BBC’s Paris correspondent misleads on Israel and extradition

h/t FS

On June 20th an article by the BBC’s Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield appeared on the ‘Europe’ page of the BBC News website under the headline “The fake French minister in a silicone mask who stole millions”.

Under the sub-heading “Whodunnit?” readers were told that:

“The case is now under judicial investigation in France, with suspicions centring on a convicted French-Israeli con-artist called Gilbert Chikli.

He is currently in jail in Paris following extradition from Ukraine and faces charges of organised fraud and usurpation of identity.

Chikli, of Tunisian Jewish background, grew up in the working-class Belleville neighbourhood of northeast Paris.

In 2015, Chikli was found guilty of scamming money out of French corporations by pretending to be their chief executive. But by this time he was living in the safety of Israel, which refuses to extradite its nationals.” [emphasis added]

As we see, Schofield found it appropriate to inform BBC audiences of the suspect’s ethnic and religious background even though that is of no relevance to the case.

Schofield’s claim that Israel “refuses to extradite its nationals” is inaccurate.

Under the terms of Israel’s Extradition Law Israeli nationals can be extradited to countries with which Israel has an extradition agreement or treaty such as Holland, the UK and the US. Although France is not one of those countries, extraditions from Israel to France have taken place. In the past France has refused to extradite French citizens to Israel.

As noted on the website of Israel’s Ministry of Justice:

“One of the main functions of the Department of International Affairs is the location and extradition of criminals who have escaped from Israel, as well as the location and extradition of criminals who have escaped to Israel from abroad. Within this framework the Department maintains day-to-day contact with the parallel authorities in other countries from all over the world, and also with the enforcement agencies in Israel – including investigation and prosecution units and the Interpol Unit at the Israel Police. […]

During recent years, offenders who have committed serious and sophisticated crimes, sometimes within the framework of organized crime, have been extradited from Israel to different countries, notwithstanding that they committed the crimes without leaving Israel’s borders.”

Clearly Schofield’s materially misleading claim requires correction.

 

 

 

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BBC News uses third party link in place of ‘clear, precise language’

On June 16th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits misusing public funds” on its ‘Middle East’ page. An uninformative video with no commentary which was embedded into that report also appeared separately on the BBC News website under the title “Sara Netanyahu appears in court accused of misusing public funds”.

Readers of the report were informed that:

“The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted to misuse of state funds and will have to pay $15,000 (£11,910).

Sara Netanyahu was accused of spending $99,300 on outside catering while falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the PM’s residence.

She was charged with fraud and breach of trust last year.”

That last sentence is indeed accurate but those were not the charges to which Ms Netanyahu admitted in the plea bargain which settled the case.

The anonymous writer of the BBC’s report did not however bother to tell readers what the relevant charges were. In order to find that information, readers would have had to click on a link to a Jerusalem Post article presented as follows:

“She will have a criminal record though the charges she faced were reduced, the Jerusalem Post reported.”

The few who did bother to click on that link and read the long article would discover that:

“Under the deal, the prime minister’s wife has confessed to a reduced charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s error, in lieu of the original more serious charge of fraud, and incurs a fine of NIS 55,000, reduced from the original charge of NIS 359,000.”

Accurate representation of the charges is clearly a pretty basic requirement for any journalist reporting a legal story – and especially one bound by editorial standards of accuracy.

Readers can judge for themselves whether the inclusion of a link to a third party website and a vague reference to reduced charges meet the requirements to “do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output” and use” clear, precise language” which appear in the BBC’s editorial guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC criticised over debate programme participant

The evening of June 18th saw a televised debate titled ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ on BBC One.

“Emily Maitlis presents a debate between the candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.”

Among the members of the public selected to present questions to the five candidates was a man presented as “Abdullah Patel, Imam of a mosque” (which was identified by different BBC departments as being in both Gloucester and Bristol) who brought up the topic of Islamophobia.

Writing at the Spectator, journalist Stephen Daisley continues the story:

“Shortly after the programme concluded, someone tweeting under the name Abdullah Patel (@AbdullahPatel94) claimed on Twitter to be the imam from the programme. His Twitter bio describes him as an ‘imam, primary deputy head, teacher, youth worker [and] trainee counsellor’ with a degree in psychology and counselling. He offered a critique of each candidate’s answer to the question posed on-air […]

The BBC News website embedded his Twitter thread in a follow-up article, meaning the Corporation either knows @AbdullahPatel94 to be the same man featured in the debate or its journalists assumed this to be the case and republished his comments without checking.

It’s important to establish these facts because, if @AbdullahPatel94 is, as he claims and the BBC seems to believe, the Abdullah Patel from the debate, the Corporation has some serious questions to answer about how extensively it vetted him. Guido Fawkes tweeted, before heading to bed, that those interested should have a gander at @AbdullahPatel94’s tweets about Jews. I did and what I found wasn’t pretty. Many of the tweets have now been deleted, so what follows is the screen grab. It was there for anyone to read.”

As well as the offensive Tweets highlighted by Stephen Daisley (including some suggesting an equivalence between Auschwitz and the Gaza Strip), additional information not limited to social media appears in an article by David Toube at the Quilliam Journal.

Stephen Daisley closed his article:

“…if @AbdullahPatel94 is who he claims to be, there could scarcely be a less suitable person to question anyone about prejudice. If the man who interrogated the Tory leadership candidates is the author of these tweets, the BBC has catastrophically failed in its editorial duties by giving him air time. The Corporation will have to account for this grave lapse in broadcasting standards and work to rebuild trust with viewers as well as the Conservative party. They have let both down badly.”

BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast’s Nicky Campbell apologised for interviewing the same person the morning after the debate.

The BBC put out a statement:

BBC editor Rob Burley added:

However the Guido Fawkes website pointed out that a search showed that the BBC’s interviewee had been active on Twitter as recently as two days before the debate.

The BBC is claiming that an apparently very last-minute check did not turn up anything to preclude Mr Patel from taking part in the programme and one of the Tweets the BBC says it did not see was this one:

Readers may recall that in April 2016 the BBC was incapable of recognising that same image as antisemitic when it was found to have been promoted by a Labour MP and only described it as such after Naz Shah herself defined it in that term.

The question that therefore arises is even if the BBC had seen Mr Patel’s Tweets before the BBC One debate, would it have been capable of recognising their offensive nature? The BBC’s past record and the fact that the corporation does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism unfortunately makes that debatable.

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BBC misquotes US Ambassador in Golan Heights report

A report headlined “Golan Heights: Israel unveils ‘Trump Heights’ settlement” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the afternoon of June 16th.

Readers could have been forgiven for understanding that a previously non-existent town or village had come into existence. [emphasis added]

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights, named after US President Donald Trump.”

“Israel’s premier pledged in April to name a new settlement after Mr Trump, soon after the president overturned decades of US policy by recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.”

Readers may hence have been confused when they later discovered that – despite the BBC’s previous claim that a “new settlement” had been “unveiled”, in fact no such place has been constructed.

“Building work has yet to begin but a sign bearing Mr Trump’s name and US and Israeli flags was unveiled.”

“The new settlement is expected to be built near Kela in the northern Golan Heights.”

As was explained here when the BBC’s Tim Franks visited the Golan Heights last month, that “new settlement” is in fact intended to be an extension of a small community that has existed since 1991.

“…the community, which will be a mixed secular-religious settlement that in its first stage will number some 120 families, will be set up in the northern Golan at Beruchim…”

That information was not provided to readers of this report, who were however told that:

“US Ambassador David Friedman, who attended the ceremony, called the settlement “well deserved, but much appreciated”.”

In fact, Ambassador Friedman said:

“I want to thank you for the extraordinary gesture that you and the State of Israel are making to the president of the United States,” Friedman said. “It is well deserved, but it is much appreciated, and we look forward to work[ing] with you and with the government of Israel to continue to strengthen the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel.”

Clearly this report does not inform BBC audiences either adequately or accurately.

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Over four months on BBC News amends claims about women’s rights in Iran

An article by the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson which appeared in the ‘features’ section of BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st 2019 under the title “The plane journey that set Iran’s revolution in motion” told readers that:

“Today, Iran is a lot more easy-going than most outsiders imagine.

The rules about women’s dress are sometimes enforced harshly, but the Islamic Republic has never clamped down on women’s rights in the way you see routinely in Saudi Arabia.

Iranian women run businesses, own property, drive cars and play an important part in politics.

The present government is probably more liberal than any other since the revolution.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ which ranks countries in terms of women’s economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. The 2018 report put Iran in slot 142 out of 149, with Saudi Arabia one place higher. Despite Simpson’s claim that “Iranian women…play an important part in politics”, the WEF’s sub-index on political empowerment ranks Iran 141 out of 149. Saudi Arabia is ranked 127th. […]

This is by no means the first time that the BBC has whitewashed the specific issue of women’s rights in Iran as well as the general picture of human rights in that country. But this is not some junior reporter dashing off a report: this is the BBC’s highly paid world affairs editor – no less – writing a feature, with time to check facts in order to avoid misleading audiences.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that article on February 6th. On February 15th BBC Complaints informed us that it “had referred your complaint to the relevant people and regret that it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On March 6th we received another e-mail from BBC Complaints informing us that – as is all too often the case – “we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

On June 17th – over four months after the complaint was originally made – we received an e-mail from the BBC News website.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our feature article entitled The plane journey that set Iran’s revolution in motion (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47043561).

You appear never to have received a response to your complaint, submitted in early February, and we would like to apologise for the long and regrettable delay in writing back to you.

After consider [sic] your points in more detail we have amended this paragraph to now explain that:

Today, Iran appears a lot more easy-going than most outsiders imagine.

The rules about women’s dress are sometimes enforced harshly, but the Islamic Republic has never clamped down on women’s freedom of movement in the way you see routinely in Saudi Arabia with its male guardianship system.

In my experience, Iranian women have more belief that they can run businesses, own property, drive cars- and play an important part in politics, despite figures to the contrary.

We have also added a note of clarification at the bottom of the article outlining these changes.”

That footnote reads:

The BBC claims that: [emphasis added]

“We aim to deal with your complaint fairly, quickly and satisfactorily. We are required by our Royal Charter to have a complaints framework which provides “transparent, accessible, effective, timely and proportionate methods” of making sure we are meeting our obligations and fixing problems.”

And:

“If you complain in writing we post or email over 90% of our replies within 2 weeks.”

In April 2018 the BBC once again renewed its contract with the private company to which it outsources the first two stages of its complaints system.  

Obviously a complaints system which takes over four months to come up with a response is neither “timely” nor “effective” and the continued absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that audience members who read Simpson’s article when it was first published remain unaware of the changes made to it.

Related Articles:

BBC World Affairs editor misleads on women’s rights in Iran

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BBC News website removes inaccurate claim from online profile

Back in March we noted that the BBC’s online profile of the Golan Heights informed readers that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.” [emphasis added]

As noted here at the time, that highlighted claim is inaccurate.

“A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water. […]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that topic (including a link to the relevant document) on March 26th. On April 3rd we received notification that BBC Complaints “had referred your complaint to the relevant people and regret that it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On April 22nd we were informed that BBC Complaints had “not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

Nearly three months after the complaint was originally submitted – on June 14th – we received another communication – this time from the BBC News website.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our Golan Heights profile (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14724842) and I’m sorry for the long delay in writing back to you.

You raise a fair point and we’ve since removed the reference to the area supplying a “third of Israel’s water supply”.”

The amended paragraph now reads:

“The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River.”

No explanation was provided as to why it took nearly three months for the inaccurate claim to be removed and no footnote was added to the profile to inform BBC audiences that they were previously misinformed.

The continued absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that readers who previously read that profile remain unaware that they were given inaccurate information.

BBC still fence-sitting on Iranian support for Houthis

An article headlined “Yemen war: Houthi missile attack on Saudi airport ‘injures 26’” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 12th.

In that report readers found the following: [emphasis added]

“Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in March 2015, when the rebels seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

That second paragraph originally appeared in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?” (which is now dated 21 March 2019 but was first published in October 2016) and a link to that backgrounder appears immediately afterwards.

The current version of that backgrounder goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

“The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran – an accusation Tehran denied….”

And:

“The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Arab states – backers of President Hadi – have accused Iran of bolstering the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this.”

No effort is made either in that backgrounder or the current article to provide readers with information which would help them to decide whether there is any substance to those Iranian denials.

For example the BBC could have told readers that two months before it last updated its backgrounder, a UN Security Council report noted that:

“The Panel has identified a small number of companies, both within and outside Yemen, that operated as front companies under false documentation to conceal a donation of fuel for the benefit of a listed individual. The revenue from the sale of that fuel was used to finance the Houthi war effort. The Panel found that the fuel was loaded from ports in the Islamic Republic of Iran under false documentation to avoid detection by inspections of the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism.”

As reported by AP, in another UN report from the previous year

“…the experts said Iran violated a U.N. arms embargo by directly or indirectly providing missiles and drones to the Houthis.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers […] so that all audiences can engage fully with major […] global issues…” 

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Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Three days have passed since the Telegraph published its investigation into Hizballah activity in London four years ago.

“Terrorists linked to Iran were caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials on the outskirts of London in a secret British bomb factory, The Telegraph can reveal.

Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate – a common ingredient in homemade bombs.

The plot was uncovered by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police in the autumn of 2015, just months after the UK signed up to the Iran nuclear deal.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Acting on a tip from a foreign intelligence agency, MI5 and the Metropolitan Police raided four properties in North West London, discovering thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate, the Telegraph said.

A man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorism, but was eventually released without charges. […]

Sources told the Telegraph that the UK plot was at a very early stage and no targets had been selected. It said UK intelligence used to opportunity to try and establish what Hezbollah was up to and so did not disrupt it immediately.”

The Telegraph’s report has raised additional issues in the UK:

“The story has led to questions as to why details of the raid were kept secret, why Members of Parliament were not informed and why the incident was never mentioned during extensive debates about whether all of Hezbollah should be banned as a terrorist organisation.”

Not least for those reasons, one would of course have thought that the UK’s national broadcaster would have reported this story. However three days on, the most recent entry under the ‘Hezbollah’ tag on the BBC News website is dated February 27th.

No coverage of the story has been seen on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page or on its ‘London’ page.

Notably, this would not be the first time that the BBC has ignored such a Hizballah related story.

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BBC News finally gets round to mentioning new PA prime minister

The day after we noted on these pages that BBC audiences had heard nothing about a two year-old self-awarded pay rise to Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers, the BBC News website published a report headlined “Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises”.

BBC audiences finally learned – three months on – that a new PA prime minister had been appointed – but were not told that the pervious one had resigned in January.

“UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said such moves “defy logic and anger people” when Palestinians were struggling with economic hardship.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had agreed to end the practice, he added.

Mr Shtayyeh – an economist who took office in April – has also ordered an investigation, during which ministers will reportedly receive half their salaries.”

The BBC did not clarify that, as reported by AP, most PA employees are currently only being paid half their salaries:

“Newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, a longtime adviser to Abbas, has suspended the pay raises and referred the issue to Abbas “to review it and take legal measures.” While the issue is investigated, ministers will receive half their salaries, like most other government employees, according to government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim.””

Notably, the BBC completely avoided the topic of the reaction on the Palestinian street to the news of the secret pay rises.

Readers were provided with a link to a recent interview with Shtayyeh.

“In an interview with the New York Times published on Wednesday, Mr Shtayyeh warned that the PA was in such dire financial straits that it was “in a collapsing situation” and could be bankrupt by July or August.”

The BBC’s explanation of that claim focused on two factors, the first being tax revenue transfers from Israel.

“The financial crisis was exacerbated this February by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax and tariff revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Israel announced it would freeze the transfer of about $139m (£109m) – an amount it said was equal to that paid by the PA in 2018 to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks.

Israeli officials say the payments incentivise terrorism. But the PA insists they are welfare payments for relatives of prisoners and “martyrs”.

The PA responded to the freeze by refusing to accept any further Israeli revenue transfers, which account for about half its budget.”

The second factor cited is the US administration.

“Since 2018, the US has ended both bilateral aid for Palestinians and contributions for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa).

Those moves came after the PA cut off diplomatic contacts in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers that part of the aid cuts were also linked to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to convicted terrorists or that another category of aid – security aid – was actually refused by the Palestinian Authority in December 2018 when it informed the US that:

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance.”

That omission is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the BBC did tell readers that:

“Mr Shtayyeh warned that if the PA experienced a financial collapse it would have to put security personnel in the occupied West Bank on unpaid leave.”

Given the PA’s rivalry with Hamas, that scenario is of course extremely unlikely.

Obviously the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of spending some 7% of its annual budget on payments to terrorists and their families is relevant to this story but the last time BBC audiences heard anything about that topic was eleven months ago.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 449 incidents took place: 50 in Judea & Samaria, 10 in Jerusalem and 389 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 47 attacks with petrol bombs, four attacks using pipe bombs, one stabbing attack, one shooting attack and seven arson attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 16 attacks with petrol bombs, three attacks using IEDs, two attacks using pipe bombs, one attack using an improvised grenade, one shooting attack, one sniper attack, two attacks using anti-tank missiles and 362 separate incidents of rocket launches.

Four Israeli civilians were killed in missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip on May 5th: Moshe Agadi (58), Ziad Alhamada (49), Moshe Feder (68) and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman (21).

Ten people were injured throughout the month.

Two soldiers were injured by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip on May 3rd. One civilian was wounded when a rocket hit a house in Kiryat Gat on May 4th and another civilian was wounded on the same day when a rocket hit a house in Ashkelon. On May 5th a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack on a house in Ashdod and another civilian wounded in a rocket attack on a factory in Ashkelon. Two people were injured in a rocket attack on Be’er Sheva on May 5th. Two people were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on May 31st which was not reported on the BBC News website.  

A rocket attack on May 2nd did not receive any BBC coverage. The attacks launched between May 4th and 6th were reported in four items on the BBC News website:

‘Ceasefire’ after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel – discussed here

Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza – discussed here

Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify – discussed here

Gaza conflict: ‘Ceasefire’ after days of violence

In those four reports audiences saw coverage of the rocket attacks, one of the attacks using anti-tank missiles and the sniper attack which took place on May 3rd. The four Israeli fatalities were reported but only one person was named, in a photo caption.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported 80% of the terror attacks which took place during May 2019 and all the resulting fatalities.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has reported 33% of the terror attacks which have taken place and 85% of the resulting fatalities.

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