BBC shows limited interest in a new Gaza border wall

Last month various media outlets reported that Egypt had begun the construction of a wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.

“Egypt has begun building a concrete wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, AFP journalists and a Palestinian security official from the Hamas terror group said Wednesday.

Dozens of workers aided by cranes could be seen erecting the structure, which will stretch some three kilometers (two miles) from Gaza’s southeastern tip at Karem Shalom to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only gateway out of Gaza that does not lead into Israel.

The wall is being built along the lines of an old, lower barrier that includes an underground structure designed to curb smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.”

According to Asharq al Awsat the aim of the structure is “to end the infiltration of extremists to and from Sinai”.

BBC Arabic also published a report on that story on February 18th. Readers were told that “the border wall is about six meters in height and with concrete bases of up to three meters underground, to counter the tunnels” and that:

“Egypt has been seeking in recent years to demolish tunnels on the 14-kilometer border with Gaza, with the aim of preventing the infiltration of militants and extremists into Egyptian territory, the government says.”

In other words, the aim of the structure being constructed by Egypt is the same as that of both Israel’s defences along the border with the Gaza Strip and the anti-terrorist fence: to stop the passage of terrorists.  

Just two months ago BBC Radio 4 listeners heard the barrier constructed by Israel along the Gaza Strip border portrayed using the ‘open-air prison’ cliché.

“In Gaza the wall is so all-encompassing, in some ways so incredibly difficult to penetrate, that in fact it acts as a kind of a very large-scale prison. People often use that terminology to define…to describe Gaza as a large open-air prison but in fact the walls that surround it, at least on the land side, feels like anybody who’s in Gaza is stuck there.”

However in contrast to its continued high level of coverage of Israeli-built structures, the BBC has to date not even bothered to inform its non-Arabic speaking audiences of the existence of the Egyptian wall, let alone describe it in such inflammatory terms.   

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Another BBC item promotes falsehoods about Israel’s anti-terrorist fence

BBC Arabic publishes an edited timeline of Syria’s Jewry

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

On November 6th the BBC Arabic website reported Vladimir Putin’s reference to Russian aid he purportedly directs at Jews who still remain in Syria and their properties (“Putin helps the Jews of Syria, but where are they?”). The report included a timeline of Syrian Jewry, whose history spreads well over two millennia. This is how it was introduced to the readers (translation by CAMERA Arabic):

“TIMELINE

The San Francisco-based JIMENA website, interested in documenting the history and heritage of oriental Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, summarizes the history of Jews in Syria as follows:”

In fact, the timeline is not directly taken from any of JIMENA’s three relevant webpages – two brief summaries elaborating on the history of Syria’s Jews in English and Arabic, and one timeline in English – but it is apparently based on all three. In comparison to JIMENA’s original webpages, the BBC’s version is heavily edited; its anonymous writer added entries that did not appear in any of the three webpages but removed other historical events that were mentioned in all three. For instance:

  1. The BBC added Paul the Apostle’s successful attempt to convert a large group of Damascus Jews to Christianity in 49 AD.
  2. The BBC added the Mongol capture of Aleppo in 1260, resulting in the slaughter of many Jews.
  3. The BBC removed JIMENA’s description of the Aleppo Codex’s arrival to Aleppo, allegedly in 1375.

The BBC’s cherry-picking of historical details – which goes against basic principles of trustworthy quoting and its own editorial guidelines – could have been quite unnoticeable had it been limited to antiquity and medieval times. However, once modern era entries were altered, the history of the Jews of Syria was distorted to such an extent that anyone even slightly familiar with Jewish history of the 19th century could notice at least some of BBC’s edits.  For example:

  1. The BBC removed JIMENA’s account of the 1840 Damascus blood libel, a true landmark of 19th century history of the Jewish people as a whole. To quote the original JIMENA timeline (originally in English, in-bracket remarks by CAMERA Arabic): “1840 –Eight members of the Jewish community were falsely accused of ritual murder of a Christian monk during the Damascus Affair. The men were tortured, killed and forced to convert to Islam [all tortured, and some of them were either killed or forced to convert]. The Jewish synagogue of Jobar is destroyed [its interior was pillaged and vandalised by an angry mob]”. Notably, the affair influenced not only the Jews in Damascus (and the Ottoman Empire which controlled it between 1516-1918) but was also pivotal to world Jewry – operating globally to protect fellow Jews in a way that was unbeknown to remote communities until then. To get a better idea of just how gross of an omission it is to remove the Damascus blood libel from a chronicle of Jewish history in Syria, it should be emphasised that it appeared not only in all of JIMENA’s three webpages, but also in many other online chronicles of the history of Syrian Jews.
  2. The BBC kept the following entry in place: “In 1850, many Jewish families leave Syria for Egypt, then [depart] from it to England”. However, it removed JIMENA’s phrase that made a connection between the departure and the blood libel, thus creating the false impression that it was spontaneous or due to an unknown reason.
  3. The BBC added an entry, stating that “in the 1800s Jews were granted a legal status known as ‘Dhimmis’, and they were required to pay the head tax [Arabic: Jizya جزية]”.
    In fact, the Dhimmi legal status, historically granted to members of some religious minorities who were subjected to Muslim rule, as well as the obligatory Jizya tax that was imposed on them along with it, are both thought to be almost as old as Islam itself; a few of the most ancient Islamic texts (in the case of Jizya, even the Qur’an) refer to them. Specifically regarding the Jews of the areas which now consist modern Syria, their designation as Dhimmis who owe mandatory tax to the state was in effect up to 1856, under the Ottoman Empire as well as under the Muslim rulers that preceded it. Between 1856-1909 Jizya was replaced with a different tax, “Badal Askari”, that Jews and Christians paid in order to become exempt from military service. However, at least some of them considered the new tax as “Jizya with a new name”.

The way BBC chose to assemble the part of its timeline that deals with the 20th century, based on JIMENA’s webpages, is also misleading and far from perfect. The report made absolutely no mention of several violent attacks against Syrian Jews that JIMENA’s English timeline and summary do document.

  1. The 1947 government-encouraged Aleppo pogrom, killing 75 local Jews and displacing around 7,000 (the BBC timeline counted this group along with the Jews who left Syria in the late 1940s following state-sanctioned persecution: dispossession of properties and dismissal of all government jobs).
  2. The 1949 Damascus synagogue bombing, carried out by a militant group composed of Syrians, Egyptians and Palestinians, killing 12 Jews.
  3. The 1974 rape and murder of four Jewish women – the three sisters of the Zeibak family and their cousin, Eva Saad – who tried to flee Syria in disguise. Their mutilated bodies were discovered in a cave near a town adjacent to the Lebanese border, along with the bodies of two young Jewish men who were murdered there earlier – Natan Shaya and Kassem Abadi. All bodies were returned to their families by the Syrian police shortly after the discovery, apparently with no further investigation ever conducted.

By editing out hostilities and atrocities carried out against the Jews of Syria by some of their neighbors and fellow citizens, often with the indirect support of local authorities, the BBC’s timeline whitewashes these ugly episodes from the country’s history. Specifically, by removing the Damascus blood libel from the chronology, BBC also knowingly avoided an opportunity to combat one of the Arab world’s, and particularly Syrias, most common and venomous antisemitic myths.

BBC Arabic does stealth ‘clean-up’ after CAMERA Arabic complaint

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

In late October we posted a report by CAMERA Arabic concerning BBC Arabic’s promotion of an “educational” project by environmental engineer Omar Asi: an Israel-free, child-friendly map of “Palestine” from the river to the sea:

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

During Asi’s interview with the BBC Arabic radio show “Dardasha Layliya”:

  1. He elaborated on several of the areas of “Palestine” featured on his map including Jaffa and the Negev, both of which are internationally recognised as Israeli territory.
  2. He spoke disapprovingly of the geographical education children from the “interior of Palestine” (i.e. Israeli Arabs) are getting, namely the fact they are being exposed to “maps of Israel” rather than “maps of Palestine”.
  3. He revealed that the map contains a reference to the autobiography of a Hamas mass-murderer Abdullah Barghouthi, currently imprisoned in Israel. 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.
  4. He expressed his conviction 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.
  5. He received full and complete support for his campaign from the show’s host Heba ‘Abd al-Baqi who wished him and his team the best of luck and stated he was calling “from Palestine”. At no point during the interview did Abd al-Baqi challenge, criticise or contextualise Asi’s ideas.

In conclusion, this BBC Arabic radio item normalised the negation of Israel’s right to exist within any borders and denied the right of Israeli Jews to live peacefully while exerting their right of self-determination in their homeland. Asi’s mention of Abdullah Barghouthi also mainstreamed implied support for terrorism against Israeli civilians.

All of the above is a breach of BBC’s editorial guidelines regarding impartiality and offensive speech, as well as a breach of BBC’s style guide regarding the use of the term “Palestine”.

In late November, not long after a CAMERA Arabic submitted a complaint about the item to the BBC, it was mysteriously removed from BBC Arabic’s Soundcloud channel and Facebook webpage. Notably, the other two items aired in the same programme on October 24th still appear on both the Soundcloud channel and the Facebook webpage (the first link leads to the opening item of the show which includes a short description of the map item – the second of the three – at 0:40). 

Although CAMERA Arabic has yet to receive any response to the complaint submitted in November, it would appear that somebody at BBC Arabic took action to hide evidence that this embarrassing item had existed in the first place.

 

BBC Arabic whitewashes PIJ’s history of killing Israeli civilians

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

BBC Arabic’s recent profile piece – “What you must know about the Islamic Jihad movement”, November 13th – introduces the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to the website’s readers but omits and distorts a number of important details from its history and downplays its designation as a terrorist organisation.

[all translations, emphases and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic]

“Ever since it was founded, the movement [i.e. PIJ] declared it was responsible to several bombings which had targeted Israel, starting from the eighties. The best known one is an attack in Beit Lid which caused the death of 22 Israeli soldiers in 1995.

The movement has also committed attacks in Tel Aviv, including launches of the “Fajr” and “al-Quds” missiles.

[…] The United States views the movement as a terrorist ‘organisation’, and its leaders have been listed over the years on the “most wanted” board of the American intelligence services.”

Omitted and distorted facts:

1) The Beit Lid 1995 attack killed 22 people – 21 soldiers and one civilian.

2) The Beit Lid attack is the only PIJ attack mentioned by name in the entire article. Regardless of how “well known” it is (it was the first double suicide bombing attack in Israel’s history and is the PIJ-orchestrated attack with the highest number of casualties to date), ignoring other attacks committed by the organisation creates the erroneous impression that the PIJ targets soldiers rather than civilians.

In fact, over the years PIJ terrorists have deliberately and consistently attacked civilians, more often than not choosing them over soldiers and police officers as easy targets. Since its establishment in the early 1980s, PIJ terrorists killed or assisted others in killing around 300 Israelis, more than 210 of whom were civilians. Around two-thirds of PIJ-orchestrated attacks killed only civilians. Similarly, more than half of the deadly attacks that PIJ committed jointly with other organisations (Fatah/Hamas) claimed only civilian lives. Nevertheless, the PIJ celebrates the attackers who belong to its ranks, as well as their heinous deeds (links in Arabic).

3) The attacks carried out by PIJ terrorists in Tel Aviv that are mentioned in the profile claimed the lives of at least 16 civilians – yet the BBC Arabic website chose not to inform its readers of that fact despite having cited an example a PIJ attack that it inaccurately claimed had killed only soldiers.

4) Along with the United States and Israel, the following countries consider PIJ a terrorist organisation: the EUJapanAustraliaNew ZealandCanada and the BBC’s own home country the United Kingdom. BBC Arabic however mentioned only the US and Israel.

Additionally, this article breaches the BBC Academy’s style guide regarding the use of the word “Palestine” by twice referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip using that terminology.

 

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.  

 

CAMERA Arabic prompts correction of three inaccuracies in one BBC report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BBC Arabic breaches style guide on Temple Mount

Earlier this week we documented descriptions in BBC World Service radio news bulletins of a premeditated demonstration of intolerance at a site holy to three religions as “clashes at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem”. We noted that:

“…the BBC has returned to its past habit of complying with PLO instructions by naming the place its style guide says should be termed “Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif” as “the al Aqsa Mosque”.”

While no coverage of those August 11th incidents appeared on the BBC’s English language website, the BBC Arabic website published a report on that day headlined “Al-Aqsa Mosque: Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians after Eid al-Adha prayers”.

Readers were told that: [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

Extremist Jewish groups were trying to congregate near Moors’ [Mugrabi] Gate in order to enter the Mosque and commemorate the anniversary of what is referred to as ‘the destruction of the temple, which coincided this year with Eid al-Adha…”

And:

“At a later time, the police allowed dozens of Jewish extremists to enter the plaza of the Jerusalem sanctuary for a few minutes…”

In exactly the same way that BBC World Service radio’s failure to comply with the BBC’s own style guide confused audiences, this report’s employment of the deliberately politicised term “al Aqsa Mosque” to describe the entire Temple Mount plaza and the ensuing claim that Jews were trying to “enter the mosque” is inaccurate and materially misleading.

The headline further misleads readers by suggesting that “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians” took place in the al Aqsa Mosque rather than – as was actually the case – outside the building.

Also inaccurate is the blanket description of unarmed, non-violent visitors to the holiest site of their faith as “extremists”. While Muslim visitors to the site on that day (some of whom participated in the violent rioting) were described by BBC Arabic merely as “Palestinians”, the description of Jewish visitors as “extremists” demonstrates bias on the part of that BBC department.   

CAMERA Arabic has submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning that report.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio news confuses audiences with politicised terminology

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

 

BBC News website republishes deleted video report

Last month we documented the unexplained removal of a video from the BBC News website and other locations on the internet.

“On July 9th the BBC News website published a filmed report on its ‘Middle East’ page titled “Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex”. […]

That filmed report giving BBC audiences a rare glimpse of Palestinian society remained on the BBC News website’s Middle East page for three days and then disappeared, with no explanation given. […]

The video has also been removed from syndicated content…”

Over three weeks later, on August 6th, an edited version of the same video reappeared in the ‘Latest Updates’ section at the bottom of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Shattering sex taboos in the Palestinian territories”. Its synopsis reads:

“A survey carried by the Arab Barometer for BBC News Arabic in 2018 and 2019 suggests that, across the Middle East and North Africa, people feel their right to freedom of expression is being squeezed.

It indicates that people feel 20% less free to express themselves today than when they were surveyed in 2013.

That also has an impact on sex education. But organisations like Muntada al-Jensaneya are breaking through the silence and finding safe spaces for people to learn about sexuality, helping to transform society’s attitude towards sexual rights and health.

Note: This is an updated version of the original published report.”

Section 3 (Accuracy) of the new editorial guidelines published by the BBC last month includes a clause titled ‘Correcting Mistakes’.

“3.3.28 We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately. Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness. An effective way of correcting a serious factual error is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right

Mistakes in on-demand and online content

Where mistakes in our on-demand content, which is available online after broadcast, are unlikely to be a serious breach of editorial standards, a correction should be published on that platform, so that it is visible before the output is played. Such on-demand content does not then normally need to be changed or revoked.

Where mistakes to our on-demand content are likely to be considered a serious breach of editorial standards, the content must be corrected and the mistake acknowledged, or in exceptional cases removed. We need to be transparent about any changes made, unless there are editorial or legal reasons not to do so.  

In online text content, any mistake that alters the editorial meaning should normally be corrected and we should be transparent about what was wrong.” [emphasis added]

Informing audiences that “[t]his is an updated version of the original published report” without clarifying why it was updated, why that took so long and what it was about the original film that “was wrong” obviously does not meet standards of transparency and does not help those who watched the original report during the time it was online.

Related Articles:

BBC News website fails on transparency

BBC publishes new Editorial Guidelines

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

 

 

 

Jews of the Middle East in the eyes of BBC Arabic

This is the first in a series of posts by CAMERA Arabic showing how Arabic language channels belonging to Western media outlets frame the topic of Jews who originate from or live in the Middle East and North Africa by distinguishing ‘loyal’ Jews from ‘treacherous’ Zionists. All translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified.

“May God bless the soldiers of Israel […] may he shed his light on us, on Israel and on Tunisia, long live Israel and long live Tunisia!

Those spontaneous words, originally an excited mixture of Hebrew and a colloquial dialect of Arabic, were chanted by a woman on a bus full of fellow tourist-pilgrims, with many others in the group cheering and responding to her wishes with “amen”. Most if not all of them were Jewish Israelis of Tunisian heritage. Their journey’s destination was the al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Jews have been conducting an annual celebration there every Lag b‘Omer (which usually falls in May) for generations, and this year (2019) saw the number of pilgrims and visitors to the site exceeding all previous gatherings since the country underwent the Jasmine Revolution in January of 2011.

The entire trip was documented by Rina Matsliah, a well-known Israeli journalist who was born in Tunisia herself. It was her report that brought a seemingly marginal moment to the public eye: the enthusiastic woman and her group were shown for a few seconds in an evening news program on Israel’s Channel 12. The report also revealed to the viewers that the group had the opportunity to look from outside at the house near the capital Tunis where, in 1988, Israel had assassinated Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir (a.k.a Abu Jihad) – one of Fatah’s leading terrorists and a man responsible for the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians.

That documentation of a group of Israeli tourists proudly praising Israel and its soldiers on Tunisian soil and later looking at a site where a prominent Palestinian leader was assassinated soon sparked a scandal in the North African country.

An Arabic subtitled version of the report was promoted by Hezbollah affiliated ‘al-Mayadeen’ channel, and demonstrations and sit-ins were subsequently held in front of government buildings in Tunisia. Under the accusation of “normalization” with the “Zionist entity”, the protesters specifically demanded the removal from office of René Trabelsi – Tunisia’s minister of tourism and the first Jew ever to be appointed minister in modern Tunisian history. Trabelsi is a member of a tiny Jewish community of no more than 2,500 people.

The story was reported widely on Arabic-speaking channels, including those belonging to Western media organisations. Some quoted Arab social media without fact-checking the preposterous claims raised there. For example, a television program produced by BBC Arabic uncritically amplified outraged comments which viewed the visit as a military act.

“If this is true, Khalil al-Wazir Abu Jihad became a martyr twice, the first time when Israel assassinated him in 1988 and the second when his killers visited the house where he became a martyr in Tunis” (2:11)

I have no problem with Tunisian Jews in either Tunisia or France, I have a problem with the ‘Zionists’ who live in occupied Palestine, they’re all soldiers, whether on active duty or in the reserve forces, since military service is compulsory in the Zionist entity… I mean, [how can] we consider them tourists and their origin to be Tunisian!?” (2:26)

The BBC Arabic program also quoted an additional edited comment (1:54), by a Tunisian journalist who insisted there was nothing new about “Zionists” entering Tunisia.

The online BBC report about the same story noted that the journalist, Habib Bouajila called for the sacking of Trabelsi in order to “protect Tunisian national dignity”. Bouajila accused Trabelsi of dangerously distorting facts and inflaming tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites because the minister had pointed out al-Mayadeen’s affiliations with Hezbollah and claimed that the channel’s translation from Hebrew into Arabic was mistaken.

The full, unedited version of Boualija’s comment as embedded in a BBC Arabic webpage, is saturated with antisemitic tropes, undertones and dog-whistles. It views the incident as a new level in the prosecution of a conspiracy against the Tunisian people, involving Jews of many countries as well as Trabelsi himself (to whom he consistently refers by his Hebrew name Roni). The hateful comment concludes with death wishes to Israel and America.

The admittance of Zionists into Tunisia is not new – since the nineties everybody knows they’re entering with their Zionist passports in tourist groups or, in rare occasions, with their second passports. [This is the case] as long as all the Zionist settlers, from the minister to the last occupier-usurper, retain their original nationality, or [obtain] a western nationality, such as most members of Jewish diasporas all over the world have. The Jews of Tunisia, previous or current, and those who left it for occupied Palestine, are no exception.

This is not what’s new – the new provocation is the boldness of Roni Trabelsi, who holds the tourism portfolio and in his last statement assumed the role[s] of the [entire] Tunisian diplomatic corps, the President of the Republic and the Parliament, so that he would decide on Tunisia’s alignments along the international axes. He also assumed the role of a media analyst [who specializes in] TV-stations and affiliations, in order to classify the al-Mayadeen channel as Lebanese Shi’ite […], despite [the fact] it was merely conveying and literally translating the report of the Zionist channel. On top of that, he arrogantly surmised the ratio of Tunisians who deplore his tendencies towards normalization and shamed with what he sees as ‘disgrace’, i.e. Shi’ization and siding with the Resistance [Hezbollah]…

The audacity of the minister stems from his (admittedly correct) estimation that he is stronger than the Tunisian government and state. In a Tunisian landscape that sets his path [forward] and promotes him to be a ‘high-ranked official’, Roni is the distinguished, the selected; he has more power and importance than all the ‘indigenous’, ‘gentile’ ministers and officials. It also derives from his (admittedly accurate) understanding that the straw man of ‘antisemitism’ and the allegations of bigotry, terrorism and assaulting ‘our Jewish brethren’ will deter the cowardly politicians, commentators and academics who want to stay where they are or aspire to move up the ladder. In [such] a Tunisian landscape Roni knows, and those who fear of Roni know, that his installment, as well as the installment of his minions [lit. players], is at the hand of the great supervisor, who loves Roni and loves those who love Roni and isolates whoever hates him.

Once again and forever, past, present and future, we say to Roni and his supervisor, and to whoever loves Roni and whoever acts obsequiously towards Roni and his supervisor, and [to whoever] wants to reposition Tunisia in service of Roni’s friends and entourage in a supine Arab world and international community [lit. landscape], we say: Tunisia is Arab – Its spirit is [of] resistance despite our setbacks and breakdowns – it belongs with its [Arab/Islamic] Ummah – its compass is Palestine – and its voice is loud and clear: death to Israel – death to America – and glory to the resistance… and whoever doesn’t like it can go drink the water of La Goulette [a city on the Tunisian Mediterranean coast]. He can present himself as an ‘outside observer’ [lit. a bird at the roof] or an alcohol merchant or a civil servant, [all are] typical hypocritical stories [dipped] in nostalgia [that is made out] of Zio-Masonic [sic] flour between al-Ghriba and the Bab Bahr Cathedral [a famous church in Tunis which represents to the writer a Tunisia that’s not exclusively Arab/Muslim, like al-Ghriba]. We do not buy this position in our homeland, treacherous as it is coming from its honey-tongued proponents…”

In addition BBC Arabic’s online report also brought comments from other Tunisians who, in BBC’s words,

“feared […] that the incident would reflect badly on the Jews of Tunisia, who rejected Israel’s temptations and have confirmed their clinging to their Tunisian roots.

The protests eventually died out after the government responded by clarifying that none of the visitors has entered Tunisia under an Israeli passport. As for Trabelsi himself, he repeatedly denied any connection between Israelis who visit Tunisia and the perceived act of “normalization” that he was blamed for. In one interview, he also “firmly” condemned the tourists who, in his words, “celebrated the Israeli army on Tunisian soil.” Indeed, it seems that this time the Jewish minister has dodged the bullet. But as long as the debate that surrounds Jews who live in the Middle East is framed the way it is – framing that BBC Arabic obviously finds acceptable – it seems that he and his community will always be suspected of dual loyalty and will carry the burden of proof for their innocence.

Related Articles:

BBC whitewashes Islamist antisemitism with semantics

BBC whitewashes anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia

Airbrushing terror: the BBC on Abu Jihad

 

 

BBC Watch prompts removal of Nazi analogy from BBC Arabic website

As documented here last week, on May 15th the BBC Arabic website published an article about a demonstration which had taken place a few days earlier in London.

“In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending […] had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.”

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified by the BBC – including an antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and the reply we received includes the following:

“Thank you for getting in touch and your complaint in which you claim that we ‘promoted anti-Semitism’ in an article published by the BBC Arabic service.

I forwarded your email to the editors of the Arabic service…

In reply – we try, as much as possible, to cover all different angles of Arab-Israeli conflict which simultaneously doesn’t necessarily mean that angles have to be crammed into every story. At the beginning of the article in question we did mention how the two sides view and celebrate/mourn this day. This story focused on one angle due to the nature of the event, the interviewees taking part in the event and the related trend on Arabic social media. In short – our view is that any objective assessment of the coverage of Arab-Israeli conflict on the Arabic site should be based on the entirety of the coverage across different medium: TV, Online & Radio, and not judged by one single article.    

Turning specifically to the allegation of ‘promoting antisemitism’, the accurate of the quote in question is: “I was, and still, very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I have visited Herzl Museum in Jerusalem to know more about them, but now I fail to comprehend the fact that Israelis are practicing violent acts on the same level of atrocity to the Palestinians”.

We don’t accept the complaint that it ‘promotes antisemitism.’ Our aim is to reflect the world as we find it and this quote was the strongly held view of the contributor, which we reported accurately. However, we have removed the quote as it does, in our view represent, an overblown comparison on the part of contributor. [emphasis added]

I hope the above clarifies the matter.”

The quote was indeed removed from the article on May 29th – two weeks after its initial publication – but with nothing added to inform readers of that fact.

Once again we see that, in addition to ignoring recommendations concerning the spelling of the word, the BBC apparently believes itself to have both the authority and the expertise to make pronunciations on what is – or is not – antisemitism. 

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism – such as that published by the IHRA over three years ago – in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms.

And sadly, that need is still embarrassingly obvious.

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?