BBC to review its complaints system again

The July 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ (available here) included an item in which presenter Roger Bolton discussed the topic of BBC impartiality with the corporation’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan.BBC R4 Feedback

Towards the end of that discussion (from 11:43), the conversation turned to another subject.

RB: “David Jordan; just before you leave us can I ask you about the BBC complaints procedure because we’ve just heard that it’s being overhauled and you indeed the man who is going to overhaul it. Why?”

DJ: “I think overhaul might be over-egging the pudding but…ahm….we are having a look at our complaints system in the light of the fact that…err…under the new charter which will be introduced in the New Year, we will be regulated for the first time by OFCOM – the office of communications: an outside regulator – and they will be responsible for all the third stage appeals against our complaints that are currently handled by the BBC Trust.”

After explaining the terms first, second and third stages, Jordan went on to say:

“We’re just having a look at the first two stages in the whole process to make sure it’s as simple as possible, as transparent as possible and that we’re as accountable as possible under the new system and that’s what I’ve been asked to do.”

Whether or not members of the corporation’s funding public whom the BBC complaints procedure is supposed to serve will be consulted on the topic of the current system’s ‘simplicity’ and ‘transparency’ is unclear. At the moment, no such consultation appears on the BBC Trust’s website

The PA terror monument and the former BBC interviewee

Even as the BBC’s funding public sees its elected representatives debate issues relating to official Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism, the corporation continues to avoid providing them with the comprehensive picture of those issues which would not only enhance their understanding of news coming from the Middle East, but also of events in their own parliament.

Last week the Palestinian Authority and the PLO erected a monument to a terrorist who murdered fifteen people and wounded scores of others in 1975.Zion Square attack

“The Palestinian Authority went through with its plans yesterday to establish a monument honoring the terrorist Ahmad Jabarah Abu Sukkar, who planned the detonation of a bomb-laden refrigerator in the center of Jerusalem…. […]

Palestinian officials participating in this event […] include, among others:

 – Director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake

– Governor of Ramallah and El-Bireh, Laila Ghannam

– PA Parliament Member Qais Abd Al-Karim.”

Although there is nothing novel about the fact that the BBC elected to ignore this example of glorification of terrorism just as it has countless others, in this particular case we know that the corporation is well aware of Ahmad Jabarah’s resume of terrorism because it not only covered his release from prison (as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to the PA) in 2003 but even saw fit to broadcast what one BBC journalist termed “a really remarkable interview” with him on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

But while the PA keeps up its practice of making national heroes of dead terrorists with monuments, street namings and sports tournament dedications, the BBC continues to indoctrinate its audiences with the notion that the prime ‘obstacle to peace’ is Israeli building. 

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

As readers may recall, since late last year various BBC radio programmes have misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

With previous efforts to alert BBC World Service programme makers to the inaccuracy having proved fruitless, after the February 22nd broadcast of ‘Front Row’ on Radio 4, BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the following inaccurate claims made in that programme:

“…recently the [Israeli] culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’.”

As readers may recall, the complaint was twice rejected by the BBC Complaints department, with the second response including the programme production team’s claim that:

“This was a discussion that wasn’t specifically about the Rabinyan case – it was about another author’s work and the discussion strayed into political interference in Israeli culture. As such, Samira used the shorthand “banned” in reference to the book. The book was removed from the school syllabus, but in a discussion as wide ranging as this, the point about political involvement in arts and culture still stands whether the book has been banned from society at large, or removed from the school syllabusThe decision to interfere in the distribution of this book was made by, or under pressure from, politicians. That was the point the interviewee was making and to which the presenter responded.” [emphasis added]

As we noted at the time:

“The book ‘Borderlife’ was not “banned” in Israel and is freely available to all would-be purchasers in book shops. Neither was it “removed from the school syllabus” – because it was never on it. The decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by a professional pedagogic body – not “by, or under pressure from, politicians”.”

BBC Watch pursued the matter further and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld our complaint, as is now noted on the BBC website’s ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.

Borderlife correction

The ECU’s reporting of its findings includes a section titled ‘Further action’.

Borderlife ECUGiven the production team’s above response to the second stage complaint, one must obviously question whether in fact it is in a position to “ensure that presenters are appropriately briefed”.Front Row 22 2

During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.

One cannot but question the efficacy – and commitment to transparency – of a publicly funded complaints system which apparently does not include a mechanism to ensure that audiences are automatically informed in the most efficient manner possible of the fact that they were given misleading information, rather than the outcome being dependent upon decisions made by individual departments. 

 

Casually reinforcing the narrative on BBC Radio 4

Kate Adie’s introduction to an item about rock-climbing which was broadcast in the July 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (from 17:09 here) sounded promising.FOOC 16 7

“In sixty years this programme has broadcast many dispatches from the Middle East – particularly the West Bank. They’re often about religion or politics and all too often about violence. Many journalists have written about the scene in Ramallah; just six miles from Jerusalem. But Ed Lewis has found something different: a sports centre that’s opening up new horizons.”

So was that item about a Palestinian rock-climbing club really “something different” and did it indeed manage to avoid politics? Not quite.

Tourism consultant and freelance journalist Edward Lewis managed to get a gratuitous, context-free mention of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence into his introduction – but without of course informing listeners why the construction of that fence (only a small percentage of which is actually “wall”) was necessary.

“Ramallah has a new wall. Not a vertical grey concrete wall but a bright blue, green and white one. It has no look-out posts, razor wire or steel gates. Instead there are bungee ropes, crash mats and colour. Far from emitting a message to stay away, this wall is encouraging Palestinians to approach and explore.”

The context of Palestinian terrorism was also erased from later remarks made by Lewis, as were the Oslo Accords arrangements which divide the region into Areas A, B and C.

“Despite the challenges of mobility in the West Bank…”

“In the wake of a rash of violent incidents since October 2015, tension with Israel has risen and it has become harder for single Palestinian men to get work permits in East Jerusalem.”

“The West Bank has not become an adventure playground overnight – nor will it anytime soon. Israeli restrictions and the designation of many parts of the West Bank as military zones or nature reserves severely restrict the scope for more outdoor activity.”

Could Lewis have reported on that climbing club in Ramallah without the insertion of that unnecessary and context-free mention of the anti-terrorist fence which contributed nothing to his report? Of course he could. But as we all too often see, even the most seemingly benign subject matter can be opportunistically used by self-conscripted journalists to casually reinforce an adopted narrative.  

BBC discovers that MP’s “Israel” Facebook posts were antisemitic

Placement of a pay-walled article in a newspaper read by less than 5% of the population midweek was probably not the best advice ever given to a British politician apparently seeking to reassure Israelis but nevertheless, on July 18th the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, had an article published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz under the title “My Understanding of anti-Semitism Was Lacking“.

The same sentiment was voiced by Shah in an interview with Becky Milligan on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day (from 29:11 here) and that interview prompted articles at additional outlets including the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and on the BBC News website’s UK politics and ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ pages.

The BBC’s promotion of the radio interview included a choice of language that – given its past approach to the same story – was remarkable.

Naz Shah tweet WaO 1

Naz Shah tweet WaO 2

Naz Shah art Leeds pge 18 7

As readers may recall, when the story of Naz Shah’s offensive social media posts broke in April, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences that their content was antisemitic.

Naz Shah art main

In subsequent related articles, the corporation likewise gave audiences an anodyne description of just one of Shah’s controversial Facebook posts while ignoring the others.

“It follows the suspension of Bradford West MP Naz Shah after it emerged she had once suggested, among other things, that Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 29/04/2016)

“Ms Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was suspended after social media posts emerged in which she suggested Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 30/06/2016)

“Ms Shah was stripped of the parliamentary whip in April over comments about Israel she made online, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 05/07/2016)

However, now that Naz Shah has herself acknowledged her use of antisemitic discourse, the BBC has redefined those Facebook posts and is suddenly able to tell its audiences that they were in fact antisemitic.

So what happened here? Did the BBC really not know that before Shah’s admission? If not, then the fact that the corporation does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism has clearly once again failed audiences. If, on the other hand, the BBC was able to identify the antisemitic discourse in Shah’s posts back in April but nevertheless refrained from describing them accurately, then audiences have been similarly sold short.

One cannot of course imagine that the corporation would wait until the writer of a homophobic or anti-black racist social media post defined them as such in his or her own words before it got round to telling its audiences exactly why such posts were offensive. 

BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly moves on to new pastures

After some five years at the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, Kevin Connolly is moving on to take up a new post in Brussels – but not before making a final contribution to the mission he describes thus:

“I came here just to play the smallest of parts in writing one chapter of Jerusalem’s story”.

As those who have followed Connolly’s work over the past few years will be aware, it has not infrequently included subtle (and not so subtle) re-writing of past and present chapters of “Jerusalem’s story” and his concluding musings on the June 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (from 16:27 here) are no exception.FOOC 16 6 Connolly

For example, Connolly uses the ambiguous term “line of demarcation” which implies far more permanency than was intended by those who drafted the 1949 Armistice agreement which produced the ceasefire line he is actually describing.

“A stone’s throw from the house lies the line of demarcation which separated the armies of the Arab world from the forces of the newly independent Jewish state back in 1949.”

In Connolly’s account, no belligerent invasion or occupation by the British-backed Jordanian army is evident.

“When the fighting ended in 1949 Jerusalem was grudgingly divided between Israel and the neighbouring Arab Kingdom of Jordan.”

Only one population suffered “dispossession and disinheritance” according to Connolly: the ethnic cleansing of the Old City of Jerusalem has apparently not come to his attention in the past five years.

“Many Zionists were filled with despair. What was the point of this long dreamed of Jewish state if it didn’t contain the place of prayer at the Western Wall or the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives? It was a time of bitterness and loss too for many of the Arabs of West Jerusalem and beyond who fled their homes never to return, beginning a story of dispossession and disinheritance that still has no ending.”

While refraining from mentioning the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem, he does later find a use for that term:

“The war of 1967 left Israel in control of East Jerusalem, binding together the fractured fragments of Jewish hearts if you’re a Zionist, beginning 49 years of military occupation if you’re not.”

And Connolly even invents a Jordanian “claim” – and a dubious consensus – on belligerently occupied territory which the international community refused to recognise as Jordanian.

“The Palestinians who inherited the Jordanian claim on the east of the city believe it will be the future capital of their independent state and that is what the wider world wants too.”

Not for the first time, Connolly misleads listeners with regard to British history in the region, inaccurately suggesting that Mandate Palestine was a British colony.

“The British mandatory authority was a good government as colonial governments went – but like all colonial governments, it went.”

As we already know, Kevin Connolly thinks those who take issue with inaccuracy and omission in his and his colleagues’ reporting are driven by the wish to promote a “narrative” and his post-factual theory is again amplified in his parting shot.

“Supporters of the Palestinians and of Israel scrutinise everything that’s written about the city, alert for any terminological hint of bias or ignorance or both. Each side has its own lexicon and watches suspiciously for any hint that the news has been written in the words of the other. Is a young Palestinian who stabs an Israeli soldier a terrorist? Or a normal teenager goaded beyond endurance by generations of humiliation? Is an Israeli soldier who shoots a wounded and helpless Palestinian in such an incident a murderer or a young man defending his comrades and his country when they are under attack? There are no answers of course, beyond the answers you favour yourself. Reporting Jerusalem means finding words that convey what has happened and why – but also remembering that neither side recognises the truth of the other. The scrutiny is a legacy of the sense built up over centuries of how the unsettled future of this place matters to millions of people who have never seen it. These words aren’t exempt from that process either; ad nauseam maybe.”

Obviously Mr Connolly finds any examination of his five years of attempts to dictate “one chapter of Jerusalem’s story” tiresome and annoying and so he may be relieved to be moving on to pastures new. Given that the BBC does not refuse to respect the Belgian people’s choice of their own capital as it does in Jerusalem, we might perhaps expect to find Connolly less frequently engaged in negating the Belgian nation’s sovereignty over the City of Brussels.

“Jerusalem in general feels like it belongs to the world…”

“Jerusalem belongs to the ages and it belongs to the world.”

There are of course many of us who are not going anywhere and for whom the way in which the “story” of Jerusalem and Israel is told by brief sojourners such as Kevin Connolly has very real consequences. We remain charged with the task of trying to make certain that the “historical record” promoted by the world’s biggest and most influential broadcaster is both accurate and impartial in order to ensure that public opinion and foreign policymakers who take it upon themselves to intervene in that story are informed by facts rather than politicised journalistic activism.

And if Mr Connolly finds that tiresome, that perhaps says all that needs to be said about the motivations behind his wish to write – rather than observe and record – the story of the city and the country which hosted him for the last five years.   

One to listen out for on BBC Radio 4

A programme titled “One Day in Entebbe” will be broadcast on Tuesday, June 28th at 8 p.m. on BBC Radio 4. Its synopsis reads as follows:Freedland Entebbe prog

“Forty years ago, the world gasped as it witnessed one of the most outlandish rescue missions ever undertaken. Israeli commandos flew 2,500 miles to free more than a hundred hostages, passengers whose plane had been hijacked and diverted to Entebbe. In the dead of night, they were plucked out from under the nose of Uganda’s larger-than-life dictator, Idi Amin.

The operation would become a template for special forces operations, taught at military colleges around the globe. It would change the calculus in the Middle East, altering the way Israel was seen and the way it saw itself. And it would set one young man on the path to eventual power.

Through exclusive and intensely personal interviews with those involved, including Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and two of his predecessors – Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres – as well as former hostages, ex-commandos and the one-time Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled, writer and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland tells the remarkable story of that day in July 1976.

He hears Netanyahu confess that he would not be prime minister today had it not been for Entebbe where his brother led the commando unit and was killed in action – proof that the impact of that one day in Entebbe lives on.”

Jonathan Freedland has also written about the 40th anniversary of the rescue operation at Entebbe for the Guardian.

 

BBC R4 reveals what ‘really’ threatens to reignite Hamas-Israel conflict

On June 9th – the day after the terror attack at Sarona Market in which four people were murdered and 17 wounded – BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The World Tonight’ broadcast an item apparently intended to convey to audiences that any future outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas would be down to one prime factor.

As readers may be able to guess, that factor was not terrorism: the word did not appear even once throughout the report. Presenter Shaun Ley set the scene (from 18:13 here):R4 the world tonight 9 6

“Now, Israel’s newly appointed defence minister Avdor [sic] Lieberman has issued an order preventing the return of the bodies of any Palestinians who are killed in attacks there. The gunmen who shot dead four people and injured six [sic] others at a shopping centre in Tel Aviv last night were captured alive but this is a signal by Mr Lieberman – a political hardliner. In addition, permits for 83,000 Palestinians who were planning to come to Israel have been revoked and more troops are to be deployed in the occupied West Bank. Our reporter Andrew Hosken reports now from Jerusalem.”

Ley did not inform listeners that Lieberman’s order constitutes a return to previous policy or that the entry permits for Palestinians were frozen rather than “revoked”.

Hosken began his report with a description of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, going on to say:

“But in recent months Damascus Gate has also been the scene of a string of knife attacks, mainly by young Palestinians of both sexes, on Jewish Israeli policemen and women.”

Over a dozen attacks have taken place at Damascus Gate since October of last year. Contrary to the claims from Hosken, the attacks were not directed exclusively at members of the security forces and many Israeli police and border police officers are not Jewish. At least four civilians were wounded in attacks at that location. Neither were all the attacks at Damascus Gate “knife attacks” as inaccurately claimed: at least five shooting attacks took place, including the one on February 3rd in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was murdered.

Hosken continued:

“The attacks here have earned this wave of assault that began last October the not terribly subtle title ‘the Intifada of knives’. But the latest assault involved machine guns and at the heart of Jewish Israel – Tel Aviv – some fifty miles or so west of Jerusalem. The Israeli government, led by the Right-wing Likud party, has promised a severe reaction against any Palestinian entity – individuals, organisations, even families – it considers culpable.”

Listeners then heard some general statements from MK Dr Anat Berko before Hosken went on:

“Raids were conducted today by Israeli security forces in Yatta – a small town which is home to at least two of the attackers. It’s in the Palestinian West Bank area where so many Israeli Jews have created settlements in defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions.”

There were two terrorists involved in the Sarona Market attack and both came from Yatta which is in Area A and under full Palestinian Authority control. There are of course no ‘settlements’ in Areas A or B.

Hosken next went to Kibbutz Alumim in the Western Negev.

“Jeremy Maisel [phonetic] lives on the Alumim kibbutz in south-west Israel just two and a half miles from the Gaza Strip – home to 2 million Palestinians.”

As of July 2015 the population of the Gaza Strip was 1.87 million.

“In the summer of 2014 during the conflict between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist organization that controls Gaza – the Alumim kibbutz came under rocket attack. No fewer than 282 code red alerts were issued to the people here, giving them 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. Jeremy Maisel remains pessimistic about any prospects of peace with the Palestinians.”

Maisel: “Hamas is a very extremist government there and they don’t hide their goals of destroying Israel, of killing Jews.”

Hosken continued:

“Most of the leaders of Hamas are based in Gaza and as far as the Israeli government is concerned, Hamas – which has often vowed to destroy Israel in the past – remains suspect number one when it comes to the attack in Tel Aviv.”

The Hamas movement in Yatta claimed that the two terrorists belonged to its organization soon after the attack.

Hosken then journeyed to Gaza.

“I’ve just crossed over from Israel into Gaza and the dysfunctionality of the place is clear on entry because after passing through Israeli passport control you have to negotiate two checkpoints on the Palestinians’ side operated by separate and differing organisations that have fought bitterly in the past for control of the Strip. The first is operated by Fatah and the second manned by Hamas.”

The checkpoint is actually Palestinian Authority – rather than “Fatah” – operated. Hosken then gave an inaccurate account of how the Gaza Strip came under Hamas control, completely erasing the terror organisation’s violent June 2007 coup from audience view.

“Hamas has controlled Gaza since winning elections here in 2006. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority which holds sway on the West Bank – home to two of the Tel Aviv attackers.”

Listeners heard entirely unchallenged statements from three interviewees in Gaza, the first being “a prominent Fatah leader” whom Hosken asked about “the so-called Intifada of knives”.

“It is a reaction more than Intifada. It is a reaction from the people. The humiliation they face on the borders and cross points of the Israelis. They are using a very, very bad way in dealing with the Palestinians. They keep them for long time on the cross points, on the entrances and they don’t allow them to go to Jerusalem. They touch the feelings of the people so it is not an organized act. It is just a reactionary act.”

Hosken did not bother to clarify to listeners that Palestinians can in fact travel to Jerusalem with the appropriate paper work or that the security measures at crossings into Israel are the direct result of Palestinian terrorism.

Listeners also heard from a similarly unchallenged porter whom Hosken asked “what he thought about the attack in Tel Aviv”.

“I feel happy because they have taken Jerusalem, they have taken our land and it’s right to defend ourself. The operation is a natural because they took our land and look what they are doing in Gaza: they cut the electricity, they close the border.”

Hosken did not explain to listeners that the electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip have nothing at all to do with Israel and are the result of a dispute between Hamas and the PA. He went on:

“…but could there be another war soon? Even before Tel Aviv there was concern at the appointment as Israeli defence minister of Avigdor Lieberman – a hawk when it comes to the Palestinians and a man who has supported the assassination of Hamas leaders in the past.”

Listeners then heard from an associate professor of politics at Gaza’s Al Azhar University.

“The Palestinian elite in Gaza are a little bit concerned that maybe the bringing of Lieberman as defence minister might mean another war is in the making between Israel and Hamas within the next six months or a year. Lieberman in the past year or so since the Israeli elections have asked Netanyahu to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and have pushed Netanyahu to assassinate the political leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip so it could mean military activity against Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza strip in the foreseeable future.”

Hosken then closed with the following trite statement:

“Tonight for many people here, recent attempts by both France and Egypt to broker peace talks have never felt more forlorn.”

Hamas – along with several other Palestinian factions – clearly has no interest in peace talks, as one presumes Hosken himself knows, and has spent the last two years rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Nevertheless, listeners to this item were led to believe that the main factor threatening to lead to a renewal of conflict is the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defence rather than Palestinian terrorism. Apparently that is what passes for ‘reporting’ at BBC Radio 4. 

 

Misleading by omission on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs

The June 10th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, presented by Kirsty Young, featured British surgeon David Nott who, in addition to his regular work, volunteers with Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross.Desert Island Discs 10 6

Whilst discussing the dangers of working in conflict zones, Young asked:

“Are there times when you have to exit mid-operation?”

Listeners then heard the following story (from 23:09 here).

“I was in Gaza in 2014 during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I was working in one of the big hospitals in Gaza City. There was this little girl that had come in, who was about seven, who’d had her…evisceration it’s called, where the bowels are hanging out of the abdominal wall. She’d had severe fragmentation injuries. A fragment had gone into her bladder, her spleen, stomach and so on. I prepared her with iodine and so on. Somebody came up to me and said David, we need to go now. We need to leave the hospital because it’s going to be blown up in five minutes. And…erm….I looked at her and at the time I had no family, I had no siblings, I had nobody and I said well, OK, I’m on my own here and, you know, am I going to leave this little girl on her own to, you know, to die in the hospital? I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to, so I stayed there with her and thought well….”

Young: “So you must tell me what happened? What happened?”

Nott: “So all the staff in the operating theatre left. I was there with the anaesthetist. I looked at the anaesthetist and I said to him do you want to go? He said no, I’ll stay with you and so the two of us just stayed there. We operated, waiting for the bomb to explode onto the hospital and nothing happened. And three or four days later – I’ve got this picture of me and the little girl….”

Young: “Right, we’re gonna take a break. We’re gonna have some music.”

So what would uninformed listeners have taken away from that segment of the programme? Obviously many would have been left with the impression that Israel was the party expected to ‘blow up’ the working hospital and that the fact no strike took place on that occasion was a matter of luck.

From a previous interview given by Nott we can ascertain that the hospital concerned is Shifa hospital and that the date of that particular experience was August 1st 2014. On that day a UN brokered 72-hour ceasefire was supposed to come into effect but Hamas breached it after an hour and a half with an attack on Israeli soldiers decommissioning one of its cross-border tunnels in the Rafah area in the south of the Gaza Strip.

“IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, an officer in the Givati Brigade, was apparently abducted in the Rafah area of Gaza on Friday morning, in an attack perpetrated some 90 minutes after the onset of a truce. He was formally designated missing in action, an IDF spokesman said Friday. Two IDF soldiers were killed in the attack. […]

A suicide bomber and other gunmen engaged the IDF forces as they sought to decommission a tunnel. Shortly after the combined attack, it became clear to Israeli forces in the area that a soldier was missing.”

Later, terrorists also fired missiles at Israeli civilian communities but none of that very relevant context was provided to listeners to this programme. Shifa hospital was of course not attacked on that day or any other and – despite what Nott was told at the time – it was in fact considered to be one of the safest places in the Gaza Strip, as reported by the BBC’s James Reynolds just days later:

“…just to explain where we are; we’re at the Shifa hospital here in the centre of Gaza. When you speak to ordinary people here, they feel that this is about the only safe place that there is in this strip of land – this or the grounds of the other hospitals here – because they believe that Israel will not target hospitals. There are actually some families sleeping outside the hospital – again, they believe that they won’t be hit here….”

Whether or not Mr Nott asked his hosts at Shifa hospital why the secure underground operating theatre located in the bunker underneath that facility was not placed at his disposal is unclear. Had he done so, he would have been able to tell BBC audiences that most probably the reason that his colleagues assumed that the hospital was going to be bombed on August 1st 2014 was because Hamas was using the space beneath his feet as a command centre and refuge – and him as a human shield.  

If Kirsty Young had provided that context to Radio 4 listeners, their take-away impressions of this story would of course have been more accurate.

Related Articles:

BBC presentation of the August 1st ceasefire breakdown – part one: BBC News website

BBC presentation of the August 1st ceasefire breakdown – part two: BBC television news

BBC widens its distortion of the reason for the collapse of the August 1st ceasefire

 

 

 

 

 

Obscure slot for rare BBC report on Palestinian social issues

As we have often noted on these pages, the framing adopted by the BBC in its reporting on Israel and the Palestinians barely allows for the inclusion of stories which fall outside the subject matter of ‘the conflict’ and the corporation’s journalists overwhelmingly stay away from topics such as Palestinian social issues and internal affairs. Neither does that editorial policy leave any room for nuanced views of relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Hence, when such stories do slip through the net they are all the more remarkable – especially if the BBC’s UK audiences are hearing them for the first time.R4 Sunday 5 6

On June 5th the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ included an item described thus in its synopsis:

“In his first UK media interview, Ed Stourton talks to John Calvin, grandson of the co-founder of Hamas, whose conversion to Christianity meant he had to flee the Middle East.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the interview (from 19:30 here) as follows:

“A couple of months ago a young man going under the assumed name of John Calvin was told he could remain in the United States rather than being sent back to the West Bank where he grew up. His journey to New York, where he now lives, was all the more remarkable because he was born into a family committed to the radical Palestinian group Hamas. Indeed, his grandfather was one of the organisation’s founders. John Calvin converted to Christianity – his name will give you an idea which flavour – and he’s since come out as gay. In his first British broadcast interview he told me about growing up in a Hamas family.”

The interview is not particularly long but it does provide listeners with very rare glimpses into issues such as the status of women, the indoctrination of children and the treatment of apostates and homosexuals in certain sectors of Palestinian society. The audience also heard an account which is starkly different to the usual BBC caricature of Palestinians and Israelis.

Calvin: “…in early 2006 I’ve had a fight with my family and ran from home and went to Israel where I was detained for crossing the Israeli West Bank border without proper documentations. In the minors’ prison I had a cellmate who is a Palestinian young guy about two years older than me at the time. And I ended up being sexually assaulted heavily and repeatedly until I gathered my courage and ended up reporting that to the prison administration. There was an overwhelming amount of support both emotionally and physically and attempts to secure me – to make sure that that doesn’t come out. Being raped is still the victim’s fault in the West Bank. And that just countered everything I was told: stories about how Jewish people’s deepest desire is to hurt us, is to make sure that we don’t overcome anything. That was a breaking point.”

Stourton: “So you…you’d been told all your life that the Israelis were evil people and when you went to them with a problem in jail, you found that actually wasn’t true.”

Calvin: “No – they…as a matter of fact they showed me more compassion than what my own mother did.”

Unfortunately, this interview was broadcast at around half past seven on a Sunday morning on Radio 4: a slot which obviously does not ensure optimal outreach to BBC audiences serially deprived of such information.