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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Let’s hope that the first of those “certain parts of the world” will be BBC Monitoring’s own new offices in Broadcasting House.
“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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
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”.
“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.
An article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 21st under the headline “Israeli man’s photos in holy Muslim site cause social media rage” ends with the following paragraph:
“The Israeli army’s chief of staff, Maj Gen Gadi Eizenkot, recently told an online Saudi newspaper that Israel was prepared to share “intelligence information” with Riyadh.”
The use of the words “online Saudi newspaper” obviously leads readers to understand that the publication concerned is headquartered and produced in Saudi Arabia. Those who bothered to click on the link leading to a Reuters article would find the publication described as an “Arabic language online newspaper” that is “privately Saudi-owned”.
However, the publication concerned – Elaph – is based in London. Its founder and current chairman – Othman al Omeir – does indeed originate from Saudi Arabia but according to the company’s registration details he holds British citizenship and resides in Morocco.
Moreover, access to the Elaph website has been blocked by Saudi Arabia on at least two occasions in the past and may still be banned. That may perhaps explain why the Elaph interview with Israel’s Chief of Staff – conducted by an Israeli journalist – did not make waves in the Saudi Arabian media, as Dr Mordechai Kedar pointed out.
“This site is, in fact, not at all a Saudi newspaper, as claimed in the various reports, and is run from London by two people, one born in Saudi Arabia and the other in Iraq.
Few Israelis know that the interviewer was not some Saudi journalist who landed in Israel in secret, as was suggested, but by Druze-Israeli Majdi Halabi, one of our own, who serves as Elaph’s Israel correspondent. […]
Incidentally, I combed the Saudi news outlets for any mention of the interview, but I did not find one.”
Although it has in the past described Elaph accurately as a “London-based Arabic newspaper”, the BBC on this occasion employed the inaccurate term”Saudi newspaper”. While it was by no means the only media outlet to promote that misleading description, one might have thought that the fact that the BBC signed a business deal with Elaph two years ago would have sufficiently jogged memories to ensure that audiences were provided with an accurate description of the company.
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”.
“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.
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”.
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’.