BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel

The day after the chemical weapons attack in Syria that shocked the world, the man charged with making news from the Middle East “more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” took to Twitter to promote his own conjectures concerning the incident in Khan Sheikhoun.

Yes, the BBC’s Middle East Editor really is promoting the “theory” that the Assad regime slaughtered children in Idlib province because Israel has allegedly carried out strikes in Syria against Iranian/Syrian weapons shipments to the Hizballah terror organisation.

It is worth remembering that the man publicly promoting that bizarre ‘rationale’ is the gatekeeper of all ‘accurate and impartial’ BBC reporting concerning the war in Syria – as well as coverage of Israel.

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BBC’s Assad interview and the ‘related articles’

 

 

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

Two years ago the BBC’s Middle East editor conducted an embarrassingly unchallenging interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al that was promoted in filmed and written versions. Readers of the written report were told that:

“Although Hamas has opposed years of on-off peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Mr Meshaal said he and the group had agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state.”

In the filmed version, viewers found the following:

Bowen: “Do you think a two state solution is still possible between yourselves and the Israelis?

Masha’al: “Israel with its extremist leadership has killed the peace process, the two state solution and every opportunity for a political solution for the Palestinian cause. And if the West and the United States want to do something new, then they have to change the approach that they followed for years. The new approach should be pressuring Israel and not the Arabs and the Palestinians. We are not the ones who are responsible.”

Included in the written report was ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen which was repeated on radio:

“He [Masha’al] seemed to be calibrating his comments on the conflict with Israel to catch the prevailing mood of anger towards Mr Netanyahu in the White House, after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli Right in the last days of the election campaign.

Mr Meshaal called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

The claim that Hamas has embraced the two-state solution and “agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state” was of course as ridiculously far-fetched two years ago as it is now.

Nevertheless, one should not be surprised if that theme crops up again in BBC reporting in the near future because – as AP reports – the terror group is apparently in the final stages of creating a new PR stunt.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas has drafted a new political program it hopes will improve ties with neighboring Egypt and the West, and present a more moderate image that will help it get off Western terrorism lists.

The internationally isolated group, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for the past decade, characterizes itself in the manifesto as a Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli occupation, dropping references to holy war against Jews. It also raises the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The document plays down ties to Hamas’ parent movement, the regional Muslim Brotherhood, which is being targeted by Egypt’s government as a terror organization.

However, Hamas appears to have stopped short of a significant ideological shift amid concerns about alienating its hard-line base at a time when ultra-fundamentalist Islamist groups, such as the Salafists, are making inroads, particularly in Gaza.

The new program, to be made public at the end of the month, will not formally replace Hamas’ 1988 founding covenant, which called for the destruction of Israel and for “confronting the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews through jihad.”

Such language has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism.

In referring to a Palestinian state, Hamas does not spell out whether it considers this an acceptable solution to the conflict with Israel or a stepping stone to its longstanding goal of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.”

However, shortly after news of that revised programme broke, the terror group’s new leader in the Gaza Strip clarified the picture.

“Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that the terror group will not cease its conflict with Israel until “the liberation of all of Palestine.”

Speaking at an event marking the anniversary of the death of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004 in Gaza City, Yahya Sinwar said Hamas would not allow the State of Israel to exist on even a “morsel” of land.”

The man tipped to replace Khaled Masha’al was present at the same event.

“Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has vowed to pursue resistance to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian lands.  

“Resistance is our strategic choice to achieve aspirations of our people for freedom,” Haniyeh said in an address during a visit on Wednesday to the house of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City to mark the 13th anniversary of his death. […]

Haniyeh reiterated that his group will not abandon a “single inch” from Palestine.   

“Gaza is part of Palestine and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza and there will be no state without whole Palestine.””

That will be worth remembering if Jeremy Bowen or any other BBC journalist decides to similarly facilitate Hamas’ latest PR campaign or when the corporation next promotes the notion that Hamas accepts the two-state solution.

Related Articles:

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BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen saw no human shields in Gaza – but reports them in Mosul

The BBC has recently produced several reports concerning an incident in Mosul, Iraq, in which a large number of civilians are alleged to have been killed during a strike on ISIS forces.

Battle for Mosul: US investigating deadly air strike‘ BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The US military has acknowledged that aircraft of the coalition fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq hit a location in west Mosul where dozens of civilians were reportedly killed. […]

The US Central Command said the planes acted at the request of Iraqi security forces. It did not name which country’s aircraft carried out the attack.

In its statement, it said “an initial review of strike data” indicated that an air strike on 17 March was carried out in western Mosul “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.

The coalition “takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding the strike”, it went on.

The details of what happened are still unclear, but reports have suggested the strikes killed more than 100 people. The number of victims could not be independently confirmed.”

UN fears 200 died in coalition air strikes on Mosul‘ BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The United Nations has raised grave concerns about reports of high civilian casualties in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

A senior UN official in Iraq said she was stunned by accounts of “terrible loss of life”, after claims that at least 200 people had been killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition.”

Mosul offensive: Iraq denies air strike caused civilian deaths‘ BBC News website, March 26th 2017

“Iraq’s military has cast doubt on reports that an air strike by the US-led coalition caused the deaths of dozens of civilians in west Mosul.

Instead it blamed explosive booby-traps set by so-called Islamic State (IS).

The US said on Saturday that it was investigating an air strike on 17 March at “the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was in Mosul when those allegations concerning civilian casualties emerged.

Thousands flee Mosul over fear of air strikes‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news and BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The people who’ve been coming in have been talking about what they’ve been through. They’ve talked about airstrikes that have come in in the last few days and killed – as well as killing people from Islamic State – have killed hundreds of civilians. They’ve complained that the jihadists have used them as human shields. But they’ve also – in tears and in anger – spoken very bitterly about the effects of airstrikes on civilians. I spoke to multiple witnesses who said that there are perhaps hundreds of bodies still lying in the rubble that people can’t get to.”

‘No pause to attacks against IS’ in West Mosul‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news and BBC News website, March 26th 2017

“Earlier there were some suggestions that the Iraqis had paused their offensive because of the airstrike that killed so many civilians but the evidence here is that is not happening…”

“…I’ve seen them [Iraqi forces] using some quite primitive, inaccurate weapons. Now that may help when it comes to killing the fighters from the jihadist group Islamic State but if they’re inaccurate they may well also kill more civilians if civilians are in the area that is being attacked.”

Death is all around in Mosul‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC radio, March 27th 2017

Bowen: “He [interviewee Mahmoud] was furious that so many civilians had died in the airstrikes.”

Mahmoud: “They are still under the rubble. No-one has saved them yet. The airstrikes are non-stop. They are happening 24 hours a day. They are killing innocent people. Why are they attacking us? We did not do anything wrong.”

Bowen: “Do you think this is the way to fight Daesh – to fight Islamic State?”

Mahmoud: “It’s not the right way to fight ISIS because it doesn’t distinguish between civilians and ISIS fighters. The fighters are living among civilians. They enter the houses by force and when an airstrike hits it kills both the fighters and civilians. They use civilians as human shields.”

In July 2014 Jeremy Bowen produced several reports from the Gaza Strip concerning civilian casualties.

Israel defends Gaza military campaign‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 11th 2014

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100’  Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 11th 2014

“Israel says it tries hard to make sure civilians don’t get killed. It says it targets Hamas and its fighters. […] The UN human rights commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya  Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 12th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Belligerents are obliged under the laws of war to protect civilians. The UN has already asked whether Israel is working in the way that it should to fulfil those obligations. After the attack on the centre for the disabled, it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer.”

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 14th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Back in Gaza in the bombed fishing port, Raji Sourani – a Palestinian human rights campaigner – said Israel’s tactic of destroying the homes of men it says are Hamas fighters guarantees it will also kill non-combatants: neighbours, families, children.”

Sourani: “They know they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity – and deliberately. Intending to destroy houses where civilians living in it that’s totally illegal in a clear-cut way Geneva Convention article 52 paragraph 3.” […]

Bowen: “Smoke from burning buildings spread across Gaza as Palestinians buried men they said were fighting in a legitimate resistance. Israel calls them terrorists.”

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 14th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Israel says it goes after Hamas.”

Man: “That’s not true. It’s not true.

Bowen: “They’re children, said Munsar al Batsh [phonetic] – a cousin. It’s not logical they’d be Hamas.” […]

Bowen: “He rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”

After having left the Gaza Strip, Bowen penned an article for another media outlet in which he claimed to have seen “no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields”.

In contrast, in his reporting from Mosul Bowen was able to inform BBC audiences of ISIS’ use of human shields and did not find it necessary to promote either his own amateur opinions on the legality of the alleged incidents nor unproven accusations of deliberate targeting of civilians and ‘war crimes’.

Related Articles:

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How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

We have on many occasions documented the use of imprecise language in BBC reports which results in audiences being given inaccurate impressions of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Last September the BBC News website corrected one such article but the phenomenon remains widespread.

On February 2nd the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.” [emphasis added]

As the Jerusalem Post noted in its coverage of that February 2nd announcement:

“This would be the first new government-authorized settlement in the West Bank since the establishment of Revava near Ariel in 1991, when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister.”

On February 6th the BBC’s Middle East editor told listeners to BBC Radio 5 live that:

“Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses in existing communities and the establishment (so far not even on paper) of a “new settlement”.

Nevertheless, the day before that announcement was made, listeners to the February 1st edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ heard Owen Bennett Jones use the inaccurate term “new settlements” to describe the announcement of building in existing communities (from 50:22 here).newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Bennett Jones: “…And there is another big development we need to mention today. The Israeli government has announced thousands more housing units for settlers on occupied territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the evacuation of an outpost. Let’s hear now from Yolande Knell.”

Following Knell’s report of the evacuation of Amona, Bennett Jones continued: [emphasis added]

“And that was Yolande Knell from Amona and we’ve still got Tim Franks on the line. So all these new…ah…new units, housing units, new settlements and then that news from Amona – is any of this tied to the new president in the United States or is it all driven internally?”

Franks: “It’s both, Owen, because I mean the case over Amona has been dragging on for years. They were talking about evicting people from Amona when I was posted here and that was some years ago. Ahm…but undoubtedly all the announcements of thousands of new…eh…eh…eh…homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – yes; the Israeli government feels liberated by the…eh…the incoming Trump administration…”

It really should not be difficult for the BBC to ensure that its journalists are aware of the difference between construction in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages and “new settlements” and that they use precise language to describe the story they are reporting in order to prevent audiences from repeatedly going away with inaccurate impressions. 

BBC’s ME editor ditches impartiality in portrayal of ‘international law’

h/t RM

When Jeremy Bowen was appointed to the post of Middle East editor in 2005, that role was described as follows:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

On February 15th a report by Jeremy Bowen concerning that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister was broadcast on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’. Revisiting the ‘blank cheque’ theme he promoted days earlier on BBC 5 live radio, in that report, Bowen told viewers that:

“Before he was elected president Mr Trump seemed ready to give Israel a blank cheque on the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu authorised thousands more homes for Jews in the occupied territories, in defiance of international law, within days of Mr Trump’s inauguration.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences are used to reading and hearing the BBC narrative on international law which goes along the lines of:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

In this case, Bowen not only did not bother with the qualification “Israel disputes this” but, despite his remit of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”, failed to inform viewers of the existence of alternative legal opinions on that issue.  

Moreover, when challenged on Twitter, Bowen appointed himself legal expert, ruling that alternative views to the narrative he chooses to promote are false.

bowen-tweets-intl-law-3

The BBC knows full well that the legal position on this issue is not unanimous. The backgrounder on ‘settlements’ that was first published in late December on the BBC News website states:

“Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal.

The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people into occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power.

It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was preserved under the UN’s charter. […]

A UN Security Council resolution in December 2016 said settlements had “no legal validity and constitute[d] a flagrant violation under international law”. However, like previous resolutions on Israel, those adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter are not legally binding.”

Nevertheless, the man charged with enhancing BBC audience comprehension of ‘complex stories’ and providing information which would throw light on context that is ‘disputed’ obviously prefers to reduce this particular one to facile black and white.

This example raises an additional issue too. When the BBC covers stories concerning disputed territory in places such as Cyprus or in Western Sahara it does not find it necessary or appropriate to provide its audiences with an opinion on what is legal or illegal. The difference of course is that the BBC has not adopted a campaigning role in relation to those locations.  

 

BBC’s Bowen again misleads domestic audiences on UK PM’s statement

The February 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included a long item (from 02:36:48 here) ostensibly concerning the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London on that day which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]today-6-2

“The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in London today for a meeting with Theresa May. The prime minister is likely to restate Britain’s opposition to building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; this at a time when American policy towards Israel is undergoing a dramatic shift. Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu loathed each other. Mr Trump, in contrast, has vowed to be Israel’s best friend. He’s refused to condemn the building of settlements, he’s promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, going against decades of US foreign policy. From Jerusalem, Mark Lowen now reports.”

The ensuing audio report from Mark Lowen was very similar to his filmed report seen on BBC World News television in late January, including visits to the same locations and promotion of the same unbalanced messaging.

Listeners heard a recording of Obama claiming that “the growth of the settlements are [sic] creating a reality that increasingly will make the two-state solution impossible” followed by Lowen’s assertion that:

“The bond with Barack Obama plummeted as he increasingly saw the Israeli government as an impediment to peace. In his last press conference Mr Obama alluded to his final blow: allowing a resolution to pass at the UN against settlements, which violate international law.”

Lowen went on to present a partisan interpretation of the significance of the proposed relocation of the US embassy:

“Donald Trump has taken a far more pro-Israel position. He’s promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising Israel’s disputed claim over the whole city, although he is now lowering expectations on the issue.”

Reporting from Beit El, which he described as a “settlement on land the Palestinians want for a future state”, Lowen told listeners that:

“It looks like a regular suburb: seven thousand homes, a religious school and some buildings bearing the name Friedman – the family of David Friedman, the likely next ambassador here. He, Mr Trump and the president’s son-in-law have donated to Beit El.”

Once again, he did not inform listeners that the said Trump donation was apparently made back in 2003. Lowen also made a point of telling one of his interviewees from Beit El that “the Palestinians say it is also their territory; their ancestors also lived here”.

As was the case in his filmed report, Lowen visited the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi in Ramallah and listeners heard the same unquestioned portrayal of the supposed consequences of relocation of the US embassy.

“The language that we’ve heard, coming out as though Israel can do no wrong and that the US not only will be the patron of Israel but in many ways will be the partner of Israel in its illegal activities – is serious cause for alarm. If the US moves its embassy then there’s no reason to talk about any peace solution because it’s finished; it’s done for.”

Lowen’s audio report also included commentary from “the plot of land in Jerusalem that’s long been ear-marked for a potential US embassy” but again with no clarification of its position in relation to the 1949 Armistice lines.

Following Lowen’s report, the item moved on to a conversation with Jeremy Bowen in which he repeated some of the same themes promoted just minutes earlier on BBC Radio 5 live.

Robinson: “This issue of settlements: on the surface it appears that Trump is endorsing them and yet only the other day we were hearing that they ‘may not be helpful’ – in quotes. So is it quite as it seems?”

Bowen: “Well when they said ‘may not be helpful’ it was still a softening on what had been the long-standing American position – that they were an obstacle to peace.”

Neither Robinson nor Bowen provided listeners with an accurate representation of the statement put out by the White House press secretary on February 2nd which clearly used the phrase ‘may not be helpful’ in a specific context.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” 

Bowen continued:

Bowen: “I think the…until there is evidence to the contrary in terms of something a bit stronger than that – and I think that next week Netanyahu’s going to go and see Trump in Washington and, you know, we’ll see what comes out of that. But until there’s something really to the contrary, there is a distinct impression that Trump is prepared to give Mr Netanyahu carte blanche to go ahead with what he wants to do. But we’ll see…”

Robinson: “And that raises real…real questions for Theresa May. We saw in the UN the other day that Britain changed her historic position on settlements to try to get closer to Mr Trump.”

Of course the British prime minister’s remarks were not made “in the UN”, did not ‘change’ Britain’s “historic position” in the least and Robinson’s allegation of motive is at best highly debatable.

Bowen: Yes well, Britain supported a resolution in the dog-days of the Obama administration…err…which…err…condemned settlements and which the Americans very unusually abstained on; they didn’t veto. After that, even though it was a resolution that Britain had voted for and was also deeply involved in the drafting and presentation of, after that Number…Downing Street said that it was something that they…effectively Prime Minister May criticised Mr Kerry, then the Secretary of State’s condemnation of the expansion of settlements. And the Americans said well hang on a minute; that’s been British policy for a long time.”

Once again we see Bowen misleading listeners with an inaccurate representation of Mrs May’s remarks.

“[Downing Street] said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”

Moreover, listeners were then treated to some domestic political ‘analysis’ from Bowen based on his inaccurate misrepresentation:

Bowen: “Ah…I think that Britain has been floundering a bit on Middle Eastern policy in the last couple of months because there’s been a lack of consistency.”

Robinson: “In part is that not because, beyond the small print of this or that UN resolution, the really big stakes here are these, aren’t they: is Trump going to call time, along with Netanyahu, on the goal of Western foreign policy for decades: a two-state solution, a Palestinian state?”

Bowen: Well all…yes…I mean he might do that or it might not be quite that abrupt. He might just simply pay lip service to it while allowing things to happen which would make it impossible. There are plenty of people who believe that a two-state solution is now impossible anyway because of the volume of settlement, because of the way that Jewish settlements have…have encircled that part of Jerusalem that the Palestinians want for a capital and that Mr Netanyahu himself – who’s been prime minister for an awfully long time – while he says he wants a two-state solution, he does everything he can to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

Robinson: “Jeremy Bowen…”

Bowen: “So there are plenty…so there are lots of people now talking about a one-state solution which might be tough for both sides.”

Robinson: “Jeremy Bowen; thank you very much indeed.”

As we see, twice on the morning of February 6th domestic audiences listening to two different BBC radio stations were misled by Bowen with regard to a statement made by their own prime minister.

Moreover, it is abundantly clear that the occasion of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London was in both cases used as a hook for yet more promotion of the now standard politically motivated narrative according to which the two-state solution is solely endangered by Israeli actions.

Were Jeremy Bowen truly committed to providing BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would meet the corporation’s remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding” of this particular international issue, he of course would not have concealed from view no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority incitement, Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state and the Hamas-Fatah split.

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‘What’s he doing here?’ – BBC 5 live breakfast on Israeli PM’s London visit

h/t RS

The February 6th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast programme included an item (from 02:18:32 here) in which presenter Rachel Burden discussed the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London with Jeremy Bowen.5-live-breakfast-6-2

That conversation was particularly interesting for its lack of focus on issues of interest to the British audiences who hear the show as well as for its politicised messaging and distortions. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Burden: “Theresa May will meet the Israeli prime minister Bendamin…Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street later. It’ll be the first time the two leaders have met in person since she took office. Let’s speak to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Morning.”

Bowen: “Morning.”

Burden: “What’s he doing here?”

Bowen: “Well he’s […] he is doing a round of visits in advance of his big meeting next week with President Trump in Washington and he – Mr Netanyahu – is going to focus very much on Iran. They did a ballistic missile test lately in the last week or so and he’s…as he got on the plane he said they tried to test the boundaries with extraordinary aggression, gall and defiance. So Iran is his big thing. I think Britain is concerned about the number of settlements that he’s authorised in the occupied Palestinian territories and of course post Brexit, I think Mrs May’s going to be concerned about trying to do a few good trade deals with the Israelis.”

Having laid out those three topics, Bowen then chose to completely ignore throughout the rest of the item both the Iranian issue and the potential trade deals which would probably have interested UK domestic audiences, instead focusing on his own “big thing”.

Despite having inaccurately suggested to listeners that Netanyahu had ‘authorised settlements’ in numbers large enough to cause concern to the UK government, we later (unsurprisingly) discover that Bowen knows full well that such a portrayal is in fact inaccurate. We can also assume that he knows full well that all Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria are located in Area C, the final status of which – under the terms of the Oslo Accords – is to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians and hence his portrayal of the region as “Palestinian territories” is premature. 

Listeners next heard Burden promote the equally inaccurate – and downright bizarre – notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the Middle East conflict”: a theme that was repeated throughout the item.

Burden: “Do we know what her [Theresa May] position is on the Middle East conflict?”

Bowen: “Well, she’s flip-flopped a bit quite frankly. To start with, when President Trump was about to be inaugurated, she did say some things which seemed to be really cow-towing to what she believed his beliefs to be, which was…there was a fairly controversial – from the Israeli point of view – resolution in the UN Security Council which Britain didn’t just vote for; it helped to plan, which was essentially condemning the…ah…expansion of settlements and Britain after that – Mrs May – criticised that resolution and criticised the US Secretary of State for supporting it when Britain itself had voted in support of the motion – the resolution – in the Security Council. In fact the Obama administration at the time said, rather cuttingly, that what Kerry had said – the US Secretary of State at the time – was entirely in line with long-held British policy which Britain – Downing Street – then went on to condemn.”

Contrary to the impression fostered by Bowen, Mrs May’s remarks did not relate to UNSC resolution 2334 but to the speech made by John Kerry the following week.

“[Downing Street] said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”

Bowen continued:

“Now since then they have…Britain has said that it’s against the further expansion of settlements. However, I think that Mr Netanyahu will be well aware that Prime Minister May is quite concerned to stay in Donald Trump’s good books.”

Burden: Well what about Mr Trump? Has he shown any indication he wants to get involved in all this?”

Bowen: “Ah he’s…well his Middle East envoy is going to be his son-in-law, so keep it in the family. Ahm…and he has…well, the feeling was to start with that he might have given Mr Netanyahu essentially a blank cheque to go and do what he wanted whereas in terms of settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and which is something that President Obama very much did not. And so since the inauguration, Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years. So that’s something that even the Trump administration said well, hang on a second, you know, don’t get too carried away here.”

Bowen is apparently referring to the statement put out by the White House press secretary on February 2nd which of course made no mention of getting “carried away” and which it is very clear that Bowen is interpreting according to his own world view. He continues:

“But they’ve certainly been very soft on the Israelis when it comes to that and I think that the right-wing in Israel – of which Mr Netanyahu is just one representative – is very excited about the possibilities that they will have under President Trump. They feel that they can really start changing things permanently in their favour.”

Burden: “Yeah. It’s interesting as well with Theresa May – now I guess under pressure with the prospect of Brexit looming, to demonstrate herself as a global leader – how much of an opportunity she’ll see this to take some kind of position while at the same time that balancing act of her relationship with Donald Trump. Is this a kind of lose-lose situation for the British prime minister in a way?”

Bowen: “You know it is a balancing act and I think that Britain has always taken, you know…has said ‘after you’ to the Americans when it comes to Middle East peacemaking, even though – as a permanent member of the Security Council – we do have a certain degree of influence. Ahm…I think that Mrs May is so tied up with issues of Brexit that I don’t see her trying to do her own solo Middle East peace bid. But, you know, the key…the difficulty of trying to make Middle Eastern peace is that you have to be tough on both sides and Western governments – particularly the Americans, the British – find it very easy to be tough on the Palestinians and they find it very difficult to be tough on the Israelis.”

And with that downright amazing unsubstantiated claim, the conversation ends – with listeners to Radio 5 live Breakfast none the wiser about either the Iranian issue or the nature of any potential trade deals between Britain and Israel.  

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

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Reviewing BBC coverage of UNSC resolution 2334 in R4 news bulletins – part one

The December 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’clock News’ included an item (from 08:01 here) concerning the resolution which was at the time due to come up at the UN Security Council.

Presenter Corrie Corfield told listeners: [all emphasis in bold added]r4-6pm-news-23-12

“The Israeli and US governments have become involved in an unprecedented diplomatic row at the United Nations. Israel has described as shameful a planned UN Security Council vote this evening on a resolution which demands an end to Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. In a departure from a long-standing policy, the United States – which normally votes against such calls – is expected to abstain. The vote will take place following a feverish 24 hours of diplomacy which involved senior figures in the outgoing Obama administration and president-elect Trump taking opposing sides. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has been following developments.”

Listeners then heard from Bowen:

“If the vote passes it will be a big parting gift from President Obama to the Palestinians and to other opponents of Israel’s policy of settling Jews on territory captured in the 1967 war. The United States, like the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council can veto any resolution. The US has used its veto dozens of times to protect Israel. The draft resolution demands that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It says that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the territories is a flagrant violation under international law. Israel argues forcefully it has the right to build homes for Jews anywhere in Jerusalem; a right disputed by most members of the UN. Israel also says that international laws prohibiting the settlement of an occupier’s citizens on territory it captured do not apply to the West Bank, including Jerusalem. If the Americans and the other permanent members of the Security Council allow the resolution to pass, Israel’s argument that it has law on its side will suffer a big blow. It wouldn’t immediately affect the settlement expansion programme but it would show how bad relations have become between President Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.bowen-tweet-unsc

If President Obama had allowed a similar resolution to pass much earlier in his time in office, it would have had much more impact. In his last few weeks in the White House it’s symbolic, though it tosses a fizzing diplomatic firework into the Middle East policy of president-elect Donald Trump.”

As was noted here in a previous post about BBC reporting on the same topic:

“The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Obviously there are no Israeli ‘settlements’ in those areas and so the use of such inaccurate terminology misleads listeners.

Israeli communities do exist in Area C and in parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan for nineteen years. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords no limits are placed on construction in those regions and their final status is to be determined in negotiations.”

As was the case in that previous report, the language used by Corfield and Bowen clearly endorses and promotes the Palestinian side’s political claims and narrative, thereby compromising BBC impartiality and misleading listeners.

Bowen’s suggestion that only Jews live in the parts of Jerusalem he deems “occupied” is inaccurate.  As Reuters reported in 2014:

“…a small but growing number of Arabs are moving into Jewish settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem, drawn by cheaper rent and better services. […]

…in one such settlement, around Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University is based and many Palestinians study, about 16 percent of residents are either Arab citizens of Israel or Palestinians, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. […]

 Official figures from 2013 show 7.4 percent of French Hill residents are Arabs, and Mazal believes the true non-Jewish population is closer to 20 percent.

While the high proportion of Arab residents in French Hill and Mount Scopus is probably exceptional, the trend is visible in other East Jerusalem settlements too.

In the working-class areas of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Yaacov to the northeast of Jerusalem’s Old City, 1 to 2 percent of residents are now Israeli Arab or Palestinian, figures show.”

While ostensibly ticking the ‘impartiality’ box with a brief mention of the view taken by Israel and others on what he describes as “international laws prohibiting the settlement of an occupier’s citizens on territory it captured”, Bowen fails to provide listeners with the context necessary for proper understanding of that issue. Seeing as the BBC has exclusively promoted one view of that topic for years, the majority of listeners obviously would not understand why “Israel says” what it does.

Once again we see that the BBC’s presentation of this story lacks balance and accuracy, steering audiences towards a particular view of the topic. An additional news bulletin will be discussed in a future post.   

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A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

Events at the UN Security Council received generous coverage on the BBC News website on December 23rd and 24th. BBC audiences found articles relating to Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution and reports concerning the subsequent tabling of  the resolution by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia which was approved by the UNSC on December 23rd.

December 23rd:un-sc-2334

1) Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes

2) Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements

3) UN Security Council votes against Israeli settlements Barbara Plett Usher (also appeared on BBC television channels and embedded in written reports)

4) Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end (date stamp changed

December 24th:

5) Israel settlements: Netanyahu rejects ‘shameful’ UN vote

6) Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review

The narrative promoted in those reports was uniform and conformed to existing BBC editorial policy.

a) BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the resolution related to Israeli communities on “occupied” – rather than disputed – land and that the said territory is “Palestinian”.

“Egypt has delayed a UN vote on a text condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territory after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.” (report 1)

“Israel has reacted furiously over a renewed bid to bring a resolution condemning settlements on occupied land before the UN Security Council.” (report 2)

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land is “shameful”. […]

The resolution, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.” (reports 5 and 6)

“The move comes after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.” (report 6)

b) BBC audiences were also repeatedly told that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are “illegal” and breach “international law” while the presentation of alternative views on that issue was limited to a box-ticking reference to the Israeli view with no further detail or explanation.

“The resolution submitted by Egypt called for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it said breached international law. […]

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” (reports 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)

“Barbara Plett-Usher explains the significance of the UN Security Council’s vote against illegal Israeli settlements.” (report 3)

“The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements after the US refused to veto it.” (report 4)

“It [the resolution] says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. (reports 5 and 6)

c) The reports failed to distinguish between “settlement building” and construction in existing communities, thereby giving audiences the mistaken impression that new communities are being built.

“The Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement building and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 1)

“But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 2)

“This is a vote on a resolution that condemns the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It says it’s illegal under international law. […]

“They themselves [the US administration] have been very critical of settlement building over the last year.” (report 3)

“The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (‘analysis’ from Barbara Plett Usher, reports 4 and 5)

d) One of the reports promoted the inaccurate implication that construction under the current Israeli government is exceptional. 

“And it [the resolution] says that the amount of building under this Israeli government is threatening the possibility of the creation of  Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (report 3)

e) The reports uncritically amplified the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’.

“The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.” (reports 1, 2, 4)

f) References to the parts of the resolution condemning terror and incitement were to be found in just one of the BBC’s reports. In contrast to the impression given to BBC audiences, the word ‘Palestinian’ is in fact not included in that part of the text

“French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the “key goal” of the resolution was “to preserve and reaffirm the two-state solution”. […]

“It also condemns the violence and terrorism. It also calls to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side so this is a balanced text.”” (report 2)

g) While some of the later reports included reactions from “the Palestinian leadership”, none of them informed audiences of the fact that the resolution was hailed by the terror organisations Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The Palestinian leadership welcomed the UN resolution, which was passed by 14 votes to zero, with one abstention.” (report 4)

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.” (report 5)

“A spokesman for Mr Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”” (report 6)

h) Three of the later articles (reports 4, 5 and 6) quoted the US ambassador to the UN as saying that “even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace” but none of the reports reminded BBC audiences that although Israel did indeed remove all ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005, peace was not forthcoming and the Hamas terror group continues to seek the destruction of Israel.

i) None of the reports reminded BBC audiences of the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze.

j) None of the reports provided readers with the relevant context of the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to impose an outside ‘solution’ to the conflict in preference to negotiations.

k) None of the reports provides any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

Anyone wondering why the generous coverage of this story was uniformly one-sided and failed to provide BBC audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding might find the following Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East editor (also retweeted by the BBC correspondent who contributed to much of the coverage) enlightening.

bowen-tweet-unsc

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