BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Readers of a BBC News website article titled “May raises concerns with Israel over Gaza violence” which appeared on the ‘UK Politics’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on June 6th (with the tag “Gaza border clashes”) were probably rather confused when they saw a reference to burning fields.

“Responding to her [Theresa May’s] comments, Mr Netanyahu said the problems in Gaza were “rooted in the fundamental goal of Hamas to destroy Israel”.

He added: “We are not witnessing a peaceful protest. In addition to burning our fields, these people are being paid for and pushed by Hamas to try to break into Israel’s defences, kill as many Israelis as they can when they get through the border and kidnap our soldiers.” [emphasis added]

Photo credit: KKL

We have previously noted here that BBC audiences have seen no coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ arson attacks that have destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural land, crops, nature reserves and woodland in southern Israel.

“Since the “March of Return” protests began along the Gaza border at the end of March, hundreds of kites and helium balloons have been flown into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land, though no injuries have been reported.

Israeli officials have said fires have destroyed over 17,500 dunams (4,300 acres) of land, the majority of it in nature reserves and parks.

There have been at least 285 separate fire incidents in the KKL/JNF nature reserves since April 11, burning 3,000 dunams (740 acres) of conservation area in the Beeri and Kissufim forests, Ben David [of the JNF] said. According to the Nature and Parks Authority, a total of 10,000 dunams in parks and reserves in southern Israel have been torched, including the KKL/JNF parks. Fires also burned an additional 7,500 dunams (1,800 acres) of farmland, mostly cattle grazing areas but also parts of some fields. […]

Israel’s Tax Authority said the agricultural damage alone stood at NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) and that damage caused to nature reserves and other land could drive up the figure.”

On one occasion the BBC changed a photo caption, thereby turning an image depicting “a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz” into one telling BBC audiences that “Israeli soldiers patrolled along the Gaza border”.

However, sharp-eyed visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 7th may have noticed that a photograph captioned “Flaming kites sent from Gaza during the protests have burnt 2,250 acres of land in Israel” was included in a report titled “Israel blames Iran for Gaza border violence“.

The original caption to that photograph clarified what type of “land in Israel” has been burned:

“Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire that ignited at a field as a result of a Molotov cocktail kite that was sent from Gaza Strip few kilometers from the border with Gaza near Kibbutz Or Haner, in southern Israel, 05 June 2018. Media reports that after a cease-fire was achieved between Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza on 29 May 2018 Palestinians from Gaza continue to send Molotov kites to the Israeli territory and cause damage to thousands of acres of agriculture and nature reserves in Israel as Palestinians mark the ‘Naksa Day’ or the so-called Six-days war.”

The arson attacks have continued since the BBC published that photo caption on June 7th but as we see, after two months and hundreds of arson attacks causing damage to thousands of acres of crops, agricultural land, woodland and nature reserves – including wildlife – the BBC has managed to come up with the grand total of just sixteen words on that story.

Related Articles:

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

 

 

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Superficial BBC News reporting from Qatar hinders understanding

Plucky: Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

The article promoted by the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief in that Tweet appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the headline “Qatar cash and cows help buck Gulf boycott“. Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell after a visit to Doha, the report includes a video about a dairy farm in Qatar in which BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The cows were shipped, and even flown into Qatar when it was cut off by its Arab neighbours. They accused it of supporting terrorism – which it denies.”

In the article itself readers find the following:

“On 5 June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off all diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar.

They accused it of supporting terrorism, stirring up regional instability and seeking close ties with their arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar denied that and refused to comply with a long list of demands, including closing its Al Jazeera news network. […]

“The main thing that the blockading states are aiming for [is] a power consolidation in the region,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tells me.

They started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The exact same messaging is seen in the synopsis to a filmed report that also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th.

“Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says “they started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The same statement opens the filmed report itself.

So what information were BBC audiences given that would help them judge whether there is any truth in that repeatedly promoted claim, according to which accusations of support for terrorism are merely a smear because Qatar is “different”?”

Knell’s portrayal of the issue begins with a year-old story.

“Qatar blames the start of last year’s crisis on what it says was a cyber-attack on its state-run news agency, which published comments purportedly from the ruling emir.

He was quoted as expressing sympathy for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and claiming that Donald Trump might not last long as US president.

However, analysts say the roots of the disagreement go back much further.

“This was an issue that was kept bottled for 20 years but it just came out in the open a year ago,” says Ali Shihabi, the Saudi founder of the Washington-based, Arabia Foundation.

He refers to tapes that emerged after the fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which appeared to show the Qatari emir’s father plotting against Saudi royals when he was ruler.

Mr Shihabi says that Qatar reneged on agreements to stop payments to dissidents in other Arab countries and gave them a platform on Al Jazeera.”

Who those “dissidents” are and what they ‘dissented’ remains unclear in Knell’s report.

Significantly, Knell made no effort whatsoever to inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s record of negligence on terror financing. Neither did she bother to tell audiences about Qatar’s selective definitions of terrorism, its hosting of senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood figures or Qatari leaders’ ties to a terror financier.

As one Middle East analyst put it earlier this year:

“Qatar is on a charm offensive designed to portray itself as a victim of rivalries in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies have isolated the emirate. […]

The problem with Qatar’s attempt to rebrand itself as the moderate state being victimized by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar has never come clean about its support for Hamas and terror financing. “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability,” U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said at the Center for a New American Security in March 2014. He said that fundraisers for Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, then known as Nusra Front, had operated in Kuwait and Qatar.”

Yolande Knell’s superficial reporting clearly does nowhere near enough to enhance the ability of the BBC’s funding public to look beyond that charm offensive. Quite the opposite in fact: it provides back wind for Qatar’s rebranding campaign.

Related Articles:

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

Right at the end of the May 29th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ listeners heard a short item relating to the mortar and rocket fire by terror groups in the Gaza Strip that had, at the time of broadcast, been going on for over nine hours.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that report – from 51:03 here – as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “And just before we go, there has been some significant activity on the border between Gaza and Israel. The BBC’s Tom Bateman joins us now on the line from Jerusalem. Ah, Tom, this has been the heaviest military exchange of fire for some time.”

Located over a hundred kilometres away from the scene of the events he was reporting, Tom Bateman began in typical BBC ‘last-first’ mode by describing Israel’s response to – by that time – four rounds of attacks on civilian communities. In line with BBC editorial policy he refrained from describing the people responsible for those attacks as terrorists.  

Bateman: “Yeah, well this is a series of Israeli airstrikes that the Israeli military is describing as its largest response in Gaza since the war of 2014. It says it carried out airstrikes on 30 targets. Eh…speaking to colleagues in Gaza City…I mean they heard very loud explosions over a period of about three hours from around lunchtime. The Israeli military says it’s been targeting militant…ah…groups’ sites there and this follows this morning…ehm…rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Now most of those mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system but at least two landed in Israeli communities…eh…and one – the Israelis say – in the garden of a children’s nursery that was empty at the time. But the Israeli prime minister said there would be a forceful response. The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that this has been a massive and powerful strike and it seems that rocket alert sirens are continuing in southern Israel, so there are signs that this may escalate yet further.”

Notably the first three barrages (at around 07:00, 08:00 and 09:30 local time) got just fifty words of coverage from Bateman, who did not bother to inform listeners how many mortars had been fired (28) but added the unnecessary qualification “the Israelis say” to his portrayal of the landing site of one of them. By the time Bateman’s live report was aired, the IDF had announced the destruction of a cross-border tunnel but ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing of that.  

Iqbal: “And nothing, no…eh…statement from Gaza at all yet?”

Bateman: “Well we know that, as I say, there has been an escalation since…on Sunday an Islamic Jihad military post was targeted by the Israelis. Three Islamic Jihad militants were killed in that but we await further statements from the groups in Gaza themselves.”

The BBC did not report on that incident on May 27th and so audiences would be unaware of the part missing from Bateman’s account: the fact that the Israeli fire on the PIJ observation post came after the terror group had planted an explosive device on the border fence.

Iqbal: “Tom Bateman joining us live from Jerusalem on that increased military activity – heavy exchange between Gaza and Israel.”

Still located in Jerusalem, Bateman returned to report on the same story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 50:14 here). Presenter Julian Marshall stuck to the BBC’s editorial line by failing to inform listeners that over 80% of the people he portrayed simply as “Palestinians” were linked to terrorist groups.  

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

Marshall: “And we go now to Israel’s border with Gaza: the scene earlier this month of mass protests during which more than a hundred Palestinians were killed by Israeli live fire. And there’s been a further upset of violence today with massive Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in response to a barrage of shells from Palestinian militants. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman began with the inaccurate claim that “sirens sounded across southern Israel” when in fact that they were initially confined to areas close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “Well it was early on Tuesday morning that…ah…rocket sirens sounded across southern Israel. There was then a…what Israel describes as a barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Now most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were more than 25 fired all together but at least two landed in Israeli communities. Israel is saying one landed in the…in a kindergarten yard. There was no-one there at the time. And after this, which the Israeli military has described as…ehm…the biggest event of its kind from the Gaza Strip since the war in 2014, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised a forceful response and then around lunchtime for around three hours there were intensive Israeli airstrikes at locations across the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says that they targeted more than 30 sites. I was speaking to colleagues in Gaza City. I mean there were incredibly loud explosions that could be heard from there and it appears these were targeting – as far as the Israelis were concerned – Hamas and Islamic Jihad military sites. They believe that most of the rocket and mortar fire had come from Islamic Jihad and from Hamas as well.”

Two and a half hours before this programme went on air it had already been reported that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks. Bateman’s description of that as something that “the Israelis…believe” is therefore both superfluous and misleading. Failing to adequately clarify that the IED was placed at the border fence by PIJ activists, he continued:

Bateman: “That…it appears to have been in response to an event on Sunday when Israelis fired tank fire at a military post inside the Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad members. That, the Israelis said, was in response to an explosive device being laid at the Gaza perimeter fence. And so what you have here is a serious escalation.”

Marshall: “And will it escalate further, Tom?”

Bateman: “Well this is a question that was asked of the Israeli military this afternoon and they have said – which is what they always say in these events – that they do not seek an escalation but they won’t tolerate missiles – rockets or projectiles – coming from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities. Now there were more rocket sirens whilst Israeli airstrikes were going on. More interceptions it seems and the Israeli media is reporting that at least three Israelis have been wounded from shrapnel. They don’t seem to be very serious injuries but of course that may yield yet another wave of responses from Israel.”

By the time that report from Bateman was aired residents of the western Negev had been rushing to shelters for sixteen hours and at least 70 rockets and mortars had been fired into Israeli territory with more hits recorded than the two mentioned in this report. The number of projectiles portrayed in Bateman’s report – “more than 25” – was accurate thirteen and a half hours before it was aired. Once again listeners heard nothing about the cross-border tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Egypt and then into Israel which had been destroyed some seven hours previously.

Obviously the total of just over five minutes of reporting that BBC World Service audiences heard in these two editions of ‘Newshour’ did not provide them with the full picture of this story – and not least the fact that the two organisations that initiated the violence with massive mortar attacks are terrorist groups rather than “militants”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

Over the past few weeks we have documented some of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ events that began at the end of March. Between March 30th and early May, BBC reporting was sporadic but as the anticipated May 14th climax approached – and with it the chance to promote the notion of linkage between the pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – the pace of coverage increased, as the examples below demonstrate.

Tuesday, May 8th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, (from 02:18:25 here) interview by Mishal Husain with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.

Husain: “Why are your soldiers using live ammunition to shoot people on the other side of the fence? [….] The Israeli rights group Adalah […] says that […] there’s been systematic use of live fire with no justification.”

Wednesday, May 9th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 0:14:00 to 0:20:30 here) discussed here

Friday, May 11th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: live broadcast from Jerusalem with Martha Kearney (from 08:09 here)

Sunday, May 13th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Sunday’: broadcast from Jerusalem with Edward Stourton (from 00:13 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Weekend’ with Julian Worricker (from 04:40 here) discussed here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 00:53 here)

Monday, May 14th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newsday’: live broadcast from Jerusalem (here)

BBC News website: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” – discussed here

BBC News website: “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” 

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: with Justin Webb and John Humphrys (from 0:34:00 to 0:38:15, from 1:48:30 to 1:57:30 and from 2:43:30 to 2:48:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:35 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:13:00, from 0:14:00 to 0:20:45, and from 0:30:00 to 0:49:30 here) – discussed here, here, here and here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 00:11 to 0:23:00 and from 0:26:30 to 0:42:45 here)

Marshall: “At 4pm local time the United States officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As the ceremony took place, more than 50 Palestinians protesting in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces.”

BBC World News, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:28 to 0:13:15 and from 0:31:00 to 0:41:30 here)

BBC Two, ‘Newsnight’ with Mark Urban (from 0:01:30 to 0:11:00 here)

Tuesday, May 15th:

BBC News website “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years“.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.”

BBC News website: “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” – discussed here

BBC News website: “What’s at the root of the protests in Gaza?” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here

BBC News website: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

BBC News website: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

BBC News website: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 0:07:45 to 0:08:30, from 0:10:15 to 0:13:00, from 0:48:15 to 0:54:15, from 1:09:00 to 1:13:30, from 2:10:00 to 2:21:30, and from 2:38:15 to 2:42:15 here)

“Palestinian officials say nearly 60 people died in Gaza yesterday, when Israeli forces opened fire as America opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.”

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’, with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:10 to 0:02:20 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:30 here)

“Funerals have been taking place for many of the Palestinians killed during protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel yesterday. The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned what it called the appalling deadly violence by Israeli forces who killed nearly 60 people.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:12:45 and from 0:30:00 to 0:42:45 here)

“As the funerals are held in Gaza of the 58 people killed on Monday by Israeli security forces, Hamas and the Israeli government blame each other for the violence – while both insist they want peace.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 0:00:40 to 0:14:00, from 0:30:00 to 0:43:00 and from 0:45:00 to 0:50:10 here)

BBC World Service, BBC OS, “What’s it like living in Gaza?

BBC Radio 4, ‘PM’ with Eddie Mair (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:15 and from 0:05:30 to 0:17:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’ with Ritula Shah (from 0:00:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:45 to 0:23:45 here)

BBC World News and BBC 4, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:00 to 0:13:20 here)

Wednesday, May 16th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 1:12:00 to 1:15:45 and from 2:43:00 to 2:44:45 here).

“The Arab League will hold emergency talks today, with some members calling for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court, for the massacre of 59 Palestinians at the border with Gaza on a single day.” [emphasis added]

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:25:00 to 0:31:45 here) – discussed here

BBC News website, BBC One ‘News at 10’, BBC News Channel, “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here.

BBC News website: “Gaza: The history behind the anger” by Paul Adams

 

On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15thHamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.”

Also on May 16th, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he admitted that “many” of those involved in the May 14th incidents “took off their military uniforms” and went on to say:

“When we decided to embark on these marches, we decided to turn that which is most dear to us – the bodies of our women and children – into a dam blocking the collapse in Arab reality, a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity, which occupies our Jerusalem, plunders our land, defiles our holy places, and oppresses our people day and night.”

In other words, by late afternoon on May 16th it was known that fifty-three of the 62 people reported killed on May 14th had been claimed by the terror organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One would of course have expected the BBC to have given that information equal prominence to its repeated claims of a “massacre” and “slaughter” of “Palestinian protesters”.

However, at that point the BBC did a disappearing act.

On May 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” which makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of those killed were members of terror groups [ see ‘updates’ below] and BBC World Service and domestic radio programmes dropped all coverage of the story.

So perhaps the BBC was not aware of the fact that over 85% of those killed had been claimed by terrorist organisations? In an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired on May 18th – presented by Jon Donnison (from 17:14 here) – we discover that the corporation was perfectly aware of Bardawil’s statement.

Donnison: “Now the UN’s Human Rights Council has voted for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli forces in Gaza this week. Health officials in Gaza say 60 people were killed by Israeli forces on Monday and a further 2,700 Palestinians injured, many of them with live fire. A Hamas official has said 50 of those killed were from the Islamist group which is in power in the territory. Israel has insisted that its response to the protests was proportionate but that is not the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who said Israel’s actions were wholly disproportionate. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’” in which it failed to state that the majority of those killed on May 14th had been claimed by terror groups while continuing to promote the notion that they can be described as “unarmed civilians”.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “massacres” of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which orchestrated the protests, for the deaths.” [emphasis added]

The public purposes laid down in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide its audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. In order to meet that obligation the BBC would have had to inform audiences of the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed a very high proportion of those the BBC spent days describing as “protesters” on multiple channels and platforms.

Significantly, it failed to do so.

Update: 

A reference to Bardawil’s statement appeared at the end of an article published on the BBC News website on May 18. A qualified reference to the statement was added to the article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” the day after its initial publication. 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

Last week we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was reported live in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’.

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

The same programme – presented by Razia Iqbal and available here – concurrently gave listeners a portrayal of events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on that day – as described in its synopsis.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. The clashes came as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. We will hear from both Palestinian and Israeli voices.”

That content related to two topics: what was happening along the Gaza border and why. In this post we will first take a look at the ‘what’: how the events themselves were portrayed.

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

03:34 Iqbal: “Thousands of Palestinians have gathered on the edge of the border between Gaza and Israel fanning out along the fence that separates Palestinian territory from Israel. There have been demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza, in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.”

Listeners heard a report from Yolande Knell who began by failing to inform listeners that the “Palestinian health officials” she quoted are in fact Hamas employees.

03:56 Knell: Well the latest we’re hearing from Palestinian health officials is that at least 37 people have been killed, one of them as young as 14. Many hundreds of people have been injured – several of them are journalists – and this, of course, is on top of at least 40 people who’ve been killed by Israeli soldiers during the past 6 weeks of protests…eh…during the demonstrations themselves. So really a very deadly day: the bloodiest day since the war in Gaza back in 2014.

Knell – who had previously been described by Iqbal as being in Ramallah – refrained from describing the events in the BBC’s own words.

Knell: “We’re hearing there are about 35,000 Palestinians spread across 12 locations. These are figures from the Israeli military. They say that Palestinians are throwing fire bombs, burning tyres and throwing rocks along the border. They said that they are sticking to what they call the usual rules of engagement. They have been warning they expected hundreds of Palestinians to try to approach the perimeter fence, to try to cut their way through it and break into Israeli territory and they made it clear that they would open fire in such cases to stop people from attacking the fence and from possible attacks being carried out on the Israeli communities that live nearby.”

She went on to promote the view of additional people not actually present on the Gaza border but, like her, commenting from Ramallah.

Knell: “But the PA government is accusing the Israeli military of carrying out a terrible massacre in Gaza.”

That portrayal of Israeli army statements from Yolande Knell in the first five minutes of the programme was in fact also the last account listeners heard of what the Palestinians at the border were actually doing. Throughout the rest of the programme they heard a series of context-free statements from Razia Iqbal such as the following during an interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel.

12:11 Iqbal: “If I could just get your response to what is happening not very far away from where the embassy is being inaugurated. Gazans are being shot dead by Israeli forces.”

13:22 Iqbal: “Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and more than a thousand injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. These clashes come as the United States formally opens its embassy in Jerusalem.”

At one point – as Haskel spoke of “violent riots in the attempt to break the border” – Razia Iqbal abandoned journalistic impartiality altogether:

15:07 Iqbal [interrupts, shouting]: “They’re unarmed, Sharren Haskel! They’re unarmed! It’s the Israeli forces who are armed and shooting at them.”

Listeners also heard a portrayal of the events along the Gaza border from yet another person located over a hundred kilometres away in Ramallah – Mustafa Barghouti.

16:46 Barghouti: “And now the Israelis are thinking that they got a green light from the Americans to do whatever they want. What we see today is a real massacre. So far Israel is responding to peaceful marches. They respond to us with lethal weapons. So far they killed 20 Palestinians and injured no less than 900.”

Despite the fact that many of those killed in prior bouts of rioting over the previous six weeks had been identified as members of Hamas and other terror groups (information that was not disclosed to listeners of this programme) Razia Iqbal provided Mustafa Barghouti with the cue to disseminate more propaganda.

19:11 Iqbal: “Those who speak on the side of Israel and Israeli security forces in particular will argue that Hamas is using in some cases children as human shields. Is there any truth to what they say?”

19:24 Barghouti: “Not at all. They are shooting civilians. The people who are killed are 30 years old. Some of them are children also. But no; people are marching peacefully. But Israel is shooting us. The world must take a stand here and must tell Israel enough is enough. You can’t continue to kill Palestinians as if they are not equal human beings.”

Later on in the programme Iqbal interviewed a Palestinian from Gaza.

33: 26 Iqbal: “Not very far from where people were hearing President Trump there are protests going on along the border between Gaza and Israel. We have just got through to a Palestinian activist. His name is Fadi Shamala…”

Shamala spoke of “tear gas” and “seeing hundreds of the youth are getting shot and killed”, claiming that:

Shamala: “More than 41 Palestinians is killed in these demonstration and more than also thousand of Palestinians were got injured.”

Referring to her first interview with Sharren Haskel, Iqbal asked:

34:41 Iqbal: “Fadi – so I was speaking to an Israeli member of the Knesset earlier and she was saying that the Palestinians are being provocative, they are armed and they are threatening Israel. Were you carrying a weapon today? Did you see other people who were protesting with you carrying weapons?”

After a sarcastic quip, Shamala replied:

Shamala: “No absolutely not. We were just thousands of Palestinian protesters who are unarmed. Just making a peaceful – a very peaceful – demonstration inside the Palestinian side. I mean they are till now are in the Palestinian side and around 3,000 journalists are seeing what is going on in the Palestinian side and also the activities of the demonstration, the protests themselves.”

During a later conversation with former Senator Joe Lieberman, Iqbal again gave a context-free portrayal of the day’s events:

41:07 Iqbal: “I wonder if I can just ask you to reflect then on the word ‘peace’ because today we are seeing Israeli forces shooting dead currently at least 16 protesters on the border between Gaza and Israel proper.”

41:52 Iqbal: “Since I did that interview with Senator Lieberman the number of Palestinians dead has gone up to 37.”

Later on, she repeated the exercise:

44:11 Iqbal: “Not very far from where the ceremony was taking place, dozens of Palestinians have been killed and more than a thousand injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border.”

Iqbal’s final interview was with the head of an American political NGO.

48:20 Iqbal: “And what do you think then is going to be the direct result of what President Trump has done? I mean we’re seeing today coinciding with the opening of the embassy, continuation of protests on the border between Gaza and Israel and the death toll of Gazans is going up by the hour. What are we to make of those two parallel – almost parallel – universes that are existing today?”

Freidman: “This is part of a shifting, a recalibration of relations around Israel-Palestine and we don’t know where it goes just yet. It is currently being measured in blood.”

As we see, BBC World Service audiences were presented with a very blinkered view of what actually happened along the Gaza border on May 14th. Yolande Knell told listeners that the IDF had said that “Palestinians are throwing fire bombs, burning tyres and throwing rocks” but BBC audiences heard nothing at all about the more violent incidents that took place before and during the time that this programme was on air – including attempts to breach the border.

  • “At around noon an IDF force near the fence in the Rafah region, the site of one of the main riots, prevented a three-man squad of armed terrorists from placing an IED. The force shot and killed the terrorists.
  • Also during the afternoon, two shooting attacks were carried out against IDF forces. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a Hamas post in the Jabalia region (northern Gaza Strip).
  • At around 1500 hours an IED exploded near the fence in the northern Gaza Strip. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked 11 Hamas targets. IDF tanks shot at Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip.”

BBC audiences did however repeatedly hear descriptions of “peaceful marches” and “protests” and were led to believe time and time again that the IDF was shooting unarmed civilians, with Hamas’ role in organising the riots mentions erased from audience view. On two occasions the events were described as a “massacre” – even as the BBC concealed the more violent incidents from listeners.

Like the programme’s portrayal of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the information and descriptions heard by BBC World Service listeners were obviously intended to steer audiences towards a very specific and one-sided understanding of events.

As Rod Liddle summed it up at the Times:

“Having listened to and watched the BBC news all last week, I am of the firm opinion that the fascist, apartheid state of Israel has been guilty of genocide against the peaceable Palestinian teenagers and toddlers who simply wanted to hold a kind of alcohol-free fundraising gala near that border fence, to celebrate diversity and niceness and raise money for worthy concerns. It is outrageous that the Israelis should have fired on unarmed civilians simply when they were running a tombola.

Some people will have been taken in by stuff less extensively reported by the BBC. Such as that more than four-fifths who were shot by Israeli soldiers were members of the terrorist organisation Hamas. Or that Hamas had ordered and in many cases paid demonstrators to breach the border and “tear the hearts out of the Jews”. Or that Egypt had summoned Hamas’s leader and told him to stop the bloodshed. Or that Molotov cocktails were thrown.

None of this has shifted my opinion, because it was not reported by our impartial state broadcaster. So it cannot possibly be true, can it?”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman discusses media coverage of the May 14th pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border:

“About 40,000 people answered a call to show up. Many of them, some armed, rushed the border fence. Many Israelis, myself included, were horrified to see the number of fatalities reach 60.

Most Western viewers experienced these events through a visual storytelling tool: a split screen. On one side was the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in the presence of Ivanka Trump, evangelical Christian allies of the White House and Israel’s current political leadership — an event many here found curious and distant from our national life. On the other side was the terrible violence in the desperately poor and isolated territory. The juxtaposition was disturbing.

The attempts to breach the Gaza fence, which Palestinians call the March of Return, began in March and have the stated goal of erasing the border as a step toward erasing Israel. A central organizer, the Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, exhorted participants on camera in Arabic to “tear out the hearts” of Israelis. But on Monday the enterprise was rebranded as a protest against the embassy opening, with which it was meticulously timed to coincide. The split screen, and the idea that people were dying in Gaza because of Donald Trump, was what Hamas was looking for.

The press coverage on Monday was a major Hamas success in a war whose battlefield isn’t really Gaza, but the brains of foreign audiences.”

BBC World Service radio of course does not have a literal split screen but the May 14th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ – presented by Razia Iqbal – certainly managed to create an audio equivalent of that “storytelling tool”.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. The clashes came as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. We will hear from both Palestinian and Israeli voices.”

The overwhelming majority of that hour-long programme was devoted to those two concurrently presented topics: the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the May 14th rioting along the Gaza border. In addition to Iqbal’s own commentary, listeners heard live excerpts from the ceremony at the new US embassy along with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and interviews with one Israeli MK, one Palestinian politician, one Palestinian demonstrator, a former US Senator and an American member of a political NGO.

In the two parts of this post we will look at how the former event was presented to BBC audiences and in a future post we will discuss the programme’s presentation of the second topic.

Razia Iqbal introduced the broadcast (from 00:11 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Our programme is dominated today by the city of Jerusalem – a city which embodies that very potent mix of religion, politics and history. Today – as we speak – the United States is inaugurating its embassy there following President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December last year. It could mark the beginning of a seismic shift in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status of Jerusalem is among the issues which remain open for negotiation in any final peace accord; as a recognition of how contentious it is. The Israelis regard the undivided city as their capital and the Palestinians – as well as international law – regard the east of the city as territory occupied by the Israelis after the 1967 war and there for the Palestinians to make as their capital of any Palestinian state. The new US embassy will be located in west Jerusalem but President Trump has said that his unilateral decision to recognise it as Israel’s capital takes it off the table. It is among several issues which now separate the United States from the rest of the international community. We’ll be getting views from all sides about what’s happening today, right now, and also what it means for a peace process which has long been dormant.”

Already in that introduction the themes which would be repeatedly emphasised throughout the rest of the programme were apparent. Despite the fact that, even as Iqbal spoke, tens of thousands of Palestinians were literally demonstrating the fact that they are not interested in a peace agreement by participating in an event promoting efforts to eradicate the world’s only Jewish state, for the BBC it was the placement of a new plaque on an existing US mission in Jerusalem which was the “seismic shift” and the factor which would affect the ‘peace process’.

Iqbal’s partisan portrayal of ‘international law’ was likewise a theme repeated throughout the programme, as was that of US ‘isolation’ from a touted ‘consensus’ within the ‘international community’. Notably, on the two occasions that she mentioned the name of the Jerusalem neighbourhood in which the US embassy is now situated, Razia Iqbal could not even be bothered to get its name – Arnona – right.

03:20 Iqbal: “Not very far from what’s happening in the Arona neigbourhood of Jerusalem where the new US embassy is going to be is quite a different scene.”

30:06 Iqbal: “In the past few minutes as the ceremony has been taking place in the Arona suburb of Jerusalem…”

At 08:26 Iqbal began a live interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel, asking her first for her thoughts on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. When in the course of her answer Haskel pointed out that “you cannot separate Jerusalem from the Jewish identity” and that the move is “very exciting”, an audibly hostile Iqbal (and one has to listen to it to appreciate the level of aggression) interrupted her.

Iqbal: “OK. So very exciting from your perspective. Arabs have also lived in Jerusalem for millennia. The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem…please let me ask a question Sharren Haskel. Please let me ask a question. And Arabs regard…Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as occupied territory – occupied illegally by Israel – and they see it as a possible future capital for a Palestinian state. What do you think about the view put by many people, including many in the international community, that the United States is joining the occupier in violating international law?”

The source of that “view put by many people” which Iqbal promoted became apparent minutes later when – at 16:05 –Iqbal introduced a notably less aggressive pre-recorded interview with BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti which will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

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

Ever since the BBC began covering the media-orientated ‘Great Return March’ at the end of March it has avoided providing its audiences with a clear picture of the bodies behind its conception and organisation.

BBC audiences have however heard repeated promotion of the theme of Palestinian ‘ancestral lands’ and that was again the case in the introduction given by presenter James Coomarasamy to a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was aired in the May 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 14:08 here). [emphasis in italics in the original]

Coomarasamy: “Protests along Gaza’s border with Israel are expected to reach their peak in the coming week as Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of what they call the catastrophe – the displacement of more than 700 thousand people following the creation of the State of Israel. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed and thousand [sic] injured during five weeks of demonstrations. Israel says that many of the dead were members of armed groups. Palestinians want the right to return to their ancestral homes which are now in Israeli territory. Israel rejects that demand, saying that it is a threat to its Jewish majority. Well, in the first of three reports about the key issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell considers the future of Palestinian refugees.”

Coomarasamy’s use of the euphemism “armed groups” obviously did not adequately clarify to listeners that some 80% of those killed during the six weeks of violent rioting to date have been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

Knell’s opening description of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop severely downplayed its violent nature.

Knell: “A young Gazan man is shot by an Israeli sniper and raced to hospital. Palestinians have been hurling stones at soldiers across the border here and launching kites carrying fire bombs. Israel’s army says its troops open fire to stop anyone trying to cross the perimeter fence illegally and to protect Israelis living nearby from possible attacks. I’ve come to find out what’s driving these deadly demonstrations.”

Obviously after making that latter statement any serious journalist would have clarified the involvement of various Gaza Strip based terror factions in the organisation of the weekly rioting but Yolande Knell instead uncritically painted precisely the picture that the agitprop’s organisers wish to promote.

Woman: “We want to go back to our land. Those are our lands that the Jews took and this is our right.”

Knell: “In the protest camp I meet Najla. Like most of Gaza’s 2 million residents, she’s a refugee.”

Woman: “We have to return to al Aqsa Mosque and all our lands. All of the land is Palestine.”

Failing to explain which party initiated the “Arab-Israeli war” or why, so many decades later, Palestinian refugees are deliberately kept in that status and in refugee camps, Knell went on:

Knell: “In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes as the Arab-Israeli war began. Today many of their descendants still live in refugee camps. Past peace deals promised a fair solution but there are questions about what President Trump will now put forward in his promised peace plan. Another protester, Mohamed Rantissi, says this Gaza action sends a message.”

Rantissi: “It came in the critical time when the world neglected our rights of return back. They are trying their best to dissolve this Palestinian issue by what is called the Trump [unintelligible].”

Listeners then heard a relatively rare mention of the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab lands

Knell: “Well I’ve moved now to Jerusalem’s bustling Mahane Yehuda market to get an Israeli perspective. Long before the country was founded this was a popular spot for Jewish stall holders who’d come from other parts of the Middle East but many more arrived in 1948 and the years that followed. They were Jewish refugees escaping persecution.”

Man: “We have the Kubeh soup which is sort of dumplings stuffed with meat in a vegetable soup. This is the most popular food because you have many Jewish Israelis that come from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds Jewish; this is the traditional food.”

Knell: “Moshe Shrefler works in his father’s restaurant Azura.”

Man: “My father was born in Turkey and was having a problem with the Turkish people because they didn’t like their Jewish neighbours and my mother she came from Iran with all the family. They left everything over there and they came here just to save their lives.”

Knell: “Jewish refugees left behind land and property in Arab countries and were absorbed into the new Israeli state along with Holocaust survivors from Europe. Like many Israeli politicians former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon argues that Arab states must now assimilate Palestinian refugees, making them citizens – as most aren’t at present – and he questions the way the refugees have inherited their status.”

Ayalon: “If really there is an earnest and honest will to bring about peace in the Middle East, I think there is only one humane, fair and logical solution for the Palestinian refugees and this is either to absorb them where they are – remember, we are talking about second, third, fourth generation, you know, so they should be Lebanese, Syrians or whatever – or, if there is a Palestinian state, these refugees, if they want to leave their host countries, should go into this Palestinian entity.”

Knell then revisited a subject that was covered very generously by the BBC back in January and February but yet again BBC audiences heard no in-depth reporting on the issue of UNRWA’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

Knell: “Here in Amman there’s a rally in solidarity with the protesters in Gaza. Across the Middle East there are 5 million Palestinian refugees supported by the UN agency UNRWA. This year UNRWA’s biggest donor, the US, cut the donations it planned to give, saying it needed to make reforms and now in Jordan there’s concern about what that could mean financially and symbolically. Muhammad Momeni is the information minister.”

Momeni: “We have more than 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan and hundreds of thousands of students in UNRWA schools.”

Knell: “So how worried is Jordan about this big hole in UNRWA’s finances?”

Momeni: “We’re very worried. Not only because it will immediately reflect on the type of services but also because it’s a political commitment by the international community to resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees. If you stop financing UNRWA, basically you are telling the world that you are not committed to this issue any more and according to international resolutions, this is a final status issue and it must be dealt with through negotiation and in a way that will bring justice to them.”

Knell refrained from making any effort to clarify to listeners to which so-called “international resolutions” Momeni was referring – and whether or not they actually exist.

Knell: “Back at the Gaza protest camp there’s traditional Palestinian dancing. Here the case for right of return is uncompromising but Israel rejects that demand, pointing out it would destroy its Jewish majority. Leaks on previous peace talks suggest they focused on compensation for Palestinian refugees and return for just a token number. It remains to be seen what Washington will propose on one of the most painful issues in this long-running conflict.”

As we see, notwithstanding that rare mention of Jewish refugees, Knell’s report was essentially superficial. She failed to clarify that the whole point of the demand for ‘right of return’ is the destruction of the Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees have for decades been used by their leaders as pawns to further that aim. UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.  

While giving the impression of balance with her visit to Mahane Yehuda and interview with Danny Ayalon, Knell nevertheless managed to both avoid the real issues behind the topic she ostensibly set out to ‘consider’ and promote a portrayal of the topic that amplifies the messaging of the ‘Great Return March’ organisers.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

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

 

 

 

Political messaging in BBC Sport report on bike race

On May 3rd a report by BBC Sport correspondent Tom Fordyce concerning the Giro d’Italia cycling race was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page as well as on the BBC Sport website.

Titled “Giro d’Italia: Chris Froome in spotlight at start in Jerusalem“, the report included amplification of statements made in a press release put out by an NGO with a long record of anti-Israel campaigning that is frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC.

“Others see little more than a concerted effort to present an image of Israel to the world at odds with the reality. Amnesty International has accused Israel of trying to “sportwash” its reputation, as protests continue in the Gaza Strip that have so far led to the death of 35 Palestinian protestors.”

Obviously the ‘Great Return March’ events which Hamas and other terror groups have been staging weekly since the end of March have nothing whatsoever to do with the cycling race that is ostensibly the topic of this report but Fordyce nevertheless chose to amplify Amnesty International’s opportunistic false linkage and delegitimisation.

Moreover, the report also included ‘analysis’ from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which likewise encouraged sports fans to view the sporting event in a political light.

Yolande Knell’s promotion of the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied territory” predictably fails to inform visitors to the BBC Sport website of the all-important context of the internationally rejected belligerent Jordanian occupation of that district and additional parts of Jerusalem. And so, once again, the BBC’s funding public got a dose of politically partisan messaging with its ‘news’.

Related Articles:

BBC quotes Amnesty International accusation that Israel is “trying to ‘sportwash’ its reputation”  UK Media Watch

BBC’s preferred terminology hinders audience understanding

The April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook‘ included an item by Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell (from 37:30 here) about a dog shelter in Beit Sahour which has been the topic of reports by other media outlets in the past.

Beit Sahour is located in Area A and has been under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. However that relevant fact was not mentioned at all throughout the item, which was introduced by presenter Jo Fidgen using the term ‘occupied West Bank’.

Fidgen: “On nearly every street in the occupied West Bank you see stray dogs wandering about or scrapping or lounging in the sun. From time to time they’re hit by cars or abused by humans. And then what? There are vets in the West Bank but many of the surgeries are poorly equipped and anyway they’re more geared up for treating farm animals than pets. But one Palestinian woman has made it her mission to look after them. Our reported Yolande Knell went to the West Bank dog shelter to meet her.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide recognises that the geo-political divisions in the region are “complicated”:

“…the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority […]. These are complicated to work out because of the division of the West Bank into three areas…” 

One would therefore have thought that following Fidgen’s use of the unhelpful broad brush term ‘occupied West Bank’, listeners would be given a more precise description of the location of the story they were hearing – but that was not the case.

Knell: “We’re on a patch of wasteland at the edge of Beit Sahour, just outside Bethlehem.”

Knell: “Just give us an idea of the problem here in the Palestinian areas…”

That meant that when listeners later heard the answer to a question posed by Knell to her interviewee, they had no idea that the “government” to which she referred is the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “What needs to be done here to change attitudes towards animal welfare?”

Babish: “It needs time, it needs also the government to support this.”

The same BBC Academy style guide recognises the political implications of the term ‘occupied West Bank’:

“It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.” 

Nevertheless, the fact that the BBC chooses to use that particular terminology – together with the fact that it more often than not fails to adequately clarify to audiences that the vast majority of the Palestinian population in what it terms the ‘occupied West Bank’ lives under the rule of the Palestinian Authority – does not contribute to audience understanding of stories such as this.

Another aspect of this report may also have confused listeners.

Babish: “Basically I go to Israeli clinics and hospitals because they have the medical labs, they have x-rays, they have efficient doctors. Here we lack all of these so that’s why I take the dogs over there.”

Knell: “Every week Diana goes to Israel to try and find homes for her dogs.”

BBC audiences have of course been told for years that Palestinians suffer from “major constrictions on freedom of movement“, that “freedom of movement is also restricted by hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles“, that “Israeli troops have also […] severely restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians” and of “the challenges of mobility in the West Bank“.

Now however they suddenly hear about a Palestinian woman who not only goes to Israel “every week” but also takes sick and injured dogs with her for treatment. Obviously BBC audience understanding would benefit from less simplistic portrayals of that topic too.

Related Articles:

Four BBC radio reports on the same topic promote politicised themes