BBC Business ‘forgets’ to clarify that quoted academic is BDS campaigner

An article headlined “How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together” appeared in the ‘features’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Business’ pages on the morning of April 30th. Written by Melissa Jun Rowley, most of the article focuses unremarkably on various “technology partnerships” but some interesting framing is also in evidence.

Paragraph three of the article tells readers that:

“…Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict that has been rumbling on ever since.”

The word subsequent of course means “coming after something in time” but “grim” Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict of course did not commence following – and as a result of – “the foundation of Israel in 1948” as Rowley’s framing suggests.

Another notable point concerns some of the six images used to illustrate the article. Three of the photographs show people who participate in some of the programmes it features. One is a video first published by the BBC in December 2018. One is an image of torn Palestinian and Israeli flags captioned “In a fractured land, many young people from opposite sides never meet each other”. The final image shows buildings (in Givat Ze’ev, but readers are not given the location) with the caption “Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of many contentious issues in the region”.

Interestingly, out of “many contentious issues” the BBC chose to exclusively highlight “Israeli settlements” rather than, say, Palestinian terrorism or the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence the Jewish state.

Rowley’s take-away messaging comes at the end of the article.

“But will such collaborations lead to a stronger economy for the region and potentially a resolution of the conflict?

That remains unlikely, believes Magid Shihade, faculty member at the Institute for International Studies at Birzeit University on the West Bank, while onerous trade restrictions remain in place.

Under the Paris Protocol between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely.

“The first step for change is to remove all Israeli restriction in trade, thus letting Palestinian and Israeli businesses collaborate on an equal footing,” says Mr Shihade.

But Israel believes such restrictions are necessary to maintain its security in the troubled region.”

The 1994 Paris Protocol was of course signed by the PLO rather than “the Palestinian Authority” and was incorporated into the Oslo II agreement of 1995. Rowley fails to provide any proper explanation of her dubious claim that “Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely” which apparently relates to restrictions on dual-use goods which can be used for terrorism.

Neither does Rowley bother to inform readers that while her quoted ‘authority’ Magid Shihade is not an economist, he is a ‘one-stater’ who co-founded the ‘US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’ as well as (together with his wife) another pro-BDS group called ‘Pakistanis for Palestine’.

The Paris Protocol is seen by the BDS movement as part of the cooperation with Israel which it rejects and in 2007 PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) recommended that the BDS campaign “Build pressure on PA officials for ending normalization with Israel (end security coordination, rescind Paris Protocol on economic cooperation, etc.)”. It therefore comes as no surprise to see BDS campaigner Magid Shihade advocating the annulment of that treaty.

Unfortunately it is equally unsurprising to see the BBC amplifying a position taken by the anti-peace BDS campaign without full disclosure – as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – of the ‘particular viewpoint’ of the sole academic ‘expert’ quoted in this article.  

Related Articles:

BBC News’ ‘different side’ to Gaza is much of the same

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story

Late on November 19th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank listings” which was soon re-titled “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank settlement listings”.

One hundred and twenty-three of the article’s 422 words summarised the announcement put out by the company while 129 words described subsequent reactions from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat, the Israeli tourism minister and a relevant Israeli organisation.

One hundred and fourteen words were given over to background information, including the BBC’s standard partisan mantra concerning ‘international law’:

“The West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Readers were also told that:

“The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians see them as a major obstacle to peace and a barrier to a hoped-for Palestinian state on land which they occupy.

Israel says such an argument is a pretext for avoiding direct peace talks, and that the fate of settlements should be negotiated in accordance with peace accords signed with the Palestinians in 1993.”

Notably, despite having quoted Airbnb as saying that “…many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced”, the BBC did not find it relevant to tell its audiences about the people displaced from places such as the Gush Etzion communities, Beit HaArava or the Old City of Jerusalem just nineteen years before its selected start-date for Middle East history.

Without clarification of the fact that a PLO representative has in the past threatened legal action against Airbnb, readers were told that:

“Airbnb has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements.”

While those so-called “human rights campaigners” remained unidentified by the BBC, readers were not informed that Airbnb does business in numerous other disputed locations (for example northern Cyprus, Western Sahara) or whether or not those same campaigners have “criticised” those operations.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC found it appropriate to cite one of its most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – including images.

“The decision was announced the day before Human Rights Watch was set to publish a report examining Airbnb’s business in the settlements.

The organisation praised Airbnb’s decision on Twitter, hailing it as “a breakthrough”.”

The BBC did not bother to clarify to its audiences that the said ‘report’ produced by the political NGOs ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Kerem Navot’ is actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis which makes no mention whatsoever of Airbnb’s business in additional disputed locations around the world.

Related Articles:

The NGOs and Funders Behind Airbnb’s BDS Policy (NGO Monitor)

BBC News website’s SodaStream report sidesteps its own previous reporting

On August 20th the BBC News website published a report headlined “PepsiCo buys Sodastream for $3.2bn” on its Business and Middle East pages.

“PepsiCo has announced it is buying Sodastream for $3.2bn (£2.5bn).

Israel-based Sodastream makes a machine and refillable cylinders allowing users to make their own carbonated drinks. […]

PepsiCo will buy all outstanding shares of Sodastream for $144 each – almost 11% higher than its closing price in New York on Friday.

The stock has soared 85% this year after rising by 78% in 2017.

The takeover has already been approved by the boards of both firms. […]

If regulators approve the deal, it is expected to be finalised by January 2019, subject to a vote by Sodastream shareholders.”

Readers were not informed that SodaStream’s operations in Israel will continue as usual for at least 15 years. Neither were they informed that PepsiCo only entered the Israeli market in 1992, having previously conformed to the Arab League boycott.

Interestingly, the BBC’s report also refrained from mentioning that just four years ago, SodaStream was targeted by anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigners including a political NGO – a campaign which was vigorously amplified on the BBC News website and on other platforms in early 2014.

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage

As was noted here at the time:

“As its coverage of this story shows, the BBC has abandoned its role as a provider of news and information regarding the anti-Israel BDS movement and emphatically tied its colours to the campaigning mast.”

Related Articles:

Bolstering and airbrushing BDS on BBC WS ‘Business Matters’ – part one

 

 

BBC Business airbrushes abuse of foreign workers in Qatar

On March 27th the business section of the BBC News website published an interview with Qatar’s finance minister by the BBC’s economics editor, Kamal Ahmed, under the title “Qatar announces £5bn UK investment“.

“One of the largest investors in the UK has committed £5bn of new money to invest in transport, property and digital technology. […]

Qatar has already invested £40bn in the UK – it owns Harrods and a 95% stake in the Shard in London.

It also has a stake in Canary Wharf in the capital’s Docklands, as well as an interest in the Milford Haven liquefied natural gas terminal in South Wales.

It also bought the Olympic Village following the London 2012 Olympics.

“Currently the UK is our first investment destination and it is the largest investment destination for Qatari investors, both public and private,” Ali Shareef al Emadi, the country’s finance minister, told the BBC. […]

“We’re announcing an additional £5bn of investment in the next three to five years.

“Mainly this investment will focus on infrastructure sectors, technology, energy and real estate.””

The closing paragraphs of the 650-word article read as follows:

“Qatar has faced controversy over a fundraising for Barclays Bank at the time of the financial crisis and – more recently – allegations that poor labour conditions have marred the preparations for the 2022 World Cup which is being held in the country.

Mr Al Emadi said that Qatar had supported job creation in the UK.

“If you look at what we have done here, it has always been a win-win situation, whatever investment we do in the UK,” he said.

“When you talk about labour in Qatar, I think a lot of these things have been taken out of proportion and [are] inaccurate news.””

The phrase “controversy over a fundraising” is a very euphemistic portrayal of a story that involves an ongoing criminal investigation as well as a probe by the UK financial regulator.

Likewise, the phrase “poor labour conditions” is a highly evasive way of describing a story that has been covered extensively by many media outlets (including the BBC itself), NGOs and human rights groups alike. The Qatari minister’s claim that the issue of abuses of foreign workers in Qatar has been “taken out of proportion” and his allegation of “inaccurate news” are not questioned or challenged by Kamal Ahmed, thus allowing the interviewee the last (spun) word.

Moreover, this article does not include any additional information or relevant links relating to those two stories. The tag ‘Qatar’ appended to the article was apparently set up on the same day that this report was published and includes (at the time of writing) the grand total of three reports including this one, none of which relate to the two issues raised by Kamal Ahmed.

The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” and only recently the corporation claimed to ask “the questions others won’t”. The BBC’s funding public would therefore expect to be provided with accurate and impartial information concerning those two stories (and other controversial issues such as support for terror groups) in an article relating to a foreign state investor in UK infrastructure.

Related Articles:

BBC schmoozes Qatar

BBC playing wingman for Qatar’s damage control in the UK?

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part one

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

  

BBC ignores a good news story from Gaza

Last year the BBC World Service’s business department produced a series of highly politicised reports concerning the economy in the Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Notably, the BBC appears to be less interested in reporting some recent good news on the Gaza economic front.

“The Coca-Cola Company inaugurated its first bottling plant in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a facility which will eventually employ 270 people and indirectly support hundreds of households. […]

The new plant currently employs 120 workers, spans more than 15,000 square meters and contains a single bottling line capable of filling up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Over the next three years the company plans to introduce a second line and expand the number of workers to 270.”

The plant also provides additional employment opportunities:

“Expectations were high in the Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the opening of the plant not only because it meant an end to the import of coke products through border crossings, but also because of the 120 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs the plant brings to workers, suppliers and distributors.”

To date there has been no BBC reporting on that story. 

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Obviously not content with the previous amplification of propaganda rhetoric used by anti-Israel campaigners on BBC World Service radio last month, the BBC recently decided to promote business reporter Roger Hearing’s mainstreaming of the same ‘open air prison’ trope on several of its other platforms too.Hearing ice cream Gaza written

The June 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ includes a piece from Hearing introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 22:27 here) as follows:

“It’s nearly a year now since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks on Gaza in response – they said – to a series of rocket attacks launched from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding started soon after a ceasefire was announced last August but progress has been slow. A blockade on the territory imposed by Israel has delayed the arrival of construction materials. Roger Hearing has been to see how one business has carried on despite the difficulties.” [emphasis added]

So, in addition to casting doubt on the reasons for the outbreak of hostilities on July 8th 2014 (almost a month of incessant attacks on civilians, with hundreds of missiles fired rather than “a series”), Adie also fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, refrains from noting Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip and misleads audiences with the inaccurate claim that the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is because of Israeli restrictions on the import of dual use goods whilst making no effort to inform them of the terrorism which is the cause of those restrictions.

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ also has a BBC World Service radio version presented by Pascale Harter and Hearing’s report was featured in that programme’s June 20th edition too. Harter’s introduction to the item (from 17:55 here) was notably more accurate and impartial than the one heard by listeners to Radio 4.

“But right now, a glimpse of Gaza as you might not know it. It’s nearly a year since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks there after weeks in which hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were destroyed. It is a very difficult business environment but Roger Hearing finds one entrepreneur winning fame if not fortune.”

A written version of that audio report from Hearing was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Magazine pages on June 21st and in addition that version of the report was translated into Arabic and promoted on the BBC Arabic website.

All four versions of the report include overly dramatic, context-free descriptions from Hearing.

“…despite the apocalyptic destruction in parts of the city from last year’s war, you do also see a lot of giggling, playing children among the ruins.”

All four versions also fail to inform audiences that, in addition to ice cream making equipment, the Rafah area smuggling tunnels have of course been used to import weapons into the Strip and that metal piping of assorted types is regularly used by terrorists to manufacture missiles.

“He proudly showed us the shiny Italian gelato machines installed in the back rooms of his cafe building. When he was trying to import them, it was hard to convince the Israelis apparently that there wasn’t some other, more threatening purpose for the tall chrome boxes with pipes and chutes and nozzles.

It’s likely at least some of the machines were hauled through the tunnels under the border with Egypt, until that smuggling operation was closed down a few months back. Now that’s a strange image: young men in pitch darkness, sweating to drag huge boxes through rickety holes in the sand, and all so that Gazans could eat fine ice cream.”

Whilst BBC audiences remain serially unaware of Hamas’ activities in Judea & Samaria and in Turkey, they do now at least know that Hamas officials in Gaza like ice cream.

“Very nice,” said Ghazi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister for Hamas. “Everyone here knows Kazem’s.”

All four of these reports conclude with the same canard promoted by Hearing a month earlier in one of his radio reports from the Gaza Strip.

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” [emphasis added]

The Gaza Strip is of course not “besieged” at all and those who inaccurately describe it as “the biggest open air prison in the world” do so out of clear political motivations. Thousands of people exit and enter the Gaza Strip every year – as anyone who follows the daily reports publicized by COGAT online and on social media will be aware.

But, electing to ignore the facts behind the deliberate misnomer which he has so vigorously promoted over the past few weeks, Roger Hearing continues to mainstream the baseless rhetoric of anti-Israel delegitimisation in a style more suited to the Hamas supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s PR department than a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. The BBC is undoubtedly capable of identifying the motives and agenda behind the promotion of the inaccurate notion of Gaza as an ‘open air prison’. The fact that it chooses to adopt, amplify and repeatedly mainstream such propaganda on multiple platforms tells audiences all they need to know about the BBC’s supposed ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

Resources:

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter

Roger Hearing on Twitter

BBC World Service contact & complaints

BBC Radio 4 contact

How to Complain to the BBC

‘Lowbrow’, ‘Highbrow’ and the BBC

On September 30th the business section of the BBC News website produced an article described on its main homepage as being about “lowbrow click-bait”.

Click bait article

BBC business reporter Will Smale’s article (titled “Taboola: The internet firm at the forefront of ‘click-bait’“) opens:

“You may not have heard of a company called Taboola, but what it does may annoy you greatly.

“Controversial slimming pill sweeps the UK”, “15 inconveniences of being a woman”, “Nine people you won’t actually believe exist”, “Danger! Don’t watch this with your wife” – if you’ve ever seen any of these headlines screaming out at you, then you’ll be familiar with the company’s work.

Taboola is one of the main providers of sponsored stories on news and gossip websites.

When you scroll to the bottom of the page, there are picture and caption links to three, six or eight external stories, typically under the headings “More stories from around the web” or “You may like”.

More often than not the captions hoping to tempt you to click on them are just a little lowbrow, and the photos accompanying them typically show celebrities or women in bikinis (or both).

Critics have described Taboola’s (and its rivals’) content as “spam”, “click-bait”, “degrading”, “representing a race to the bottom” and many other derogatory terms.”

Whilst the pejorative term ‘click-bait’ is usually employed to describe material aimed at generating online advertising revenue, the method behind it is of course the presentation of content under an enticing ‘bait’ headline which raises readers’ curiosity to a level which causes them to click on the link.

Philosophically minded readers might care to ponder the question of the difference, if any, between that type of “lowbrow” click-bait and a recent example (from the end of August) of the BBC’s own use of the fashionably ‘highbrow’ equivalent of a celeb in a bikini when the then ‘hot’ topic of Gaza was used to prompt readers of the BBC News website to click on an article about immigration in Australia.

Click bait Gaza art

And if the BBC is going to engage in ‘highbrow’ explanation of Latin terms, audiences might of course be more impressed were it to do so accurately before publication That error has since been corrected. 

Click bait art pic

BBC Business covers one terror banking story, ignores another more close to home

On September 22nd a report titled “Arab Bank found liable by US court in Hamas attacks” was published on both the BBC News website’s Business page and its Middle East page.Arab Bank art

Here is what the BBC’s ‘Style Guide’ has to say about the use of the word Palestine in BBC reporting:

“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]

That point does not seem to be clear to the writer of this article who – although he or she did make refreshing and accurate use of the term terrorist – also misleadingly declared locations which have yet to have their status determined in negotiations to be ‘Palestine’ and led readers to believe that such a state existed as long ago as “the early 2000s”.

“A New York jury has found Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas.

As a result, the Jordan-based bank must provide compensation to victims of nearly two dozen terrorist attacks that Hamas carried out in Israel and Palestine in the early 2000s.” [emphasis added]

Another notable point about this report is that it (or any other currently appearing on the BBC News website) does not inform readers that the same court in the United States ruled on the same day that a similar case is to be reinstated. As Reuters and the WSJ reported:

“The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a federal district judge got it wrong when she threw out legal claims by about 200 U.S. victims of Hamas attacks who claimed that National Westminster Bank PLC provided banking services to a London-based charity with alleged ties to the group.

The lawsuit, which the Second Circuit sent back to federal trial court in Brooklyn, was filed under the Antiterrorism Act, a 1990 law that gives victims of international terrorism recourse in U.S. courts. […]

In the lawsuit, NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, is accused of maintaining bank accounts and transferring funds for the Palestine Relief & Development Fund, also known as Interpal, which the plaintiffs allege solicited funds for and otherwise supported Hamas.”

Although eight years have passed since the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ documentary on Interpal, many of the issues it raised are still very relevant to the topic of this revived court case. If that did not spark the BBC’s curiosity, one might at least have expected that the British public’s interests in the RBS group would have prompted the corporation to cover this development. 

The one where BBC Business goes bananas

A filmed report by Jeremy Howell titled “Growing crops in drought conditions” which was shown on BBC television news programmes also appeared on the business page of the BBC News website last month.

Technion report

Howell opens his report by telling audiences:

“Travelling up the Jordan Valley and across the Galilee region to reach Haifa in northern Israel makes you aware how serious a problem water is for both Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. To grow the fruit and olives this region produces means taking millions of litres of water a year from the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan. Water volumes in both are at record low levels.”

Unless this report has been trapped in some kind of BBC vaults time warp for the past twelve years – i.e.  since November 29th 2001, when the Sea of Galilee reached its lowest recorded level of -214.87 m – Howell’s latter statement is clearly inaccurate. In fact in early 2013 the water level in the Sea of Galilee reached an eight year high and on November 17th 2013 – the date of Howell’s report – it stood at -211.39 m: 161 cm above the lower red line and 101 cm above the level on the same day the previous year. Since then, the recent storms have added a further 10 cm to the water level. In other words, those “record low levels” are nothing but a figment of Howell’s imagination.

Howell continues:

“But a solution to this area’s currently unsustainable demand for water could be at hand inside this greenhouse on the roof of a building at the Haifa Technion.”

If readers are wondering about the source of Howell’s dubious assertions of “currently unsustainable demand” for water in Israel, a clue to that will come later on. Howell then goes on to interview Professor Shimon Gepstein in connection with his work promoting drought-resistant qualities in plants. 

Howell later goes on to say:

“Plants which need 70% less water to grow could mean a welcome drop in extraction levels from the endangered Sea of Galilee and River Jordan. But Gidon Bromberg of ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ is worried the new technology might encourage ever more land in Israel and Jordan to be used to raise water intensive crops like bananas.”

It would of course have been appropriate for Howell to mention at this point that ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ has an ongoing campaign concerning the Jordan River and that the organization is not apolitical.

“FoEME supports the Palestinian call for UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, in peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel.

This is in keeping with FoEME’s longstanding position supporting a two-state solution in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, including mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian rights to two separate states based on the 1967 borders.

As far as Water Justice is concerned FoEME has developed its own Water Accord and is leading a campaign under the message that “Water Justice Cannot Wait”. “

The report then cuts to Gidon Bromberg:

“We want efficient use of water resources but then we need to look at the broader question of sustainability. So the growing of bananas in the midst of a semi-arid part of the world doesn’t make much sense. Israel is, you know, top class when it comes to efficiency and the rest of the world has a lot to learn, but on the other hand when it comes to sustainability, Israel is not where it needs to be.”

Some species of bananas have been grown in Israel since the tenth century. Currently, bananas are grown in three main areas: the Jordan Valley around the Sea of Galilee, the Western Galilee and the coastal plain. Practically all the 60,000 tons or so of fruit produced annually is for the domestic market: Israel does not export bananas. Of course some might say that it is in fact more ‘sustainable’ for Israelis to grow their own bananas rather than to import them from abroad with the associated ‘food miles’, in particular as methods are already in use which reduce the demand for water by 20 – 30%. Ironically, Howell interviews Bromberg whilst he is standing inside a banana grove using just such a method: special netting which provides shade from the sun’s rays, reduces evaporation and creates a micro-climate. 

banana netting

Howell continues:

“Professor Gepstein has sold the patents to his discovery to a Californian seed company Arcadia Bio. His real hope is for drought-resistant crops to be grown in the desert countries of the Middle East – in uncultivated areas of the Sinai, say, or the Sahara. It would boost world food supply and boost the incomes of local people. He’s asking Middle Eastern countries to collaborate with him to develop the technology. But for political reasons, most of them refuse to deal with Israel and they’ve ignored his offer. It’ll take time and delicate diplomacy to persuade them to use an Israeli discovery to help make their deserts bloom.”

What Howell neglects to inform BBC audiences is that Professor Gepstein’s discovery (first published, by the way, in 2007) is en route to a much bigger market unfettered by politically motivated self-defeating boycotts. 

“The drought-resistance technology was patented and licensed by the universities to Arcadia Biosciences, a California agro-tech company, which sublicensed it to seed companies that sell the engineered product in the United States and abroad. In July 2013, a Chinese patent was approved, paving the way for the Israeli-innovated technology in another vast market.”

This is the second BBC report in recent weeks which has promoted the agenda of ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ and in this case, the contribution provided by that organization adds nothing whatsoever to audience comprehension of the report’s subject matter. Once again, however, the BBC has neglected to conform to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of an NGOs political agenda.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

And of course Howell’s adherence to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy may have improved considerably had he taken account of FoEME’s agenda and hence avoided repeating such embarrassing inaccuracies about “record low levels” in the Sea of Galilee and “unsustainable demand” for water in a country now well on the other side of its former water crisis.

Related articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Recycled footage and messaging in BBC business reports from Israel

A filmed report for BBC television news by the BBC’s Middle East business reporter Jonathan Frewin from September 21st  was also posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Business pages and still appears on the former five days later. 

Frewin economy

Here is a screenshot from another report by Frewin which appeared on August 24th – spot the similarity? 

Frewin august

Not only footage is being recycled; the two reports include interviews with the same economist and the same unsourced predictions of population growth rate in the ultra-orthodox sector in Israel. 

Are BBC audiences really in need of two reports on this internal Israeli issue in less than a month?