BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during November 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 84 incidents took place: fifty-three in Judea & Samaria, twenty-nine in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and one in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 72 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using explosive devices, one shooting attack, one vehicular attack and two arson attacks. A fatal stabbing attack took place in Arad and there was one incident of multiple mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.

During November one soldier was murdered in the stabbing attack in Arad and two civilians were wounded in the vehicular attack at Gush Etzion Junction.

As noted here at the time, the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on that vehicular attack. The stabbing attack in Arad on November 30th in which Sgt Ron Yitzhak Kukia was murdered was covered the next day in a BBC report that also mentioned the mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. None of the additional incidents that took place during November received any BBC News website coverage.

Throughout the first eleven months of 2017 the BBC News website has reported 0.79% of the total terror attacks that took place and 88% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2017

BBC inaccurately paraphrases Israeli officials

BBC News goes from not reporting car rammings as terror to not reporting at all

 

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Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the December 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an interview with the mayor of Jerusalem concerning a statement – which at the time had yet to be made – by the US president announcing recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Later on in the same programme listeners heard another segment relating to the same topic which began (from 02: 10:16 here) with presenter John Humphrys telling audiences that:

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

Humphrys: “The world has grown used to Donald Trump making provocative comments since he became president of the United States – usually in his endless flow of late-night Tweets. What he’s planning to say today will not be in a spontaneous Tweet but in a scripted speech and it has the potential to change the course of the peace process in the Middle East – many say to bring it crashing down. He will announce that Washington will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

After listeners had heard a report from Jon Sopel, Humphrys introduced (at 02:14:56) his next interviewee. Not for the first time ‘Today’ listeners heard a presenter upgrade the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Humphrys: “Well I’ve been talking to Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to this country. He’s effectively the Palestinian ambassador. What does he think of the speech?”

Hassassian: “If he says what he is intending to say about, you know, Jerusalem being the capital of Israel it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution. I think, you know, such a statement means a breach to the international conventions and to all UN Security Council resolutions concerning East Jerusalem as being, you know, an occupied city. I think it’s going to have big repercussions; not only in Palestine but it will be in the Arab and Islamic world. I think this could be the beginning of another compulsive violence that all parties need to avoid. I think, you know, this could be detrimental to the entire peace process. I think the United States will discredit himself as an honest broker of peace. I think by doing that it will show and portray to the entire world that the US is unequivocally supporting Israel and cannot really broker peace in the Middle East.”

Humphrys: “Presumably your leader Mahmoud Abbas has said all of this to Mr Trump.”

Hassassian: “Yes, he’s said that. He said that the repercussions will be very detrimental to the entire region. That it will create instability and insecurity again. It will put us back into the zero sum conflict. Violence will be inevitable and the end result is total chaos.”

Humphrys: “How did President Trump respond to Mr Abbas when he said that?”

Hassassian: “Basically he did not respond but he was trying to beat around the bush by explaining to him that we will give you this instead and that instead. You know; all gibberish talk that leads to nothing except to the escalation of tension and violence. At the time when the entire Middle East and the Palestinian, Israelis need a certain breakthrough in a re-engagement in negotiations, here he comes, you know, to start a whole new episode of confusion, anarchy, distortion to the concept of a two-state solution. And by, you know, announcing that, he’s declaring war in the Middle East. He’s declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept their holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, let alone that East Jerusalem has always been known as, you know, the future capital of Palestine, let alone that it is under occupation.”

If listeners expected to hear Humphrys question Manuel Hassassian further on the interesting topic of what the Palestinians had been offered “instead”, they would have been disappointed.

Humphrys: “Well that’s very strong language; declaring war in the Middle East. What he says he’s doing is making the case that he’s settling the question of the American embassy and could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.”

Hassassian: “If he seriously wants to bring the parties together he doesn’t start with a total violation in such a decision of moving the embassy. That is a total breach to the international conventions, let alone it is a breach basically to the arrangements and to the…to all the negotiations that we have been engaged with the Israelis about how East Jerusalem could be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem could be the capital of Israel. But by doing that he is preempting the entire process, you know, into a fait accompli and that in itself is going to have really a bad and violent reaction.”

Humphrys: “And you talk about declaring war and a violent reaction. What will actually happen? Because the Palestinians don’t have the wherewithal to [laughs] declare war on the United States of America, let alone in Israel.”

Hassasian: “What I mean by declaring war means that, you know, the Palestinians will go down to the streets and complain. And of course the entire Middle East will be on its feet because such a decision is going to be, you know, detrimental to the entire stability and security in the Middle East. Definitely this reaction is going to be different than any other reaction. Let us not forget what happened in the summer, you know, in Jerusalem when the Israelis tried to close down, I mean, the al Aqsa Mosque to the prayers and, you know, almost an intifada could have broke out. No, if we don’t take this issue seriously, what is left? I mean Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state. If that is gone, what do we mean by a two-state solution when there is no geographic contiguity anymore? This is the last straw that will break the camel’s back. I don’t mean war in terms of conventional war. I mean war in terms of diplomacy. We are basically going to go to the international courts. We will do all our utmost diplomatically and politically to put pressures on the United States to rescind from such a decision because this would definitely kill the entire peace process and will take us back to square one where convulsive violence will be inevitable.”

Humphrys: “Manuel Hassassian – thank you very much for talking to us.”

That interview lasted five and a half minutes and as we see, Humphrys refrained from interrupting his interviewee at all (in contrast to the five interruptions in his earlier interview with Nir Barkat) and asked just four questions.

While Humphrys spent over 30% of the time allotted to the interview with Barkat speaking himself, in this interview he spoke for just 13% of the time, giving Hassassian an uninterrupted platform from which – inter alia – to disseminate a false account of the events in Jerusalem last July that followed the introduction of security measures after the terror attack near Temple Mount.

Equally revealing are the BBC’s subsequent actions concerning these two interviews. While nothing was done at all with the interview with the mayor of Jerusalem, an edited version of the interview with Hassassian was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme “The Newsroom” (from 00:05 here) on the same day (with Hassassian again upgraded to ‘ambassador’).

The BBC also chose to make a video version of part of the interview and that was promoted on the BBC News website under the headline “Jerusalem as capital is ‘declaring war'”. A link to that video, along with quotes from Hassassian, also appeared in a BBC News website article that was published on December 6th under the headline “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace“.

It is once again abundantly clear that even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem, the BBC – including the ‘Today’ programme – had elected to frame the story for its audiences in line with the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

Related Articles:

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

 

Jerusalem terror attack gets 21 words of BBC coverage

On December 10th the IDF announced that it had destroyed a cross-border attack tunnel constructed by Hamas.

“The Israel Defense Forces this weekend destroyed an attack tunnel coming from the southern Gaza Strip that entered Israeli territory, the army announced on Sunday.

photo credit:IDF

The military said the kilometer-long tunnel was constructed by the Hamas terrorist group. It began in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and extended “hundreds of meters” inside Israeli territory. Israel demolished another cross-border tunnel, which was being dug by the Islamic Jihad terror group, six weeks ago.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus would not specify where exactly the newly destroyed was located in Israel, but said it ended in open farmland, approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the nearest Israeli community. […]

He said the tunnel appeared to be a “very substantial” one for Hamas, “based on the level of detail.””

The BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone reporting on that story and the only mention of the IDF’s announcement came in twenty words in half a sentence in yet another article about the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that was published on the website’s Middle East page on December 10th under the headline “Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem“.

Notably, despite the IDF having identified the tunnel as belonging to Hamas, the BBC did not report that information to its audiences and was ‘unable’ to describe the tunnel’s purpose in its own words.

“…Israel said it had blown up a tunnel from Gaza, which it says was being dug to enable militant attacks”

Obviously Israeli officials did not use the phrase “militant attacks” and so for the third time this month we see the BBC inaccurately paraphrasing statements made by Israelis despite the fact that the BBC’s guidance on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people…” 

Later on the same day a terror attack took place at the main bus station in Jerusalem.

“A Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard in the chest,  seriously wounding him, at the entrance to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on Sunday, before being tackled by police and a passerby, officials said,

Graphic video footage from the scene showed the terrorist slowly handing his belongings to the security guard, who was checking travelers at the door to the station, before suddenly taking out a knife and plunging it into the guard’s chest. […]

The victim, 46, was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where doctors were battling to stabilize his condition and save his life, said Dr. Ofer Merrin, the head of trauma center.

“The knife, unfortunately, hit his heart. His condition has stabilized, but I cannot say that there’s not threat to his life because, like I said, he’s in serious condition,” the doctor said, adding that he was unconscious and connected to a respirator.”

The only reporting of that attack on the BBC News website came in the form of twenty-one words in the same article.

“In Jerusalem itself, a Palestinian was arrested after stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli security guard at the central bus station.”

Unsurprisingly given the BBC’s record, audiences were not informed that the incident was a terror attack.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on Gaza tunnel equivocal about its purpose

Palestinian Islamic Jihad clarifies what the BBC did not

BBC inaccurately paraphrases Israeli officials

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

 

 

 

 

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part two

In part one of this post we saw examples of the BBC’s framing of Palestinian violence as being caused by the US president’s recent announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those engaging in that violence – in two BBC radio programmes. Both those programmes however also promoted some additional and no less interesting linkage.

Listeners to the 8 a.m. news bulletin in the December 9th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme also heard (from 01:05:16 here) the newsreader say that:

“President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem has cast a long shadow over the annual Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain. The defence secretary Gavin Williamson is there as part of the British delegation. From Bahrain: our security correspondent Frank Gardner.”

Gardner: “Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, was due to deliver the keynote speech. Instead she stayed in the US and accused the UN of having an anti-Israel bias. Here in the Gulf there is widespread concern that the US president’s announcement will embolden both Iran and the jihadists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al Faisal, who ran his country’s intelligence service for 24 years, told the conference the US announcement is oxygen and nutrition to radicals. ‘They will be active again’ he warned ‘and will be difficult to handle’.”

The December 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’ also promoted similar messaging. In her introduction (from 00:07 here) presenter Jackie Leonard told listeners that:

“There’s new concern in the Gulf that Mr Trump’s announcement will embolden radical groups.”

Later on she asked Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher about that topic.

Leonard: “Now there is a large security conference going on in Bahrain at the moment and President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been a topic of discussion. What has been said?”

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Usher: “Well essentially we’ve been hearing from representatives from Saudi Arabia and from the UAE that this is deeply unhelpful in the context not just of the status of Jerusalem – of its position between the Palestinians and the Israelis – but also in terms of fuelling extremism, fundamentalism: all the forces that Mr Trump and the US has essentially said they’ve been focusing on recently. The warnings have been coming from foreign ministers, from security officials, that this is going to give a new boost to the extremists in the Arab world who will see it as an insult and will use that to try and rebuild support, much of which has been leaking recently because of the way that IS – the Islamic State group – has been pushed back.”

After referring to the statement from the Iraqi prime minister pronouncing that “they have entirely defeated ISIS”, Usher went on to say:

Usher: “So in that context, these Arab officials are saying this is not helpful. We’ve just about pushed them onto the ropes – this is giving them a lifeline to come back fighting and inspiring new people to join.”

The BBC News website published an article by Frank Gardner promoting the same theme on December 8th. Titled “Trump Jerusalem shift puts counter-terror efforts at risk“, the article tells BBC audiences that:

“The recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has triggered more than just criticism from America’s allies.

Here in Bahrain, at the annual Manama Dialogue security conference, there is an almost universal concern that the announcement will be a gift to the region’s twin adversaries – Iran and the jihadists of al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS).

“The president has lit a fire and left his Arab allies to deal with the blaze,” said Elisabeth Marteu, Consultant Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

A former UK Special Forces officer, who asked not to be quoted, compared the announcement to “throwing a hand grenade into a room with the pin removed”.”

Readers also find the following:

“The first is the risk that people who might not be well disposed towards the West but were not planning to translate this into violent action may now think again.

Hediya Fathalla, an expert on Gulf security and a former Bahrain government official, told the BBC: “There are dormant jihadist mentalities who are sitting there thinking ‘I’m not operational but I have jihadist feelings’ so will this push them over the fence?””

So there we have it: in addition to the BBC’s already much promoted narrative according to which the US administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the cause of violence on the part of people who have engaged in exactly the same sort of violence for decades, will plunge a notoriously unstable part of the world into ‘instability’ and will be the “kiss of death” to a peace process that has been on life-support for 24 years, the BBC would now have its audiences believe that Trump’s announcement is going to kick-start ISIS and other jihadist groups.

While there is no doubt that the US announcement will have caused serious annoyance and ‘insult’ to a great number of people, there is of course a vast difference between being angered and taking violent action. The BBC, however, apparently does not believe that those who throw rocks at children in cars, stab random people in the street, launch missiles at civilian communities or sign up to a murderous jihadist terror organisation have any agency whatsoever or bear any responsibility for their choices.

Rather, the BBC’s soft bigotry of low expectations causes it to promote the notion that an announcement from Donald Trump triggers inevitable and irresistible reactions in followers of a particular religion – people the corporation apparently would have its audiences believe are not capable of making choices of their own.

Related Articles:

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part one

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

 

 

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part one

As recently noted here, the fact that the BBC was able to promote the notion of linkage between last Friday’s rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and the announcement concerning Jerusalem made by the US president two days beforehand meant that visitors to the BBC News website saw some modest coverage of that particular incident – in stark contrast to the numerous other incidents that the corporation chose to completely avoid reporting earlier in the year.

The same was true of some BBC radio stations. The December 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’, for example, included an item (from 52:08 here) introduced by Justin Webb as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Webb: “Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to allow plans for the US embassy to move there from Tel Aviv have enraged Palestinians and caused disquiet – to put it mildly – among America’s allies and the wider international community. In a statement issued after a UN Security Council meeting, Britain and other European countries called the move ‘unhelpful’. The Trump administration is hitting back at the UN – that they believe is biased against Israel – and at all those who’ve complained at this decision, telling them in effect ‘hold on, nothing’s working at the moment to bring peace – let’s try something new’.”

Webb then introduced “Tom Bateman our correspondent who’s been monitoring developments yesterday and indeed overnight” and Bateman opened his report with the last event to have taken place rather than the first.

Bateman: “Ah well overnight there were Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military says it targeted Hamas military sites including weapons manufacturing sites and also a training facility. And in the last 30 minutes or so Gaza’s Shifa hospital has said that they’ve found the bodies of two people under the rubble of one of those sites.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the “two people” concerned were Hamas operatives, Bateman went on to give an account that included elements which BBC audiences could have found for themselves on Israeli English language news sites.

Bateman: “Now this comes after the Israeli military said three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Now we knew about two of those last night because one had been intercepted by the Israelis. Another didn’t reach Israeli territory. But a third it seems landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It’s unclear whether it actually exploded – there are conflicting reports about that – but the Israeli press is showing pictures online of a damaged car and one resident is said to have heard an explosion; said that her windows were shaking after what she said was an explosion. But all of this after those clashes across the West Bank yesterday and Israeli troops using live fire on people who got near to the border fence in Gaza where one man was killed.”

Later on in the same programme (from 01:03:59 here) that theme of linkage between the US announcement and ‘inevitable’ violence (of the kind that actually has been a regular occurrence throughout the long decades in which the US kept its embassy in Tel Aviv) was promoted in a news bulletin. Listeners were told that:

“Violence has intensified between Israel and Gaza after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

And:

“Israel has launched further airstrikes against Hamas military positions in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. At least four Palestinians have been killed and many more injured in violence in the West Bank and Gaza since President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo today to discuss their response. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Listeners then heard a similar report to Bateman’s earlier one.

BBC World Service radio audiences also heard similar linkage promoted on December 9th in an edition of ‘The Newsroom’. Presenter Jackie Leonard introduced a lead item (from 00:07 here) that began with the sound of gunfire.

Leonard: “The sounds of further clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank this morning. It follows Friday’s ‘day of rage’ against President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel said it had launched airstrikes against Hamas military positions in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. […] Here’s our Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher.”

Usher – who apparently confused the Arabic term for Jerusalem with the name of the mosque on Temple Mount – misled listeners with the inaccurate claim that Israel’s response to the missile attacks on Friday evening was directed at launch sites rather than at Hamas facilities.

Usher: “As expected there was the announced ‘day of rage’ in the Palestinian territories against the decision by President Trump and that was also across a number of Arab countries. That sparked clashes with the Israeli police. Two people were killed in those clashes. Since then there’ve been several attempts, as forces in Gaza have done in the past, at firing rockets into Israel. Several of these were fired. They didn’t cause any casualties but the Israelis have responded – as they do – and they targeted what they said were bases where the rockets were being fired from and we know that two militants have died in Gaza from that. So four people so far as far as we know have died in one way and another from the violence. A large number of others have been wounded. Funerals are being held. Those are potentially new flashpoints. There are peaceful prayers with a large mass of people at the moment in Jerusalem itself in the Old City at Al Quds. Really everyone is just waiting to see how this now develops. It wasn’t as violent as some might have expected on Friday. Whether this now builds, whether the casualties build and this becomes similar to the intifadas that we’ve seen before is really very much an open question.”

However, the framing of Palestinian violence, rioting and missile attacks as being caused by the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those throwing rocks and firebombs, launching missiles or stabbing a security guard at a bus station – was not the only type of linkage promoted in these two programmes, as will be seen in part two of this post.

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For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

As regular readers know, the BBC’s English language services did not report any of the fourteen separate incidents of missile attacks by terrorist groups located either in the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula that took place between January and November 2017. Multiple mortar attacks on an IDF position that were launched from the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on November 30th were mentioned in a BBC report on another topic.

On December 7th three missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and did not reach Israeli territory, but set off rocket sirens in the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar HaNegev regional councils, as well as the city of Sdreot. 

A Jihadist Salafi group in Gaza called the Al-Tawheed Brigades […] claimed responsibility for the first two launches. […]

A third rocket, of unconfirmed origins, was fired toward Israel and landed in Israeli territory in an open area, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed. Since the rocket did not approach an urban center it did not set off rocket sirens in the Negev communities near the Gaza Strip.”

Israel later responded to those attacks – which were not reported by the BBC.

On the evening of December 8th three more attacks took place. One projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, one – initially thought to have fallen short – was later located in the Sdot Negev district and one hit the town of Sderot.

“”There was an immense explosion. I heard glass shattering and then car alarms. The walls of my house shook. I didn’t dare leave the shelter. Now the entire street’s closed off and police and bomb squad technicians are everywhere. Ambulances are parked in front of my house and paramedics are looking for anyone who might have been hurt,” said a local Sderot woman.”

The following day an additional rocket was discovered in the yard of a kindergarten in Sderot which was fortunately empty at the time. 

Israel responded to those attacks with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip in which two members of Hamas’ Izz a din al Qassam brigades were killed.

On the morning of December 9th the BBC News website ran an article titled “Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks” on its main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East page’. The article once again opened with inaccurate paraphrasing of statements from Israeli officials. [emphasis added]

“Israel says it has targeted sites in Gaza belonging to militant group Hamas in retaliation for rocket strikes.

Israel’s military said it hit weapons sites early on Saturday. Two people were killed, a Gaza hospital said, bringing the deaths in Israeli strikes and gunfire over the past day to four.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza late on Friday.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The report did not clarify that the two people killed were Hamas operatives and readers saw no reporting from the town of Sderot other than the statement “[n]o casualties were reported” that appeared later in the article.

The rest of the report related to additional incidents of Palestinian violence and demonstrations further afield, with now standard BBC messaging on “settlements” in Jerusalem and “international law” promoted towards its end. Readers also found a recycled euphemistic statement according to which:

“The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014”

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website also found a report on the Israeli response to Friday’s missile attacks.

Given that the BBC’s English language services elected to completely ignore numerous separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip earlier in the year, the question that inevitably arises is why the attacks on December 8th were treated differently.

It is of course difficult to avoid the conclusion that the novel display of BBC interest in this particular round of attacks from Gaza is linked to the fact that it can be framed as being connected to – or indeed ‘fallout’ from – the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem. The fact that the BBC refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of all previous attacks this year obviously reinforces that erroneous narrative. 

(The table relates only to missiles that landed in Israeli territory and does not include shortfalls, interceptions or failed attacks)

 

 

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

If the phrase ‘over the top’ comes to mind in relation to the volume of coverage of the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel that has appeared on the BBC News website, that is not surprising. 

Between December 4th and the morning of December 7th inclusive, the website published the following reports:

December 4th:

1) “Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows” – earlier version discussed here

December 5th:

2) “Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’” – discussed here

3) “Trump’s Jerusalem calls spark warnings from Arab leaders

December 6th:

4) “Why Jerusalem matters” – filmed backgrounder by Yolande Knell, discussed here

5) “US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

6) “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump

7) “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace

8) “Jerusalem: Trump move prompts negative world reaction

9) “Palestinians and Israelis on US Jerusalem recognition” – filmed

10) “Trump on Jerusalem: ‘I am delivering on promise’” – filmed

December 7th:

11) “Jerusalem status: World condemns Trump’s announcement

12) “What Trump’s Jerusalem decision means for peace” – filmed, Lyse Doucet

13) “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift”  – Barbara Plett Usher, discussed here

Clearly the language used in most of the headlines of those nine written articles portrays the US announcement as a negative development to audiences even before they have read the actual articles. A review of the content of those articles shows that their framing of the story is no less uniform.

In none of those nine written reports were readers given an accurate and comprehensive overview of the history behind the story. Accounts of Jerusalem’s history, when given, invariably begin in 1967 with some articles making a cursory but unexplained reference to Jordan’s occupation of parts of Jerusalem but no mention made whatsoever of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from parts of the city in 1948 or of the fact that Jerusalem is situated in the territory assigned by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

Five of the nine written articles and one of the four filmed reports described certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements” and presented a partisan portrayal of “international law”. All but one of the nine written reports promoted partisan maps of Jerusalem produced by the political NGO B’tselem and – in one case – UN OCHA that include among other things portrayal of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City as a ‘settlement’.

The majority of the written reports – seven – unquestioningly portrayed Jerusalem as being the “thorniest” issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and eight of the nine, along with two of the filmed reports, told BBC audiences that the US announcement endangers or even destroys the ‘peace process’ – even though that process made no progress for the past 24 years, despite the US embassy being located in Tel Aviv.

None of the BBC’s reports informed readers that the Palestinians have previously been presented with peace offers that included considerable Israeli compromises on Jerusalem – which they refused.   

All of the written reports gave copious amplification to condemnations of the US announcement by assorted parties with some even uncritically amplifying threats of violence as though that were a legitimate response. Any dissenting views presented came solely from Israeli politicians.

The sole mention of the fact that Russia recognised part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital back in April was found in Lyse Doucet’s filmed report. An announcement relating to Jerusalem from the Czech Republic has at the time of writing not been covered by the BBC.

The essential context of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ was provided to readers of just three of the nine written reports and subsequently added to one other many hours after initial publication. The context of the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate was absent from all the BBC’s reports. Only two of the total thirteen reports mentioned that previous US presidents had made similar campaign promises to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

The BBC framed the US president’s announcement as being intended to appeal to specific sectors.

In article 5 readers were told that:

“Mr Trump would also direct the state department to begin the process of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem – but this could take several years as it still has to be designed and built and security concerns would need to be addressed.

He originally promised the move to pro-Israel voters during his campaign for the presidency.”

Article 6 included the following:

“The Republican Jewish Coalition have already thanked the president in a New York Times ad. The group is backed by Republican and Trump campaign mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.”

In article 11 readers were told that:

“Despite warnings of regional unrest over any such move, the decision fulfils a campaign promise and appeals to Mr Trump’s right-wing base.”

Article 13 informed BBC audiences that:

“…there’s far more evidence he [Trump] was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.”

And that:

“…this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.”

In fact, as noted by Michael Totten, the issue is far more bipartisan that the BBC would have its audiences believe.

“In 1995, the United States Congress, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passed a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” This law, passed by a whopping 93-5 when Bill Clinton was president, had no effect whatsoever on the Camp David Peace Process which would have given East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as the capital of their sovereign state had Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said yes instead of no and chose peace rather than war.

That law was reaffirmed in the United States Senate just six months ago by a unanimous vote. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, co-sponsored the bill. And just two months ago, Schumer slammed Donald Trump for not keeping his campaign promise to recognize reality.”

As we see, BBC audiences got ample – but monochrome – coverage of this story over those three and a half days. While failing for the most part to provide essential context and refraining entirely from providing the relevant historical background necessary for understanding of the story, the coverage was uniformly focused on promotion of a partisan political narrative.

 

 

 

 

Palestinian falsehoods on Christianity amplified by BBC’s Plett Usher

On December 7th the BBC News website published an article by Barbara Plett Usher on its ‘US & Canada’ page and the same article appeared on the website’s Middle East page as ‘related reading’.

Titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“, the article begins with a subheading informing readers that the US president has ruined Christmas for Palestinians:

“A blue Christmas for Palestinians”

Readers then discover that the first “key takeaway” proffered by Plett Usher is that the PLO has cancelled a party.

“Less than a month ago the Palestinians’ top diplomat in Washington was telling me he thought President Trump might succeed at peacemaking where others had failed.

In every meeting Trump confirmed he would “give his heart and soul” to this process, said Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) representative.

It was an optimistic reading of a frequently rocky process. But there was enough in the efforts of Mr Trump’s peace envoys to give the Palestinians a sense that their relationship with the White House was on an upward trajectory.

Building off the momentum, Mr Zomlot organised a Christmas party on Capitol Hill with a guest list that included members of congress and government officials.

The idea was to live-stream Bethlehem Christmas celebrations into the political heart of America.

When the PLO mission got a late-breaking heads up about the decision on Jerusalem it cancelled the event, saying it would be unsuitable after an “announcement that runs counter to the message of peace”.”

Interestingly, the topic of recent PLO threats to freeze ties with the US – made weeks before the latest story concerning the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem broke – apparently did not come up during Plett Usher’s chats with Husam Zomlot.  

Erasing the fact that the US president had spoken to Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders on the phone prior to his announcement concerning the US embassy and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Plett Usher continued:

“The fact that the Palestinians, and reportedly Arab leaders, were largely taken by surprise is only one sign that the decision was not part of a wider Middle East strategy.”

She went on:

“There’s been speculation that Mr Trump was trying to shake things up as a tactic to prepare the ground for peace talks.

But there’s far more evidence he was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.”

Under the sub-heading “It’s a Christian thing” Plett Usher then unquestioningly amplified historically illiterate Palestinian claims concerning Christianity. [emphasis added]

“The face of Mike Pence beaming over Mr Trump’s shoulder during the announcement said it all.

The vice-president was an influential voice in convincing Mr Trump to follow through on his campaign promise, and this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.

That was not lost on Palestinian legislator and Christian Hanan Ashrawi.

“My god did not tell me what his god tells him,” she spat out in an interview with the BBC.

We are the original Christians, we are the owners of the land, we are the people who’ve been here for centuries. How dare they come here and give me biblical treatises and absolutist positions!”

Incidentally, the enterprising Mr Zomlot tried to play the Christian card with his Bethlehem-themed Capitol Hill reception, and has told activists the motto “Jesus is a gift from Palestine” might help translate the Palestinian message to Christian America.”

Palestinian officials of course have a long record of falsifying history in order to negate Jewish connections to the region and the ‘Jesus was a Palestinian’ canard is just one of the themes used to promote that narrative, particularly at this time of year.

Does the BBC really believe that amplifying the blatant falsehoods of professional PLO propagandists such as Ashrawi and Zomlot contributes anything of value to its audiences’ understanding of this story?

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Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

On December 6th a filmed ‘backgrounder’ titled “Why Jerusalem matters” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“US President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell explains why the city is so important.”

The film opens with the Jerusalem bureau’s Knell telling audiences that:

“This ancient city lies at the very heart of the Israel – Palestinian conflict…”

Predictably, Knell did not inform viewers that the Palestinians only began to display an interest in Jerusalem after 1967. Until then – as shown in Article 24 of the original PLO charter from 1964 – the Palestinians specifically stated that they had no claim to territory occupied at the time by Jordan and Egypt and the “Israel-Palestinian conflict” was only about the land on which Israel was established in 1948.

Knell continues with a whitewashed portrayal of Palestinian incitement and violence and no mention of the ‘three days of rage’ announced by Palestinian factions the day before her report was posted.

“…we’ve seen many times how just a small change on the ground here can quickly lead to a flare-up and to violence. So what happens here really does matter.”

She continues:

“Jerusalem’s got great religious significance of course – its Old City has some of the holiest sites for Jews [image of the Western Wall], Muslims [image of Temple Mount] and for Christians [image of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]. But it’s also got great political significance too.”

Following a caption reading “What does Israel say?”, Knell tells viewers that:

“Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal, undivided capital”. Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city.”

With no mention whatsoever of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland, the 1948 Jordanian invasion and subsequent nineteen-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City or Israel’s warning to Jordan not to participate in the Six Day War, Knell goes on:

“But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and it later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally. Israeli leaders often vent their frustration that there’s not recognition of full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, particularly from international allies.”

Following another caption reading “What about the Palestinians?”, Knell continues:

“Of course, Palestinians see things starkly differently. They want east Jerusalem as their capital.”

She then goes on to claim that a Palestinian capital in “east Jerusalem” is an already agreed component of the two-state solution:

“And that’s part of the long-standing international formula for peace here, known as the “two-state solution”.

Not for the first time, audiences then see a BBC journalist present the two-state solution in terms that dovetail with the PLO’s interpretation of that term.

“Basically the idea that an independent Palestinian state would be created alongside Israel, along the boundaries that existed before 1967, it’s written up in UN resolutions.” [emphasis added]

In fact the UN – along with the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity – supports “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords as being subject to negotiations of course include borders and Jerusalem.

Having previously erased the pre-1948 Jewish population of the Old City and other Jerusalem neighbournoods from the picture, Knell continues with a partisan portrayal of ‘international law’:

“About a third of Jerusalemites are Palestinians, some of them come from families that have been here for centuries. And there are lots of ongoing tensions, particularly over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the east of the city, they’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

After the appearance of the caption “What do international peacemakers say?”, Knell goes on:

“For decades, the international community has been saying that any change in the status of Jerusalem can only come about as part of a negotiated peace deal. So for now all countries with embassies in Israel keep them in or near to Tel Aviv and they just have consulates in Jerusalem.”

As has been the case in additional recent BBC reporting on this story, Knell then went on to present the apparently upcoming establishment of a US embassy in Jerusalem as something related solely to the current US president. Yet again, audiences were not informed of the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ and the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate.

“But President Trump is insisting that he does want to move his embassy to Jerusalem. And he’s also said he’s pursuing the “ultimate deal” of peace between Israel and the Palestinians – although he’s not committed to conventional ways of achieving it.”

Viewers then see a clip from February of this year with Donald Trump saying at a press conference:

“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

With the rest of that statement erased, Knell closes this ‘backgrounder’ with editorialised commentary that promotes a theme pushed by the BBC for months:

“Just more evidence that with this US administration, options that were once seen as off-bounds, off-limits are now up for serious consideration.”

So did this ‘backgrounder’ enhance BBC audience understanding of what this story is about? Obviously not: the omission of essential history and the promotion of partisan portrayals of the two-state solution and ‘international law’ mean that rather than being a ‘backgrounder’, this item by Knell was in fact just one more contribution to advancement of the BBC’s chosen narrative.  

Related Articles:

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BBC continues to amplify a political narrative on Jerusalem

The BBC’s partisan portrayal of Jerusalem persists

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BBC’s partisan portrayal of Jerusalem persists

One day after publishing a report amplifying condemnation of a statement that has not yet been made, the BBC News website put out another article in the same style on December 5th.

Originally titled “Jerusalem: New warnings over US shift on city status”, like its predecessor this report was promoted on the website’s main home page as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages. Several hours after publication, the article underwent considerable amendment and its headline was changed to read “Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’“.

Once again, the report opened with amplification of statements relating to an announcement that, at the time of its publication, had not even been issued.

“Turkey’s president has warned it could sever ties with Israel if the US recognises Jerusalem as its capital.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said such a move would cross a “red line” for Muslims. […]

“Mr Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech on Tuesday.

“We could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue.”

As has been the case in many previous BBC reports concerning the US embassy in Israel published over the past year, audiences were not informed of the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ and the related (and often misrepresented) bi-annual waivers signed by a succession of US presidents. Neither were readers told that the current US president is by no means the first to have proposed “moving the US embassy” and that both Bill Clinton and George W Bush made the same campaign pledge.

“Donald Trump missed a deadline on Monday to sign a waiver which would postpone moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a campaign pledge he has delayed fulfilling.”

Under the sub-heading “What is so contentious about Jerusalem’s status?” readers were told that:

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, who are backed by the rest of the Arab and wider Islamic world.

The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.

Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries, including Israel’s closest ally the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.” [emphasis added]

While that brief reference to the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem is unusual in BBC content, the context to that – which includes the fact that Jerusalem is included in the territory assigned by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland – was not provided.

The reference to “key religious sites”, which of course include Temple Mount, as being in “East Jerusalem” – and hence by implication in what the BBC presents as ‘occupied territory’ – was reinforced by the inclusion in this article of a map which, despite having been produced by the politically partisan NGO B’tselem, is now frequently seen in BBC content.

The article continued with a no less politically partisan portrayal of certain Jerusalem neighbourhoods that of course include the ancient Jewish quarter in the Old City and districts such as Neve Ya’akov where Jews purchased land long before the Jordanian invasion in 1948.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

If the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it will put it out-of-step with the rest of the international community and reinforce Israel’s position that settlements in the east are valid Israeli communities.”

It is once again all too apparent that the BBC has chosen to exclusively promote a politically partisan narrative in its coverage of this issue and readers of this report and its predecessor did not hear even one voice that dissents from that narrative. Instead, the BBC’s framing of this story is based on unquestioning amplification of very thinly veiled threats of violence from the Palestinians and their supporters as well as completely unchallenged claims that the opening of a US embassy in Jerusalem would “destroy” the (non-existent) “peace process”.

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