BBC News stays mum on UNRWA head’s resignation

For over three months the BBC has refrained from producing any reporting whatsoever on the issue of allegations of ethical misconduct at the highest levels of the UN agency dedicated solely to people classed as Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

On November 6th the agency’s head, Pierre Krahenbuhl, resigned.

“Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl was replaced earlier on Wednesday until a review of “management-related matters” at the agency was completed, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement.

Krahenbuhl then informed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that he was resigning, effective immediately, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. […]

Krahenbuhl was notified in March that an investigation was underway by the U.N. Secretariat in New York “based on allegations received against UNRWA personnel relating to unsatisfactory conduct”, an UNRWA spokeswoman said.

Krahenbuhl, a Swiss national, took over the UNRWA post in 2014. He was previously director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Dujarric said in a statement on Wednesday that the preliminary findings of the investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services “exclude fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krahenbuhl.

“There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed,” he said.”

The BBC News website has to date failed to produce any reporting about Krahenbuhl’s resignation.

As documented here in recent months, the investigation has affected UNRWA’s funding.

“Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have separately suspended payments to UNRWA over the management issues that are now under investigation. The agency’s spokeswoman says it still needs $89 million to keep operating until the end of this year.”

Throughout most of 2018 the BBC showed considerable interest in the topic of UNRWA funding after the US cut its contributions to the agency:

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Remarkably, the same level of interest in UNRWA funding is now completely absent and the BBC apparently does not consider that audiences need to know about the investigation taking place at the UN agency it has uncritically championed and promoted for so many years or the related resignation of its often interviewed commissioner-general.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during October 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 112 incidents took place including 92 in Judea & Samaria, 16 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and four in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 82 attacks with petrol bombs, 14 attacks using pipe bombs, four arson attacks, one shooting attack, two stabbing attacks, one vehicular attack and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included two attacks with petrol bombs, one shooting attack and one incident of mortar fire.

Two people were wounded in attacks during October – one in a pipe bomb attack at Rachel’s Tomb on October 16th and one in a stone-throwing attack in Samaria on October 26th.

The BBC News website did not report any of the incidents which took place throughout the month.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has covered 22.2% of the attacks which have taken place and 72.7% of the terror related fatalities. In five of those ten months no reporting on terrorism was seen at all.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – October 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2019

 

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

On the afternoon of November 5th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘Middle East’ page which was presented to audiences with a ‘halo effect’ reference to a “rights activist”.

The report itself (tagged, inter alia, ‘human rights’) is headlined “Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal” and the caption under the photograph at the top of the article reads:

“Omar Shakir said he had not called for a boycott of Israel during his time at Human Rights Watch”

Obviously the BBC did not fact-check that claim from the person it had already flagged up as a “rights activist” (i.e. good) before amplifying it.

Had it done so, it would know that analysis of Tweets sent from Shakir’s personal Twitter account between June 2018 and February 2019 by NGO Monitor shows that 16% of those Tweets focused on BDS campaigns against Booking.com and TripAdvisor and additional Tweets supported a UN “blacklist” of businesses operating in Judea & Samaria.

45% of the BBC article’s word count is devoted to uncritical amplification of talking points from Omar Shakir (including a link to a Tweet) and his employer ‘Human Rights Watch, including the following claim:

“The group [HRW] insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”

That claim was also seen in a May 2018 BBC report on the same case and as we noted at the time:

“Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:

“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.””

32% of the BBC report’s word count describes the position of Israel’s interior ministry. As usual the BBC abstains from providing its audiences with an explanation of the BDS campaign in its own words.

“The interior ministry argued that Mr Shakir was an “activist” for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. In 2017, it passed a law refusing entry to people with links to BDS.”

The body of the report includes links to three items of additional reading:

The first of those items promotes the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The second is remarkable for its lack of fact checking and the third (from 2015) uncritically amplifies falsehoods promoted by a professional BDS campaigner, including about the campaign’s origins.

Readers also find the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The report’s final paragraph is devoted to amplification of the support of third parties for Shakir, including unnamed organisations portrayed as “human rights groups” which actually include political NGOs such as ‘Breaking the Silence’.  

“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on Israel not to deport him.”

Remarkably though, the BBC’s report makes no attempt to provide readers with details of the Supreme Court decision. As NGO Monitor documents:

“The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.”

For years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel and yet that organisation’s political agenda has never been adequately clarified to audiences as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. Since Omar Shakir’s work permit was not renewed in May 2018 BBC audiences have seen only superficial coverage which, like this latest report, clearly demonstrates that the BBC has no interest whatsoever in providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story and its wider BDS campaign related background.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC News claims BDS is solely about ‘a cultural boycott’

BBC News uses ‘Israel says’ instead of fact checking

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

BBC News report on Airbnb backtrack follows usual recipe

 

 

BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

Iran’s latest breach of the 2015 JCPOA was portrayed by the BBC as “rolling back another commitment” in the opening line of an article headlined “Iran nuclear deal: Uranium enrichment to resume at underground facility” which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 5th.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on that deal and Iran’s nuclear programme, audiences were told that:

“Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues. Nevertheless, it once again chose to amplify Iranian propaganda but not to inform readers of those relevant parts of the story.

Regarding the Fordo (or Fordow) facility at which Iran’s president announced centrifuges would resume operation, the BBC’s report states:

“Before 2015, the country had two enrichment facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235. […]

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at Fordo until 2031. The 1,044 centrifuges there were supposed to spin without uranium hexafluoride gas being injected.”

An illustration informs readers that “changes agreed” under the deal included Fordo being “converted from fuel enrichment to technology centre”.

Iran did not however comply with that requirement – as explained in this report – but the BBC made no effort to inform readers of that obviously relevant information.  

BBC’s UK reporting hindered by its own record on Gaza casualties

On November 4th the BBC News website published a report titled “Labour Coventry South candidate Zarah Sultana apologises for ‘celebrate deaths’ post” on its regional ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ page and on its ‘Election 2019’ page.

Interestingly, although the article was apparently not deemed relevant for publication on the website’s ‘UK’ or ‘England’ pages, it did for some reason appear in the ‘updates’ section of its ‘Middle East’ page.

“A Labour general election candidate has apologised for saying she would “celebrate” the deaths of world leaders, including Tony Blair.

Zarah Sultana wrote on social media in 2015: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die.””

Readers are told that:

“She [Sultana] told the BBC the tweets were from a “deleted account dating back several years from when I was a student”.

“This was written out of frustration rather than any malice,” she said in a statement, explaining that her anger had arisen “from decisions by political leaders, from the Iraq War to the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations”.”

That reference to “the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians” of course relates to Operation Protective Edge which began after Palestinian terrorists launched hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and dug tens of underground cross-border tunnels to facilitate terror attacks. Notably the BBC’s report made no effort to introduce that relevant context or to inform readers that the claim that the Palestinian casualties during that conflict were “mostly civilians” is questionable.

That will of course come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s own track record on the subject. Over five years after that conflict there is still no evidence of the BBC having ever independently verified the civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it continues to promote.

Instead, as noted here in the past, the BBC quotes figures attributed to “the UN” which are in fact sourced from the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended (originally headed by William Schabas) that was published in June 2015. 

A close look at that report’s methodology shows that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with the UNOCHA “Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.

And so, with the BBC having spent over five years amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funnelled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report, it is hardly surprising that the corporation’s journalists are incapable of informing their domestic audiences that according to studies, a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge were terrorist operatives.

Also notable is the fact that although this BBC report is based on an article published by the Jewish Chronicle which notes Ms Sultana’s prior connections to the controversial advocacy group MEND (see p21 – 30 here), the BBC apparently did not consider it necessary to communicate that information to its ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ audiences.

 

BBC ignores Twitter’s terror groups suspensions

The news that Twitter had suspended accounts belonging to or associated with terrorist organisations was widely reported on November 3rd.

“Twitter has suspended accounts affiliated with the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups as well as a Palestinian news outlet.

As of Sunday, access to Hamas’s English and Arabic handles as well as several of those belonging to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV was no longer available.

Access to three Quds News Network accounts was also cut off. […]

Asked about the suspended accounts, Twitter told TOI: “There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organizations and violent extremist groups. We have a long history of taking strong enforcement action, using a combination of people, partnerships, and technology.””

A similar quote appeared in an AFP report:

“The television station of Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah protested Saturday that most of its Twitter accounts had been suspended.

Al-Manar accused the US-based social media platform of giving in to “political pressures”. […]

“There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organisations and violent extremist groups,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.”

To date, those searching for coverage of that story under the BBC News website’s ‘social media’ and ‘Twitter’ tags will find nothing.

Perhaps the BBC is having difficulty working out how to square that quote from Twitter with its own euphemistic portrayals of Hamas as a ‘militant Islamist group’ and Hizballah as a ‘political, military and social organisation’. 

Related Articles:

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

Former Hizballah journalist returns to BBC Arabic

 

BBC News ignores Gaza rocket attacks yet again

On the evening of November 1st residents of Sderot and surrounding communities had to abandon their Shabbat dinner tables when terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched two barrages of missiles, with one home in Sderot taking a direct hit.

“According to the IDF, seven projectiles were fired during the first barrage. All were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Following the first barrage, Palestinian media reported that an IDF tank shelled a Hamas observation post in the Strip.

Shortly afterward, three more projectiles were fired during a second barrage. Only one was intercepted.

The Sderot municipality spokesperson confirmed in a statement that a home sustained damage, but there were no injuries as all of its residents were in a bomb shelter.

“When I arrived at the street, there was chaos,” said Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedic Alex Kosinov. “Nearby there were numerous vehicles with shattered windscreens. The residents of the building, a 40-year-old couple with their children, were in a nearby building. They told us that they immediately entered the protected area and left a few minutes later. They were not injured and did not require medical treatment.”

MDA reported that it treated a 65-year-old woman in mild condition who fell while trying to reach a bomb shelter. The woman was evacuated to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashdod for medical treatment. Several others were treated for shock.”

Israeli forces responded to the attacks, which were attributed to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

News agency reports on the incidents were published by numerous media outlets but visitors to the BBC News website saw no coverage whatsoever of those Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

Since the beginning of the year twenty-nine separate incidents of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip using rockets and/or mortars have taken place. BBC audiences have seen coverage of just eight of those incidents.

 

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – October 2019

Since the beginning of the year, an average of twenty-three reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians have appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page every month (see ‘related articles’ below).

Throughout the month of October 2019, however, just seven such reports were published.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Two of those items concerned archaeology:

Ancient ‘New York’: 5,000-year-old city discovered in Israel (7/10/19 to 10/10/19)

Israel cave bones: Early humans ‘conserved food to eat later’ (10/10/19 to 13/10/19)

One article related to political/diplomatic issues:

Trumplomacy: Are we seeing the end of a close Israel-US relationship?  Barbara Plett Usher (9/10/19 to 11/10/19) discussed here

Of four items concerning Israeli affairs, two related to internal politics:

Israel PM Netanyahu fails to form government ahead of deadline (21/10/19 to 24/10/19) discussed here

Israel’s Benny Gantz tasked with forming coalition government (24/10/19 to 27/10/19)

Two reports concerned legal stories:

Israel PM Netanyahu faces final hearings in corruption cases (2/10/19 to 6/10/19)

WhatsApp sues Israeli firm over phone hacking claims (30/10/19 to 31/10/19)

BBC audiences saw no coverage of security issues or Palestinian internal affairs whatsoever during the month of October.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

 

 

The background to the BBC’s use of inverted commas

Members of the public may have been surprised by the BBC’s use of inverted commas in a Tweet promoting a report about the US House of Representatives’ passing of a resolution recognising the Armenian genocide.

The same punctuation was found in the original version of the report – headlined “US House votes to recognise Armenian ‘genocide’” – but was removed some eight hours later.

The background to that editorial policy can be found in a 2008 ruling by the now defunct BBC Editorial Standards Committee on pages 4 – 7 and 17 – 31 here, including the following on page 26:

“As to the language of how the Armenian massacre and starvation is reported the Committee noted the comments of the Head of Editorial Compliance, BBC News who stated:

“We put ‘genocide’ in inverted commas in our online reports, and in our television and radio reports we use the word in the context of reporting the dispute about premeditated intent. If we failed to do this, contrary to what you suggest, our coverage would indeed be unbalanced and misleading – unbalanced because the Republic of Turkey vigorously denies that its predecessor administration had any such policy and bitterly criticises some if not all of the source material you quote; misleading because we would be through our use of language addressing the issue as if it were decided when the news developments revolve around the disputed nature of the events.”

The Committee endorsed the comments expressed by BBC management, although it was concerned that the use of inverted commas was not always consistent in online content. It considered the use of quotes was not always necessary as long as the piece mentioning the event noted the level of dispute as to the use of the terminology.”

Those following BBC coverage of Israel have long been familiar with the corporation’s use of inverted commas (usually in connection with terrorism) as a way of ticking the ‘impartiality box’ – often with absurd results. For example:

Punctuation, qualification and ‘he said/she said’ reporting mar BBC report on terror attacks

BBC adds superfluous punctuation to US and Israeli statements on Hamas

BBC not sure cross-border tunnel intended for terror?

In which BBC News abandons all pretence of fact checking

Nevertheless, the BBC obviously believes that the employment of such punctuation is the most appropriate way to display ‘balance’ in its journalism. 

The BBC News pot and the Washington Post kettle

October 28th saw the publication of a report headlined “Washington Post criticised, and lampooned, over Baghdadi headline” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘US & Canada’ pages.

“The Washington Post faced criticism on Sunday for calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group who had died the day before, an “austere religious scholar”.

The newspaper amended its headline to call him an “extremist leader”.

Vice president of communications Kristine Coratti Kelly said the headline “should never have read that way and we changed it quickly”. […]

The first version of the Washington Post’s headline called Baghdadi “terrorist-in-chief”, before it was changed to “austere religious scholar at the helm of Islamic State”.”

The BBC is of course itself no stranger to problematic portrayals of terrorists and terror attacks. As we have documented on these pages over the years, the corporation has described the terrorist Leila Khaled as “beautiful”, “sultry-eyed”, “iconic” and a “dissident”.

Other Palestinian terrorists have also been portrayed by the BBC as “dissidents” and terms such as “militant”, “guerrilla” and “political prisoner” have been employed in BBC reporting for nearly five decades. In 2014 the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported the death of a Palestinian ‘charity worker’ without mentioning that the PFLP described him as a “fighter commander” in its ranks.

The BBC itself “faced criticism” from multiple sources in 2015 when it reported a fatal double stabbing attack in Jerusalem with the headline “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” and again in 2017 when it reported the murder of an Israeli policewoman with the headline  “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem”.

In October 2014 the BBC reported a fatal terror attack with the headline “Nine hurt as car hits pedestrians at Jerusalem station” and the following month a similar attack was covered in an article titled “Driver hits pedestrians in Jerusalem”.

With many more such examples of miserable BBC reporting having been documented, one can but wonder whether or not the BBC will devote any of its attention to the issue of its own record rather than merely highlighting that of other media organisations.    

 Related Articles:

Washington Post’s remake of terrorist Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi not unique  (CAMERA)