : the programme humanises Jews in Israel, and interviews some who voice mainstream views – notably, Eli Avidar and Levana Zamir, who deftly quash the idea of a return to Arab lands while these are being poisoned with antisemitism. On the minus side, the programme adopts a far-left discourse, assuming ‘Arab Jews’ were exploited by Ashkenazim as a labour reservoir and stripped of their culture. […] The mere fact that the programme calls them ‘Arab Jews’ diminishes their separate Jewish identity.”

Particularly interesting is this unsourced statement in the written article: [emphasis added]

“History records that Arab Jews in Israel live between marginalization and integration, but that most of them did not embrace the idea of ​​Zionism before the establishment of Israel.”

It is, of course, impossible to know the views of all of the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands who arrived in Israel both before and after the establishment of the state, but certainly this one-dimensional, Eurocentric view of Zionism does not take into account movements such as E’ela BeTamar which saw thousands of Yemenite Jews make their way to pre-state – and pre-mandate – Palestine between 1881 – 1882, inspired by the spiritual belief in the importance of their re-settling of their ancient homeland which was one of the precursors to the Zionist movement.  

Contrary to the impression given in the article, the immigration of those Yemenite Jews actually pre-dated the arrival of European Jews, so whilst many did end up using their existing experience of working in agriculture, their arrival in the country was certainly not purely “as an alternative to Arab workers in the plantations of European Jews”.

Neither does this version of history take into account the existence of Zionist societies in Arab countries such as Morocco, where the first branches were established only a few years after the 1897 Basel Conference. 

Another one of those Zionist societies was located in Tripoli, Libya, and in the early 1930s one of its members – a young man named Mordechai – managed to obtain from the British Mandate authorities one of the much-coveted, rarely issued ‘certificates’ for legal immigration to Palestine for himself, his wife and their first-born son – on account of his being a carpenter: a trade given priority. Pictured below are some of the tools which in fact enabled him to overcome the obstacles to immigration set in place by the British which Zionists from all over the world – including those from Arab lands – faced at the time. 

SONY DSC

Mordechai was this writer’s partner’s grandfather and the fourth generation of his offspring is now growing up in Israel.

Once again invoking a bizarre version of history, the BBC article states: [emphasis added]

“There are those who believe that they were forced to migrate [from Arab lands] after the escalation of the Palestinian Arab conflict.”

Mordechai’s daughter-in-law could cast some light upon that particular distortion, having experienced the pogroms in Libya in 1945 and in June 1948. It was after the latter bout of violence that her family – after hundreds of years of living in Tripoli – made hurried arrangements to move to the new Jewish state, as did over thirty thousand others. That exodus did not take place because of a “belief” that they were being “forced to migrate”, but for practical reasons of survival. The minority of Libyan Jews who remained in the country were subjected to increasing discrimination.

“1. Jews cannot vote, attain public offices nor serve in the army or police.

2. The government is authorized by law to take title to the “properties of certain Jews.”

3. Jews are prohibited from acquiring new property.

4. Jews cannot receive passports or certification of their Libyan nationality. If a Jew wants to leave the country he may obtain a special travel document which does not indicate that he has Libyan nationality. If he does not leave within six months after receiving the document, it expires and he automatically loses his nationality and property rights.”

The Six Day War in 1967 brought renewed pogroms against Libya’s few remaining Jews – and an end to 2,500 years of Jewish presence in that country. 

It is highly regrettable that the BBC chooses to entrench inaccuracies concerning Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews from Arab lands in this manner – particularly when its target audience is obviously the Arabic-speaking world.  

In his own words: Abdel Bari Atwan on BBC Arabic TV

As we have noted here before, the Gaza-born editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper ‘Al Quds Al Arabi’ Abdel Bari Atwan is a frequent guest on programmes such as Newsnight and Dateline London, as well as on the BBC World Service and Radio 4.

Atwan is of course known for his controversial and often offensive opinions – not least his endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis and his claim that he would “dance with delight” in Trafalgar Square were Iranian missiles to hit Tel Aviv. Such opinions do not appear to constitute a barrier to his habitual participation in BBC programmes: in fact quite the opposite appears to be the case.

Here he is in a 2010 interview on BBC Arabic television – now translated by MEMRI – in which he is given free rein to praise Bin Laden, promote anti-Americanism and propagate the notion that Israel “is occupying our lands”. 

(h/t LW)