Examining BBC reports on Corona-related cell phone tracking

On March 17th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard the following report in a news bulletin (from 2:08:05 here):

Newsreader: “Israel’s government has approved measures for its security agencies to use mobile phone data to track the location of suspected Coronavirus patients. The move has led to criticism from civil rights groups. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “The emergency measures allow the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, to harvest information, including location data, from the mobile phones of confirmed Coronavirus patients and those suspected of having the disease. The regulations were passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval. The mobile phone data showing an individual’s movements will be passed to the Ministry of Health to alert others who they may have come into contact with and will also be used to enforce quarantine regulations. Israel has more than 300 confirmed cases of the virus. Civil rights groups called the move dangerous. The government said it was trying to strike a balance between health needs and people’s rights.”

On the same day the BBC News website published an article headlined “Coronavirus: Israel enables emergency spy powers”. Written by BBC Technology cyber-security reporter Joe Tidy, the report includes analysis from Tom Bateman.

“The Israeli government has approved emergency measures for its security agencies to track the mobile-phone data of people with suspected coronavirus.

The new powers will be used to enforce quarantine and warn those who may have come into contact with infected people.

The temporary laws were passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the move “a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope”.

Such powers are usually reserved for counter-terrorism operations.”

On March 29th listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report (from 37:10 here) by Krassi Twigg of BBC Monitoring about “fears that some countries are seeing new levels of intrusion which could have a damaging effect on societies”.

The report mentioned South Korea, Italy, France and (from 40:57) Israel.

Twigg: “…and Israel has ordered its domestic security agency to track the mobile phone data of suspected Coronavirus cases. The Shin Bet normally uses such surveillance methods on Palestinians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis. Joel Greenberg, BBC Monitoring’s Israel specialist, said the use of these methods against [sic] Israeli citizens has been hugely controversial.”

Greenberg: “Critics of the policy have challenged it in the Supreme Court and they argue that it’s a dangerous invasion of privacy by the government. The government has said that the use of mobile phone tracking will be strictly limited to the battle against the Coronavirus but still the critics say that there may be no going back. Once the Shin Bet has begun tracking the cell phones of ordinary Israelis, the policy may be used again.”

The story is however by no means as simple as those three BBC reports spread over a period of twelve days tell audiences. Only in the written report was it made it clear that “Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the new powers will last for 30 days only”.

The chain of events actually began two days before the BBC picked up the story, on March 15th, as reported by the Times of Israel.

“The government on Sunday approved a proposal to allow the Shin Bet security service to perform mass surveillance on Israelis’ phones without requiring a court order in an effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, prompting major concerns of privacy and civil liberty violations.

The measure will require final approval from the Knesset’s subcommittee on clandestine services before it can be put into action.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the Shin Bet will be limited in what data it collects and who within the government will have access to it. In addition, under the proposal, the agency will only be able to use the information in the fight against the coronavirus, and the power is scheduled to end 30 days after it is granted by the Knesset subcommittee. […]

In recent weeks authorities in Taiwan and Singapore, among other countries, have used cellular phone data to ensure that citizens were abiding by required quarantine orders.

Those tools — the Israel Police and Health Ministry already have similar means at their disposal — are not what was approved by the government Sunday.

Instead, the Shin Bet was permitted to use phone data — notably which cell towers the device is connected to — in order to retroactively track the movements of those found to be carriers of the coronavirus in order to see with whom they interacted in the days and weeks before they were tested in order to place those people in quarantine.

The Shin Bet will relay the information to the Health Ministry, which will send a message to those who were within two meters (6.6 feet) of the infected person for 10 minutes or more, telling them to go into quarantine.

“The information will be given only to the Health Ministry, to specific people with security clearances, and it will be erased immediately after it is used,” a senior Justice Ministry official told Channel 13 news.”

However the Knesset subcommittee did not vote on the matter and on March 19th the Supreme Court ruled that the tracking could not continue for more than five days without Knesset oversight.

“In a dramatic decision, the High Court of Justice said Thursday that it would shutter the government’s new mass surveillance program if Israel’s parliament fails to establish parliamentary oversight over it within five days.”

Following a request from the State Prosecutor and the re-establishment of the subcommittee, the Supreme Court lifted the injunction on March 24th on condition that legislation concerning the surveillance measures would be put in place.

“The High Court warned that if the legislation was not advanced in the coming weeks, it would once again be forced to intervene.

The judges noted that, given the additional government restrictions expected to be approved to further curb movement, the surveillance should be used as little as possible to minimize privacy violations.”

Especially given that, as the BBC has reported, the UK is also considering the employment of technological measures to combat the pandemic, one would have expected BBC journalists – including BBC Monitoring’s “Israel specialist” – to be able to report the story more accurately and with at least some mention of the safeguards put in place rather than focusing primarily on the speculative claims promoted by inadequately presented political NGOs such as ACRI and Adalah.  

BBC News reporting on new Lebanese government avoids relevant facts

January 22nd saw the appearance of a filmed report titled “Lebanon protesters angry over new government” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. The video’s synopsis reads:

“Protesters in Lebanon have returned to the streets, saying the new government formed on Tuesday does not meet their demands.

They had been calling for an overhaul of the political system, the formation of an independent, non-sectarian cabinet, and an end to government corruption.

The new cabinet was announced after months of deadlock. PM Hassan Diab said it would be a “rescue team” that would work to meet protesters’ demands.

But the demonstrators say the ministers were selected by the entrenched political elite that they blame for Lebanon’s problems.”

Produced by Rana Taha of BBC Monitoring, the video itself tells BBC audiences that:

“After months of deadlock, Lebanon finally has a new government but it has not eased demonstrators’ anger. Protesters took to the streets after the new cabinet was announced. This led to confrontations with security forces. The protesters had wanted a government of technocrats to overhaul the political system. They say the new ministers are still backed by the old political forces.”

Rather than explaining that opaque last sentence, the video goes on with a weighty section focusing on a different topic.

“The new cabinet includes the Arab world’s first ever female defence minister. Zeina Akar is one of six women appointed to the cabinet.”

After showcasing assorted Tweets relating to that appointment, the video closes:

“The country has been without a government since October when PM Saad Hariri was forced out amid mass protests. He was replaced by Hassan Diab who says the new ministers are technocrats. Some are happy the government is in place. But others are questioning the ministers’ expertise.”

As we see, BBC Monitoring carefully avoided any mention of specific political factions in that superficial report, meaning that viewers were left none the wiser about how Lebanon’s new government came into being.

As Jonathan Spyer explains:

“The new government is the product of escalating popular protests under way since October 15. The protests are in response to Lebanon’s dire economic state. Demonstrators were demanding the formation of a government of ‘technocrats’ qualified to address the urgent issues facing the country and untainted by contact with Lebanon’s enormously corrupt political parties.

The new government appears to be an attempt to create the superficial appearance of such an administration. Its 20 ministers were presented by Prime Minister designate Hassan Diab as ‘specialists’, non-partisan and without loyalties to this or that political bloc.

Few Lebanese are likely to be convinced by this claim.  The ‘specialists’ in question are individuals whose names were put forward by the political parties. The composition of the new government emerged in a process of wrangling and horse trading between these parties.

But crucially, parties and movements broadly associated with the west and with Saudi Arabia stayed out of the negotiations. Individuals linked to prominent pro-western and anti-Iranian political trends such as the former Prime Minister’s Mustaqbal (Future) Movement and the Christian Lebanese Forces are not to be found among the new ministers.  The Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is also not represented.

The government that has emerged from this process comprises individuals linked to movements which are part of only one of the existing power structures – the one associated with Hizballah and Iran.

The new administration is being described by Lebanese commentators as a government of ‘one color,’ Lebanon’s first of this kind.  The color is that of Hizballah and Iran’s banners.

Hizballah itself controls only two ministries in the new government.  But the Christian Free Patriotic Movement led by Gebran Bassil, and the Shia Amal movement, both closely associated with Hizballah, control much of the rest. Smaller parties also associated with this bloc make up the remainder.”

So is the BBC really not aware of the background to the new Lebanese government? A written report also published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on January 22nd shows that is not the case.

“Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister in October in response to mass protests over corruption and mismanagement.

The Hezbollah movement and its allies chose university professor Hassan Diab to replace him last month, but they could not agree the cabinet’s make-up. […]

Mr Diab’s candidacy was backed by the biggest Shia Muslim factions, Hezbollah and Amal, and President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

Mr Hariri’s Sunni-led Future Movement, the Christian Lebanese Forces party and the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt decided not to participate in the new government.

After more than a month of negotiations over portfolios, Mr Diab announced on Tuesday night a cabinet of 20 ministers who he insisted had no political loyalties. […]

“The cabinet is composed primarily of advisers and appointees representing the main political oligarchs and parties allied with Hezbollah,” wrote Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute.”

As we see the BBC understands perfectly well that the new government in Lebanon is, as its quoted analyst wrote, “politically aligned with the pro-Hezbollah and pro-Syrian axis in Lebanon”. One must therefore ask why it wastes public resources by having BBC Monitoring produce a video which completely ignores that elephant in the room and why the written report which does acknowledge Hizballah’s influence over the new government fails to make any mention of the obviously relevant fact that it is an internationally designated terrorist organisation. 

BBC yawns at PA paper’s call for violence at Holocaust commemoration

Ahead of a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp which is to be held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem later this week with the participation of numerous world leaders including Prince Charles, the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper published an op-ed which, after translation by PMW, has received local and wider Jewish media coverage.

“The official Palestinian Authority daily published an opinion piece on Saturday that called for a terrorist attack on a major upcoming memorial ceremony in Israel marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, saying, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.” […]

According to a translation from Palestinian Media Watch, columnist Yahya Rabah wrote in PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that Israel “is now energetically planning to hold a ceremony for the Holocaust in occupied Jerusalem, and it is accustomed to the world participating with it in this ceremony, as the Jews’ Holocaust is terrible, but the Palestinian holocaust by Israel that still continues is insignificant, beautiful, spectacular, and good.”

“Of course, the Palestinians will never accept this equation, and it can be assumed that they will resist the ceremony being held in Jerusalem itself, as Jerusalem is theirs, despite Trump, who gave it to Israel as part of the filthy deal of the century,” he added.

Rabah then called for an act of terrorism, writing, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.””

Like the rest of the British media the BBC – which of course has an entire department dedicated to translation of foreign language media – has to date not deemed that narrative-busting article published by a Palestinian Authority mouthpiece to be remotely newsworthy.

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

On August 28th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the ‘Gender & Identity correspondent’ for the BBC World Service and BBC World, Megha Mohan. Others involved in the production of the eleven-minute video include Yousef Eldin and Ramallah-based Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring.

The report is titled “Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention”. The word ‘childhood’ is defined as the period of time between infancy and puberty. The people showcased in this film would be better described as adolescents and of course none of them spent their entire “childhood in Israeli military detention”. That sort of manipulation however is evident throughout the entire report.

The report’s synopsis promotes an unsubstantiated claim from unidentified “critics”. The likewise unidentified “human rights group” is HaMoked: a political NGO with a very limited definition of human rights which campaigns solely on behalf of Palestinians.

“Last month Israel’s Supreme Court refused to hear a petition by a human rights group demanding that Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails be allowed to telephone their parents.

The case cast a spotlight on children tried in military courts for crimes committed in the occupied West Bank. Israel is believed to be the only country that tries children that way. Critics have said the ill-treatment of detainees is widespread.”

The first of the “children” showcased by Mohan is Ahed Tamimi, whose case was vigorously promoted by the BBC last year. Showing footage from December 2017, Mohan tells viewers:

“It was this slap that made global headlines. Then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi spent eight months in prison after it.”

Ahed Tamimi of course spent that time in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of incitement, and two counts of obstructing soldiers. BBC audiences were however once again led to believe that she was convicted for a “slap” and even though towards the end of the film (10:12) viewers were told that “the Israeli military told the BBC that Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal for a number of charges”, they were not told what those charges were and no information concerning the context of the grooming of Ahed Tamimi by her family of professional activists was provided.

Later on viewers heard that Tamimi “alleges that she was mistreated on several occasions following her arrest” and later still Tamimi told BBC audiences of ‘difficulties’ concerning sanitary pads. When interviewed by a Russian TV journalist a year ago, Tamimi told a different story.

“I did a lot of things: a legal course, we spent a lot of time on that, and matriculation exam studies; I read books; we would sing; we even had joint breakfasts of the entire wing – we would go outside, every room would bring its things, and we would eat together. We also ate lunch together most of the time. We also had parties; we would sit and sing, and dance. There were a lot of things that we did to pass the time: We watched TV, for example we jumped around in the rooms and did silly things; we did a lot of things.” 

Another of the cases highlighted by Mohan is presented as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager is described as having spent “8 months in detention” and viewers hear her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before she says:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

Apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to describe travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Neither in this nor any of the other showcased stories does the BBC offer viewers any information concerning the incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society which prompts teenagers to try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

Mohan does however tell viewers that:

“Israel is the only country in the world where children are prosecuted through a dedicated juvenile military court system. Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children in the West Bank because it is under military occupation. Every year more than five hundred Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested by Israeli forces. Israel argues that the children it detains are threats to national security.”

As was noted here last July when similar claims were made on BBC World News TV:

“Of course if Palestinians accused of security offences were tried in Israeli civil courts, the BBC would be the first to be jumping up and down shouting ‘annexation!’ because that would mean that Israeli sovereignty had been extended to Judea & Samaria.”

Viewers hear Mohan claim that “it can take the family up to six hours to cross checkpoints” in order to visit their imprisoned son. The Beit Fajjar resident interviewed by Mohan states:

“The checkpoint. The issue is with the checkpoint. Searching, come forward, go backward, go there. And the machine beeps because of anything. It’s a mess. It’s exhausting, torture. As if we’re also detained.”

Viewers are at no point provided with an explanation of why checkpoints are needed and neither are they informed that until the Palestinians decided to conduct a terror war against Israel’s civilian population – the ‘intifada’ – those checkpoints did not exist.

One of the main interviewees in the report is Sahar Francis of ‘Addameer’ who is presented as follows:

Mohan: “Conversations involving Palestinian territories and Israel are polarising and emotive. Child detention especially so. But Saher [sic] Francis, a lawyer for Addameer – an organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank – says the issue is not just moral but legal.”

Viewers are told nothing of Addameer’s political agenda – or of its ties to a terror organisation proscribed by the US and the EU. They do however get a generous dose of Francis’ falsehoods and propaganda.

Francis: “…arresting children is part of the whole system. When you raid a house after midnight in order to arrest a 14-year-old boy it’s not just against the boy himself. It’s against the whole family. Imagine the father and the mother that they cannot protect their son and they see their son is dragged out of his bed at night. I wouldn’t believe it’s about security; it’s about control. It’s about control and maintaining the oppression against the whole society. Especially children. It’s affecting a whole generation at the end of the day.”

Mohan goes on to assert that:

Mohan: “The most controversial form of incarceration is known as Administrative Detention. It allows the Israeli military to hold people without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence that is not shown to the detainee or their lawyer. The military says administrative detainees pose a threat to the national security and their cases are therefore classified.”

That of course is not an accurate or impartial portrayal of Administrative Detention (also used in other countries including the UK), which is only used in specific circumstances.

The report includes an interview with former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch who explains that:

“The military system is specifically for the Palestinians because that is the requirement of international law. Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention said given a breach of the criminal law, protected people – the Palestinians – can only be brought to justice before the military court.”

Hirsch also clarifies that the earlier claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions written in Hebrew is not true. As we see, that did not prevent the editors of this film from airing those allegations anyway.

Mohan then moves to another topic.

Mohan: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international agreement that states that children should only be arrested as a last resort. Israel is a signatory. The law says children should not be held in shackles, have prompt access to a lawyer and translations and be treated with respect.”

The relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (37 and 40) do not mention the word “shackles” at all. Mohan of course does not bother to inform viewers that the Palestinian Authority also became a signatory to that Convention in April 2014 and that Article 38 states:

“States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”

Regular readers may recall that last December the BBC’s ECU acknowledged that there is a “question” regarding “the extent to which this [the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] can be described as “international law”” and the BBC claimed that it had “reminded” its journalists that “the reach of international law is not always as it is claimed and should be checked for accuracy”. Apparently Megha Mohan and her team did not receive that memo because she closes her report as follows:

Mohan: “Israel currently denies Palestinian children detained in the West Bank protections granted to Israeli children. Yet agreed international law states the same legal rights should apply to every person going through the judicial process. Especially those under the age of 18.”

As Maurice Hirsch had already explained, “Palestinian children” and “Israeli children” are not subject to the same “judicial process” because:

“Article 66 of the 4th Geneva Convention refers to the role of military courts in areas under military control. The article states that members of protected populations accused of crimes may only be brought before courts whose members have military status (and are subordinate to the military authorities).”

Nevertheless, Mohan’s claim is not justified, as explained here.

It is of course amply obvious that this highly partisan report falls into the category of journalistic activism and does not meet either supposed BBC standards of accuracy or impartiality or the corporation’s public purpose remit.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

BBC’s ECU acknowledges ‘international law’ inaccuracy

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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:

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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