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:

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

 

 

 

 

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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.  

 

 

BBC Monitoring steers clear of key parts of the Jerusalem story

On December 7th the BBC News website published an article by BBC Monitoring under the less than objective title “Middle East media reacts to ‘slap of the century’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Headlines in Arab and Turkish newspapers are crowded with strident criticism and expressions of dismay in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Those in the Israeli press welcome the move, saying it should never have taken decades to happen.”

Since then, however, audiences have seen no further coverage of the Middle East media from the licence fee funded BBC department that pledges to help them “understand the world through its media”.

BBC audiences are therefore not aware of the fact that the last couple of weeks have seen a rise in the appearance of antisemitic cartoons in some Middle East media outlets – as the ADL reports.

“These cartoons describe President Trump as a circus elephant balancing the globe on its trunk to the command of its Israeli trainer; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulling the arm of a blindfolded US in order to raise a Star-of-David-shaped wand; and President Trump driving off a cliff in a car marked with a Star of David. They also depict the Israeli flag on top of an Uncle-Sam-style top hat; Uncle Sam throwing away his original hat only to reveal he is in fact wearing a Jewish skullcap; as well as the US saying that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” while the Jewish figure is giving it a thumbs-up, as though it was said on Israel’s cue.

These cartoons resonate with an age-old anti-Semitic theme of malevolent Jewish power found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document purporting to show Jews scheming to achieve world domination.”

Although BBC Monitoring states that it provides “analysis of media and social media behaviour based on expert understanding of the local media and cultural context”, BBC audiences have heard nothing of a music video promoting suicide bombings and an antisemitic poem that have been broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV. Neither have they been told of calls to the public from PA politicians in official PA media outlets to “stand against any attempt” to “Judaize” Jerusalem or of the repeated calls from Fatah (the dominant political party in the PA and PLO) for violence and rioting on its social media platforms. BBC Monitoring staff have apparently also not noticed the incitement against the US president on Fatah social media accounts.

As we saw earlier this week, BBC correspondents in the region are not making an effort to apprise audiences of the backdrop to the rioting on the streets that they are reporting. The fact that the BBC  is the only world media organisation to have such a large publicly funded department dedicated to translation and analysis of foreign language media means that it is ideally – and indeed uniquely – placed to fill that vacuum. BBC Monitoring is not, however, providing the corporation’s audiences with information which would help them put the story of the regional reaction to the US announcement on Jerusalem into perspective. 

‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

BBC Monitoring is the partially licence fee funded department that translates open source traditional and new media from around the world and describes its mission as being “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions”.

Earlier this year BBC Monitoring advertised some vacancies in its Jerusalem office, including a position titled Digital Journalist that was described as follows:

“On a day-to-day basis, you will contribute to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East by monitoring local media for key developments, coming up with new angles, ensuring accuracy and adding context as well as integrating video, images and data into BBCM’s output.” [emphasis added]

The successful applicant for that position is apparently called Vera Sajrawi.

A native of Nazareth, Sajrawi has in the past worked for BBC Arabic, Reuters and Al Jazeera among others.

Sajrawi has claimed that “AIPAC is the American group lobbying for more weapons for Israel to kill Palestinians” and is apparently at ease with the notion that ‘the occupation’ commenced in 1948.

That obviously does not bode well for BBC Monitoring’s commitment to “ensuring accuracy”, for consumers of supposedly impartial BBC Middle East related content or for clients (including the UK government) relying on the information it provides to help them make “well-informed decisions”.

 

In which BBC Monitoring contradicts the BBC World Service

As noted here earlier, on the afternoon of August 16th the BBC World Service inaccurately told its listeners that:

“While President Trump has come under a lot of flack from Jewish leaders and politicians in the US for his perceived hesitancy in condemning the groups, in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and most politicians have been rather more muted regarding what the president said.”

The next day, however, the BBC suddenly changed its tune. An article published in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the evening of August 17th under the headline “Anger over Netanyahu silence on Trump and Charlottesville” told readers that:

Most Israeli politicians and press have decried US President Donald Trump’s remarks on the violent protests in Charlottesville – and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lack of response – and are examining the implications for America’s Jewish community.” [emphasis added]

The article’s next four paragraphs detailed condemnation of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville from Israel’s president and some Israeli newspapers  – informing readers that while Yediot Aharonot, Ma’ariv and the “liberal daily” Ha’aretz slammed remarks made by the US president on their front pages:

“Newspaper Israel Hayom, reputed to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made no mention of the developments on its front page and offered factual coverage on page 24.”

Readers were also told that:

“Labour Party member of the Knesset Shelly Yachimovich took to Facebook to say that as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, she found the display of Nazi symbols “physically nauseating”.

She also took aim at Prime Minister Netanyahu who condemned the far-right protestors but not Trump’s words: “You, the prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, the man who warns us about a Holocaust every Monday and Thursday with fear mongering and bombastic oaths of ” never again”? What is the matter with you?””

The next seven paragraphs were devoted to portrayal of social media posts from Netanyahu and his son and the reactions of various politicians and a Ha’aretz columnist. The article’s last six paragraphs were devoted to another story in which the Israeli prime minister was criticised by various Ha’aretz writers.

This BBC article is credited to BBC Monitoring: the department that tracks and translates open source media around the world for the BBC as well as commercial clients. In 2015 its then newly appointed head said:

“Our ability to follow the world’s ever expanding traditional and digital media sources is unique and brings crucial insights to the BBC’s journalism as we seek to inform and explain incredibly complex stories of global impact.”

The BBC is certainly not the only media outlet to have devoted column space to amplification of criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s response to the incidents in Charlottesville  from rival politicians, politically partisan journalists and self-appointed pundits.

However, seeing as the information in this article is readily available to the general public in the online English language Israeli press (including the sources of the multiple promoted quotes from Ha’aretz), one can only wonder why BBC Monitoring spent time and resources on promoting a story that needed no translation, is not an “incredibly complex” issue “of global impact” and certainly does not provide “crucial insights” into anything – apart from how journalists quoting and amplifying other journalists manufacture media ‘buzz’.  

Related Articles:

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BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

On May 10th an article credited to Lamia Estatie appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Trending blog. At the bottom of the article readers are told that it was produced “By the UGC [user-generated content – Ed.] and Social News team; Additional reporting by BBC Monitoring in Cairo”.

Titled “Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad“, the article relates to a story that emerged on the same day.

“Arabs on social are calling for a boycott of the popular pizza chain and franchise after one of its Israel branches posted a Facebook advert said to “mock” Palestinian hunger strikers.

Pizza Hut has apologised for the now deleted post, saying it was “completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand” and added that “the relationship with the agency that posted it was terminated”.

Israeli prison authorities had earlier released an [sic] video of Marwan Barghouti – who is leading a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons – allegedly secretly eating cookies. Mr Barghouti’s wife has said the prison service footage was “fake”.

But Pizza Hut used a screen grab of the video with a Photoshopped pizza box in the cell. The post in Hebrew read: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?””

Nowhere throughout the entire article are BBC audiences informed that Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in lethal terror attacks and neither are they told that additional “Palestinian hunger strikers” are also serving time for acts of terror. As in previous BBC reports concerning the ‘hunger strike’ (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences are not told what the “jail conditions” that the prisoners are supposedly protesting actually are or what they are demanding. Neither are readers given any insight into the political background of the strike.

“Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April to protest against Israeli jail conditions, relying on an intake of saltwater.” 

“Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour has said that more than 6,500 Palestinians are imprisoned or arbitrarily detained by Israel.”

Another noteworthy aspect of this article comes in the following paragraph:

“The BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – is a self-described human rights organisations [sic] which supports a boycott of Israel as a form of pressure. Support for the campaign has grown on UK university campuses and has been criticised by some Jewish students.” [emphasis added]

The link in that paragraph leads to an article by Jon Ironmonger that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th and was discussed here. There too BBC audiences were inaccurately led to believe that the BDS campaign is a “human rights” group.

“The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.”

As we once again see from this latest BBC Trending article, when inaccurate information is promoted by the BBC it not only misleads the corporation’s funding public, but also its own staff. The result is that myths such as the claim that the BDS movement promotes human rights are recycled and spread even further.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

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

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

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

 

Confused and conflicting BBC reporting on Syrian jihadists

When the Syrian group Jabhat al-Nusra rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in late July 2016, the BBC told its audiences that the group had “split from al-Qaeda“:

“Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, has announced it has split from al-Qaeda.

Leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani, in his first recorded message, said its new name would be Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant].”

The BBC News website published an additional article on the same topic by an outside contributor titled “What drove Syria’s Nusra Front to detach itself from al-Qaeda?“.

At the time we asked “Is the BBC’s report of Jabhat al-Nusra ‘split’ from al Qaeda too simplistic?” and a subsequently published BBC profile of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham used rather more guarded language.

“The Syria-based jihadist group al-Nusra Front changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant) at the end of July 2016, reportedly cutting ties with al-Qaeda at the same time.

It is thought that the public severing of links with al-Qaeda may not be as total as portrayed…”

However, when the BBC News website reported a double terror attack in Damascus on March 11th, the article included the following statement:

“A double suicide bombing in the Kafr Sousa district of the capital in January killed at least 10 people.

Former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham said it was behind that attack.” [emphasis added]

The next day – March 12th – the BBC News website published a follow-up report concerning the claim of responsibility for that terror attack.

Titled “Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate claims twin bombing in Damascus“, the report opens:

“A Syrian jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a twin bombing on Friday [sic] in the capital Damascus that killed at least 40.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham said the attack was “a message to Iran” over the country’s support for Syrian president Bashar al Assad.” [emphasis added]

Later on readers were told that:

“Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Organisation) is a new group formed from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously al-Nusra Front) and four smaller factions.”

Readers of this article would therefore understand that the BBC is telling them that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – including its Jabhat Fateh al-Sham faction – is “a Syrian jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda”.

However, just one day before the same website had told them that the largest faction in Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was a “former al-Qaeda affiliate” and less than eight months prior to that it had told them that the same faction had “split” from al-Qaeda.

Although (as noted here at the time) Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was formed around the end of January 2017, the BBC did not cover that story until a month later when, on February 28th, BBC Monitoring published an article titled “Tahrir al-Sham: Al-Qaeda’s latest incarnation in Syria“. Confusingly, however, that report opened:

“The Syrian jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which was known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July, has rebranded itself again.

A statement issued on 28 January announced that it had agreed to merge with four smaller factions and form a new alliance, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Organisation). […]

On 9 February, Abu Jabir delivered a message in which he insisted Tahrir al-Sham was an “independent entity and not an extension of former organisations and factions”.

It appeared to be an attempt to further distance the group from al-Qaeda.” [emphasis added]

Less than two weeks later, we now see the BBC describing Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as being “affiliated with al-Qaeda”.

Clearly there is a great deal of confusion among BBC reporters regarding this topic and obviously the appearance of conflicting and confusing information on the BBC News website is not contributing to meeting the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “global understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

The BBC, jihadists and Islamists

Is the BBC’s report of Jabhat al-Nusra ‘split’ from al Qaeda too simplistic?

Confusing and conflicting messaging on Jabhat al Nusra in BBC reports

Inaccuracies in BBC’s Jabhat al Nusra profile

 

A cryptic BBC portrayal of ME reactions to US election result

November 9th saw the appearance of an article titled “US election 2016: Middle East awaits Trump policy decisions” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.us-elections-reactions

“Many Middle Eastern leaders have congratulated Donald Trump on his unexpected victory in the US presidential election.

But some will be waiting to see whether he changes long-standing US policies on major issues and crises in the region.

BBC correspondents have been gauging the reaction.”

Readers found contributions from BBC journalists in Mosul, Tehran, the Gulf, Cairo and Jerusalem. Thomas Fessy presented an accurate account of Israeli reactions, although he could also have included the Mayor of Jerusalem’s reminder to Mr Trump of his stated intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Donald Trump, describing him as “a true friend of the State of Israel”. Mr Netanyahu said he was looking forward “to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region”.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was one of the first Israeli officials to send his congratulations. Mr Trump’s campaign said his administration would recognise the holy city as the “undivided capital of the State of Israel”. That would antagonise Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]

Israelis from the hard-right meanwhile hope that Mr Trump will not speak against the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett put it quite bluntly: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.””

Fessy’s portrayal of the reactions of the Palestinian Authority president and Hamas are similarly accurate.

In contrast, the contributing BBC journalist in Cairo – Angy Ghannam of BBC Monitoring – focused his attentions on the regional media rather than on the reaction in Egypt.

“The general sentiment among regional media is that for Arabs it makes no difference whoever is in the White House.

While coverage of the election result by the main pan-Arab TV channels has been relatively balanced, the stance adopted by domestic stations has tended to reflect local priorities.

Arabic news websites have described the result as a “miracle”, a “political earthquake”, and “contrary to all expectations”.

Across social media, the overwhelming sentiment has been one of cynicism and pessimism regarding Mr Trump’s comments about Arabs and Muslims.

The majority of Arab users agree that what they regard as the US’s negative policies will remain unchanged.

But some see a perverse silver lining, saying that at least Mr Trump was “clear about his enmity”, while Mrs Clinton was “a hidden enemy”.”

Those trying to decipher that confusingly cryptic account may find an article by the Times of Israel’s Middle East analyst helpful.

“In Egypt, the leadership, including President Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, had trouble hiding its satisfaction with Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

According to Egyptian media, Sissi was the first world leader to call and congratulate Trump. He wished Trump well and expressed the hope that his term would lead to a flourishing of American-Egyptian ties.

What Sissi did not say out loud, but was expressed for him by one of his confidants in the Egyptian parliament, Mustafa Bakri, was that the Trump victory is seen as “a knockout blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

This satisfaction was echoed in other Arab countries — including the Gulf States, and even Saudi Arabia — where they have not forgotten or forgiven Clinton and US President Barack Obama for their support for the Arab Spring.

Arab leaders have never been able to understand the stance adopted by Clinton, when she was secretary of state, that supported 2012’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. […]

In the so-called pro-Muslim Brotherhood countries Qatar and Turkey, indeed, reaction was muted, with both adopting a wait-and-see attitude to Trump’s future Middle East policy.”

Now why didn’t the BBC report that?

 

 

BBC reports on Lebanese presidential election omit relevant information

October 31st saw the appearance of two BBC News website reports concerning the long-awaited election of a president in Lebanon.aoun-art-1

A report currently going under the headline “Lebanon: Michel Aoun elected president, ending two-year stalemate” underwent a series of amendments throughout the day but all versions of the article informed readers that:

“Mr Aoun was backed by the powerful Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah.

His candidacy was blocked by the rival, Sunni-dominated Future Movement until a deal was struck earlier this month.”

An additional report by Carine Torbey titled “Lebanon: Will new president end political crisis?” portrays the story of the 30 month-long failure to elect a president as follows:

“For almost two-and-a-half years, Lebanon – politically split along sectarian fault lines – has been without a president.aoun-art-2

Michel Aoun, Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, and for a long time one of the main contenders, has since 2006 been an ally of the Iranian-backed Shia party, Hezbollah – formerly a bitter political opponent of Mr Aoun.

That alliance was sufficient to make him persona non grata for the main Sunni political group in the country, the Future Movement, led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and with strong links to Saudi Arabia.

A standoff, which became known as the “presidential vacuum”, ensued, effectively paralysing the country since May 2014.

On Monday, Mr Aoun was finally elected to the presidency with, remarkably, the support of the Future Movement.”

BBC audiences would therefore be likely to go away with the impression that the Future Movement is responsible for the fact that Lebanon was without a president for nearly two and a half years.

Just days before, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and BBC World Service radio’s ‘The Essential’ had heard a BBC journalist visiting Lebanon – James Longman – suggest that the inability to elect a president was linked to corruption.

“The contempt for this country’s politicians is palpable. Unable to elect a president for over two years, they’re widely considered to be corrupt businessmen sharing the spoils of government contracts which rarely benefit the population.”

Back in August 2015, Carine Torbey portrayed the same issue as follows:

“The 27th parliamentary session to elect a president in August was as ill-fated as the previous 26.

Lebanon is caught in deep political divisions mirroring the regional fault lines. The MPs who are deeply allied to one player or another in the region, have been unable to decide on a president, a mainly ceremonial role, reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system.”

And readers may recall that in June of this year, BBC Monitoring produced a backgrounder on the topic of the failed attempts to elect a president which similarly refrained from informing BBC audiences of the fact that the parliamentary sessions aimed at dong so were repeatedly boycotted by Hizballah and its allies – as Yalibnan reported in April:

“Since Sulaiman ended his presidential term in May 2014, Hezbollah and most of its March 8 allies boycotted 38 parliamentary sessions that were allocated for electing a president

Without a two-thirds quorum, parliament sessions led to bickering, as Iran-backed Hezbollah insisted that it would only participate if it received solid guarantees that its candidate, Aoun, would be elected.”

In September Yalibnan reported that: 

“Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (usually referred to as No. 2) admitted on Sunday that it his party is behind the obstruction of Lebanon presidential election when [he] called on The Future Movement to “end its hesitation” and agree to back Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun’s presidential bid claiming that Hezbollah’s MPs would immediately end their boycott of the electoral sessions in order to vote for Aoun. […]

The Lebanese parliament failed again September 8th and for the 44th time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25, 2014.

As in the past sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.”

The BBC’s failure to report on those two and a half years of Hizballah arm-twisting does not only leave its audience lacking relevant background concerning the process of the election of the Lebanese president but also affects their ability to comprehend the context to Aoun’s stances and policies – some of which were already revealed in his first address as president.

“For the untrained ear, President Michel Aoun’s inaugural speech sounded like a mishmash of old chewed slogans about Lebanese “national unity”, harmony and patriotism. But between the lines, Aoun loaded his speech with code words that gave away the nation’s policy under his tenure.

First, according to Aoun, Lebanon will stay diplomatically neutral, thus giving Iran the advantage over Saudi Arabia. Second, Lebanon will sponsor “resistance” to “liberate” Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory. Third, Lebanon will “fight terrorism preemptively” inside Syria, and — in coordination with Assad — will deport Syrian refugees. […]

Right after giving Iran what it wanted, President Aoun delivered what Hezbollah wanted. “In the conflict with Israel, we will not spare any effort or resistance to liberate what remains of occupied Lebanese land,” Aoun said, thus trashing UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for diplomatic resolution for disputed border territory between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon over 16 years ago, the myth of “occupied Lebanese land” in the Mount Dov area has of course been used by Hizballah as an excuse for defying UN resolutions demanding its disarmament – despite the fact that the claim has been rejected by the UN.  

“In 2005, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected the Lebanese government’s claim that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese territory in a report (.pdf) to the Security Council:

‘The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.'”

Obviously the BBC has not made sufficient effort to provide its audience with the full range of information required to meet its remit of enabling understanding of this particular issue.

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