The BBC’s ME editor’s odd depiction of the Iranian nuclear programme

The US State Department’s web page concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) describes its purpose as follows:

“On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union (EU), and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.” [emphasis added]

At the time the deal was reached the UN issued a statement saying:

“The United Nations has welcomed the agreement reached between international negotiators and the Government of Iran as the two parties pave the way for a viable solution on the Gulf country’s nuclear programme and towards possible peace in the region.” [emphasis added]

On the same day, the IAEA put out a statement that included the following:

“With respect to the clarification of outstanding issues related to the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, the IAEA and Iran have, earlier today, agreed a Road-map as part of the Framework for Cooperation between the Agency and Iran.” [emphasis added]

The British government announced that:

“Prime Minister David Cameron has made a statement following agreement being reached in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear programme.” [emphasis added]

In May 2017 the BBC reported that:

“In a deal with world powers in 2015, Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in return for tangible economic benefits…” [emphasis added]

Clearly the existence of the Iranian nuclear programme is an accepted fact. One must then ponder why, during the 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:01:2 here) aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on June 6th, audiences heard it described otherwise.

Newsreader Neil Sleat: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have talks with Theresa May in Downing Street today – the last stop on a tour of Europe to discuss the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Last month President Trump withdrew US backing for the deal reached in 2015 under which Iran promised to limit its nuclear activities in return for the easing of international sanctions. Britain, France and Germany, along with Russia and China, argue that the deal is needed to head off a regional arms race. Here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Bowen: “Mr Netanyahu has said he’ll be concentrating on two subjects: Iran and Iran. First, what he calls Iran’s nuclear programme and second, stopping a long-term Iranian presence in Syria. It’s hard to see any daylight between Mr Netanyahu and President Trump but it’s different in Europe. Mr Netanyahu has already been to Germany and France. Both countries, like Britain, want somehow to save the deal with Iran. But the pressure of renewed US sanctions is already forcing big European countries to cancel investment plans in Iran. The Iranians say they’re preparing to restart uranium enrichment if the deal with world powers collapses. Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. Theresa May is expected to question Mr Netanyahu about Israel’s killing of more than 100 Palestinians in Gaza since the end of March which she’s already called deeply troubling. He will stick to his line that Israel is using legitimate force against terrorists.” [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iran did not announce that it would “restart” uranium enrichment but that enrichment would be accelerated if the JCPOA fell apart.

“In case European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal prove unable to protect its economic benefits for Iran, Khamenei said, “I have ordered Iran’s atomic energy agency to be prepared to upgrade our (uranium) enrichment capacity”.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s job is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” and so obviously one would expect him to inform BBC audiences that over 80% of the Palestinians killed along the Israel-Gaza Strip border since March 30th have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

Instead, Bowen steered listeners towards the understanding that the description of people involved in the pre-planned violent riots, shooting and IED attacks and attempted infiltrations as terrorists is merely a “line” employed by the Israeli prime minister and presented the Iranian nuclear programme as something that ‘Israel says’ exists.

Related Articles:

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

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BBC R4 FOOC report on Palestinian music promotes one-sided politics

The May 31st edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item by freelance journalist Robin Denselow which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 17:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Adie: “The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long, complicated and contentious. And both sides want their version of that history to dominate as they try to win over foreign diplomats, politicians and the wider world. Violence brings one set of headlines. Cultural events and exchanges are seen as another way of achieving that. A festival was held in the West Bank recently aiming to give the growing Palestinian music scene a major boost and to amplify the voices of ordinary Palestinians. Robin Denselow was in Ramallah.”

Listeners certainly did hear one dominant, context-free narrative during the next five minutes with Denselow repeatedly referring to ‘Palestine’, thus breaching the BBC’s ‘style guide’ which states:

“…you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Audiences were told that Palestinians are “so isolated from the rest of the world” and of course no BBC report from PA controlled territory would be complete without a mention of “checkpoints”.

“The young audience had travelled to the Palestinian Music Expo – or PMX – from right across the West Bank, negotiating the Israeli checkpoints on the way.”

Listeners were told that foreign visitors to that music festival:

“…were welcomed by the Palestinian minister of culture, Ihab Bseiso, for whom PMX clearly had political significance. Promoting culture in Palestine is absolutely crucial, he told me. It’s a form of resistance, protecting the national heritage. The minister, who enthused about the years he spent studying at Cardiff University, gave us a personal tour of an uncompleted but palatial new building on a Ramallah hilltop. Originally intended as a grand guest-house for visiting dignitaries, it’s to be Palestine’s new national library and cultural hub.”

Denselow refrained from telling listeners that the building originally had another function too:

“Originally, the guest palace in Ramallah was intended to serve as the residence for the Palestinian president and to house international diplomats, leaders and delegations during visits.

However, a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that Abbas decided to remain in his own home out of fear that the extravagant 4,700 square meter palace, which cost 6 million dollars to build, would evoke negative reactions among the Palestinian public.”

Again paraphrasing his host Bseiso, Denselow told listeners that:

“He claimed that what is happening on the cultural front in Palestine is a miracle it’s exceptionally hard to achieve under occupation. And he went on to recite the everyday problems of checkpoints and restrictions on movement.”

Denselow of course did not bother to remind Radio 4 audiences that checkpoints and “restrictions on movement” did not exist until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada terror war. He went on to describe excursions without clarifying whether the organisers were the Palestinian Authority or his PMX hosts.

“They organised a trip to show their foreign visitors their side of the conflict. We were driven out through Qalandiya checkpoint, where Israeli troops looked through out passports, and then taken to the bitterly divided city of Hebron.”

At that point it would of course have been helpful to listeners to have been reminded of the fact that Hebron is “divided” because twenty-one years ago the Palestinian Authority agreed to divide it into two areas: H1 under PA control and H2 (roughly 20% of the city) under Israeli control. That reminder was not forthcoming and neither was any mention of the ancient Hebron Jewish community or the massacre of 1929.

“In the Israeli-controlled sector settlers live alongside the Palestinians who complained to us how many of their shops have been closed, how they need nets to protect their market from rocks thrown by settlers and about the streets where they claimed they’re now banned from walking.”

The fact that those shops – located on one street – were closed due to Palestinian violence during the Second Intifada was not communicated to listeners. With a nod towards the BBC’s supposed editorial standards on impartiality, Denselow then inaccurately told listeners that the victims of Palestinian violence in Hebron have been exclusively “Israeli soldiers”.

“Over the years of conflict Palestinians have attacked Israeli soldiers with knives and rocks too and the small settler community says it also fears for its safety.”

Stories such as that of ten month-old Shalhevet Pass – murdered by a Palestinian sniper – or thirteen year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel clearly do not fit into Denselow’s narrative. His story then took a bizarre turn:

“But being seen here with a Palestinian guide was clearly dangerous. A car – apparently driven by an angry settler – narrowly missed our group then did a U-turn and drove back at us again at speed. One record industry executive would almost certainly have been hit if he hadn’t been pulled back.”

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian media outlets have any record of such an event having taken place in Hebron around the time of the PMX event between April 11th and 13th.  Denselow provided no evidence to support his guess that the car was “driven by an angry settler” but promoted it to BBC audiences regardless.

Interestingly, a similar claim is to be found in a post shared on the PMX Facebook page on April 18th. That post was written by one Younes Arar – who was apparently guiding Denselow’s group on their visit to Hebron.

Younes Arar is involved with an NGO called ‘Frontline Defenders’ and the co-founder of a campaign against what it calls “illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron” under the slogan ”Dismantle the Ghetto, Take Settlers Out of Hebron”. According to the NGO’s website he is also “the Director of Hebron section of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation – a grass-roots extension of the Palestinian Ministry on the Wall and Settlements Affairs”. As can be determined by a quick perusal of the activist’s Twitter account, Younes Arar is not particularly committed to accuracy, facts or a peaceful two-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict.

Interestingly, the prolific Tweeter Younes Arar made no mention on his Twitter account of that alleged incident in Hebron at the time.

Denselow went on to describe another trip, again erasing from his story the Palestinian terrorism that made the building of the anti-terrorist fence necessary.

“Other excursions included a visit to the overcrowded Shuafat refugee camp hidden away behind walls and a checkpoint in Jerusalem.”

When he finally got round to describing the music festival itself, the earlier motif of Palestinian “national heritage” went somewhat awry.

“From jazz to satirical political rock songs, Balkan-Palestinian fusion and angry hip-hop. Musicians from Gaza had been refused travel permits to attend but there was an extraordinary video from a rapper who calls himself MC Gaza filmed amid the violent and bloody ‘Great March of Return’ protests on the border with Israel.”

Denselow did not bother to tell Radio 4 listeners that the video he described as “extraordinary” advocates the destruction of Israel. Describing another band, he went on:

“‘This is the only way to fight back against the occupation’ band member Adnan Jubran commented on stage. Later he told me ‘it’s trying to delete our culture. This is how we say no’.”

Near the beginning of his report Denselow stated that one of the festival’s purposes is:

“…to give those [foreign] visitors a distinctively Palestinian view of the place and its problems.”

There can be no doubt that Denselow and the other foreign visitors got exactly that. Unfortunately however, so did BBC Radio 4 listeners – with no provision of essential context and no regard for the BBC’s supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.  

 

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Last week BBC Radio 4 ran a five-part series of programmes – presented by Edward Stourton and featuring Fawaz Gerges and additional guests – under the title “How Syria Changed the World“.

The fourth episode – titled “Sectarianism” – opened with Stourton telling listeners that:

Stourton: “In early May the Israeli military authorities ordered the opening of bomb shelters on the Golan Heights. Then on the night of May the 9th to 10th the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet on Iranian positions inside Syria.”

Listeners then heard part of what appears to be a news report:

“The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman told Iran ‘if you bring us rain, you’ll get a flood’. The wave of overnight airstrikes by Israel on Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria has borne his words out.”

In fact, Lieberman’s comment was made after the events of the night of May 9th/10th.

Stourton did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners that the May 8th order to open shelters on the Golan Heights came as a result of “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria” – detected after a month of threats against Israel from Iran.

Neither did he bother to mention (not for the first time) the rather relevant fact that those “overnight airstrikes by Israel” were preceded by Iran having launched 32 missiles at Israel.

As we see, less than a month after it took place the BBC has reframed the incident in which Iran’s IRGC forces attacked Israel, turning it into a story in which “the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet” – and making 32 Iranian missiles completely disappear from audience view.  

Related Articles:

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

 

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

Over the past few weeks we have documented some of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ events that began at the end of March. Between March 30th and early May, BBC reporting was sporadic but as the anticipated May 14th climax approached – and with it the chance to promote the notion of linkage between the pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – the pace of coverage increased, as the examples below demonstrate.

Tuesday, May 8th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, (from 02:18:25 here) interview by Mishal Husain with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.

Husain: “Why are your soldiers using live ammunition to shoot people on the other side of the fence? [….] The Israeli rights group Adalah […] says that […] there’s been systematic use of live fire with no justification.”

Wednesday, May 9th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 0:14:00 to 0:20:30 here) discussed here

Friday, May 11th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: live broadcast from Jerusalem with Martha Kearney (from 08:09 here)

Sunday, May 13th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Sunday’: broadcast from Jerusalem with Edward Stourton (from 00:13 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Weekend’ with Julian Worricker (from 04:40 here) discussed here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 00:53 here)

Monday, May 14th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newsday’: live broadcast from Jerusalem (here)

BBC News website: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” – discussed here

BBC News website: “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” 

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: with Justin Webb and John Humphrys (from 0:34:00 to 0:38:15, from 1:48:30 to 1:57:30 and from 2:43:30 to 2:48:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:35 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:13:00, from 0:14:00 to 0:20:45, and from 0:30:00 to 0:49:30 here) – discussed here, here, here and here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 00:11 to 0:23:00 and from 0:26:30 to 0:42:45 here)

Marshall: “At 4pm local time the United States officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As the ceremony took place, more than 50 Palestinians protesting in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces.”

BBC World News, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:28 to 0:13:15 and from 0:31:00 to 0:41:30 here)

BBC Two, ‘Newsnight’ with Mark Urban (from 0:01:30 to 0:11:00 here)

Tuesday, May 15th:

BBC News website “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years“.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.”

BBC News website: “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” – discussed here

BBC News website: “What’s at the root of the protests in Gaza?” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here

BBC News website: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

BBC News website: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

BBC News website: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 0:07:45 to 0:08:30, from 0:10:15 to 0:13:00, from 0:48:15 to 0:54:15, from 1:09:00 to 1:13:30, from 2:10:00 to 2:21:30, and from 2:38:15 to 2:42:15 here)

“Palestinian officials say nearly 60 people died in Gaza yesterday, when Israeli forces opened fire as America opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.”

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’, with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:10 to 0:02:20 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:30 here)

“Funerals have been taking place for many of the Palestinians killed during protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel yesterday. The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned what it called the appalling deadly violence by Israeli forces who killed nearly 60 people.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:12:45 and from 0:30:00 to 0:42:45 here)

“As the funerals are held in Gaza of the 58 people killed on Monday by Israeli security forces, Hamas and the Israeli government blame each other for the violence – while both insist they want peace.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 0:00:40 to 0:14:00, from 0:30:00 to 0:43:00 and from 0:45:00 to 0:50:10 here)

BBC World Service, BBC OS, “What’s it like living in Gaza?

BBC Radio 4, ‘PM’ with Eddie Mair (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:15 and from 0:05:30 to 0:17:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’ with Ritula Shah (from 0:00:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:45 to 0:23:45 here)

BBC World News and BBC 4, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:00 to 0:13:20 here)

Wednesday, May 16th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 1:12:00 to 1:15:45 and from 2:43:00 to 2:44:45 here).

“The Arab League will hold emergency talks today, with some members calling for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court, for the massacre of 59 Palestinians at the border with Gaza on a single day.” [emphasis added]

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:25:00 to 0:31:45 here) – discussed here

BBC News website, BBC One ‘News at 10’, BBC News Channel, “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here.

BBC News website: “Gaza: The history behind the anger” by Paul Adams

 

On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15thHamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.”

Also on May 16th, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he admitted that “many” of those involved in the May 14th incidents “took off their military uniforms” and went on to say:

“When we decided to embark on these marches, we decided to turn that which is most dear to us – the bodies of our women and children – into a dam blocking the collapse in Arab reality, a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity, which occupies our Jerusalem, plunders our land, defiles our holy places, and oppresses our people day and night.”

In other words, by late afternoon on May 16th it was known that fifty-three of the 62 people reported killed on May 14th had been claimed by the terror organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One would of course have expected the BBC to have given that information equal prominence to its repeated claims of a “massacre” and “slaughter” of “Palestinian protesters”.

However, at that point the BBC did a disappearing act.

On May 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” which makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of those killed were members of terror groups [ see ‘updates’ below] and BBC World Service and domestic radio programmes dropped all coverage of the story.

So perhaps the BBC was not aware of the fact that over 85% of those killed had been claimed by terrorist organisations? In an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired on May 18th – presented by Jon Donnison (from 17:14 here) – we discover that the corporation was perfectly aware of Bardawil’s statement.

Donnison: “Now the UN’s Human Rights Council has voted for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli forces in Gaza this week. Health officials in Gaza say 60 people were killed by Israeli forces on Monday and a further 2,700 Palestinians injured, many of them with live fire. A Hamas official has said 50 of those killed were from the Islamist group which is in power in the territory. Israel has insisted that its response to the protests was proportionate but that is not the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who said Israel’s actions were wholly disproportionate. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’” in which it failed to state that the majority of those killed on May 14th had been claimed by terror groups while continuing to promote the notion that they can be described as “unarmed civilians”.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “massacres” of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which orchestrated the protests, for the deaths.” [emphasis added]

The public purposes laid down in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide its audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. In order to meet that obligation the BBC would have had to inform audiences of the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed a very high proportion of those the BBC spent days describing as “protesters” on multiple channels and platforms.

Significantly, it failed to do so.

Update: 

A reference to Bardawil’s statement appeared at the end of an article published on the BBC News website on May 18. A qualified reference to the statement was added to the article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” the day after its initial publication. 

 

 

 

 

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen aired on May 16th downplayed Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt that has been going on since the end of March.

A report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day included the same messaging.

Presenter Sarah Montague introduced the item (from 25:03 here) by promoting a narrative seen in much of the BBC’s coverage: alleged linkage between the ‘Great Return March’ violence – repeatedly described as “protests” – and the relocation of the US embassy in Israel.

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

Montague: “Now, Palestinian protests on the Gaza-Israel border have dropped off dramatically after more than 60 people died during demonstrations against the United States relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent – he’s in Gaza – and Tom; I know you’ve been speaking to people who were involved in the protests this week.”

Bateman: “Yes, Sarah. The question about the motivation for the protests has become a contentious one amid the recriminations over Israel’s actions in killing more than 60 people this week. Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, was sending people to the perimeter; even paying them to put themselves in the line of fire and to try to storm the fence.”

Of course not only Israel’s prime minister had noted Hamas’ role in encouraging the violence: by the time Bateman produced this report the ISA had published information on that subject given by Palestinians who were arrested while infiltrating Israeli territory. Hamas’ pledge to pay rioters injured or killed while participating in the ‘Great Return March’ had been extensively reported over a month before Bateman made this report – including by Western journalists.

Bateman went on:

Bateman: “Hamas and Islamic Jihad –another militant grouphave acknowledged that 13 of their members died but Hamas says their supporters were unarmed.”

Indeed at the time Hamas had claimed ten of the dead and the PIJ had claimed three – including one person described as a child by the BBC. However, within hours of Bateman’s report having been aired, a Hamas official admitted that fifty of the people killed on May 14th were members of his organisation, meaning that at least 53 of the sixty-two dead were affiliated with terrorist groups. No footnote has been added to the webpage of this programme – which is still available to audiences – advising them of that development.

By the time Bateman’s report was broadcast, the IDF had announced that among the 62 dead were eight armed Hamas operatives killed during an incursion attempt. Bateman’s uncritical amplification of Hamas’ claim that “their supporters were unarmed” therefore obviously raises serious questions about the reliability of BBC reporting.

Bateman next went on to promote the same theme as was seen in Jeremy Bowen’s filmed report:

Bateman: “Now I’ve spoken to a number of men and women who’ve been at the demonstrations: none answered yes when I asked if Hamas had sent them. They were prepared to talk about unrest. Many referred to the issue that they see as at the heart of the so-called ‘Great March of Return’ – yesterday’s 70th anniversary of their ancestors’ displacement when Israel was created.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bateman and an inadequately identified person presented as a “student of English Literature” who barely speaks intelligible English.

Bateman: “I spoke to 21 year-old Ahmed – a student of English Literature at Al Aqsa University – who’s been attending the seven weeks of protests since they started.

Bateman: “When you went to the protests, what did you do?”

Ahmed: “I stood on the border and we burn the caoutchouc.”

Bateman: “The tyres.”

Ahmed: “Yes tyres, the tyres.”

Bateman: “Were you hoping to break down the fence? To break it down? To go through?”

Ahmed: “Yes but the Jews he shoot the people and shoot anybody who come to him.”

Bateman: “But do you think you could have got through that fence? Do you think it was possible to go through the fence?”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. It’s impossible. It’s impossible.”

Bateman: “If you try and break the fence down, you mean, you’d be shot. So why, why, why then were you burning the tyres? Why were you trying to…”

Ahmed: “To tell them that we are to protest the decision of Trump’s that move the USA to Jerusalem. We will [want to go] back to our home [Israel] but this idea is peaceful. We are a peacefully people.”

Bateman: “When you decided to go to the protest, why did you do that? Was anyone suggesting that you should go?”

Ahmed: “OK.”

Bateman: “Was anyone telling you to? Or was it that you….”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. I go to protest with my beliefs and my…”

Bateman: “Your own beliefs?”

Ahmed: “Yes.”

Bateman: “Because Israel says that Hamas is telling people to go.”

Ahmed: “No, no, no. That’s not right. It’s an issue of all Palestinian…”

The report was suddenly cut off at that point.

Hamas’ involvement in preparations for the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ was well documented even before the event and, as the ITIC recorded, even the top Hamas leader in Gaza was involved:

“Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s Political Bureau in the Gaza Strip, is personally involved in the preparations. He held a preparatory meeting for the events called “the March of the Millions” with representatives of the various organizations, activists of the “Return March” and young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. The meeting was also attended by senior media figures. At the meeting, he called for extensive participation in the forthcoming events. He called on his audience to carry out the protest actions at all costs, saying that they would rather die as shaheeds; or die hungry and respected rather than humiliated and oppressed. Sinwar further noted in his encouragement statement to the youth that “he is afraid of dying in bed, and is hoping to die as a shaheed in the Return marches”.

Nevertheless, as we have seen in this two-part post, the BBC was clearly very keen to have its funding public believe that Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ is a figment of Israel’s imagination. How that can possibly be considered to meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news” is of course a mystery.

Related Articles:

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

 

 

 

Inaccuracy and omission from ‘parachuted’ BBC Radio 4 presenter in Jerusalem

In recent days we have seen a number of BBC programmes broadcasting ‘special editions’ from Jerusalem. While the benefits to the BBC’s funding public of flying presenters of domestic programmes such as Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ and ‘Sunday‘ out from the UK for a jaunt to Israel may remain a mystery to many, the May 11th edition of Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ provided a prime example of the perils of ‘parachuting’ reporters into an environment with which they are less than adequately familiar.

Presenter Mark Mardell introduced the item (from 27:49 here) with what was by that time an inaccurate claim regarding a “high alert” in northern Israel and a decidedly presumptuous prediction of its continuation. Interestingly though, he had nothing at all to say about the missile attacks by Iran against Israel the previous day.

Mardell: “Northern Israel is still on high alert and will stay so for a few days yet after the full-scale attack on Iranian bases within Syria. It’s obviously a tense time and next week the State of Israel will be 70 years old. My colleague Edward Stourton is in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Evidently – and not only in this programme – the BBC has elected to ignore the fact that Israelis celebrated the 70th anniversary of their country’s independence on April 19th and instead has adopted the staggeringly patronising policy of deciding for itself (in a manner similar to that in which it presumes to decide where Israel’s capital is – and is not) that Israel’s independence day should be marked according to the Gregorian calendar rather than the Hebrew one.

Edward Stourton also began his item by erasing Iranian missile fire at Israel from the picture. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Stourton: “Mark, Israel was of course born in war and – as the exchange of fire into Syria over the past few days has reminded the world – its history has been scarred by conflict ever since. The way events unfolded seven decades ago is a deeply and bitterly contested story but the bare bones of it go something like this: in the autumn of 1947 the newly-formed United Nations voted to partition what was known as Palestine between an Arab and an Israeli state with an internationally managed special enclave around Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

Stourton made no effort to inform listeners that the Arabs rejected the UN’s Partition Plan recommendation, thus rendering it irrelevant, before going on:

Stourton: “Violence between the two sides escalated into civil war and the British, who had a mandate to run Palestine, lost control.”

Listeners then heard an archive newsreel recording in which the founders of the Jewish state were portrayed as “lawless” and “thugs” – a recording which was also used by the BBC in the same programme last month.

Archive recording: “Against a background which daily gains resemblance to war-scarred Europe, Palestine is now gripped with almost unrestricted racial warfare. With British influence waning and United Nations actions still delayed, the lawless elements of Jew and Arab populations take over from the servants of a policy of law and order. In the back streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa the thugs of both sides build up the armoured cars for war against each other. In between them – victims of the struggle – stand the great majorities of civil people on both sides.”

Stourton: “Well that was the way Pathé News reported the story and Britain in fact dictated the timetable by announcing its mandate would end on May the 14th 1948. That afternoon, here in Jerusalem, David Ben Gurion – Israel’s first leader – declared independence.”

The declaration of independence was of course made in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. After listeners had heard an archive recording of Ben Gurion speaking, Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Well the new state came into being at midnight and the following day four Arab states attacked Israeli forces.”

Stourton then introduced his two guests – Sami Adwan from Bethlehem and Israeli ‘new historian’ Tom Segev – who, unsurprisingly, expressed remarkably homogeneous views.

Listeners heard Adwan claim that in 1948 Palestinians were “deprived from their national rights…their rights, their resources and their property, their places”. Awad went on to claim that “they were expelled without any reason, without any cause”.

Stourton – whose sole response to those claims was “well indeed” – refrained from clarifying to listeners that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who left in 1948 were not driven out by the Israelis, but left of their own accord – often because they were urged to do so by their own leaders. He likewise failed to mention that the Palestinians were not the passive actors portrayed by Awad, but also took part in what was intended to be a war of annihilation initiated by the Arab states and then he went on to give a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

Stourton: “Well indeed and just staying with you for a moment, this weekend marks Jerusalem Day which remembers the moment in 1967 when Israel took the east of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. Fair to say that that period added another sort of layer of disputed history if you like.”

When Adwan went on to claim that “the British, the Israelis are responsible for our catastrophe”, Stourton made no effort to question him on the topic of Arab and Palestinian responsibility.

Listeners heard highly partisan portrayals of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem from both Stourton and Segev, with the latter describing it as an “unnecessary development” and opining that the Palestinian refugee issue is a “burden…on our [Israel’s] morality and on the justification for the existence of Israel”.

When Adwan later presented a partisan view of the UN Partition Plan, Stourton failed once again to inform listeners that the proposal was rejected by Arab leaders – including representatives of the Palestinians – and hence has no relevance.

Obviously the aim of this unbalanced and partisan report – riddled as it was with important omissions and inaccuracies – was to advance the narrative of “disputed history”. No effort was made to get beyond that falsely ‘balanced’ label and to provide Radio 4 listeners with accurate and impartial information that would enhance their understanding of a complicated story.

Nevertheless, one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of sending UK based journalists abroad to report on a story off their usual beat, it would at least ensure that they are au fait with the basic historical facts and ensure that they provide them to the corporation’s funding public. 

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Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

The BBC’s public purposes – set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement – include the 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.”

In coverage of the May 10th Iranian missile attacks on Israel on both domestic and international radio stations, we learned that the BBC apparently believes that public purpose can be met by providing its audiences with unchallenged Iranian propaganda.

The May 10th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included several items relating to that story. At 0:62 listeners heard a news bulletin with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and at 10:26 Knell gave another rather garbled report. At 01:08:53 co-presenter Nick Robinson introduced an interview with Maj Gen Yaakov Amidror with promotion of false linkage between the missile attacks and the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA announced by the US president a day earlier.

Robinson: “Has it begun? The wider Middle East war which many said was presaged by the decision of Donald Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. A decision celebrated by Israel which has long warned that Iran is terrorising the region. Last night Iranian missiles based in Syria hit Israel for the first time. The residents of one town in the Golan Heights were instructed to go to bomb shelters. In response Israel launched one of its heaviest barrages in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. Syrian state television broadcast footage of air defences and played patriotic songs.”

In fact, some 24,000 residents of ten communities in the Golan Heights – rather than “one” – had to rush for shelters shortly after midnight.

Amidror pointed out to Robinson that there is no link between Iranian aggression against Israel and the US president’s decision, reminding him that an armed drone was sent by Iran into Israeli territory three months before that decision was announced. In response to Robinson’s reference to “Iranian forces that are in Syria to support President Assad”, Amidror clarified that there is no need for long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles or Republican Guards units in order to fulfil that mission.

At 02:36:51 the programme returned to the topic, with co-presenter John Humphrys telling listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Israel has carried out a wave of airstrikes on Syria aimed at what it says were Iranian targets. The Israeli military said it was because Iranian forces inside Syria had been attacking its positions in the Golan Heights. The former head of the Israeli national security council Major general Yaakov Amidror says his country will not let Iran get a foothold in Syria. Well, Professor Mohammad Marandi of the Tehran University, who is close to the Iranian regime, is on the line. […] Your country will not let…the Israelis say your country will not get a foothold in Syria. Is that what you’re after – a foothold in Syria?”

Marandi: “No of course not. The Iranian presence in Syria is due to the fact that since 2011 the Saudis and unfortunately Turkey and others, along with US support, they started supporting extremists in the country, taking advantage of the unrest. And they helped create this civil war. I think if your listeners read the US defence intelligence agency document of 2012 which was partially released – this is the largest military intelligence organisation in the world; it’s in the Pentagon – they pointed out that from the very…almost the very beginning in Syria the extremists had the upper hand among the opposition. And the Iranians since 2015 began to become increasingly involved, only after tens of thousands of foreign fighters – including unfortunately many thousands of European fighters – came into Syria.”

Humphrys: “But whatever the motives for going into Syria in the first place were, we now know – don’t we? – that Syrian [sic] forces have been attacking Israel, attacking positions in the Golan Heights, from within Syria.”

Marandi: “Yes because in…the Israelis have struck Syrian positions over a hundred times over the past few years in support of the extremist groups. We know…you know that ISIS is alongside the Israeli border as we speak. The Israelis never strike ISIS. The Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda in Syria, they are on another part of the Israeli border with Syria and the Israelis admittingly [sic] have helped them.”

Humphrys: “Is this…sorry…I do beg your pardon. I’m going to have to shorten; we’ve very little time. But could this be the opening shots in a sense of a new war between Iran and Israel and perhaps then ultimately including many others – in other words a Middle East conflict?”

Marandi: “Well we have to see because it depends on the Israeli regime. The Israelis have already murdered seven Iranian soldiers who were there fighting Al Qaeda. The Iranians have not struck Israel. So you know it’s just…the Israelis are looking for a provoke…to provoke just like what we saw with regards to the JCPOA and the nuclear deal with the show that Netanyahu put on display. Remember just a few years ago Obama and the former French president Sarkozy, they were having a private conversation which there was a hot mike and they were both saying that Netanyahu is a serial liar and a very unpleasant person…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Marandi: “This is you know…so I don’t think you should really trust the Israeli narrative.”

Humphrys: “Professor Marandi; many thanks for talking to us.”

While obviously one would not expect anything other than such blatant propaganda from a regime apologist such as Mohammad Marandi, notably John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to relieve Radio 4 listeners of the multiple false impressions given by his interviewee including the inaccurate claim that “the Israelis never strike ISIS” and the lie that Israel ‘helps’ the group known as Jabhat al Nusra. Likewise, Humphrys refrained from informing listeners that the seven “Iranian soldiers” Marandi described as having been “murdered” by Israel were actually members of the IRGC located at the T4 airbase from which the armed drone was launched in February.

Apparently though the BBC believes that such blatant but completely unchallenged propaganda meets the corporation’s supposed standards of accuracy and impartiality and that it enhances audience understanding of this story because this was not Marandi’s last appearance on BBC radio on May 10th.  

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What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

With Israel braced for an anticipated attack by Iran and/or its proxies in the north, it is worth taking a look at how the BBC has to date covered the background to a story it may yet have to report.

On April 9th the BBC News website reported that “[t]he Syrian government and its ally Russia have blamed Israel for a deadly attack on a Syrian military airport”. The very relevant Iranian connection to the site of the attack was only mentioned much later on in the same report:

“The Israeli military said Iran and its Revolutionary Guards had long been active in the T4 base, and were using it to transfer weapons, including to Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, an enemy of Israel.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 on April 15th were told that most of the people killed during that attack were “believed to be Iranians” but not that seven of them were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including the head of its drone programme.

Following that April 9th incident a series of threats against Israel were issued by various Iranian officials but those threats and the resulting increased tensions did not receive any BBC coverage.

On April 30th the BBC News website reported further attacks on military installations (including what was described by other media outlets as a “depot for surface-to-surface missiles”) in Syria.

“Missile strikes on military sites in northern Syria overnight reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters, including Iranians. […]

It is not known who was behind the attacks. But Western nations and Israel have previously hit sites in Syria.”

Additional threats from Iranian officials followed that incident.

On May 6th Israeli media outlets reported that:

“…the Israeli military and intelligence services had identified preliminary efforts by Iran in Syria to carry out its reprisal, using its IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the Hezbollah terrorist group and local Shiite militias to launch a barrage of precision-guided missiles, likely at Israeli military targets in the north.

“Israel has recently identified with certainty Iranian preparations to fire at the north,” Channel 10 said. “We are not on the eve of war with Iran… but Iran is very determined to carry out an attack” to avenge the T-4 strike and the deaths of its military personnel, it said.

Israel Radio said the Iranian planning for an attack was at “an advanced stage.””

On May 7th visitors to the BBC News website saw the first generalised mention of Iran’s threats against Israel in a report titled “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” –which promoted superfluous qualification of Iran’s military build-up in Syria.

“His comments came amid reports that Israeli authorities were preparing for missile strikes by Iran or its proxies.

Iran has vowed to avenge recent air strikes on its military facilities in Syria that were attributed to Israel.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the strikes, but it has said it will stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Additional threats by Iran’s chief of staff on the same day did not receive any BBC coverage.

On May 8th the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Israel Golan Heights alert over Iran ‘irregular activity’ in Syria”.

“The Israeli military says it has detected “irregular Iranian activity” in Syria and has ordered residents of the occupied Golan Heights to prepare their bomb shelters.”

Despite there being no connection between that event and the same evening’s US announcement concerning the JCPOA, BBC audiences were told that:

“The alert came as President Trump announced the US was pulling out of a nuclear agreement with Iran.”

The report was later retitled “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus” and – despite having got it right earlier – the BBC managed to inaccurately describe the location of the “irregular Iranian activity”.

BBC audiences were told that:

“Syrian state media says Israel has launched an air strike against an army position south of the capital Damascus.

The Sana news agency said Syrian air defences had shot down two Israeli missiles in the Kiswah area on Tuesday. […]

A commander supporting President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the strike had targeted a Syrian army position.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said the target was an arms depot.

The dead included members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or other Shia militiamen, it added.”

Other media outlets quoted the same source cited by the BBC as specifically saying that the site (which last November was mentioned in a BBC report about Iran’s establishment of military bases in Syria and last December was also described in a BBC report as “an arms depot”) was an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians” while at least one Israeli media outlet described it as a storage facility for Iranian missiles rather than “a Syrian army position” as touted by the BBC.

Although Iran has been repeatedly threatening to attack Israel for the past month, the few headlines seen by BBC audiences in relation to that story have focused on Israel: “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” and “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus”. Obviously BBC audiences have not been provided with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of this still ongoing story.

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BBC R4, WS mark Israeli independence with ‘nakba’ and ‘one-state’

h/t AS, RS

The April 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ – presented by Sarah Montague – included an item (from 33:34 here) that used Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations as a hook on which to hang the promotion of a political narrative and a campaign.

Montague began by inaccurately claiming that the day of the broadcast was the day upon which Israel was founded according to the Hebrew calendar. In fact, the date of Israel’s Declaration of Independence is the 5th of Iyar, which this year fell on Friday, April 20th.

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

Montague: “In the Hebrew calendar it was 70 years ago today that Israel was first founded. To mark the establishment of the Jewish state there will be 70 hours of celebrations in the country. Going by the Western calendar, the date of independence was May the 14th in 1948 and as in every year since then, Palestinians will mark that same event, which they call ‘al Nakba’ – the day of catastrophe – as a time of mourning and anger. Our correspondent Caroline Wyatt’s been looking back to 1948 and talking to a Palestinian writer and an Israeli Rabbi who both live in the UK about what the creation of Israel means to them today.”

Caroline Wyatt found it appropriate to open her item began with an archive newsreel recording in which the founders of the Jewish state were portrayed as “lawless” and “thugs”. She apparently failed to recognise the irony of a newsreel that described the same British authorities which had actively prevented Jews in both the pre and post-war eras from reaching safety in Mandate Palestine as the representatives of “law and order”.

Archive recording: “Against a background which daily gains resemblance to war-scarred Europe, Palestine is now gripped with almost unrestricted racial warfare. With British influence waning and United Nations actions still delayed, the lawless elements of Jew and Arab populations take over from the servants of a policy of law and order.”

Wyatt: “This was the drama of Palestine as Pathé News headlined its war report in January 1948. It was the year after the newly formed United Nations accepted the idea of partitioning Palestine. One zone for the Jews, to be known as Israel, and the other zone for the Arabs who formed the majority of the population there at the time. It was a plan accepted by the Jewish Agency for Palestine but rejected by Arab leaders, so the fighting continued.”

Archive recording: “In the back streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa the thugs of both sides build up the armoured cars for war against each other. In between them – victims of the struggle – stand the great majorities of civil people on both sides.”

Wyatt: “The last of the British soldiers that had been there under the British mandate that administered Palestine for a quarter of a century withdrew from the region on May the 14th 1948 – the day before the mandate was due to expire.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording of Ben Gurion preparing to read out the declaration of independence – an event which Wyatt inaccurately claimed took place “at midnight” when in fact it took place at 4 p.m. so as not to run into Shabbat.

Wyatt: “At midnight that same day David Ben Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the State of Israel. For many Jews it was the culmination of over two thousand years of hope – and the beginning of 70 years of struggle of the Palestinian people. Professor Eugene Rogan is the director of St Antony’s College Middle East Centre at Oxford University.”

BBC audiences are of course familiar with the style of commentary on the Middle East advanced by Eugene Rogan but nevertheless his promotion of the falsehood that there had been an entity called the “State of Palestine” before May 14th 1948 is remarkable.

Rogan: “The founding of Israel meant very different things to the different stakeholders in the Middle East. For partisans of the Zionist movement it was the realisation of a generation’s old aspiration: to establish a statehood for the Jewish people. Coming in the aftermath of the Holocaust, it seemed to vindicate the greatest of hopes at a time when the Jewish people had suffered their worst of catastrophes. But of course for the Palestinian Arab people, the creation of the State of Israel came at the expense of their homeland: the State of Palestine as it had been ruled under British mandate since 1920. And so for them, rather than this being a moment of joy or triumph, it was a moment of their catastrophe and they’ve called it that ever since. They refer to it as the Nakba – the Arabic word for catastrophe.”

Listeners next heard from another academic who has also been a BBC contributor in the past and whose resume includes having been an advisor to Yasser Arafat – although that was not clarified.

Khalidi: “I’m Ahmad Samih Khalidi. I come from an ancient Jerusalemite Arab family. I was born and lived in exile. I am a writer and commentator. Currently I’m associated with St Anthony’s College at Oxford. I am myself a product of the Nakba. I was born in 1948 and my whole life of course has been determined by this experience, as has that of all my contemporaries, my family and everyone, really, who I relate to on a daily basis.”

Wyatt: “Ahmad Khalidi has spent much of his adult life involved in trying to help find a peaceful resolution for this one land claimed by two peoples.”

Khalidi: “This was an entity that had taken over my homeland, dispossessed my people, so there was an ongoing struggle and Israel was seen as an aggressive state that had dispossessed the people of Palestine and was bent on expanding its presence in the region. Later as I grew up it became more apparent to me that this was something that I personally had to do something about.”

After an ostensibly ‘neutral’ academic and a Palestinian voice, Wyatt introduced her ‘balance’ – an American-born, UK resident interviewee who has a “complex” relationship with Israel.

Wyatt: “So what about those for whom Israel has been a refuge? In north London I go to a deli – Falafel Feast – to meet an Orthodox Rabbi, Natan Levy, who’s known in the UK for fasting over Ramadan – an attempt to bring about greater understanding between Muslims and Jews. He says his relationship with Israel has long been a complex one.”

Levy: “When I was growing up in America we had family members that had the trauma – not just the history – but the trauma of the Holocaust was really real. My mum had a bag packed for us; each of the children had a bag packed at the front door. Just in case something should go horribly wrong we could grab our bags and our passports and run to Israel, the Holy Land, that was always seen – even before I’d ever been there – as the place of safety. We all have Israeli passports and my oldest daughter was born there.”

Wyatt: “Yet Natan Levy’s attitude towards Israel has changed over time.”

Levy: “So for my yeshiva – the place where I learned to be a Rabbi – was actually in the West Bank. There I guess you would say I was a settler with the ideologies that went along with being a settler. This land is all ours, promised in the Torah – in the Old Testament – and slowly I came to realise; we were on top of the hill and at the bottom of the hill was a Palestinian farm that had also been there for generation upon generation. And bit by bit it seemed like everyone was in a sort of prison. Everyone was kept separate. The fences were too big and eventually we began a bit of conversation with the people at the bottom and their story, like ours, was filled with longing and hope and deep trauma. And the more I spoke to them, the harder it was to justify being on top of the hill and having a fence between us.”

Levy studied at a yeshiva in Gush Etzion – an area in which Jews had purchased land and built communities years before the arrival of the British-backed invading Jordanian army in 1948. Radio 4 listeners were of course not informed of those narrative-spoiling facts and similarly Wyatt did not bother to clarify the role of Palestinian terror in her portrayal of ‘growing fences’.  

Wyatt: “Over the years the fences in Israel have grown, while hopes of a deeper dialogue on peace have withered. Ahmed Khalidi describes himself now as deeply pessimistic about the prospects.”

Khalidi: “The outlines of a two-state solution have slipped away. I think this one-state reality has now taken over. It’s becoming more deeply entrenched. I’m not suggesting that there is some kind of ideal solution out there that will emerge from this one-state reality. In fact one of my concerns is that the one-state reality may end up as a one-state nightmare. But if we don’t have partition and we can’t have a genuine one-state reality in which the two sides can live together, then we’re going to have a state of perpetual conflict.”

The item ended with that unchallenged and unquestioned promotion from ‘one-stater’ Ahmad Khalidi and no clarification was provided to BBC audiences to explain that what the Oxford academic is in fact touting is the demise of the Jewish state.

And not only did BBC Radio 4 find it appropriate to provide a stage for promotion of the campaign to end to Jewish self-determination on the very day that it was being celebrated, but the same item was also broadcast to BBC World Service listeners (from 45:05 here) in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day.

 

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

As we have recorded here in the past, the BBC has often failed to give its audiences a clear and accurate portrayal of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian financing and supply of weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hizballah.

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC audiences have been repeatedly encouraged to view Israeli actions against the supply of Iranian arms to Hizballah as ‘involvement’ in the Syrian civil war.

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

Moreover, the BBC rarely reports on Iran’s serial threats against Israel.

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

It was therefore refreshing to see BBC Radio 4 taking a step in the right direction – albeit only for domestic audiences – in the April 15th edition of ‘The World This Weekend’.

A significant proportion of that programme was devoted to the previous day’s strikes on targets in Syria by the US, the UK and France. After domestic aspects of the story had been discussed, presenter Jonny Dymond introduced (from 09:50 here) another Syria related topic.

Dymond: “106 years ago today the captain of the Royal Merchant Ship Titanic breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to some sharp steering, the ship had apparently avoided the iceberg poking out of the freezing seas. Those allowing themselves to exhale after the airstrikes on Syria by the West early on Saturday morning might bear the fate of the Titanic in mind. There was much more to the iceberg than met the eye. Saturday’s attacks were not the only strikes from beyond Syria’s borders this week.”

Listeners heard a recording of a related news bulletin before Dymond continued:

Dymond: “On Monday war planes widely believed to be from Israel sent missiles into a Syrian airbase known as T4 situated between the city of Homs and the ruins of Palmyra. More than a dozen people were killed, most of them believed to be Iranians.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that seven of the Iranians killed were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dymond went on:

Dymond: “It was not the first time T4 had been struck. Back in February Israeli war planes hit the base, amongst other targets, in retaliation for the incursion of a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet.”

Two days before this programme was aired Israel had announced that the Iranian UAV was armed with explosives but listeners were not given that information.  Dymond then continued with what is for the BBC an unusually lucid portrayal of Iranian activities in Syria.

Dymond: “Iran now reaches deep into every nook and cranny of Syria. Its military advisors direct operations on the ground. It sponsors Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has thousands of fighters in Syrian territory. It pays and arms the thousands of Shia faithful that have come from around the world to fight for Bashar al Assad. It has established a web of military positions and bases up and down the west of the country. Its cash has sustained Syria’s war economy. Salman Shaikh runs a political consultancy firm that mediates on conflicts in the Middle East.”

Shaikh: “It’s been very, very determined. It had understood from the start that Syria was a state – even a failed state – which needed to belong in its column rather than in the Western alliance and it’s done everything it can since this war started – this civil war, this conflict started – to make sure of that. It was the one that first rescued Assad’s forces in 2012 by sending in military advisors and since then it’s probably 50,000 or so Iranian backed Shia militias coming from around the world who are now part of the conflict in Syria. But on top of that, they have been trying to exact a price – economic – from the regime, social and of course on the military. This is a full full-court press from the Iranians to establish themselves.”

Dymond: “To its regional rivals Iran is an imperial threat. The talk is of a crescent of influence stretching from Iran itself, west through Iraq – now led by Iran-friendly Shia Muslim politicians – into Syria and on into Lebanon where Iranian sponsored Hizballah is in government. For the Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia such influence is deeply troubling. But Israel, which borders both Syria and Lebanon, perceives the expansion in Iranian might as a threat to its very existence.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, BBC audiences have long been denied the background information which would help them understand why Israel’s perceptions are such but at least listeners to this programme did get to hear an accurate portrayal of Israel’s view of Iran related issues in Syria.

Dymond: “Jerusalem-based political analyst Jonathan Spyer.”

Spyer: “Israel’s key concerns throughout the conflict have been, I think, twofold. Firstly that the conflict should not allow the transfer of sophisticated…certain sophisticated weapon systems from Iran via Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. And then secondly Israel’s concern has been to prevent the Iranians and their allies from reaching the border with the Golan Heights. Israel’s becoming increasingly concerned about the build-up of Iranian infrastructure in southern Syria and that’s, I think, the context in which you see the recent raid on the T4 airbase near Palmyra.”

No BBC programme is of course complete without a tick of the impartiality box – however irrelevant.

Dymond: “Iran is traditionally presented as the aggressor in the region; an expansionist power that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. But as Azadeh Moaveni – former Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and co-author of ‘Iran Awakening’ – says, Iran sees itself very differently.”

Moaveni: “I think they do see themselves in marked contrast to how they’re perceived, you know, in the West and certainly by the Arab Gulf states as on the back foot. They see these policies that they pursued in Yemen, in Syria, as what they call forward defence. You know this is their perception of it – they’re conventionally militarily very weak. They are shut out of the global financial system. They kind of hobbled along but they do not see themselves in a position of any kind of potential normalcy. And I think that feeling of solitude, as was mentioned in a recent report, kind of drives its security view.”

Dymond was not however distracted:

Dymond: “Forward defence may be how it seems to Iran but Israel’s alarm grows week by week and month by month as it sees Iran establishing military bases in Syria, transferring drone technology there and building a supply route through to Hizballah in Lebanon. Salman Shaikh.”

Shaikh: “It now takes us to a very dangerous situation because the Israelis will not allow that to happen. They may be too late – and I think within Israeli circles there is that fear – but that only just means that we’re actually at a heightened sense of tension.”

Dymond: “And within Israel, where once there was division between the military and political establishment over the need to face down Iran, now – says Jonathan Spyer – there is unity.”

Spyer: “Unlike in the period six, seven years ago when the issue of a possible raid on Iranian nuclear facilities was coming up, now the sense is that the conception whereby Iranian entrenchment in Syria represents a grave and urgent danger to Israel is as much emerging from the security echelon as from the political echelon. So given that, the near unanimity of the system makes it quite likely that that will be acted upon. It’s a very serious professional red line being expressed and it’s not simply political rhetoric.”

Dymond: “Bashar al Assad has consolidated his position mightily over the past year. Both rebel groups and so-called Islamic State have been driven back with the help of Russian air power and Iranian sponsored boots on the ground. You might think stability would follow but as US policy twists and turns in the breeze of President Trump’s Twitter feed, US allies are thinking of how they might have to act on their own. Israel will not stand idly by as its enemy moves ever closer to its borders.”

Next time the BBC tells its audiences that Iran has “been accused” of building up its military presence in Syria or “been accused” of supplying weaponry to Hizballah, this programme will serve as a useful reminder that in fact the BBC is well aware of Iran’s activities and that the corporation’s habit of qualifying that information with faux ‘objectivity’ is nothing but a barrier to the understanding of its funding public.