Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Among the topics (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’ was that of cuts in US aid to Palestinians – particularly via the UN agency UNRWA.

Nearly two weeks before any official US announcement was made the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was already framing the topic for listeners in an item that purported to examine the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”

January 3rd, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

“As we see, listeners to this item heard three views in all – two from Palestinians and one from a think-tank fellow with a record of being less than neutral. No American or Israeli views were sought by the programme’s producers. Audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.”

On January 16th the BBC News website reported that:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say.

It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 16th, BBC News website:

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background (see also here)

“While…relevant background was withheld, the BBC’s article did amplify reactions from former UN official Jan Egeland and the PLO. […] Obviously BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions on this particular story so long as the BBC continues to refrain from providing them with the relevant background concerning the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that they have been denied for so many years.”

The next morning the top story in the various editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ was described as follows:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say. It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 17th, ‘Newsday’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

The interviewees heard by listeners were as follows:

05:06 edition: Jan Egeland (Norwegian Refugee Council), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

06:06 edition: Antonio Guterres (UN), Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO)

07:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

08:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

09:06 edition: Jonathan Schanzer (FDD), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

10:06 edition: Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

“The majority of the opinions heard…were strongly critical of the [US] decision and the sole exception was in the contributions from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. […] Obviously that imbalance in itself compromises the BBC’s claim to produce impartial reporting “reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion“. Moreover, listeners heard numerous inaccurate and misleading claims from both Gunness and Barghouti that presenters made no attempt whatsoever to challenge or correct. No attempt was made to raise any of the serious issues surrounding UNRWA’s functioning and agenda despite their clear relevance to the story.” 

The BBC News website published two additional reports on the same story:

January 17th & January 26th, BBC News website:

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

Four days later, an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

January 30th, BBC News website:

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

“…just 72 words in Yolande Knell’s 882 word report were devoted to the provision of superficial background information on UNRWA. […]  While content provided by UNRWA staffers Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and (former BBC employee) Chris Gunness makes up nearly half of Yolande Knell’s 882 word article, once again this PR item amplifying UNRWA’s campaign against the US administration’s reduced donation fails to provide BBC audiences with the full range of impartial information concerning the UN agency that is needed for broader understanding of the story.”

In February UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, was given a long slot on BBC WS radio.

February 19th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

“Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.”

In May BBC WS radio audiences heard Yolande Knell interview the Jordanian minister of information.

May 9th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.”

The following month listeners to the same programme heard Nada Tawfik promoting UNRWA PR.

June 13th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

“To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.”

In late August the BBC WS radio programme ‘Newshour’ once again presented preemptive framing of a US announcement that had not yet been made in a long item that included an interview with the Jordanian foreign minister.

August 30th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

“This interview with a senior minister from a country where some 40% of UNRWA clients live could obviously have been employed to provide BBC audiences with much-needed enhancement of understanding of the background to the ‘UNRWA in financial crisis’ story that the BBC has been reporting since January. Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s record on this story, once again that opportunity was passed up.”

The US announcement on August 31st was covered in a written report published on the same day in which readers saw quotes from the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness and the then PLO representative in Washington.

August 31st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

“Once again BBC audiences did not see an explanation of the changes to UNRWA’s mission over the years which have created the situation in which the number of people registered as refugees has grown rather than diminished in 70 years.”

That report was replaced by another one the next day.

September 1st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

“…16.3% of the report’s word count was given over to criticism of the US decision from various Palestinian factions, including the PLO (together with a link) and the Hamas terror group. An additional 48 words were used to describe Palestinian denunciation of previous unrelated US Administration decisions. A further 13.7% of the report’s word count was devoted to amplification of statements from UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness, meaning that in all, 30% of the article was devoted to informing BBC audiences of condemnations of the US move.”

Listeners to BBC WS radio on the same day also heard from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.  

September 1st, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

“…BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged UNRWA messaging together with promotion of Palestinian talking points in a long item which once again did little to contribute to their understanding of the background to this story.”

Also in September an edition of a BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme included an item billed “where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration”.

September 23rd, ‘Sunday’, BBC Radio 4:

More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

“Yet again BBC audiences were denied information concerning UNRWA’s problematic record and were given no insight into the background to its politically motivated perpetuation of the refugee issue. Yet again BBC audiences heard no discussion of why citizens of the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas are classified as refugees and deliberately kept dependent on foreign aid.

However, in this item Radio 4 listeners heard more than an academic discussion. They heard a significant contribution from the “head of marketing and fundraising” at an NGO that is raising money for this particular cause – a cause that was repeatedly portrayed to the Sunday morning audience as the right “moral” choice.”

As the above examples show, the BBC’s coverage of this story was both generous and blatantly one-sided. While repeatedly providing platforms for UNRWA officials and supporters, the corporation made no effort to explain the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that are the context to the story.

In other words, the BBC’s approach to this story, which ran for much of 2018, was to self-conscript to a political campaign rather than to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to reach their own informed opinions on the topic.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

Revisiting another of the BBC’s 2018 campaigns

 

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BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

BBC News website reporting on Operation Northern Shield has to date been confined to the one article published on the day the operation began, December 4th.

Under the sub-heading “What do we know about the operation?” the last version of that report told BBC audiences that:

“Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the activity was focusing on the border town of Metulla, with the area declared a closed zone.

He said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were concentrating on a tunnel which began in a Lebanese civilian home, was at least 200m (650ft) long, and ran 40m inside Israel.

The IDF announced the start of the operation, dubbed Northern Shield, on Twitter, with video footage showing heavy machinery boring in unidentified locations.”

As noted here previously, that report failed to inform BBC audiences of the important fact that the tunnels dug by the terror group Hizballah in southern Lebanon are a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Since that article appeared visitors to the BBC News website have seen no further reporting whatsoever. They have not been shown the video footage of Hizballah operatives inside the first tunnel discovered, they have not been told that the tunnel mentioned in that sole report reached within walking distance of the Israeli town of Metulla and they have not been informed of the support for the operation expressed by a variety of foreign governments.

Neither do BBC audiences know anything of a second tunnel identified on December 6th, a third tunnel discovered on December 8th or a fourth one exposed on December 11th.

Clearly BBC News is managing very well to avoid reporting this story to its funding public.

Related Articles:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

As the year’s end approaches we will be taking a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

One of the BBC’s campaigns began in late December 2017 and continued until March 21st 2018, with an encore on July 29th. It related to Ahed Tamimi who, together with other members of her ‘activist’ family, had been featured in BBC content in the past.

However, in this case the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC elected to lend its voice – and considerable outreach – to promotion and amplification of a blatantly political campaign. 

19th December 2017, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video

Both items discussed here.

“To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.”

1st January 2018, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video

Discussed here.

“Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.”

1st January 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

“…the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.”

3rd January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Discussed here.

“No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.”

8th January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

In this report from Yolande Knell, listeners heard from former IDF chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsh who noted the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. They also heard interviews with an Israeli MK, Tamimi’s lawyer, Tamimi’s father and statements from a member of an anti-Israel NGO.

“Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.”

17th January 2018, BBC News website, Yolande Knell:

Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen

Discussed here.

“The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.”

31st January 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, BBC News website, Jeremy Bowen:

Is a slap an act of terror?

Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?

Both discussed here.

“Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.”

5th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

13th February 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial

Discussed here.

“However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge.”

13th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, James Reynolds

Discussed here.

“All the more significant is the fact that he [Reynolds] failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.”

21st March 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal

Discussed here.

“…BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.”

Between December 19th 2017 and March 21st 2018, the BBC produced at least thirteen written, filmed or audio reports on that topic: clearly an unusual volume of coverage clearly intended to secure audience attention.

All the written and filmed reports (eight) included the word “slap” (or derivatives) in their title – an indication of what the BBC wanted audiences to think the story was about and how perception of the story was manipulated. Several of the reports told BBC audiences that Tamimi was imprisoned because of a ‘slap’ while failing to adequately explain – or even mention – the most serious charge against her: that of incitement to violence. Only one of the reports (BBC Radio 4, January 8th) provided audiences with a reasonable explanation of the charges against Tamimi.

The reports included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor. In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists such as B’tselemJonathan PollackAmnesty International, Avaaz (including a link to a petition set up by Tamimi’s father) and Human Rights Watch.

The BBC returned to the story in late July, with the same editorial policies in evidence in four additional reports.

29th July 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

Discussed here.

“…once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.”

29th July 2018, BBC World News TV, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

29th July 2018, BBC News website, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view.” 

29th July 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this latest instalment of the Ahed Tamimi story, the fact that the charge of incitement was the most serious of the charges against her – and its details – was erased from audience view.”

Throughout the BBC’s generous coverage of this story, audiences saw her described as “a prominent child activist“, a “star on social media”, “a modern-day Joan of Arc“, “a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation“, “a national icon” and “the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance“.

BBC audiences were told that Tamimi is to be seen as “standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands” and “standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land” and that her aim is “to resist the occupation“.

The one-sided politicised campaigning that BBC audiences saw instead of objective coverage of this story is a slap in the face for journalism and – not least in light of the BBC Middle East editor’s campaign contribution – detrimental to the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy media outlet committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

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BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

 

 

 

 

BBC again passes up on Palestinian affairs reporting

When, on October 23rd, the BBC News website recycled an NGO’s report about torture carried out by “Palestinian forces” we observed that:

“While it is obviously refreshing to see this issue getting some exposure on the BBC’s website […] it is nevertheless notable that this is not a report by the BBC informing its funding public about the serious topic of torture conducted by Palestinian factions but the recycling of a report by an external organisation.

And so, BBC audiences still await serious, original BBC reporting on this issue as well as on other aspects of internal Palestinian affairs.”

Since that article was published the opportunity for the BBC’s locally based reporters to produce just such original reporting has arisen.

“A Palestinian court on Thursday extended the detention of a hunger-striking Palestinian-American activist who claims she was tortured in captivity.

Suha Jbara, 31, a US citizen born in Panama, shuffled into the Jericho courtroom with her head down, appearing ashen and weak. Her father and son reached out to embrace her but were restrained by Palestinian authorities. […]

She told the advocacy organization Amnesty International that after arresting her from her home in a midnight raid, Palestinian authorities tortured her and deprived her of water, sleep and medicine she needs for a heart condition. She said security officials threatened her with sexual violence and forced her to sign a document admitting to charges she says are false.”

Despite Jbara’s case having been taken up by Amnesty International – which the BBC is usually happy to quote and promote – BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of this story.

The same is true of a story concerning another US citizen who has been in Palestinian Authority custody since October.

“Issam Akel, who is also an American citizen, was arrested in Ramallah earlier in October by the Palestinian security forces for suspected involvement in the sale of a house in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, near Herod’s Gate.”

Another story seemingly related to alleged land sales is that of Ahmed Salama who was shot dead on December 7th.

“A Palestinian man was shot to death on Friday in the Israeli Arab town of Jaljulia, and police are looking into suspicion that he was murdered due to his occupation as a seller of land plots in the West Bank to Jewish settlers. 

The man, who has been identified as Ahmed Salame, was a Palestinian hailing from the West Bank who married a Jaljulia resident. Anonymous perpetrators opened fire from a short range on the car he was driving.”

The fact that BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of any of these three stories should not come as much of a surprise given that only very occasionally are they provided with reporting on Palestinian affairs which is not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and coverage of social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is extremely sparse. 

Related Articles:

A second hand BBC News report on Palestinian torture

Two stories that fall outside BBC framing

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during November 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 645 incidents took place: 106 in Judea & Samaria, 8 in Jerusalem, two within the ‘green line’ and 529 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 89 attacks with petrol bombs, 12 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), five arson attacks, three shooting attacks, one vehicular attack and four stabbing attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 7 attacks with petrol bombs, 5 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack and eight grenade attacks. One attack using an anti-tank missile and 506 incidents of rocket or mortar fire took place during November.

One soldier was killed and fourteen people injured – eight members of the security forces and five civilians.

The BBC News website reported the incidents which took place in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on November 11th, 12th and 13th including rocket and mortar fire and the launch of an anti-tank missile at a bus.

BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

A BBC report dated November 14th includes a brief mention of an unspecified number of grenades thrown by a man trying to infiltrate the Gaza Strip-Israel border.

Among the attacks which did not receive any BBC coverage were a shooting attack on a bus near Beit El on November 7th in which two civilians were injured, a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on November 14th in which four border policemen were injured, a stabbing attack near Beit Jala on November 20th in which one man was injured, a vehicular attack on November 26th in which three soldiers were injured and an attack in Eilat on November 30th in which two civilians were injured.

If we take the BBC’s reporting of the rocket and mortar attacks launched between November 11th and 13th as having covered all the 506 incidents (although the number used in BBC reports at the time was 460) it is possible to say that the BBC News website reported 79.8% of the terror attacks that took place during November.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has reported 31.67% of the terror attacks that have actually taken place and 91.7% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2018

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

Just before 9:30 pm on the evening of December 9th a drive-by shooting terror attack took place at a bus stop outside the town of Ofra. A pregnant woman was seriously injured and six other victims sustained moderate or light injuries.

“In security camera video of the shooting, posted to social media, a white car is seen slowing down near the bus stop, after which bullets can be seen striking the crowd who scramble for cover. The car, which comes to a stop for a few moments while the shooting apparently continues, then speeds off down the road as IDF soldiers are seen running to bus stop.

The car from which the shots were fired was believed to have at least two occupants.

The IDF launched a manhunt for the terrorists.”

Doctors had to perform an emergency delivery on the pregnant woman who had been shot in the lower abdomen.

“The baby, who was delivered by Cesarean section in the 30th week of the pregnancy, was immediately transferred to the ward for premature babies at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the hospital said, and was said to be in “stable” condition.

The woman was undergoing surgery late Sunday and was “fighting for her life,” the hospital said.

“She arrived in a state of shock and had lost a lot of blood,” said Dr. Alon Schwartz, a surgeon at the hospital. “She has a gun shot wound in the lower stomach area,” he said adding that doctors continued to operate on her.”

Unfortunately, the baby’s condition later deteriorated.

“Initially said to be in a “stable” condition, the hospital said Monday the baby’s condition worsened and he was now attached to a ventilator and was undergoing treatment in the neo-natal intensive care unit.

The 21-year-old mother underwent surgery late Sunday and was initially said to be “fighting for her life” after she suffered wounds to her upper body, but on Monday morning the hospital said her condition had stabilized.

However, Professor Yonatan HaLevy, Shaare Zedek medical director, cautioned that both the mother and child “have a long way to go before they are out of danger.””

Shortly after the attack had taken place it was lauded by Hamas.

‘“The heroic Ofra operation is an affirmation of our people’s choice and legitimacy in resisting the Zionist occupation and its settlers,” Abdelatif al-Qanou, a Hamas spokesman, posted on his Facebook page. “It proves that any attempt to condemn the Palestinian resistance will fail in the face of the desire and valiance of our Palestinian people.”’

In the twelve hours since the shooting attack took place at least nine new articles have been published on the BBC News website. The story of a terror attack on Israeli civilians has to date not been one of them.

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BBC News website ignores fatal terror attack in Gush Etzion

 

 

BBC’s Bateman recycles the ‘cultural censorship’ theme

There is nothing remotely novel about the BBC telling its audiences dark (but inaccurate) tales of supposed cultural censorship in Israel.

On December 4th the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman returned to that theme with a report (another version of which was also promoted by Bateman on Twitter) aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced by presenter Ritula Shah (from 36:37 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Shah: “Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev is taking on the Israeli arts world, accusing some of pursuing anti-Israel narratives in state funded works or even of glorifying terrorism. So what happens when the state takes on the often subversive world of art? The story recently reached its [unintelligible] over the fate of the government bill that would see such productions defunded. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Failing to correctly pronounce the name of the theatre at which he recorded the piano music listeners heard at the beginning of his report, Bateman began:

Bateman: “Soothing tones in Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theatre but they barely muffle the battle cries close by. This stage is on the front line in Israel’s culture wars – or as some here would have it, the war on culture waged by the government. The target of opprobrium for the actors is Miri Regev; Israel’s combative culture minister.”

Following a recording of an excerpt from a play, Bateman went on to refer to “Israel’s so-called cultural loyalty bill”, asserting that:

Bateman: “The planned law has been a flagship for the former military censor turned minister of culture, Miri Regev.”

He continued:

Bateman: “This scrap between politicians and performers has tugged at old tensions in Israel over free expression against the demands of national security, over the nationalism of the right versus claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority – all in a bill that would allow the culture minister to strip public funds from works seen as inciting violence or insulting the symbols of the state.”

So is Bateman’s portrayal of the bill accurate? At no point in this report did he bother to tell BBC audiences that the bill is actually a proposed amendment to existing legislation – the Culture and Arts Law of 2002.

The proposal is an addition to that law which would allow the minister of culture and sport to reduce or cut state funding to a body which engaged in any of five activities which are already defined in an existing law passed in 1985 when the prime minister of Israel was (the hardly ‘right-wing’) Shimon Peres.

Clause 3b of the Budget Principles Law already allows the minister of finance (after consultation with the appropriate minister, legal advisors and after hearing the relevant body) to reduce or cut state funding to bodies which act “against the state’s principles”.  The actions which would justify such a decision include negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, inciting racism, violence and terror, supporting armed conflict or terror acts against the State of Israel by an enemy country or a terrorist organisation, presenting Israel’s Independence Day or day of founding as a day of mourning and acts of vandalism or physical debasement which harm the honour of the country’s flag or state symbols.

The bill proposed by Minister Regev states that any cultural body has the right to choose to engage in any of the above activities – i.e. freedom of expression – but that the minister of culture and sport would have the authority to decide that the state would not fund such activity.

Tom Bateman, however, continued his tale of supposed cultural censorship.

Bateman: “A play at the Tmuna Theatre has been in the culture minister’s sights. She demanded it pull the production about the Arab-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour who was jailed earlier this year for inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. Tatour’s defence team said at the time her trial amounted to the criminalisation of poetry. The play’s writer, Einat Weitzman, accuses the minister of curbing the artistic freedom to portray a complex national history.”

After listeners have heard from Weitzman, Bateman continues with his caricature of the proposed bill.

Bateman: “But why, asks the culture minister, should arts elites and the left-wing get public money for siding with what she sees as an anti-Israel narrative? Self-flagellation she calls it.”

While Bateman did not include any response from the culture minister herself or her office in this report, he did – like his Middle East editor before him – go to the trouble of interviewing a junior MK with no direct connection to the story – Oren Hazan – before presenting a his version of a story from 2016.

Bateman: “Artists have protested, finding ever more curious ways to satirise the culture minister’s dislike of funding anything that insults the symbols of the state. A performer called Ariel Bronz took to the stage after Miri Regev gave a speech two years ago and bared his backside, into which he inserted an Israeli flag.”

The account given by the Ha’aretz newspaper – which organised that event – is somewhat different.

“At the beginning of the conference, which was held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Bronz performed a selection from his show “Love the Juice,” which is being staged at the Klipa Theater and shows the “upheaval” his alter ego undergoes – from an enthusiastic left-wing activist to proud Zionist who decides to act to bring Jews to Israel.

The scene, during which Bronz stripped and was left wearing only a short pink skirt, aroused fury among some guests who started booing him. At one point, he pelted them with oranges that he had squeezed as part of the act. Chaos erupted and there were calls to remove him from the stage. Later, he was asked to conclude the scene but he claimed the amount of time allotted to him was not over and insisted on remaining onstage.

Bronz then began waving a small flag and, according to him, then spontaneously inserted it into his backside in front of the audience. In the end, security guards came and ushered him from the stage.”

Only at the end of his almost five-minute-long report did Bateman (using typically contorted metaphors) bother to mention that the proposed bill which is the subject of his report is actually no longer news.

Bateman: “The bill though has been sinking amid the waves of political crisis crashing around Israel’s coalition government. At a heated press conference last week Miri Regev accused fellow ministers prepared to derail it of giving state cash to what she called terrorists and Jew-haters. She postponed a vote on the bill and its future is now uncertain. Loyalty, it seemed, was not forthcoming from some fellow ministers – let alone from the rebellious world of art.”

The postponement of voting on the bill took place on November 26th. Nevertheless, nine days later the BBC found it appropriate to promote a tale of a “war on culture”, “nationalism of the right” and “curbing artistic freedom” while airbrushing many of the details necessary for audience understanding of the complete story.

Related Articles:

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How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

 

 

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

BBC News website reporting on the so-called ‘Great Return March’ commenced on March 30th, peaked in May and has continued at a lesser intensity since then.

While during the first four months of reporting visitors to the website did not see any reporting from the Gaza Strip that was not specifically related to those events or other security-related issues, in the four months between August and November 2018, some more generalised reporting from Gaza appeared on the BBC News website.

Interestingly, all those reports included at least one of two specific themes. [emphasis added]

August 2018:

Gaza’s history-making female runner“, 15/8/18, discussed here

“I’m still training but because of the siege I cannot go outside the Gaza Strip. I cannot compete in international races.” […] “For the past four years no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside.”

Bullet shatters Palestinian cyclist’s Asian Games dream”, 28/8/18, discussed here

“Alaa’s dream was to represent Palestine at the Asian Games. But an Israeli bullet put an end to his dream. On 30 March, Alaa was taking part in what has been called “The Great March of Return” at the Gaza-Israel frontier. The protest campaign expresses support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

September 2018:

Gaza’s abandoned airport in ruins”, 12/9/18, discussed here

“The airport was destroyed by Israel during the Second Intifada. The International Civil Aviation Organisation condemned the destruction of the airport and urged Israel to allow it to reopen. Gaza currently has no functioning airports.”

Gaza family: ‘Our children suffer to get a bottle of water’”, 27/9/18, discussed here

“There are fresh warnings about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where there are severe water and power shortages.

A new World Bank report says the economy is in “free fall”.

Meanwhile, deadly protests have resumed along the Gaza-Israel border and the situation “could explode any minute”, according to Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.”

October 2018:

Gaza: Coding in a conflict zone“, 1/10/18

“For more than a decade, since the Islamist movement Hamas took full control, Gaza has been kept under a tight blockade by Israel and Egypt, for what they say is their own security. There are controls on goods allowed in and out and on travel.” […]

“The protests began with a demand for Palestinians to return to their ancestral land that now lies in Israel, but many believe they have been fuelled by the desperate situation.”

How coding is helping young Gazans find work“, 6/10/18

“Over a decade ago, a blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt was tightened, when the militant group, Hamas, took full control. Today, the local economy is broken and it’s difficult to get a permit to travel.”

“These young people are working their way around Gaza’s blockade.”

Gaza grenade collector: ‘We’re planting life from death’“, 20/10/18, discussed here

“This is the border between Gaza and Israel. Palestinians have been protesting since March 2018 in support of the declared right of return for Palestinian refugees.”

 “Gaza protest image likened to famous Delacroix painting”, 25/10/18, discussed here

“Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting weekly along the border with Israel since March. The protests, orchestrated by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, are held in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

November 2018:

What is ‘Green Cake’ and why did this woman invent it?“, 2/11/18, discussed here

“[concrete blocks for building]…are usually made from cement, sand and gravel (or aggregate). But all that has to come from Israel which tightly restricts imports on security grounds.”

Gaza Strip’s only concert grand piano makes music again“, 21/11/18, discussed here

“Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt, who cite security concerns.”

As we see four of those ten reports concerning the Gaza Strip which appeared on the BBC News website between August and November inclusive included references to the so-called ‘right of return – but without any explanation the true significance of that Palestinian demand.

Seven of the ten reports included portrayal of counter-terrorism measures in terms of restrictions (actual or not) on movement of people or goods and/or shortages perceived (rightly or not) to result from those measures, but without any proper explanation of the terrorism which made them necessary.

As the JCPA noted one month after the ‘Great Return March’ rioting had begun: [emphasis added]

“Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official and member of the Hamas political bureau, defined the three main objectives of the return marches in Gaza: inculcating the right of return among the Palestinian people and the younger generation, thereby giving a focus to the struggle against the “occupation;” torpedoing the “deal of the century,” President Trump’s diplomatic plan for resolving the Middle East conflict; and breaking the embargo on the Gaza Strip.”

Remarkably, all BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip throughout the past four months has amplified themes relating to at least one of those objectives.

 

 

Two stories that fall outside BBC framing

Early this month a serious road accident took place in the Jordan Rift Valley in which six Arab residents of Jerusalem were killed. One of the deceased was however refused burial by Muslim religious authorities in Jerusalem.

“Ala’a Qarash was one of six people killed in a collision between a truck and a minibus on Highway 90 two weeks ago.

The Palestinians accused Qarash of being a “traitor” for allegedly selling property in Jerusalem to Jews, and Jerusalem’s [former] mufti, Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, determined Qarash did not deserve a proper burial at a Muslim site. […]

Sabri noted in his ruling that “anyone who sells (property) to Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City is no longer part of the Islamic faith, we will not accept his repentance, and he will not be buried in a Muslim cemetery.”

After the accident, the bodies of the Arab casualties were brought to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount for a special prayer, but the Waqf refused to allow Qarash’s body into the mosque. For the same reason, many other mosques in east Jerusalem refused to hold Qarash’s funeral service.”

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem later stepped in, approving Mr Qarash’s burial in a Jewish cemetery in the city.

Another story relating to property sales was reported by the Times of Israel last week.

“A Palestinian Authority court in Qalqilya on Wednesday sentenced two Palestinians convicted of selling land to Israeli Jews to 15 years of hard labor.

“The court sentenced F.A.E. and A. Kh. M. from Kafr Thulth in the Qalqilya Governorate for the crime of leaking land to the enemy,” a memo on the PA High Judicial Council’s website said, referring to the two convicts by their initials and using the Arabic term to allude to selling land to Israeli Jews. “The court…sentenced the convicts to 15 years of hard labor.” […]

Palestinian law considers attempting to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews a punishable offense.

According to the law, possible punishments for trying to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews include different degrees of hard labor and execution.

However, the law requires that PA President Mahmoud Abbas approve any death sentence, and he has not signed off on any executions since 2006.”

Similar sentences have also been handed down in the past.

With such stories falling outside the BBC’s tightly framed narrative on ‘settlements’ it is unsurprising to see that neither has received any BBC coverage. 

 

More of the same Gaza framing from a BBC Jerusalem correspondent

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ on November 23rd heard an item which was rather clumsily and confusingly introduced by presenter Jonny Dymond (from 26:03 here).

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

Dymond: “Nearly six thousand residents of Gaza have suffered bullet wounds over the course of this year as Israeli soldiers have attempted to drive them back from the tightly packed strip of land in which they live and southern Israel – the border between the two. Most of those injuries are to young men who have been hit in the leg – shot in the leg. All of them require medical assistance of course and doctors in Gaza have become pretty adept at treating such injuries, assisted by John Wolfe, a retired consultant vascular surgeon from St. Mary’s Hospital in West London. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Over the past eight months we have repeatedly documented the fact that the BBC has downplayed or erased Hamas’ role in initiating, organising and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

As has also been recorded, the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting – including under 18s – have been shown to have links to Gaza Strip based terror factions has likewise been downplayed and ignored by the BBC. Violent incidents have been serially ignored and the BBC’s editorial approach to this story has been to portray it as one that is about ‘peaceful protesters’ killed by Israel’s armed forces.

The audio report produced by Tom Bateman adhered to that editorial approach.

Bateman: “[…] this British vascular expert is surrounded by Palestinian surgeons. For them, the delicate skills needed to operate on damaged arteries has become all the more urgent this year. Last Friday we waited outside northern Gaza’s main hospital. Young men, some with bullet wounds to the leg, were brought in from protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. The demonstrations began in March over a declared Palestinian right to return to ancestral homelands from the blockaded Strip. Israel sees them as a violent attempt to breach the fence, stirred up and exploited by Gaza’s militant leaders. It defends the use of live ammunition, pointing to attacks against its troops. Since March more than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. In July an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. While the scale of the protests has lessened, each week still sees new casualties. This is another case coming in while the protests at the fence continue.”

A filmed version of the same report employs the same framing.

Bateman: “This is a conflict that has changed even more lives this year. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered bullet wounds during protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. It has put intense pressure on Gaza’s hospitals. [….] Palestinians have protested since March, demanding a right to return to ancestral homelands from the blockaded Strip. Israel defends the use of live ammunition, pointing to violent attacks against its troops, stirred up – it says – by Gaza’s militant leaders.”

So as we see Tom Bateman has managed to produce two reports without mentioning Hamas by name and without clarifying the role of that terror faction and others in the organisation and facilitation of the weekly violent rioting. Bateman also failed  to clarify to audiences that the project with the self-proclaimed aim of having millions of people ‘return‘ to what he terms “ancestral homelands” – without explaining that he actually means Israeli territory – is designed to eradicate the Jewish state.

While the British surgeon remarked that “this volume of severe injuries is something that most countries never see” in both versions of the report, Bateman made no effort to explain to BBC audiences that those injuries could have been avoided had Hamas – which is also in charge of the local health system described by Bateman as “already under huge pressure” – not planned, encouraged, facilitated and financed this particular terror project.

In conclusion, BBC audiences heard and saw two ICRC approved reports on the work of a British surgeon which once again predictably erased context crucial for full understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

Why did the BBC News website erase an accurate statement?

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)