BBC News corrects inaccurate ‘Palestinian unity government’ claims

Earlier in the week we noted that BBC Watch had submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning inaccurate portrayals of control of the Gaza Strip in three separate items of content.

We have now received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that more than 40 animals have been moved out of “terrible conditions” in a Gaza Strip zoo to a reserve in Jordan, a welfare group has announced (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47848430).

We have since amended the article to now explain that:

Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since 2007, when deadly clashes broke between Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas won parliamentary elections the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

We have also added a correction note at the bottom outlining this change.

You also raise a fair point about our Palestinian territories profile and we have also since updated the profile and its timeline.

Thank you once again for taking the time and trouble to point this out.”

The footnote added to the April 8th article reads:

The BBC’s Palestinian territories profile previously told audiences that:

“The two PNA areas were then run by the separate factions – the West Bank by Fatah, and Gaza by Hamas – until a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017.” [emphasis added]

That has now been amended to read:

“In October 2017, the rivals signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to see Hamas hand over administrative control of Gaza to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, but disputes over disarmament have stalled any progress.”

The profile’s timeline previously read:

“2017 October – Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.”

That has also been amended:

“2017 October – Hamas signs a reconciliation deal intended to administrative control [sic] of Gaza transferred to the Palestinian Authority, but disputes stalled the deal’s implementation.”

While those long overdue corrections are of course welcome, the fact that BBC audiences were for 18 months inaccurately told that the Gaza Strip was under the control of a Palestinian unity government which did not exist is obviously cause for concern for a media outlet which likes to tout itself as “a provider of news that you can trust”.

Related Articles:

BBC News claims Hamas rule in Gaza ended 5 years ago

The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

 

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Reviewing BBC News website pre-election coverage

An overview of the BBC News website’s coverage of the Israeli elections up until the commencement of polling on the morning of Tuesday, April 9th 2019 shows some unsurprising trends. 

The following articles have appeared on the BBC News website since the election was announced in late 2018.

Israel sets date for elections 24/12/18 discussed here

Netanyahu and the allegations of corruption Tom Bateman 20/2/19 discussed here

Israel elections: Netanyahu challengers Gantz and Lapid join forces 21/2/19

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges 28/2/19 discussed here

Netanyahu charges: Is Israel PM in more trouble now than ever before? Yolande Knell 1/3/19 discussed here

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs 11/3/19 discussed here

Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari 18/3/19 discussed here

Israel elections: ‘Fascism’ perfume ad sparks online debate 19/3/19

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu: Commando turned PM first published in 2013, updated 28/3/19

Benny Gantz: The Israeli ex-military chief challenging Netanyahu 5/4/19 discussed here

Israel election: Who are the key candidates? BBC Monitoring 6/4/19

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected 7/4/19

Israel’s election: Five things to know Yolande Knell 8/4/19

How far will Israel shift to the right? Tom Bateman 8/4/19 discussed here

Israel election: PM Netanyahu seeks record fifth term 9/4/19

As has been the case in previous years, the vast majority of the contending lists were totally ignored in BBC coverage. Most of the BBC’s attention was once again focused on the right of the political map with the exception of the Blue and White Party.

The contenders considered by the BBC to be “key candidates” were Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid (Blue and White), Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked (New Right), Avi Gabbay (Labour) and Moshe Feiglin (Zehut). BBC audiences only saw explanations of the platforms of the five parties represented by those seven people.

Other parties predicted to win at least as many seats as Labour and Zehut, such as United Torah Judaism, Meretz or Shas, received no BBC coverage at all.  Additional parties such as Hadash-Taal, Kulanu and Raam-Balad received only superficial mentions throughout the three months of reporting.

While audiences saw extensive coverage of the legal cases involving Netanyahu, the topic of what concerns the Israeli voter was yet again completely ignored in BBC coverage.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

 

In which BBC World Service listeners hear that barbecue is ‘Palestinian food’

The March 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring takes us on a tour of her hometown, the Palestinian city of Ramallah.”

Presenter David Amanor introduced the item (from 40:53 here) thus:

Amanor: “Now, ‘My Home Town’: the series where we ask a Fifth Floor journalist to tell us about the things they find unique or special about their home towns. Tala Halawa works with BBC Monitoring. She takes us to the West Bank city of Ramallah.”

While most of Tala Halawa’s monologue is unremarkable, listeners may have noticed two spurious claims. [emphasis added]

Halawa: “Ramallah is so special because it has every available place to worship. Like, Christians have their churches, Muslims have their mosques and it’s open for all cultures and religions.”

Beyond the fact that there is nothing particularly “special” about a town with both churches and mosques, Ramallah – like the rest of the territory  under the control of the Palestinian Authority – is clearly not “open for all cultures and religions” when the sale of land to Jews is a criminal offence.

Halawa: “Food is like the main thing that you can do in Ramallah. It’s the main activity. Palestinian food like falafel, hummus, barbecue.”

Some consider falafel to have been invented by Egyptian Copts and hummus to also have originated in Egypt. Regardless of their actual origins, to describe those foods as “Palestinian” is inaccurate. While we have seen similar efforts to promote a politicised narrative using claims of “Palestinian food” before, the notion of the barbecue as “Palestinian” is certainly a new one.

Related Articles:

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

BBC Travel politicises food to promote a narrative

 

BBC Monitoring’s Warsaw Summit hashtag ‘research’ gets mixed reception

On February 12th BBC Monitoring put out a Twitter thread about a hashtag relating to the Warsaw Middle East Summit.

Interesting use of a photograph which is not related to the Warsaw summit at all but was in fact one of several taken in Tel Aviv in April 2018 is seen in the second Tweet.

As can be seen in the replies to those Tweets, many disagreed with BBC Monitoring’s analysis and one response was particularly detailed.

Interestingly, BBC Monitoring’s thread was taken up by an outlet called ‘Persia Digest’ which told its readers that BBC Monitoring revealed that “these tweets are artificial and not the real view of Iranians”. The founder of that outlet, Mohammad-Hossein Khoshvaght, was formerly head of Iran’s international press bureau and is apparently related by marriage to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At least now we know who does appreciate BBC Monitoring’s ‘research’.

Related Articles:

BBC Monitoring claims to take on the ‘manipulation of messaging’

‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

 

 

BBC News website corrects error in Israel profile timeline

As noted here last week, an entry in the BBC News website’s Israel profile timeline that had been added on November 19th inaccurately named the former Israeli defence minister as “Avidgor Lieberman”.

BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website and while no acknowledgement was received, the entry – which had remained in situ for ten days – has since been amended to include the correct spelling of Mr Lieberman’s first name.

Before

After

Related Articles:

Amendments made to the BBC’s Israel profile

BBC’s Partition Plan omissions still stand

As was noted on these pages three years ago, the timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile fails to inform readers that the 1947 UN Partition Plan recommendation (UNGA Resolution 181) was opposed by the Arab States and hence became irrelevant.

The entry for 1947 in the timeline on the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian Territories’ page tells only part of the story.

Both those entries fail to inform BBC audiences that the recommendation for partition was rejected outright by the Arab States as well as the Arab Higher Committee. The BBC’s portrayals make no mention of the fact that immediately following those rejections, Arab rioting ensued and Arab forces launched what the UN described at the time as “armed incursions” into what was then still Mandate Palestine.

The omission of the fact that hostilities – and with them, displacement of civilians – had in fact begun five and a half months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence is all the more significant because entries that follow in both those timelines tell BBC audiences that “[t]housands of Palestinians were forced out or fled from their homes in the war that followed Israel’s independence”.

As our CAMERA colleague Gilead Ini has noted, the displacement of Palestinian Arabs did not take place – as the BBC would have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. [emphasis added]

“Most broadly, the Arab flight can be divided into two time periods corresponding with the two major phases of fighting. Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine). During this period, the conflict more closely resembled a civil war, with Palestinian Jews battling Palestinian Arabs and several thousand Arab militiamen. A second phase of the fighting and flight occurred after May 1948, when neighboring Arab armies initiated the conventional phase of the war by joining in the fighting on the side of the Palestinians.”

In other words, the BBC continues to airbrush the fact that the displacement of Palestinians came about after Arab leaders elected – at their own admittance – to launch hostilities.

Related Articles:

Backgrounder: Palestinian Arab and Jewish Refugees (CAMERA)

No Partition Plan anniversary coverage from the BBC

How the BBC invented territory ‘allocated’ to a Palestinian state

Amendments made to the BBC’s Israel profile

On November 19th the latest amendments were made to the timeline included in the BBC News website’s Israel profile.

There are currently two entries for 2018, with the first one reading as follows:

“2018 July-November – UN and Egypt attempt to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas amid an upsurge in violence on the Gaza border from March.”

The fact that the “upsurge in violence on the Gaza border” – i.e. the ‘Great Return March’ – was initiated, organised and facilitated by Gaza Strip based terror factions is apparently not considered a ‘key fact’ by the BBC.

The second entry for 2018 misspells the first name of the former Minister of Defence.

“2018 November = Defence Minister Avidgor [sic] Lieberman resigns in protest at ceasefire with Hamas, withdraws his Yisrael Beteinu party from the coalition government.”

The unprecedented barrage of over 460 rocket and mortar attacks launched by Gaza based terrorists against Israeli civilians in 25 hours which preceded that ceasefire is clearly also not a ‘key fact’ as far as the BBC is concerned.

 

 

 

BBC Monitoring claims to take on the ‘manipulation of messaging’

On November 1st the BBC put out the following Tweet:

The link leads to a blog post titled “BBC Monitoring: spotting fake news since the Second World War” written by the director of BBC Monitoring, Sara Beck.

“BBC Monitoring is a specialist part of BBC News, part of the World Service group. We have experienced journalists and linguists who follow and track international media in foreign languages, in over 150 countries and about 100 languages.

We monitor that information, we report and analyse it, and we work on a subscription website basis. All our content is available to the BBC and to the UK Government and we also have commercial customers. […]

BBC Monitoring was set up to counter propaganda from Nazi Germany in the war, explaining propaganda and spotting messaging in media. Verification – and then the reporting of stories where fake news is part of the media, is still part of what we do.

I’m pleased that the World Service is pulling together all its coverage of fake news. Monitoring is a central part of that, and we’re also developing a small team that is solely going to be dedicated to disinformation and the manipulation of messaging in the media in certain parts of the world.”

However, past stories produced by BBC Monitoring have themselves not always been free from “disinformation and the manipulation of messaging”.

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

BBC Monitoring steers clear of key parts of the Jerusalem story

Dumbing down ME politics with BBC Monitoring

Inaccuracies in BBC backgrounder on Sinai terrorists

BBC Monitoring uses Sykes-Picot anniversary to promote conspiracy theory

BBC Monitoring digs up the dirt with cleaners non-story

BBC Monitoring euphemises terror, whitewashes antisemitism, claims Egyptian Jews ‘vanished’

BBC Monitoring plays down Saudi concerns over Iranian nuclear programme

BBC Monitoring amplifies Iranian Charlie Hebdo conspiracy theory

On BBC Monitoring’s fantasy ‘ban’ and short skirt syndrome

BBC Monitoring’s news: repetition of an anonymous BTL comment

No translation necessary, but BBC Monitoring embroiders

BBC Monitoring amplifies PA outlet’s propaganda

A service announcement for BBC Monitoring

BBC Monitoring puffs wind in the sails of professional anti-Israel campaigners

Let’s hope that the first of those “certain parts of the world” will be BBC Monitoring’s own new offices in Broadcasting House.

 

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

The September 7th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Radio messages for prisoners
Around 6,000 Palestinians are currently detained in Israeli jails, and one of the ways they get news from home is through Palestinian radio. Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring is based in Ramallah and has been listening in.”

The introduction by presenter David Amanor (from 17:31 here) likewise did not bother to inform listeners why those people are serving time in prison or that over 2,000 of them are directly responsible for the murders of Israelis. 

Amanor: “Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring tells me, by the way, the number of Palestinian radio stations in the West Bank has been steadily increasing over the years and so has the variety of programmes aimed at prisoners – yes, prisoners. Around six thousand are currently detained in Israeli jails and for many, radio is a vital contact with the outside world. Tala is based in the city of Ramallah.”

Having told listeners of her penchant for changing radio stations while driving, Tala Halawa went on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Halawa: “I have been fascinated with the content of the radio programmes aimed at prisoners and their families. So this is Marasil [phonetic] which means messages in Arabic; a broadcast on Palestinian radio station Ajyal FM. The presenter Jenin Zaal is giving out the phone number for families to call with messages for prisoners. Her show lasts for 90 minutes and goes out every Friday. I met her in the radio station in Ramallah city centre.

Jenin told me that those 90 minutes are among the most important in her life but she says the programme is very draining. She says she could never give it up; it’s one way she feels she can contribute to the Palestinian cause and do something for her homeland. The promo for Marasil [phonetic] says the programme breaks down prison bars. You can hear that messages like this one from a wife to her imprisoned husband.”

After listeners heard a voice-over of the message, Halawa went on to give her own interpretations:

Halawa: “This is a kind of a typical news a wife would share with her imprisoned husband knowing that thousands are listening to her call. She wants to tell him how much she misses him but in a relatively conservative society she keeps the conversation limited to their kids’ news. To excel in school is a very important matter in the Palestinian context so it’s always the main topic to discuss on air. Spending too much time on social media platforms and computer games concerns all parents.

I also talked to a former prisoner Rula Abu Daho. She’s now a lecturer in Birzeit University and she’s one of the leading figures in women and gender studies in the Palestinian context. Rula said that getting a message from your family through the radio was almost like a visit. Of course it’s a one-way communication but it still feels like a visit. This is Jenin Zaal taking a call from a girl whose mother is in prison.”

After listeners heard another voice-over Halawa went on:

Halawa: “Another former prisoner Esmat Mansour who spent 20 years in prison. During that time he learned Hebrew and now he established a career in journalism. Esmat told me that he found out from the radio that his 20 year imprisonment was about to end. He said that the prison administration just would not say when his release date was. But then some fellow prisoners in the yard started calling him and telling him to listen to Ajyal FM. When he turned on the radio he heard his own family saying how they were preparing celebrations to welcome him back the next day. So, at least, the waiting was over.

I met Mansour for the first time in 2014. He never mentioned that he knew about his release from the radio programme. That was a surprise for me and this made me realise that those programmes are not simply two hours of broadcast: they carry a heavy load of human stories that deserve to be heard.”

Obviously Tala Halawa’s interest in “human stories that deserve to be heard” does not extend beyond the people she presents as ‘prisoners’ without the provision of any context whatsoever. BBC World Service listeners were not told that the quoted university lecturer Rula Abu Daho was imprisoned for her part in the murder of Yigal Shahaf in 1987.

“Dusk was settling over the Old City, reaching into its labyrinthine alleys and shrouding its holy sites as Yigal and Ronit Shahaf made their way slowly toward the Damascus Gate. The young couple, chatting in Hebrew with two friends, paid little heed to the dwindling crowds or the shopkeepers closing for the day.

Nearby, four young Palestinians, three men and a woman, waited. When the Israelis paused in front of a jewelry shop near the Via Dolorosa, one of the men ran toward them, aimed a pistol at the back of Yigal Shahaf’s head and fired one shot.

As chaos broke out, the gunman fled, handing his weapon to one of his comrades, who gave it to the woman, a college student who had just joined the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The woman, Rula abu Duhou, 19, paid with nine years in prison for her participation in the slaying of an innocent Israeli civilian. And still today, freed by a controversial amnesty, she is unrepentant.

“I’m not sorry for it,” Abu Duhou said recently, her dark eyes direct, as relatives and friends streamed into her family’s comfortable West Bank home to celebrate her release. “On the contrary, I’m proud. And I wish I could do more for my country.””

Neither were BBC World Service listeners informed that the ‘journalist’ Esmat Mansour “spent 20 years in prison” because he took part in the murder of Chaim Mizrahi in 1993 or that since his release in 2013 he has received financial benefits for his part in that act of terror.

“In a typical homecoming package, the Palestinian self-rule government gave him $50,000, the rank of colonel and a monthly stipend of 6,000 shekels ($1,725), a higher-than-average income.”

A month before this item was aired on BBC World Service radio the partially licence fee funded BBC department BBC Monitoring – which purports to “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions” – found it appropriate to publish similar ‘analysis’ by Ramallah based Tala Halawa under the title “The ‘private space’ radio offers to Palestinian prisoners“.

There too Halawa showcased contributions from Rula Abu Daho and Esmat Mansour – but with no mention whatsoever of their involvement in acts of terror. She did however tell subscribers that:

“It is estimated that around 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails as a result of the ongoing conflict between the two sides. Palestinians see them as prisoners of war or political prisoners under international law, while Israel disputes this, saying they are terrorists or active in illegal terrorist organisations.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may legitimately be defined in such terms.

These two reports further indicate that the BBC has not adequately addressed the issue of politicisation of Middle East related content produced by local staff and the serious question marks that raises regarding the impartiality of BBC content. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

 

 

 

 

Israel water tech offer to Iranians not news for the BBC

Earlier this year BBC Monitoring produced a backgrounder on a topic the UN has been flagging up for some time. Titled “Iranian drought raises environmental alarm“, the backgrounder – a version of which was also published on the BBC Weather website – explains that:

“The ongoing drought in Iran has raised fears of an environmental disaster, with warnings that the impact to many parts of the country’s ecosystem could lead to severe consequences, such as population displacement and mass migration.

Years of low rainfall, rising temperatures, mismanagement and population growth have led others to warn of a security threat and sandstorms engulfing as much as “a quarter of Iran’s territory”. 

“Drying lakes and rivers, declining groundwater resources, land subsidence, water contamination and rationing, agricultural losses, salt and sandstorms, and ecosystem damages are reaching alarming levels in Iran,” said the deputy energy minister for water resources planning, Hedayat Fahmi, in August last year.”

Recently Israel offered to help the Iranian people to combat those long-standing problems.

“In his remarks in a video clip posted on Facebook with Farsi subtitles, Netanyahu began by pouring and sipping a glass of water, detailing his plans to launch a Farsi website explaining how Iranian farmers can recycle their waste water. […]

“Now, Israel also has water challenges. We’ve developed cutting edge technologies to address them. Israel recycles nearly 90% of its waste water. That’s far more than any other country on earth,” he proclaimed.

“Israel has the know-how to prevent environmental catastrophe in Iran. I want to share this information with the people of Iran. Sadly, Iran bans Israelis from visiting, so we’ll have to get creative,” he continued.

“We will launch a Farsi website, with detailed plans on how Iranians can recycle their waste water. We will show how Iranian farmers can save their crops and feed their families,” the prime minister promised.”

That offer has proved very popular – but not of course with the Iranian regime.

“Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his video message on water shortage in Iran, stressing that the country does not need Israel’s technologies for water treatment.

“The prime minister of this regime (Israel) or any other person who claims to have the ability to manage water resources is aware that Iran is among the countries whose several-thousand-year record of water management has been recognized and we can be a source for other world regions in this regard and promote methods to cope with water shortage and optimum use of water,” Ardakanian told reporters at the end of a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.”

Interestingly, the same BBC which considered the Iranian drought important enough to justify the compilation of a backgrounder only six months ago has not found the offer from a country that is one of the world’s leaders in water management technology worthy of a news report.