BBC ME editor makes Gaza Strip ventilators disappear

On March 30th the BBC announced that:

“Some of BBC News’ best-known voices are reading their favourite poems of comfort and hope as part of a series on Radio 4’s Today programme.”

On April 3rd it was the turn of the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen (from 2:28:42 here) and, as he himself Tweeted, he used that opportunity to bring up the Gaza Strip.

Bowen: “And, you know, I’m going to be as cheerful as possible because this is a very hard time and is miserable for so many and people are dying. But you know we’re gonna get through it. Ahm…there have been some comparisons made with this fight against the virus and a war and I think that’s valid, without the bullets. Now a reason why this is so shocking is because usually in this country and in most other developed countries we have pretty secure – most of us – and stable lives and in wars that mass security gets taken away. I’ve seen it all over the world many times and that’s what the virus is doing. Now it’s not a competition of course but many people around the world never have that kind of safety and security that usually we’re used to. Untimely death is always part of it for them. And so think about all that and the fact that, you know, we have the NHS and many countries don’t and figures I’ve seen lately: 40 ventilators in Gaza for 2 million people, 3 ventilators in the Central African Republic for 5 million. So it’s a time to count our blessings I suppose is what I’m saying.” [emphasis in italics in the original]

As of the day on which those statements by Bowen were aired, over 3,600 people had died of Covid 19 in the UK. In the Gaza Strip there had been no fatalities.

On March 13th and 14th listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told by a World Health Organisation representative that there are “between 50 to 60 ventilators” in the Gaza Strip.

On March 25th BBC Radio 4 listeners were informed by a doctor in the Gaza Strip that “throughout Gaza we have 63 ICU beds fully equipped with ventilators and respirators and the health professionals to serve on these units”.

On March 26th listeners to BBC World Service radio heard the UNRWA director in the Gaza Strip say “what I’ve been told is we have at maximum 60 ICU beds”.

On March 31st listeners to the same radio station heard from an Oxfam representative that “the number of ICU beds are hardly 87 if we count the private and the public hospitals”. 

So with the BBC having reported for weeks that there are between 50 and 87 ventilators in the Gaza Strip (the head of the regional WHO mission says 87 – i.e. 43.5/million people), where did Bowen get the considerably lower number of 40? That is unclear because he refrained from providing a source for the claim he promoted on prime-time BBC radio.

In mid-March it was reported that NHS Scotland had about 190 “Level 3 Intensive Care Unit beds with ventilatory support in addition to other organ support” for that country’s population of 5.5 million – i.e. 34.5/million. While efforts have been made to improve that ratio, ITV reports that in the Hebrides, where three cases of Coronavirus have been diagnosed:

“There are no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with ventilators on the islands, it’s a long, long way to the nearest hospital, and any medical evacuation to the mainland could be weather-dependent.”

Nevertheless, Jeremy Bowen thought it appropriate to promote his unsupported chosen political narrative while telling the BBC’s domestic audiences to count their blessings.

BBC promotes linkage between elections on two continents

Among the BBC News website’s generous coverage of the US administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal in late January was an article by Aleem Maqbool in which readers were told that:

“White Evangelical Christian Americans formed a strong voting block for Donald Trump in 2016, with around 80% voting for him.

Many Evangelical Christians believe that God promised the Holy Land to Jews and that their return to power across the whole territory will bring about the Second Coming of Christ.

But that is not only helping to shape policy because President Trump wants their votes again in November.

There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.”

Readers were not provided with any context. For example AP reported in January that:

“Trump won a clear majority of white evangelical Protestant votes in 2016 […] [b]ut those evangelicals’ alignment with the Republican Party predated Trump and has risen steadily since 2009, according to data from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.”

And:

“Trump has not greatly outperformed his GOP predecessors with white evangelicals”.

Neither did Maqbool’s monochrome portrayal provide any information concerning the prominence of the issue of Israel in comparison to other issues (such as abortion or social justice) among Evangelical voters.

Listeners to the March 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme however found that narrative repeated, along with the promotion of linkage to the election in Israel.

Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 46:47 here) with the inaccurate claim that the US proposal concerns only “the Palestinians”: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Israelis are voting today in their third general election in a year after neither prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor opposition leader Benny Gantz were able to form a government on the previous two occasions last year. This time Mr Netanyahu is claiming credit for Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century on the Palestinians. And this is a vote that could affect Mr Trump’s re-election hopes in November as his stance on Israeli policies is linked to that of his Evangelical Christian supporters. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports.”

Bowen began his report at the archaeological site of Megiddo, claiming that: 

Bowen: “This place gives you an idea of the power and influence of Christian Evangelicals’ view of Israel has in the US. I can see one, two, three, maybe five groups of American pilgrims praying, reading the bible and who share this strong belief that America needs to support Israel because of the vital part it plays in their religious beliefs.”

He spoke to one of those tourists, Ray Armstrong.

Bowen: “Now Christian Evangelicals in the US have a strong interest in Israel, don’t you? You feel a strong affinity.”

Armstrong: “We do. So we are a large – at this time, for better, for worse – a large political influence.”

Bowen: “Now President Trump has been very forward in his support for Israel, recently in his Deal of the Century as he calls it [sic]. Do you think that’s the kind of thing that Evangelicals would support?”

Armstrong: “I think there will be those Evangelicals who will. I think we need to be thorough in our thinking. I think we need to understand consequences of our words. We just need to be careful in what we do and how we go about it.”

That rather vague response did not deter Bowen from continuing to tout his debatable hypothesis.

Bowen: “It is only about six months since the last election and this is the third time in a year but the Americans, by publishing Donald Trump’s plan, have made changes to the political landscape. It’s enabled prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that this is a great deal for Israel and if you want it, vote for me; I’m the only person who can deliver it.”

Ignoring the obviously highly relevant fact that the US proposal was rejected by the Palestinians even before it was published, Bowen moved on to Shiloh where he promoted very dubious linkage between the beginning of construction of a school and the US proposal published in late January.

Bowen: “And it’s not just politics: the physical landscape of the place is changing, as it’s changed over many years, with the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land.”

Notably, throughout Bowen’s report BBC audiences were given no evidence to support Mishal Husain’s opening claim that the outcome of the March 2nd Israeli election “could affect Mr Trump’s re-election hopes in November”.

Bowen’s efforts to link the Israeli election to the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal (even though the election cycle began over a year before that proposal was published) were also evident in a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes.

Bowen: “The prime minister is claiming credit for Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century – an attempt to end the conflict on Israel’s terms. It allows Israel, in defiance of international law, to annex settlements built on land Palestinians want for a state.”

Viewers were also given an inaccurate and simplistic view of the background to the Arab-Israeli conflict:

Bowen: “And as ever, it’s come down to control of the land. That’s always been at the centre of the conflict, a century ago and today.”

In addition they heard Bowen (who only last October asserted that “there haven’t been all that many” Palestinian terror attacks “in recent years”) claim that US policies of the past three years are “sharpening the conflict on the ground” with no concrete evidence provided to support that allegation.

Bowen: “The big changes, political and diplomatic and especially President Trump’s out and out support for the Israeli government is sharpening the conflict on the ground and you can see it in places like this. Conflict is normal for yet another generation. The election won’t change that.”

The narrative the BBC has chosen to promote is very clear: the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan – which has been portrayed by Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues in a uniformly negative light since even before it was made public – is, according to the corporation’s Middle East editor, first and foremost the product of Trump’s dependence upon Evangelical Christian support to get re-elected in November, and has the added effect of aiding Netanyahu’s election campaign by creating “changes to the political landscape”.

On the Israeli front, that “highest calibre” analysis has yet to bear fruit, with Netanyahu’s party (after 99% of the votes were counted) having secured just one more seat in the Knesset than it did in April 2020 – nine months before the US plan was made public.

Related Articles:

How will the BBC cover Israel’s election?

BBC News promotes non-starter topic to advance Israel election narrative

BBC’s Bateman sketches a simplistic portrait of the Arab Israeli vote

More BBC Israel pre-election framing from Tom Bateman

 

 

How will the BBC cover Israel’s election?

BBC News website coverage of the last Israeli election in September 2019 was relatively limited in comparison to its reporting on previous election campaigns in 20132015 and April 2019.

As Israelis prepare to head to the polls yet again on March 2nd, BBC audiences have seen even less coverage of the run-up to the 2020 election with just three related articles having appeared last December and no additional reporting since then apart from amendments made in late February to a profile of Benny Gantz which the BBC has been recycling since April 2019.

BBC News website kicks off 2020 election reporting

Reviewing BBC coverage of the Likud leadership primary

BBC audiences hence currently have no idea how many (29) or which lists are running in the election and on what platforms. They do not know how many people are entitled to vote or that some of them will have to use special voting facilities for people in isolation due to exposure to the Corona virus. Even a limited-edition ice-cream created especially for the election has failed to rouse the BBC’s interest.

However documentation of the BBC’s coverage of Israeli elections over the past seven years has shown that regardless of which lists are in the running or which issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds, the corporation manages to reduce the story to one narrative.

Back in January 2013 we made the following observations in relation to BBC coverage of that year’s Israeli election:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances.”

Two years later we noted that:

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities.”

In April 2019 we commented:

“Overall, the BBC News website’s selective coverage of the 2019 election conformed to the agenda evident in the corporation’s reporting of the two previous ones. Israel was once again portrayed as a country ‘shifting’ to the right and that alleged shift was depicted as the exclusive reason for the predicted failure to make progress in ‘the peace process’.”

And last September we noted that “the BBC’s overriding interest in promoting a political narrative means that it continues to adhere to that well-worn formula”.

There is of course very little reason to anticipate that coverage of the upcoming election will deviate from that long-standing chosen narrative, particularly given that the BBC’s recent framing of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan was overseen by its Middle East editor – who is once again in the region, apparently to cover the election.

Related Articles:

Israeli election coverage continues to advance a new narrative

BBC Sounds relaunches 2017 series by Middle East editor

The BBC recently re-uploaded the 2017 audio series by its Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen called ‘Our Man in the Middle East’.

Our analysis of the episodes relating to Israel can be found below:

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

A predictable view of Jerusalem from the BBC’s ‘Man in the Middle East’

BBC ME editor gives context-free, omission rich potted history of Israel’s creation

BBC’s Bowen tells his annual Lebanon story on Radio 4

BBC’s Bowen resurrects the ‘Arafat was poisoned’ canard on Radio 4

In which the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen repeats his ‘no human shields in Gaza’ claims

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Last week we looked at the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan.

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

But did visitors to the BBC News website fare any better?

Below is a summary of the relevant content published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between January 27th and January 30th – eleven items in all.

Many of the reports promote talking points also evident (including before anyone at the BBC had actually read the proposal) in BBC radio and television coverage:

  • Description of the proposal as a “surrender document” for the Palestinians which does not meet their demands.
  • Presentation of the document as fully meeting Israeli demands.
  • Presentation of the timing of the launch of the document as being related to political and legal processes in the US and Israel.
  • Amplification of the talking points of the PLO and political NGOs, including the ‘apartheid’ trope.
  • Portrayal of the Palestinians as having no agency and predictions of ‘inevitable’ violence.

January 27th:

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Although now dated January 29th, the article was originally published on January 27th – the day before the US proposal was launched – as part of the BBC’s cross-platform preemptive framing of the story.

“…the Trump plan gives Mr Netanyahu all he wants – and offers Palestinians very little; a sort-of state that will be truncated, without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements.”

“Israel argues the Palestinians turned down a series of good offers. The Palestinian negotiators say they made huge concessions, not least accepting Israel’s existence in around 78% of their historic homeland.”

“The timing of the announcement of the Trump initiative suits the political and legal needs of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu. Both men face elections. As well as that, Mr Trump gets a distraction from his impeachment, and from his trial in the US Senate for high crimes and misdemeanours. Mr Netanyahu faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust.”

“Essentially the Palestinians have been told to take it or leave it. They are being given a surrender document, told to accept that Israel has won, and with its American friends will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

“There is a chance Palestinians will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

January 28th:

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (video without commentary)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan  (video without commentary)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’  (video without commentary)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan  with analysis from Jonathan Marcus and a link to the website of a political NGO which engages in ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

“…his [Trump’s] “take it or leave it offer” will appal many long-standing students of the region. The question now is not so much what benefit this deal might bring but how much damage it may do by over-turning Palestinian aspirations.”

“Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the proposals envisaged a form of apartheid.

It said Palestinians would be relegated “to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.

Israel’s Peace Now organisation said the plan was “as detached from reality as it is eye-catching”.

“The plan’s green light for Israel to annex the settlements in exchange for a perforated Palestinian state is unviable and would not bring stability,” it said.”

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman discussed

“The Trump document says applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements would be compensated by land swaps to Palestinians. It would also recognise Israeli sovereignty over the strategically important Jordan Valley, a key swathe of land in the West Bank important for agriculture running along the border with neighbouring Jordan. […]

But Palestinians say the move will entrench apartheid.”

January 29th:

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues? Backgrounder

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the US plan “recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine”, while Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned that Palestinians would be “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.”

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool

“Israeli opposition figures have not shied away from suggesting that the timing of the proposal’s release was aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election to be held on 2 March.”

“The impeachment allegations [against Trump] suggest sordid and dishonourable use of his powerful position for personal political gain; withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine until Kiev opened investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr Trump might hope the unveiling of his proposal would offer Americans a contrasting narrative of his skills as a statesman, delivering “the deal of the century”.”

“There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.

Evangelical Christians were huge financial backers of the Trump campaign in 2016, but there were others who would have wanted to see some return on the support they gave during the last election reflected in this proposal.

Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, has already endorsed Mr Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it appreciated the efforts of the president.”

“Whether the plan and the timing of its release is about backing Mr Netanyahu, distracting from impeachment troubles, playing domestic politics or if it is indeed driven by ideology, it comes with huge risks.

It can be seen as a proposal that gives Israel the authorisation to broaden its occupation, already a source of misery for so many. The fear is that a proposal that gives Palestinians so little hope is one that also strengthens hard-liners across the region.”

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (video with commentary)

“The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explains why the proposal is so divisive.”

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’

“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration had simply “copied and pasted” the steps that Mr Netanyahu wanted to see implemented.

“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid,” he said. “Moving to the de jure annexation of settlements is something that was given the green light yesterday.””

January 30th:

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin interview with Mohammad Shtayyeh (video)

As we see the BBC elected to interview the Palestinian Authority prime minister but not any senior Israeli official. The BBC chose to showcase political NGOs and a PLO official promoting the baseless ‘apartheid’ trope but did not provide an alternative viewpoint. The reports written by the BBC staff presented a disturbingly uniform negative view of the topic and audiences were not provided with a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. It is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

BBC WS radio promotes US peace plan commentary from partisan lobbying group

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

 

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“Due impartiality usually involves more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints. We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.” 

And:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.”

The BBC’s public purposes commit the corporation to providing:

“…duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world.”

And:

“…a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”

The corporation’s coverage of the recently released US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage – in this case on the BBC domestic radio station Radio 4 and on BBC World Service radio.

While the tables below are not exhaustive, they give an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligations to provide “a range and depth of analysis” and to reflect “a range of views”.

Programmes aired before the US plan was made public are marked with a pale gold background.

Commentators and BBC journalists who provided a neutral view of the US proposal are marked in blue, those promoting a positive view in green and those promoting a negative view are marked in red.  

BBC World Service radio:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fk0q7  from 14:06 David Makovsky

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fm2df  from 30:05 discussed here, Husam Zomlot, Aaron David Miller

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fmxmb  from 00:11, 14:06, 45:07, Husam Zomlot, Logan Bayroff (J Street), discussed here and here

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fpz9j  from 30:06, Shlomo Ben Ami, Rashid Khalidi

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575ftqfj  from 30:06 Mohammad Shtayyeh

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csyv7l  from 00:00

 

BBC Radio 4:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dr9s  from 1:47:16 discussed here

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dphy  discussed here (including times of reports) Husam Zomlot

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpkh  from 45:43, Jan Egeland,  Karin von Hippel

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpkm  from 08:22, Mustafa Barghouti

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpl0   from 01:32  and 07:51, Diana Buttu

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpl6  discussed here

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dqf8  from 2:49:20

 

As we see, the BBC chose to provide airtime to Palestinian officials while no interviews with Israeli officials were included in any of the programmes and one interview with a former US official was heard on each of the two stations. Interviews were conducted with two Israeli representatives from think tanks (one neutral and one negative), three representatives from US or UK think tanks (one neutral, two negative), two US-Palestinian academics (both negative), one representative of a political NGO (negative) and one lobbying group representative (negative).

The majority of reports from the BBC’s own staff presented a negative view of the topic.

Both those BBC radio stations gave audiences were given an overwhelmingly one-sided view of the US peace initiative (in all twelve times more negative views than positive ones), starting even before it had been published. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. In this case it is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

BBC impartiality – a case study

 

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

Over seven minutes of the January 29th edition of the half-hour Radio 4 programme ‘Midnight News’ was given over to the topic of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan which had been made public several hours previously.

The first item in the programme’s introduction was presented using the absurd but long-promoted BBC myth that the result of resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be “peace in the Middle East”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “President Trump has set out his plan for peace in the Middle East which has immediately been embraced by the Israeli prime minister but rejected by Palestinian leaders.”

The same myth was repeated when the newsreader commenced that lead item (from 00:59 here).

Newsreader: “President Trump has set out what he has called the most detailed peace plan ever offered for the Middle East, saying it’s a win-win for both Israelis and Palestinians. He announced his plan at the White House alongside Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu but the Palestinians were not there as they had not been part of the process. Mr Trump’s proposal gives Israel sovereignty over all its settlements in the occupied West Bank while promising Palestinians statehood in the future if they meet certain conditions. Our Washington correspondent Aleem Maqbool has this report.”

Listeners were not told that the reason the Palestinians “had not been part of the process” was because they refused to take part. Neither were they given any clue as to what the “certain conditions” for Palestinian statehood (e.g. dismantling their system of salaries to terrorists and disarming Hamas) actually are

Aleem Maqbool began by repeating BBC framing seen in reports (see ‘related articles’ below) broadcast even before the US proposal had been revealed.

Maqbool: “At a raucous news conference at the White House standing beside the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump launched a plan the like of which, he said, had never been seen before. [recording Trump speaking] But as soon as the details started to be revealed it was very clear the win is really Israel’s alone.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Trump saying “…Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided – very important – undivided capital”.  

Maqbool: “Something that would have surprised few but would have made Palestinian hearts sink all the same. They have been wanting the return of occupied East Jerusalem to establish their own capital. Under Donald Trump’s plan Israel would not even have to give up any Jewish settlements it illegally built on occupied land. But the knife for Palestinians was twisted further when the US president released a map of his vision for a future Palestinian state. Large swathes of the most fertile West Bank land annexed for Israel. Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan and relying entirely on Israel for access. The West Bank becoming in effect a cluster of tightly-controlled islands.”

Maqbool’s use of the phrase “the return of occupied East Jerusalem” inaccurately suggests to listeners that that location had previously been under Palestinian control (rather than under Jordanian occupation for 19 years). His partial portrayal of “Jewish settlements…illegally built on occupied land” denies listeners information concerning alternative views of that topic. His reference to “the most fertile…land” dovetails perfectly with PLO descriptions of the Jordan Valley. But it is his reference to “Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan” which – even taking into account Maqbool’s previously displayed lack of knowledge of the region’s geography – perhaps misleads listeners most. None of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since 1994 have a “border with Jordan” and a Palestinian entity with such a border has never existed.

Listeners then heard a recording of President Trump describing a letter he had sent to the PA president explaining that “the territory allocated for his new state will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years. During this time Palestinians can use all appropriate deliberation to study the deal, negotiate with Israel, achieve the criteria for statehood and become a truly independent and wonderful state.”

Once again failing to explain to listeners that the decision not to be “at the negotiating table” was taken by the Palestinians themselves, Maqbool went on:

Maqbool: “Not how Mahmoud Abbas will see it. Of course Palestinians feared, given that only one side was at the negotiating table presided over by a historically partisan peace-broker, that the deal would be biased towards Israel. But some may have hoped for more concessions from the other side. Instead what they got was a clear US seal of approval for much that Israel has been trying to achieve. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who smiled and clapped through Donald Trump’s speech, could barely contain his pleasure when he spoke, saying the day was as historic as the one in 1948 on which US president Truman became the first world leader to recognise his country. [recording Netanyahu] The fear among some critics of this plan is that there is so little, if anything at all, that Palestinians can put their name to, that it could strengthen the hand of hard-liners in the region. Given the reaction already, Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century is a pivotal moment but not one that brings Palestinians and Israelis together. Rather one that gives Israel the authorisation to continue and even broaden its occupation.”

Listeners were not informed exactly how Israel’s so-called “occupation” could be ‘broadened’ and neither were they told of the part of the plan which offers areas today under full Israeli sovereignty to a future Palestinian state.

Newsreader: “There were protests in Gaza and the West Bank with demonstrators burning posters of Donald Trump. In a televised speech the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the proposals were impossible to accept. [recording Abbas] The militant group Hamas which controls Gaza called Mr Trump’s announcement aggression and nonsense. Khalil al Hayya is one of the group’s leaders.”

Al Hayya voiceover: “We warn all countries of the world and all entities who cooperate with this deal because we reject it as a Palestinian people and we will resist this deal in all forms.”

Listeners then once again heard the inaccurate suggestion that a Palestinian state with “borders” had existed before 1967. They were not told that no “borders” existed “before the 1967 war” or that the lines were actually the 1949 Armistice lines which were specifically defined as not being borders.

Newsreader: “Jordan said the only path to peace in the Middle East was to establish an independent Palestinian state based on its borders before the 1967 war. But Egypt urged both sides of the conflict to consider President Trump’s plan carefully, with a view to resuming negotiations and the former Middle east envoy Tony Blair said the Palestinians would be able to make progress if they engaged with the proposals. [recording Blair] With his thoughts on the deal, here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Bowen’s “thoughts” were of course exactly the same as those he had two hours earlier promoted on BBC television.

Bowen: “President Trump says he’s found a new way to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel will get the security it needs, Palestinians will get the state they crave. So far so good. Except that the Trump plan gives Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanayhu all he wants and offers Palestinians very little. A sort of state that will be truncated without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements. Essentially the message to the Palestinians is take it or leave it. They’re being told to accept that Israel has won and – with its American friends – will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

Listeners then heard Bowen’s partisan interpretations of UNSC resolution 242 and ‘international law’, although he predictably had nothing at all to say about the “inadmissibility” of Jordan’s capture and subsequent occupation of territory assigned to the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people.  

Bowen: “The Trump document ignores UN resolution 242 that emphasizes the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. It also sweeps aside international law saying that occupiers cannot settle their people on occupied land.”

Bowen closed – once again – with promotion of the view that the inevitable result of “anger, despair and hopelessness” for Palestinians he apparently believes to be non-actors devoid of agency is violence.

Bowen: “There is a chance Palestinians, whose leaders immediately rejected the plan, will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

Once again we see that – under Jeremy Bowen’s baton – BBC audiences were given an overwhelmingly one-sided view which promoted serious inaccuracies and deprived the corporation’s funding public of essential information necessary for them to make up their own minds about the US proposals.

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BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

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BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Half a day before the launch of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan on January 28th, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired an edition which included several reports concerning a document which had at that stage not yet been made public.

Listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman (at 10:03 here), a news bulletin (at 2:02:46) during which Bateman told audiences that “the Palestinians say it [the US plan] would entrench apartheid” and another report by Bateman (at 2:48:40) based on vox pop interviews with people in Jerusalem.

The main item in that programme (from 2:10:04) included interviews with three people. Presenter Nick Robinson began by once again promoting the unsupported claim that the US administration calls the document ‘the deal of the century’ and adding another. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson: “It will be the deal of the century Donald Trump has long boasted; a plan which he’ll unveil today and which it’s claimed can produce what has eluded the world for decades – peace in the Middle East. It has though been drawn up without consultation with the Palestinians. The president of the Palestinian Authority has refused to even take a call from Donald Trump. That is in stark contrast to the presence at the White House yesterday of a beaming Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.”

Listeners first heard from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who repeated a speculation he had already made on the same programme three days earlier, claiming that “the agenda followed by Israel’s prime minister Mr Netanyahu has very much been absorbed by the Trump plan”. Bowen’s talking points included the claim that the plan is unlikely to succeed “if the objective is to bring peace to the area” and promotion of the Palestinian narrative concerning the Oslo Accords, which of course do not mention the two-state solution at all.

Bowen: “Since Oslo in 1993 – the Oslo Agreements – the underlying principle under all the negotiations that have been taking place is the so-called two-state solution. An independent Palestine alongside Israel. But the indications are that Trump wants to change that and perhaps get to a point where they say to the Palestinians ‘look, you’re not going to get it. Accept it; take what we’re offering now, much less than what you hoped for’.”

Bowen went on to promote additional speculation concerning “the timing of this initiative” – speculations which were shown later in the item to dovetail with PLO talking points.

Bowen: “…they [Trump and Netanyahu] are both men who need something else going on […] I think that the message from Netanyahu is ‘look, you don’t want to see me in court or even in jail’.”

In fact, more or less as Bowen was promoting that hypothesis, Netanyahu withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity.

Robinson’s next interviewee (from 2:13:12) was former national security advisor to the Israeli prime minister Yaakov Amidror and, refraining from reminding listeners that the US administration has been working on the plan for several years, he began by “putting to him the thought that this was really all about domestic politics” – a theory dismissed by Amidror.

Robinson went on:

Robinson: “…is what we call the two-state solution – the idea of a separate Palestinian state – is that going to be buried today?”

Amidror: “ As far as we know the deal includes an independent Palestinian state and if it will be adopted by the Israelis – by the Knesset or by the government – it will be the first time that formally Israel is adopting such [a] solution which was not mentioned in the Oslo Accords at all.”

Despite the BBC having repeatedly promoted the myth that the Oslo Accords were based on the concept of a two-state solution, Robinson showed no interest in expanding that point in order to enhance audience understanding and instead went on to ask whether “that state will be what they, the Palestinians, want as a state”.

Amidror: “No, it will not be the state that the Palestinians want. The state the Palestinians want does not include Israel at all. They want a Palestine all over from the Mediterranean into the Jordan River. As always the Palestinians say no before they know the details of the plan. Never in the history did the Palestinians agree to negotiate with the Israelis based on any offer by us or by the Americans.”

Robinson did not ensure that listeners heard any further detail on the obviously relevant topic of the Palestinian agenda.

The final interview in that item (from 2:17:24) was with a person Robinson had earlier described as “the Palestinian ambassador in this country”.

Robinson: “Listening there to that in the studio is the Palestinian ambassador to the UK. Ambassador Husam Zomlot joins us.”

In 2018 the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time. 

Despite the US plan not having been published at the time this interview was conducted, listeners nevertheless heard from Husam Zomlot (who, as readers may recall, gave a briefing to BBC journalists before the related 2019 economic workshop) that “this is neither a deal nor a plan and it definitely has nothing to do with peace”. Zomlot’s hyperbolic description of the US plan as “the scam of the century” and “fraud on every count” was not challenged by Robinson before Zomlot went on to inadvertently demonstrate the similarity of his talking points to those of the BBC’s Middle East editor.

Zomlot: “It’s fraud on every count as was alluded to by your correspondent Jeremy just now. Today the Israeli Knesset is discussing the criminal charges and the immunity. Today – is that a coincidence? The impeachment process and hearing also today and yesterday. Is that a coincidence?”

Zomlot later went on to state (as he has done in the past) that the two-state solution is a “concession”.

Zomlot: “It was actually a concession we made to accept international legality, international legitimacy that decided that the resolution of this will be on the basis of two-state solution on the 1967 borders, that Israel will end its occupation that began in 1967 and there will be a sovereign independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and a fair resolution to the issue of refugees.”

Robinson made no effort to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” or to ensure that listeners understood the thinking behind Zomlot’s later declaration that the Palestinians will not “further compromise the 22% of Palestine”. He did however later tell listeners that “Trump and Netanyahu” are “obsessed with Hamas” because they “believe that Iran is the greatest threat on the planet, that Hamas is allied to them”.

Zomlot’s later attempt to create equivalence between the situation of the Palestinians and the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust, did not prompt any challenge from Robinson.

Zomlot: “…it isn’t about Palestine now. It is about the premise and the heart of international order that was established by Europe, by the United Kingdom, by your legal brains. It’s about the horrors of the Second World War. Only yesterday we remembered the never again of what happened in the Second World War.”

While there is nothing remotely surprising about Zomlot’s talking points there is sadly also nothing surprising about Robinson’s failure to challenge them in a way which would help BBC audiences see past the propaganda and develop a more rounded view of the topic – a view which is likewise noticeably absent from the BBC Middle East editor’s analysis. As we see, half a day before the US administration had released its plan into the public domain, BBC Radio 4 had already framed the topic in overwhelmingly negative terms.

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The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

A report by the BBC’s Middle East editor which was aired in the January 28th edition of BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ just hours after the presentation of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan gives a good view of how the BBC has decided to frame that topic.

Presenter Huw Edwards’ introduction included the statement that “no Palestinian officials were involved” in the drafting of the plan but audiences were not informed of US efforts to get them onboard.

Interestingly, Edwards stepped a little outside the usual BBC framing according to which ‘the occupation’ is responsible for all the region’s ills with a mention of 1948 but quickly returned to the party line by claiming that efforts to secure an end to the conflict have been thwarted solely by the building of Israeli communities. Viewers of course heard nothing either from Edwards or from Jeremy Bowen about the Jordanian invasion and occupation of areas assigned to the creation of a Jewish homeland under the Mandate for Palestine.

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

Edwards: “Now President Trump has unveiled his plans for what he claims is a credible peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, including a promise to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Mr Trump announced the proposals at the White House alongside the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president said the deal would work but no Palestinian officials were involved and tonight they rejected the proposals as a conspiracy. Now at the heart of the conflict is a dispute over land, ever since the creation of the State of Israel back in 1948. The UN backs the creation of a separate Palestinian state but Israeli West Bank settlement on land captured back in 1967 has complicated that so-called two-state solution. Israel also captured the eastern half of Jerusalem which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state. Let’s go now to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen for the latest in Washington.”

Jeremy Bowen began his report by showcasing the commentary of anonymous “critics” and gratuitous bandying about of the ‘apartheid’ smear.

Bowen: “President Trump says he has a whole new way of making peace after years of failed negotiations, giving Israel the security it deserves, giving Palestinians the state they crave. But critics of what he’s proposing have used words like coercion of the Palestinians to describe what he’s talking about and even the word apartheid. So, the stakes are high but the chances of things getting better are low.”

He then presented his framing of the proposal.

Bowen: “In the East Room of the White House it felt more like a party than a press conference. Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated each other. Their entourages clapped and whooped. […] And now comes a document that attempts to seal Israel’s victory in a century-long conflict, which Palestinians will read as surrender terms – not a peace proposal. It almost exactly replicates Mr Netanyahu’s deepest beliefs about Israel’s security and its right to the land most of the rest of the world says is occupied Palestinian territory.” […]

Once again BBC viewers were not provided with any factual historical context concerning Israel’s “right to the land”. Bowen went on:

Bowen: “In Gaza tonight Palestinians demonstrated. Their side has been deeply divided. Opposition to the Trump document could finally unite them. The Palestinians were already boycotting the Trump administration because of its root and branch support for Israel. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas wasn’t a party to the proposals and rejected them straight away.” […]

Yet again audiences were not informed that it was the Palestinians who chose not to be “a party to the proposals” or that Abbas’ rejection of the plan began long before its details were made public. Failing to provide any context to the Six Day War, Bowen attempted to frame the US proposal as being significantly different from previous ones but refrained from informing viewers of Palestinian rejection of all previous offers of statehood.

Bowen: “They’re arguing about land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. For a generation the international consensus has been that no peace is possible without a Palestinian state on the land, with a capital in Jerusalem. Today the land is sliced up by walls, wire and checkpoints. The Trump plan wants to throw out the old consensus, to offer a sort of state to the Palestinians if they agree to restrictions approved by Israel. And Israel has a chance to get bigger, with what looks like a green light to annex territory it wants, like here in the Jordan Valley.”

Making no effort to clarify that the US plan gives the Palestinians a chance to make the territory they control “bigger”, Bowen closed with cynical speculations concerning the timing of the publication of a plan which has been in the works for years and promotion of the orientalist view that the inevitable result of “frustration, anger and hopelessness” for Palestinians he apparently believes have no agency is violence.

Bowen: “The timing suits the two leaders: a distraction from elections and serious charges. High crimes and misdemeanors for Trump, bribery and corruption for Netanyahu. This may be the deal of the century for the Israeli government but it’s not for the Palestinians. It could create a sense of frustration, anger and hopelessness which in such a combustible part of the world is dangerous.”

Clearly BBC One viewers were not provided with an objective or informative view of the US administration’s proposals in this report. That, however, was obviously not its objective. The BBC Middle East editor’s superficial framing of the topic can be summed up in two sentences from the beginning and the end of his report:

“And now comes a document that attempts to seal Israel’s victory in a century-long conflict, which Palestinians will read as surrender terms – not a peace proposal.”

“This may be the deal of the century for the Israeli government but it’s not for the Palestinians.”

That, as far as Jeremy Bowen is concerned, is all BBC audiences need to know.

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 listeners hear a context-free story from Jeremy Bowen

As we saw earlier the January 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included speculations from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen concerning the US president’s then upcoming meeting with the leaders of two Israeli political parties.

After that short (two minutes and 46 seconds) discussion, presenter Sarah Smith turned (from 1:50:02 here) to the topic of PTSD, in connection with the announcement by the BBC’s Africa editor that he would be giving up his position due to that condition. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Smith: “You’ve talked in the past about your own experiences with it and yesterday our much-admired colleague Fergal Keane announced he’s stepping down as the BBC’s Africa editor as a result of PTSD he suffered from his experience of reporting. Did you know this was something that Fergal was going through?”

Bowen: “He’s been wrestling with these kinds of things for quite some time and I assume it’s up to him to talk about all of this. But, you know, I think for all of us journalists – and it’s something that’s particularly ingrained in us in the BBC – is that, you know, it’s not about us. We don’t particularly like [laughs] talking in public about these things.”

Examples of Bowen not particularly liking “talking in public about these things” include:

Jeremy Bowen: “The Israelis would have killed me too”

Jeremy Bowen’s pink shirt

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen’s annual reminder of why BBC coverage of Israel is as it is

BBC’s Bowen tells his annual Lebanon story on Radio 4

BBC’s Bowen on CAMERA complaint result: still ‘indignant’ after all these years

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

Bowen later went on:

Bowen: “During the course of being particularly, you know, involved in particularly dangerous moments in wars I had my own brush with PTSD. I didn’t develop the full condition but I suffered from the symptoms, which is one stage on the road, after a Lebanese colleague of mine was killed by the Israelis. They fired a tank shell into the back of his car. I’d just got out. I was only about 100 yards away. He managed to force his way out through the window before he died. He was on fire. I couldn’t get up there. When I tried to get up there the Israelis tried to kill me. They opened fire on me with a heavy machine gun.”

At no point during that four minute and 22 second-long item were listeners provided with any explanation of the context to that event and Bowen referred to “the Israelis” as a group as having “tried to kill me” without clarifying the actual situation. 

As we have documented here in the past, early on the morning of Tuesday May 23rd 2000 – the day before the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon – a tank crew stationed on the border fence near Kibbutz Menara received an intelligence alert concerning the likelihood of terrorists firing anti-tank missiles at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. Later in the day, the crew spotted a Lebanese vehicle transporting men in civilian clothing and suspected that these were Hizballah terrorists carrying equipment for firing an anti-tank missile. The tank crew was given permission to fire at the suspected terrorists. 

Later it emerged that the men were actually a BBC film crew headed by Jeremy Bowen and that driver Abed Takkoush had been killed. The IDF investigated the incident and issued an apology. Understandably, that tragic incident appears to be still very much at the forefront of Bowen’s mind, although he does not appear to accept that it was possible to mistake three men travelling in a war zone in a car with Lebanese plates, and carrying camera equipment, for Hizballah terrorists dressed – as was very often the case – in civilian clothing. 

Jeremy Bowen’s accounts of the trauma he experienced nearly 20 years ago must of course be considered within the framework of the position he chose to accept five years later – Middle East editor.

That position makes it incumbent upon him to tell that story responsibly, by including the relevant background information and context.

When Jeremy Bowen fails to do that and instead, as in this case, gives a completely context-free account of “Israelis” trying “to kill me”, the result is the spread of that partial and distorted version of events in the public sphere such as in this subsequent report in the Daily Express.

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