BBC claims a place it reported from last year does not exist

An article relating to an incident which had taken place earlier in the day at the Western Wall appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the afternoon of March 8th under the headline “Western Wall: Jewish women clash over prayer rights”.

At the end of that article readers were told that:

“For 30 years, the Women of the Wall group have been fighting rules that bar women from wearing prayer shawls, praying and reading from the Torah (Bible) collectively and aloud at the site.

According to Orthodox Jewish tradition, women should not perform these religious rituals. Under pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, the Israeli authorities in 2017 scrapped plans to create a mixed-gender prayer area at the wall.”

That link leads to an article produced by the BBC News website in June 2017 which failed even then to provide readers with clear background information that would enable the proper understanding of the story.

Now the BBC claims that “the Israeli authorities in 2017 scrapped plans to create a mixed-gender prayer area at the wall” and the average reader would obviously understand from that statement that no such “mixed-gender prayer area” exists at the Western Wall because the Israeli authorities “scrapped (i.e. discarded) plans” to create one two years ago.

That, however, is not the case. What was “scrapped” – or more accurately, frozen – in 2017 was a plan to create a new and unique entrance to the Western Wall plaza and the formation of a joint committee to oversee the mixed prayer area.

Non-traditional prayer services have been taking place at the southern section of the Western Wall since the year 2000 and the facility was expanded in 2013. That mixed-gender prayer area still exists – as the BBC apparently knows because earlier on in the same report it stated that:

“The group [‘Women of the Wall’] was later escorted to another area of the wall that allows non-traditional prayers to take place.”

In July 2018 – the year after the BBC claims that plans for a mixed-gender prayer area were “scrapped” – it reported on the falling of a stone from the Western Wall in that very prayer area.

Obviously the inaccurate claim made in this latest article is misleading to BBC audiences both in general and with regard to this specific story and requires correction.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Western Wall report fails to provide adequate information

Advertisements

BBC Culture joins the drip feed of narrative

Readers of reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 8th were also offered a feature titled “Startling images of the Middle East”.

That item by Fiona Macdonald of BBC Culture in fact relates to very specific areas of “the Middle East” and showcases a book first published in 2015 by photographer Tanya Habjouqa. The ten-page feature includes images and videos of the photographer talking about her work.

“Tanya Habjouqa’s Occupied Pleasures project reveals moments of black humour in Gaza and the West Bank. She describes finding a unique entry point into a hyper-narrated place.”

“Habjouqa started on the project Occupied Pleasures in 2009. Her images reveal the lives of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank in a nuanced way, offering glimpses of everyday resilience.”

That ‘nuance’ however does not include any background information whatsoever and so the images and narrative are presented to BBC audiences in an entirely context-free manner.

On the second page audiences find a video in which Habjouqa states:

“…Palestine was home. And I was the one sitting at checkpoints and experiencing this Kafkaesque reality…”

In the video appearing on the fifth page Habjouqa tells the story behind some of her photographs concerning a story from 2013.  

“There had been a wedding and I’d missed it. There was a woman who had come in, in a wedding dress and had the wedding party because she hadn’t been given permission to access Gaza because of the blockade. […] And then he paused and he said the most sobering sombre thing, he said ‘you know no matter what they do to us, we will always find a way to live, to love, to laugh.”

BBC audiences are not told that the Egyptian girl had been denied entry to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian authorities or of the Palestinian terrorism that made the blockade necessary.

On page nine audiences find a video in which an image of “Furniture makers in the West Bank, with Israel’s separation barrier behind them” with no explanation of why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built.

The narrative advanced in this feature is glaringly obvious: Habjouqa states in the last video that her work relates to people who “refuse to let suffering be the definition of their existence”.

How that suffering is related to their leaders’ choices and how those choices brought about the “checkpoints”, “blockade” and “separation barrier” of course goes completely unexplained in this latest chapter in the BBC’s drip fed narrative of Palestinian victims completely devoid of agency and responsibility.  

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during February 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 162 incidents took place: 89 in Judea & Samaria, eight in Jerusalem and 65 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 80 attacks with petrol bombs, eleven attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one stabbing attack, two attacks using grenades and one attack using a gas cylinder placed inside a burning tyre. 

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 27 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 pipe bomb attacks, 7 attacks using IEDs, four shooting attacks (including one by a sniper), one grenade attack and four attacks using improvised grenades as well as two rocket launches and one mortar attack.

Throughout February one person was murdered and two were wounded in terror attacks.

The BBC News website did not produce any reporting whatsoever on the murder of Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem on February 7th.

A member of the security forces was injured by a pipe bomb on February 15th and another was injured by an IED on February 17th. Both incidents took place in the Gaza sector.

The BBC did not cover those or any of the additional incidents and the rocket and mortar fire that took place during February also went unreported.

Since the beginning of the year the BBC News website has reported 0.31% of the Palestinian terror attacks that have taken place and the first fatal attack of 2019 was ignored.

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

On March 6th an article headlined “UN rights chief Bachelet warns of threat from ‘gross inequality’” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Relating to an address given by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in Geneva on the same day, 51% of the 335-word report was devoted to one topic.

“She also criticised Israel over its blockade of Gaza, and said she regretted Israel’s “immediate dismissal” of a report by a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry, “without addressing any of the very serious issues raised”.

UN experts said last week that Israeli security forces might have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity while responding to weekly mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza-Israel border last year.

The experts investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians and said they found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers had shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they had been clearly recognisable as such.

“All parties concerned should exercise restraint as the date of March 30 approaches,” Ms Bachelet said, referring to the first anniversary of the start of the Palestinian protest campaign.

The Israeli government said the report was “hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel”. It has said its security forces have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

The BBC also chose to tag the report “Gaza border clashes”.

Given the article’s focus on Israel, readers may understandably have assumed that Ms Bachelet’s speech – which lasted over half an hour and included over four thousand words – concentrated primarily on that country.

However, the section of the address highlighted (in part) by the BBC in fact made up just 5.7% of the UN Commissioner’s speech and the BBC did not bother to inform readers that, as noted by the Times of Israel:

“A transcript of Bachelet’s speech made no mention of Palestinian violence and breaches and destruction of the Israel-Gaza border fence during the protests.” 

In the 49% of the article not relating to Israel, the BBC names four other countries: Sudan, Haiti, France and Venezuela. Although Ms Bachelet’s address related to numerous other countries too, BBC audiences were told nothing of her comments on Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, Myanmar, Syria and others. Neither did they see any reporting on her comments relating to migration and women’s rights which were more extensive than her criticism of Israel.

Once again the BBC’s disproportionate focus on Israel, which leads to the failure to meet its own editorial guidelines on due accuracy and impartiality, is in full view.

Related Articles: 

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

 

 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting on Hamas’ EU terror listing

In December 2014 a BBC News website headline misleadingly told audiences that “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list“. 

In September 2016 another headline informed BBC audiences that “EU advised to drop Hamas and Tamil Tigers from terror list”.

In July 2017 the BBC News website told its readers that “EU top court keeps Hamas on terror blacklist“.

On March 6th 2019 another chapter in that saga came to a close.

“A European Union court on Wednesday upheld a freeze on Hamas funds as it rejected the Palestinian group’s appeal against its EU listing as a terrorist organization.

The General Court’s ruling amounted to the latest rejection of Hamas’s efforts to be struck from an EU blacklist created in 2001 based on a UN resolution following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

“In today’s judgment the General Court looks into each of the arguments made by Hamas and rejects them in their totality,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

As a result, “the decision to extend the freezing of Hamas funds is confirmed.””

As of the time of writing, no reporting on that story has appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ or ‘Middle East’ pages but the addition of a clarifying footnote to that misleading December 2014 report which is still available online is surely long overdue.

Related Articles:

BBC News presentation of EU court’s Hamas terror designation decision

BBC report on ECJ Hamas terror ruling recycles old themes

Ten days, four reports on the same story on the BBC News website

On February 28th the BBC News website published two reports pertaining to the anticipated announcement from Israel’s attorney general that the prime minister would be charged, pending a hearing, in relation to three separate cases.

February 28

The first of the two reports – titled “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges” related to the attorney general’s announcement.

In addition to details of the allegations in the three cases (which had previously been reported in an article published on December 2nd), the article included the first brief reference to the factual background concerning relevant Israeli legislation and procedures that audiences have seen in all the BBC’s generous coverage of this story. 

“A final hearing, probably after the election, will determine whether the charges go forward. The prime minister will have an opportunity to make his case then. […]

Mr Netanyahu is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise and there is currently no legal barrier to stop him staying in office if he’s re-elected – even if the attorney general makes a final decision to charge him after a hearing due in the coming months.”

As pointed out at the Times of Israel, “the coming months” is more likely to be early next year.

“Legal officials have taken pains to point out that the hearing is not a simple technical matter but could have significant bearing on the case. Only after a hearing can formal charges be filed.

The right to a hearing is anchored in Israel’s Criminal Procedure Law, which states that “the suspect will be entitled to apply in writing to the prosecution authority… and to make a reasoned petition to abstain from the filing of an indictment.”

Under the law, this request can be made within 30 days of the suspect receiving  notification of the intention to indict him. […]

Mandelblit, in his written statement Thursday, promised to examine the defense team’s arguments “willingly and with an open heart.” His final decision on whether to indict Netanyahu is unlikely to come before early 2020.

February 28

The reasons for the delay are manifold. For one, the attorney general has decided not to release all case files until after the Knesset election, lest they be used for political purposes and campaign propaganda.

In practice, that means that Netanyahu’s lawyers will only be able to view all the charges against their client after April 9. They then need to be given enough time to review the entire material and properly prepare their counter arguments. Given the complicated nature of Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, it appears reasonable to grant them several months to do that.”

The second article published on February 28th is titled “Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption allegations?” and it purports to provide audiences with details of the three cases.

Readers may recall that just days earlier the BBC News website had published a similar filmed backgrounder by Tom Bateman of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau and that report still appeared on the website’s Middle East page on February 28th.

February 20

The following day, March 1st, an article by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “Netanyahu charges: Is Israel PM in more trouble now than ever before?”.

March 1

A significant proportion of that article comprised material recycled from an audio report by Knell that had been aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on February 6th.

Radio, 6/2:

Knell: “Ha’aretz journalist and Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer sees the PM on the attack.”

Pfeffer: “He’s very much under pressure, he’s very much acting impulsively. The more time passes, the more these indictments will create more problems for him and these challenges on the political scene with a new party like the Gantz party and with rivals within Likud perhaps starting to speak out against him, we’ll see less the statesman and more the local politician fighting a very dirty battle of survival.”

Written, 1/3:

“He’s very much under pressure, he’s very much acting impulsively,” says Anshel Pfeffer, a Haaretz journalist who wrote a recent biography of the prime minister.

“The more these indictments create problems for him and the more the challenges on the political scene with a new party, like the Gantz party – and with rivals within Likud perhaps starting to speak out against him – we’ll see less the statesman and more the local politician fighting a very dirty battle of survival.”

Radio, 6/2:

Knell: “Grass roots Likud voters strongly support their leader.”

Unidentified Man: “Currently there is no-one that is nearly as strong or as intelligent or as experienced as Netanyahu is.”

Unidentified Woman: “Netanyahu I think is the best prime minister we had here, not just for security – also for the economic situation.”

Written, 1/3:

“Likud members firmly back their leader.

“Currently, there’s no-one that’s nearly as strong or as intelligent or as experienced as Netanyahu is,” Zohar Tal, a candidate, told me at a Likud primary event last month.

“Netanyahu, I think he’s the best prime minister we had here,” added Iris, a grassroots supporter. “Not just for security but also for the economic situation.””

Radio, 6/2:

Knell: “Guy Lurie of the Israel Democracy Institute says it’s not clear what happens next.”

Lurie: “No prime minister in Israeli history has been indicted while in office. It’s really difficult to see how he could conduct himself in court facing serious potential multiple corruption charges and continue to conduct government. We are in uncharted waters. We don’t know how that will take shape.”

Written, 1/3:

“This is the first time that a serving prime minister has been put on official notice of planned prosecution. While there are currently no legal barriers to him staying on, it creates an uncertain situation.

“We’re in uncharted waters. We don’t know how this will take shape,” says Guy Lurie, a legal expert at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Mr Netanyahu is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. However, if he is re-elected, indicted and then refuses to resign, it is thought likely that the Supreme Court would rule on his position.

“It’s really difficult to see how he could conduct himself in court facing serious – potentially multiple – corruption charges and continue to conduct government,” Mr Lurie notes.”

Radio, 6/2:

Knell: “Here on a main road by the Likud polling station you can see how Mr Netanyahu is building his campaign around that belief. There’s a huge billboard showing him with President Trump, beaming and shaking hands. ‘Netanyahu – a different league’ reads the slogan. The prime minister is stressing how his close relations with this White House has helped deliver a tough approach on Iran and the Palestinians as well as US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Written, 1/3:

“Recently, huge billboards were put up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem showing the prime minister with President Trump, beaming and shaking hands. “Netanyahu: a different league” read the slogan.

The prime minister aims to show how his close relations with this White House have helped deliver a tough approach on Iran and the Palestinians as well as US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

In summary, throughout all of the ten days between February 20th and March 1st, the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried at least one of four different but remarkably similar reports on this story.

Related Articles:

BBC News Israel election coverage limps on

Keeping Knell’s crystal ball gazing alive on BBC Radio 4

 

 

 

 

More false balance in BBC News report on Douma chemical attack

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 1st was presented as follows:

The article itself – titled “Syria war: Chlorine likely used in Douma attack – OPCW” and tagged “Suspected Syria chemical attack” – similarly told readers that:

“The global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded chlorine is likely to have been used in an attack on the Syrian town of Douma last April.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said data gave “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place”.

“This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine,” it added, without assigning blame.” [emphasis added]

With readers having been told that the OPCW had not specified which party had carried out the attack (but not why), the short report then went on to uncritically amplify Syrian regime denials which have already been proved to be baseless and Russian regime propaganda concerning the ‘White Helmets’.

“The US, UK and France accused Syrian government forces, who were besieging Douma, of using chemical weapons in the 7 April attack, and carried out air strikes in retaliation.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. Its ally Russia has said the attack was “staged” by rescue workers.”

Only some thirteen hours later did the BBC find it appropriate to amend the article in order to inform visitors to the BBC News website that:

“In June, the OPCW was given new powers to assign blame for chemical attacks. However, it was not the mandate of the fact-finding team sent to Douma to do so.”

As we see the BBC continues its policy of promoting false balance in the form of claims from Syria and Russia – despite both those regimes having been shown to have lied about previous chemical attacks.

Related Articles:

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

BBC News website tones down Assad regime propaganda

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

 

 

 

 

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

On February 28th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN” which opened as follows:

“Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes while responding to Palestinian protests on the Gaza border last year, UN human rights experts have said.

A commission of inquiry investigated the killing of 189 Palestinians between 30 March and 31 December 2018.

It found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Israel’s acting foreign minister said it rejected the findings outright.”

As has been documented here over the past eleven months, the BBC’s reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as “protests” and “demonstrations” and has repeatedly downplayed or erased their violent nature. This latest report continued that framing.

“Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the border since last March as part of a campaign, dubbed “the Great March of Return”, in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reporting, no explanation of the significance of that “declared right” and the fact that the aim of that demand is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state was provided to readers.

Over the past eleven months we have also repeatedly documented the fact that the BBC has downplayed or erased Hamas’ role in initiating, organising and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In this report, however, the BBC had no choice but reflect the UNHRC’s acknowledgement of Hamas’ role.

“The campaign has been organised by the militant Hamas movement – which dominates Gaza and is designated a terrorist group by Israel – and other groups.”

Hamas is of course also designated as a terrorist group in whole or in part by additional countries and bodies including the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan and Canada.

Obviously this report could not be complete without provision of an overview of both the UNHRC’s longstanding anti-Israel bias and the one-sided mandate of the specific ‘investigation’ which led to the publication of the report which is its subject matter. The BBC however failed to provide readers with that crucial information.

“The commission of inquiry, which was set up by the UN Human Rights Council in May, said on Thursday that more than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers at designated protest sites over nine months.

It investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians at the sites on official protest days and found that Israeli forces had killed 183 with live ammunition. Thirty-five of the fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found. […]

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

The BBC’s article continues to quote the UNHRC report and its authors at length, including the following:

“Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a member of the commission, said: “We are saying that they have intentionally shot children. They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists.”

The BBC’s article made no effort to explain to audiences that the fact that some of the fatalities were children or “clearly marked paramedics” or “clearly marked journalists” does not exclude the possibility of links to terror organisations.

For example in May 2018 the BBC published a report in which it was claimed that “one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.” That same paramedic appeared in a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.

Journalists killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have also been shown to have links to terror groups:

“An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP operative. The PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him on its website. […]

According to Israeli security sources, Yasser Murtaja had served for years as an officer with the rank of captain in the Hamas security services in the Gaza Strip. The same sources added that he was an active operative in the security services and greatly assisted them in their activity on a daily basis.”

Among the under-18s killed were those with direct links to Hamas who were sent to sabotage the border fence while others – such as Ahmad al-Sha’ar [also al Shaer] who is named on page 9 of the UNHRC report – were terror operatives (see page 20 here).

In fact around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ have been shown to be affiliated with terror factions – a fact totally ignored by the BBC in its unquestioning amplification of this UNHRC report.

Thus BBC audiences were denied the ability to judge for themselves the UNHRC’s preposterous claim that the violent rioting is “civilian in nature”.

“…it [the commission] concluded the demonstrations were “civilian in nature”, with clearly stated political aims, and that despite some acts of significant violence they did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

So much for the BBC’s public purpose obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

Why did the BBC News website erase an accurate statement?

Examining UNHRC statements uncritically amplified by BBC News

UK government’s UNHRC statement not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

 

 

 

 

BBC portrayal of the AMIA bombing omits significant information

An article headlined “Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich attacked during break-in” was posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 26th with the billing “Israel condemns attack on Argentina’s chief rabbi”.

“Argentina’s Chief Rabbi has been taken to hospital after being beaten in a night-time attack at his home in the capital Buenos Aires. […]

In a statement, Amia – a Jewish cultural centre – said the attackers stole money and told Mr Davidovich: “We know that you are the Amia Rabbi.””

The final paragraph in that report reads as follows:

“In 1994, the Amia building was targeted in a bomb attack that killed 85 people and remains the country’s deadliest terrorist incident. Much of the evidence was subsequently lost or contaminated and no-one has been convicted in connection with the bombing.”

While those two sentences are in themselves accurate, is that really all the BBC has to tell its audiences about the AMIA bombing?

No mention of the Interpol red notices for four Iranian officials that remain in effect. No mention of the indictment of Argentina’s former president and foreign minister on charges of covering up Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing. And no mention of the murder of the special prosecutor for the investigation into the bombing, Alberto Nisman.

That’s quite some omission, even by BBC standards.

Related Articles:

The Amia Attack: Terrorism, Cover-Up and The Implications For Iran  (CAMERA)

BBC News’ Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ myth on view again

In recent days the BBC News website had published two reports pertaining to the resignation (apparently no longer relevant) of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation” originally appeared on the evening of February 25th.

Iran president ‘has not accepted foreign minister’s resignation’” was published on February 26th and its headline has since been amended.

Both those reports include repeated framing of Zarif as someone who represents a “more moderate” Iran and is different from that country’s “hardliners”.

Article 1:

“He has served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and became foreign minister in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani was elected promising a more moderate, outward-looking Iran.”

“Mr Zarif has been under pressure at home from hardliners since the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact, which binds Iran to limit its nuclear activities.”

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

“But he’s under huge pressure from hardliners who never liked or trusted his negotiations with the West.”  

“…is this the exit of the US-educated diplomat who became the smiling face of Iran’s new engagement with the world?”

Article 2:

“His role negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers exposed him to sharp criticism from hardliners.”

The article includes analysis from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji:

“The fact is that Iranian hardliners resent him for agreeing to dismantle much of the country’s nuclear programme.”

“Mr Zarif, most observers agree, has put up a robust defence of Iran on the world stage in spite of the fact that many of Iran’s positions, actions and behaviours – with which he has had little to do – have been indefensible.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the fact that the JCPOA negotiations could not have been conducted or finalised without the agreement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, is the BBC’s framing of Javad Zarif as someone inherently different to Iran’s “hardliners” actually accurate?

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report by Kasra Aarabi based on analysis of speeches made by Iranian leaders perceived by some in the West as either ‘hardliners’ or ‘moderates’ – including Javad Zarif.

“The 2015 international nuclear deal did not alter Iran’s anti-US stance. The previous US administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was seen as a stepping stone to better relations between Iran and the world. Yet despite the deal, anti-US sentiment—and anti-Western sentiment in general—continues to abound in the rhetoric of Iran’s leaders. For both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom were involved in the negotiations, 60 per cent of their speeches featured explicit anti-US rhetoric.”

“…when the West speaks of moderates in the regime, it often overlooks the fact that all figures in the establishment are committed to Islamism and are vehemently opposed to liberal, secular values. This includes officials the West perceives as moderate, such as Zarif.”

“This research shows that although Rouhani and Zarif were willing to negotiate with the five permanent United Nations (UN) Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and the European Union (EU), at home their position towards the West did not shift—certainly not when it came to what they said in public. Antipathy towards the West might have been expected after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, but it was not a new feature of Rouhani’s discourse. Even while his government was negotiating the deal, he was repeating the same positions at home.”

“The anti-US rhetoric maintained by figures such as Rafsanjani, Rouhani and Zarif indicates that these individuals were never ideologically moderate, even though their actions—such as the negotiation of the nuclear deal—were perceived as moderate by Western counterparts. When it comes to policymaking, this is a vital lesson to learn. What sets these figures apart from the hard-line ideologues of the regime, such as Ahmadinejad, is that they understand that an unhealthy Iranian economy constrains the state’s ability to function. This, in turn, damages the implementation of Iran’s ideological objectives, both at home and overseas, as laid out in the constitution. […] These figures are more pragmatic ideologues than moderates or reformists.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has nevertheless been promoting the notion of Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ for many years.

While the BBC is not alone in having bought into the myth of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will enable audiences to “engage fully with issues across…the world” could and would do considerably better.

Related Articles:

More spin than a centrifuge: BBC report on Khamenei nuclear deal speech

BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again