Radio 4 listeners fed breakfast-time Hizballah propaganda

The BBC editorial guidelines that came into effect in mid-July include the following in the section concerning ‘mandatory referrals’ relating to coverage of ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

Hizballah was designated in its entirety by the UK earlier this year and so we must presume that an interview with the terrorist organisation’s deputy leader by Jeremy Bowen that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on December 6th (as well as a longer filmed version which was promoted by BBC News) was approved in advance by the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan.

The question that therefore arises is of what journalistic value was that specially approved interview? Did it provide BBC audiences with “a range and depth of analysis and content” which could not otherwise be achieved and did it contribute to their being better “informed citizens”?

‘Today’ co-presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 2:36:22 here) with a pinch of Iranian propaganda.

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

Husain: “Protests in Iraq, Lebanon and in Iran where Iranian state television has said that those killed by security forces during last month’s mass protests against the petrol price rise were thugs and rioters. Our Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen joins us now. What’s your reading of those protests, Jeremy?”

Bowen: “Well Mishal, you know, what’s interesting is that there are others who say that they weren’t thugs and rioters but they were protesting and they started protesting as well against the regime and that is why the security forces opened fire in the way that they did and killed so many people. Now it’s clear that the Iranians have got a big set of problems at the moment. Ah…the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home. Maximum pressure as Trump calls them, American sanctions and also what’s important for them is they project power through their allies and in Iraq and Lebanon where there’ve been demonstrations – and those are generally regarded as Iranian allies – many people there see Iran as part of their problems.”

It is not clear what Bowen intended to communicate with that reference to “the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home” and his description of Lebanon – rather than Hizballah – as an Iranian ally clearly does not enhance audience understanding of the topic.

Bowen: “It’s really hard for us to try and work out what’s going in Iran [laughs] partly because they won’t let us in there. Ahm…so one good way of doing it is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah who are in Lebanon and they are Iranian proteges but they’re very powerful as well. One of Israel’s big enemies along with Iran itself. Now I’ve just come back from Beirut and while I was there I talked to the deputy leader of Hizballah who’s a man called Naim Qassem. He’s late 60s, he wears robes, he’s got a white turban, gives the impression of being very shrewd actually, and intelligent and strong views about the region. And he doesn’t talk much so it was a good opportunity to talk about the Middle East and they’re uncomfortable about what’s happening. They like the status quo. So anyway I started off by asking Naim Qassem of Hizballah about the crisis in Lebanon.”

Obviously any interview with a representative of a terrorist organisation needs to be very carefully edited and presented so that audiences can put its inevitable propaganda into the appropriate context. Bowen’s sartorially focused introductory portrayal of Qassem clearly did not provide any meaningful background information about the terror group’s record or agenda. Neither were listeners given sufficient information about the current political crisis in Lebanon before they were exposed to Qassem’s allegations.  

Qassem [voiceover]: “Of course the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous. Consequently you can see how the economic situation is collapsing. And you can see how people are suffering from the devaluation of the Lebanese currency. We cannot accept things to continue like this. So for this reason we said very clearly that the government has to be formed in order to put an end to this collapse and decline. And unfortunately there are some who are trying to cause damage to Lebanon and especially the United States. And every two or three days the US Secretary of State Pompeo makes statements and says he doesn’t want to see Hizballah in the government. And Hizballah is part of the people. So let America put a stop to its meddling.”

Bowen: “Now Secretary Pompeo in the US, like the British government, regard your organisation as a terrorist organisation. That’s why he says the things that he says.”

Qassem: “What concerns us is how our people view us. We as Hizballah in the minds of our people, we are a resistance that liberated the land. A party which serves the interests of the people and also serves for a better future for the people. And because America and Britain support Israel which is an occupying power, a power of aggression, a criminal power, they are taking political stance against Hizballah. If they label us as terrorists this doesn’t mean that their designation is right. We consider America to be the leading terrorist entity because it does not serve the interests of the people. The same goes for Britain as well.”

Bowen made no effort to inform listeners of the real background to the designation of Hizballah by the US, the UK and other nations and bodies or to provide factual information concerning the threats posed to Israel by Iran and Hizballah, including their military entrenchment in Syria.

Bowen: “You’re part of a coalition led by Iran that faces off against Israel and by implication against the United States as well. Iran is in real trouble at the moment, isn’t it? There are anti-Iran demonstrations in Iraq, there is feeling against Iran in this country and there’ve been big demonstration inside…demonstrations inside Iran itself. Your friends in Iran are in trouble, aren’t they?”

Qassem: “First of all we don’t deny that we are part of an axis led by Iran because Iran advocates the causes of the people’s rights and also supports the resistance. It believes in justice. It believes in the liberation of Palestine. Now, when it comes to the problems within Iran because of the decision to increase the price of gasoline, this is a domestic matter related to Iran.”

Audiences should of course have been informed at this point that in Hizballah-speak “the liberation of Palestine” means the annihilation of Israel.

Bowen: “Now with your allies in Iran you have amassed an enormous arsenal of rockets and missiles including guided missiles that presumably you’d use in a war with Israel. Under what circumstances would you use that arsenal of weapons?”

Qassem: “We are a resistance and we are defending. If Israel were to launch an aggression or attack us, we will respond. And so we don’t have any plans when it comes to initiating any confrontation with Israel. But we are determined to respond to Israel if it were to attack. Israel understands this language only. It won’t be deterred except if we are strong.”

Bowen made no effort to counter that propaganda by, for example, reminding listeners that it was Hizballah which initiated the 2006 conflict and Hizballah which just a year ago had its cross-border tunnels exposed and destroyed. Neither did he bother to clarify the background to any hypothetical attack on Iran’s “nuclear facilities”.

Bowen: “What if Israel or the US attacked Iran; attacked its nuclear facilities? Would you then use your weapons against Israel?”

Qassem: “I don’t know what could happen but what I do know is that any aggression of such scale could ignite the whole region. And those who initiated the aggression will take a big responsibility and also take responsibility for very large-scale reactions. My estimation is that war with Israel is unlikely at this stage. The balance of deterrence is what contributes to the absence of war because they are not convinced of what the results would be if a war were to take place.”

The interview ended there with a laconic statement from co-presenter Martha Kearney.

Kearney: “And that report was by Jeremy Bowen.”

In his introduction Bowen claimed that “one good way” to try to “work out” what is going on in Iran “is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah”. Whether or not that was also the rationale given when approval was sought to interview a senior figure in “an organisation […] designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary” is of course unknown but obviously this interview contributed nothing at all to that supposed aim.

In fact all audiences heard was over four minutes of barely challenged propaganda from the number two in a notorious terrorist organisation: propaganda that they could just as easily have found on Hizballah’s own media channels – and without paying a licence fee.

Related Articles:

Why the new BBC editorial guidelines may not mean less terror showcasing

BBC’s Bowen plays dumb to weave tangled web

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the topic of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Jenny Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour”, with listeners hearing nothing at all about that fringe group’s agenda.

Having declared herself “absolutely horrified” by Mirvis’ article, Manson began by disputing a statement made earlier on in the programme by the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir concerning the number of British Jews represented by the Chief Rabbi before going on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Manson: “…these allegations – I’ve just had a quick look through the letter [sic] – many of them have been…ehm…repudated [sic] by JVL if you’d like to look at our website. We’ve proper evidence, we’ve even had lawyers pouring over them in relation to the Labour MPs who’ve left citing antisemitism, in relation to the mural.”

Listeners were not informed by Shah what that opaque reference to “the mural” actually means before Manson went on.

Manson: “He [the Chief Rabbi] mentions in his letter [sic] the EHRC’s investigating institutional antisemitism – that is not true. They are investigating the processes. If he’s looked at the EHRC site you can see this.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission website clarifies that it is investigating more than “processes”.

Shah however made no effort to clarify that point.

Shah: “But the fact that there is an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the Labour party is something that may concern many people. He also says…”

Manson: “OK. Can I…can I just…”

Shah: “Indeed but can I just mention one point. The Chief Rabbi says that ‘convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics and rightly so. However challenging racism in all its forms is not a matter of politics: it goes well beyond that’.”

Manson: “Oh absolutely. I mean we challenge racism every time and any racism we see either in the Labour party or anywhere else, we call out. But let me go back to the EHRC. Both the Conservative party and the Labour party had sent the EHRC…had…sorry…the EHRC has received complaints about the Conservative party and the Labour party. You don’t hear about that, about the Conservative party. They received many complaints. They had to investigate many complaints. What they decided to do – if anyone wants to look at their website – was to investigate the processes not the party.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge that claim.

Shah: “OK well you’ve made that point but the thing that will stand out in people’s minds is that the Chief Rabbi has chosen to make an intervention – he uses the phrase with the heaviest of hearts – at what is clearly a very sensitive time in the run-up to an election; we’re weeks away. Why do you think he would have felt the need to do this if he didn’t believe the problem was very, very serious?”

Manson: “What I think must have happened is that we’ve had three and a half years of – in my view and in the view of my colleagues – extremely biased reporting. We have put out statements. Nobody picks them up. There’s been one side of this issue – it’s not only been on the BBC – but if anyone wants to look at the facts, I say they abound.”

Shah made no effort to question that claim from Manson or to point out that members of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – including Manson herself – have made regular appearances in BBC content over the past couple of years before her interviewee went on:

Manson: “So that many Jews have got genuinely frightened. What we know because we really do know the facts – I say we look at them very carefully – is there was a serious new threat to Jews on the Far-Right. There is no threat to Jews in the Labour party. There has been some people who’ve said foolish things. There’s some people who say foolish things in the Lib Dem party and in the Conservative party but only the Labour party is being looked at [by] the Chief Rabbi and his colleagues and I have to ask why about that too. But let’s just say that there’s been…they’ve been misled badly and I think to intervene in the election at this time is very, very poor stuff. It won’t go down well with people who are…who are open-minded, who know, who look at the evidence. It’s a bad day for me as a Jew to hear false allegations being repeated yet again.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge Manson’s claims before closing the interview at that point.

The next day Manson appeared on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 34:59 here) and was interviewed by Razia Iqbal directly after an interview with Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Iqbal: “Joining me in the studio now is Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn. […] What’s your response to what you’ve just heard Mike Katz saying?”

Manson: “Well I’m actually appalled at the lack of truth in some of those comments. For example the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is not investigating the Labour party’s institutional antisemitism. Because of the number of complaints it was sent – many of which turned out not to be true is my guess – they are looking at the processes of the Labour party.”

Once again listeners heard no challenge to that spin.

Manson: “It’s not whataboutery to say that all political parties have a problem with antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia. There have been Conservative and Lib Dem candidates withdrawn in the last few weeks over antisemitism. It’s not a Labour party problem and it is relevant to say why should there be so much attention to the existence – I’m thankful to say – of a very small amount of antisemitism in the Labour party and almost no attention on the other political parties and no recognition of the work done by Jeremy Corbyn. I am personally offended by this continuous attack on him, who I know.”

Iqbal: “OK but the Chief Rabbi has talked about this as a ‘new poison which has been sanctioned from the very top’ and he also says that the claim by the Labour party that all cases of antisemitism in its ranks have been investigated is ‘a mendacious fiction’. I mean these are incredibly strong things to say.”

Manson: “They are incredibly…and incredibly the wrong things to be saying not only in an election campaign; at any time. It’s 0.0% [sic] of…point six of the Labour party members have been accused of antisemitism. When the party investigates they investigate it properly. Again, no point…this whataboutery but I hear that some of the people suspended for Islamophobia in the Tory party find themselves back in a couple of weeks later.”

Iqbal did not demand any evidence from Manson for that allegation.

Manson: “The Labour party’s very thorough. To have 100 cases that haven’t been heard is to do with the process. We do a proper process. We have lawyers acting. This idea, this multiplication of non-facts of the last four years against all the evidence. We have evidence and ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – we are by the way…you have…to be a full member of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ you have to be Jewish and in the Labour party. The Jewish Labour Movement do not make that requirement. We speak for Jews in the Labour party. We’ve investigated cases for example why some of these Labour MPs have left. We have the evidence of…”

Failing to challenge that highlighted spurious claim, Iqbal interrupted with a decidedly pointless question given the fact that the entire purpose of JVL is to act as cheerleaders for Corbyn.

Iqbal [interrupts]: “OK well let me ask…you say that you know Jeremy Corbyn. Can you categorically say that he has never made an antisemitic comment, that he is not antisemitic in any way?”

Manson: “I can absolutely confirm that and in a way my knowing him is not…I’m very pleased to know him but even before I knew him, when I was first involved in this campaign, I knew that this man has a great hatred of racism on all sides. What has been done is things that he’s done over the last ten years have been picked over. He has always supported, as I do, Palestinian rights very strongly. So he has a meeting – as many people were suggesting he should do including Parliament at the time – with various groups. When they sit down he addresses everybody there as friends. How in any way that can be typified as antisemitism is utterly beyond me. These are the kind of stories that have been built on for four years since he became leader in an attempt to get rid of him as leader.”

Iqbal made no effort whatsoever to explain to listeners around the world what Manson was referring to with that story or to challenge her inaccurate account. Even Corbyn himself does not deny that he called members of Hamas and Hizballah friends – rather than “everybody there” as claimed by Manson. Iqbal could and should have informed listeners that in the same speech Corbyn spoke about Hamas – an organisation committed to the destruction of Israel under its overtly antisemitic founding charter – as follows:

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake…”

Corbyn also clearly expressed his opposition to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their own state: a stance categorised as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition.

“We are opposed to Zionism and what Israel is doing towards the Palestinian people. […] Our argument – and I refuse to be dragged into this stuff that somehow or other because we’re pro-Palestinian we’re anti-Semitic: it’s nonsense. What we’re in favour of is a Palestine where everybody can live. They can’t live if you’ve got Zionism dominating it all.”

Instead, Iqbal let Manson’s lies stand and posed her last question.

Iqbal: “Just very briefly, do you accept though that this is going to be hugely damaging to him and the Labour party?”

Manson: “Well strangely enough I don’t think it’s going to be and the reason is this has been going on a long time and the reason that it’s not going to damage the party as much as I think people think is because Jeremy’s character, as has been shown in the debates recently, is so clearly sincere and genuine that if it had been some lesser man perhaps this story would have been believedbut people are sceptical. They say this doesn’t sound right.”

Iqbal: “OK we will leave it there. Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – joining us live here in the ‘Newshour’ studio – thanks.”

As we see, despite having brought in an unabashed cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn to comment on this story, neither Shah nor Iqbal made any effort to challenge her distortions, spin and downright lies, with the result being that both domestic audiences and those worldwide heard nothing in the two interviews with her which would contribute to their understanding of the issues that lie behind the Chief Rabbi’s unprecedented step.

Related Articles:

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

 

 

 

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

Coverage on BBC radio stations of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times on November 25th was understandably extensive and reports heard by listeners to two programmes on different stations are of particular interest.

Both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the story.

One of those interviewees was Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement which has been affiliated to the UK Labour party since 1920.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Mr Katz was introduced (from 25:17 here) as “Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” and on ‘Newshour’ he was presented (from 30:07 here) as “Mike Katz who is the national chair of Jewish Labour”.

Listeners were given no information concerning the JLM’s long history, the fact that it is one of the oldest socialist societies to be affiliated with the Labour party or the number of members in the organisation.  

The other interviewee was Jenny Manson of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which was launched two years ago in late September 2017. Writing several weeks after that launch, Robert Philpot noted that:

“…it was JVL’s opposition to JLM’s attempt to change Labour’s rules to crack down on anti-Semitism — a change backed by Corbyn himself — which provoked most controversy.

During the debate on the measure, which was adopted by the party, JVL’s vice-chair, Leah Lavane, railed against JLM and those who “make that accusation [of anti-Semitism] every time you criticize the despicable behavior of the state of Israel toward the Palestinian people.”

For JVL, the tightening of the party’s rules represents an “anti-democratic restriction on political debate” which “runs the risk of giving the stamp of approval to those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership to drive out more of his supporters.”

It particularly objects to the party judging allegations of anti-Semitism by using the definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the British government because, it claims, this restricts criticism of Israel.

In fact, the IHRA definition explicitly makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.””

BBC radio audiences however heard nothing about JVL’s background and agenda. On ‘The World Tonight’ Ms Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour” and on ‘Newshour’ – appearing after Mr Katz – she was described (from 34:59 here) as “co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – Jewish Voice for Labour – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn”. [emphasis added]

In other words, listeners to two different BBC radio stations were given the erroneous impression that those interviewees represented two comparable Jewish groups linked to the Labour party and – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – they were told practically nothing of the obviously relevant issue of the “particular viewpoint” of the fringe group Jewish Voice for Labour.

During the ‘Newshour’ interview with Mike Katz, (from 30:07 here) listeners heard Razia Iqbal twice ask him whether he thought that the Chief Rabbi’s article was the “right thing to do” and when her interviewee pointed out that antisemitism in the Labour party “is not an issue that has suddenly come out of nowhere” Iqbal interrupted him and the following exchange was heard: [emphasis in italics in the original]

33:18 Iqbal [interrupts]: “But even today, Mike Katz, even today Jeremy Corbyn says that he has made it very clear that there is no place whatsoever – I’m quoting him now – ‘for antisemitism in our society, our country or in my party. There never will be as long as I’m leader of the party’.”

Katz: “So, Razia, why hasn’t he taken proper action against it? Why has he allowed this state of affairs to flourish so that the party gets referenced to and taken up by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission? Why is it the case actually that there are still more than 100 outstanding cases before the National Constitutional Committee on antisemitism?”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “But there’s…I mean, you know…I just…I just wonder if I can point you…I wonder if I can point you to the other really big issue that does exist inside the political discourse in this country which is the presence of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and I wonder to what extent you feel that this is just a targeting of Jeremy Corbyn when there are…there are equally difficult thorny issues for the Conservative party to deal with.”

Yes – apparently ‘Newshour’ producers really did think that the understanding of audiences around the world of a story concerning unprecedented criticism of the leader of the UK Labour party from the Chief Rabbi would be enhanced by that blatant ‘whataboutery’ from Razia Iqbal.

In part two of this post we will look at the two interviews with Jenny Manson.  

BBC again ignores its own editorial guidelines in London terror reports

BBC reporting on the fatal stabbing attack in London on the afternoon of November 29th once again highlighted the corporation’s double standards on terrorism.

The BBC’s current editorial guidelines on ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ (which came into effect in mid-July 2019) state: [emphasis added]

“11.3.5 Our reporting of possible acts of terror should be timely and responsible, bearing in mind our requirement for due accuracy and impartiality. Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We should not use the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution.

11.3.6 The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacker’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

As has been the case when terror attacks have taken place in the UK in the past, those guidelines were appropriately disregarded in some of the corporation’s reporting on the November 29th incident. For example:

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As regular readers know, the BBC has reported countless fatal attacks against Israelis using knives or other methods without using the words terror, terrorism or terrorist.

In April of this year BBC News’ editorial director stated:

“On the issue of terror and terrorism our guidance is clear. There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist. If we use the word we want to attribute it…”

 “There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

“We want to be consistent.”

The BBC is however anything but consistent in the language used in its reporting on terrorism in different locations. While the corporation does use the word terror in reports on attacks in Western Europe or attacks against British tourists, it time and time again fails to employ the same terminology in its reporting on attacks against Israelis.

As we have noted here in the past, that double standard is evidence of precisely the type of “value judgements” which the BBC claims that its above editorial guideline is designed to prevent.

Related Articles:

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

Another fatal terror attack; another miserable BBC News headline

BBC claims attacks on Israelis in Judea & Samaria are “rare”

BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

 

 

 

Reviewing the impartiality of BBC radio reports on the Pompeo statement

Earlier this week we reviewed inaccurate claims made in reports aired on BBC radio stations about a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

Some of those reports included recorded statements from or interviews with people other than BBC journalists and the overall picture indicates that audiences did not get a balanced view of the story.

November 19th, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 01:38 here)

Erekat: “Once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, once they become an administration that’s pro Israel’s occupation, pro Israel war crimes, this is constitute a major threat to international peace and security.”

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newsday’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 06:09 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo is absolutely rejected and must be condemned because once superpowers, once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, this is constitute a a major threat to international peace and security and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post (from 07:29 here)

Interview with Palestinian journalist and former PA spokesperson Nour Odeh (from 06:23 here)

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 14:06 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo the Secretary of State of the United States is absolutely rejected and must be condemned and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi (from 34:07 here)

In short, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment from one side only – the PLO’s side – while listeners to BBC World Service radio heard four times more comment from the Palestinian side than from the Israeli side.

Apparently the BBC believes that meets its obligation to ‘due impartiality’.

 

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents the 4th Geneva Convention

The role of the BBC’s Middle East editor is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent”.

Hence, when Jeremy Bowen appeared on two BBC radio stations on November 19th to provide answers to questions concerning “the legal status of […] settlements” following a statement made the previous day by the US Secretary of State, BBC licence fee payers no doubt expected to hear accurate, impartial and comprehensive information which would enhance their understanding of that undoubtedly “complex story”. 

The November 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ included an item (from 22:40 here) introduced by presenter Evan Davis as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Davis: “Last night the US made a dramatic shift in its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would no longer view them as inconsistent with international law. Most of the rest of the world considers settlements on Palestinian territory as illegal. Jeremy Bowen’s our Middle East editor. Jeremy: is it illegal? Is it a fact that it’s illegal? Does it become legal if America says we don’t consider it illegal? Where are we on what the legal status of those settlements are [sic]?”

Bowen: “Israel has always argued on legal grounds that it’s not formally occupied territory because they say that the West Bank and other occupied territories were not part of any country before Israel occupied them in 1967. In fact the land had been annexed by Jordan but that wasn’t recognised by that many states. Ah…the rest of the world pretty much – including the US up to last night – said that’s the wrong interpretation and under international humanitarian law – under the Geneva Conventions – states who capture by war territory are not allowed to move their own people onto that territory and to settle them there permanently, which is what effectively is done in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. So that’s the interpretation that Britain certainly clings to and the European Union, which put out a very strong statement along those lines today.”

Later the same day Bowen appeared on the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) and was similarly asked by presenter Tim Franks to explain the legal issues.

Franks: “…some people said that these settlements…well, international consensus seemed to be that these settlements were against international law. What was the basis for that?”

Bowen: “International humanitarian law – the Geneva Conventions – state quite clearly that if a belligerent country in a war seizes land and occupies it, it is not permitted to move its own people into that land and settle them there permanently. That is not allowed under international law. So that is why most of the world – including the US until last night – said that was their position. Now the Israelis have had a different position because the Israeli argument has been that conventions don’t apply in the same way because the West Bank till Israel captured it in 1967 was territory that had been annexed by Jordan and that annexation had not been widely internationally recognised, therefore you can’t call the land occupied.”

As we see, in both those items Jeremy Bowen claimed that the Geneva Conventions do not permit an occupying power “to move” its own people onto occupied territory. That, however, is not what Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention says.

None of the Israeli civilians living in Judea & Samaria were ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ there – or for that matter ‘moved’ by the Israeli government. 

Bowen’s portrayal of Israel as a “belligerent country” whitewashes the fact that it was Jordan which attacked Israel on June 5th 1967, even after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had sent a message to King Hussein saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities.

Bowen also whitewashed the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, referring only to the subsequent ‘annexation’ in 1950 which he described as not being “recognised by that many states” and “not…widely internationally recognised”. That portrayal obviously does not adequately reflect the fact that Jordan’s annexation of Judea & Samaria was recognised only by the United Kingdom, Pakistan and – according to some sources – Iraq. The UK refrained however from recognising Jordan’s annexation of parts of Jerusalem.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich raises an interesting point concerning that issue which was predictably ignored by Bowen.

“During the War of Independence, Jordan and Egypt conquered territories from Israel illegally, and it was almost universally agreed that neither Jordan nor Egypt had any legitimate claim of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria or Gaza. […]

Today, the prevalent approach is that even though the land did not belong to Jordan, it was “Jordanian enough,” and therefore the laws of occupation and the Geneva Convention apply to it. This is nonsense, because even if we assumed this was correct, the Geneva Convention no longer applies when there is a peace treaty, and there has been a peace treaty with Jordan since 1994. It has to be either one or the other: Either it belonged to Israel all the time and Israel liberated its own territory in 1967, and you can’t occupy your own territory. Alternatively, it was “Jordanian enough” in 1967 for the laws of occupation to apply. In that case, the peace treaty with Jordan nullified the Geneva Convention.” 

Another significant omission by the BBC Middle East editor is of course the status of that territory prior to that Jordanian invasion and occupation under the Mandate for Palestine which emerged following World War I. As Amb. Alan Baker explains:

“…the Principal Allied Powers finalized the territorial dispositions regarding the Jewish people in respect to Palestine and the Arabs in respect to Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, and Lebanon. 

The San Remo Declaration stated inter alia that:

“The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …”

This was incorporated into Article 95 of the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres of Aug. 10, 1920, and subsequently in the Preamble and Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.”

And so as we see, the man responsible for providing the BBC’s funding public with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” failed to meet his remit and instead touted a superficial and simplistic portrayal which included a misrepresentation of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.  

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

As we saw in part one of this post two programmes aired on BBC Radio 4 on November 18th and November 19th promoted the myth that a statement made earlier in the day by the US Secretary of State reversed a “four-decades-old position”.

Listeners to the November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard about that statement in three news bulletins, two of which (from 1:02:31 and from 2:02:29 here) included the same spin. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Palestinians have expressed anger after the Trump administration said it no longer considers Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. The move, announced by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reverses a forty-year-old US policy and puts Washington at odds with virtually all other countries as well as the UN Security Council’s resolutions.”

The programme also included an item relating to the same story (from 2:31:00) in which the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel told listeners that:

Sopel: “It is significant in the sense that, you know, that what happens to the West Bank and the settlements on the West Bank is kind of one of the key contested areas. For forty years it has been seen as a breach of international law that Israel were [sic] building settlements on that land and it was gonna be one of the key negotiating areas in any final settlement talks. And at a stroke Donald Trump has overturned this with the State Department saying ‘you know what? We don’t think it is illegal now and so we’re coming out and saying so’.”

Later on in the same item Sopel misled listeners with another inaccuracy.

Sopel: “But you know we’ve now seen it with…ahm…the Golan Heights which was annexed by Israel in the Six Day War that Donald Trump says ‘we think that is Israeli territory’. He surprised everybody by saying that.”

Israeli law was of course applied to the Golan Heights in December 1981 – fourteen and a half years after the Six Day War.   

As noted here earlier, we can determine that the BBC knows full well that Secretary Pompeo’s statement did not ‘reverse a forty-year-old US policy’ because in a report published on the BBC News website it clarified that:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Nevertheless, the BBC allowed that ‘forty years’ spin to be repeatedly promoted to its domestic audiences, even in supposedly factual news bulletins.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

As documented here last week, one of the BBC News website’s three written reports relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State promoted the false claim that the current US administration had changed a “four-decades-old position”.

“Palestinians have condemned a decision by the US to abandon its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law.” [emphasis added]

We noted that:

“Secretary Pompeo’s statement marks a return to the policy of US administrations between 1981 and December 2016. In other words, the “position” described by the BBC is three years old rather than “four-decades-old”.”

Remarkably, both later on in that report as well as in an earlier one, the BBC made it evident that it knows that full well:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 reports on the same story received no such explanation and instead were repeatedly fed that “four decades” spin.

In the November 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ presenter Ritula Shah told her audience (from 17:11 here) that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Shah: “The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. The move breaks four decades of State Department policy.”

Returning to the topic later on in the programme, Shah brought in BBC News’ North America correspondent Aleem Maqbool (from 36:14) who promoted the same myth.

Maqbool: “…it’s certainly I suppose consistent with what we’ve seen from the Trump administration over the last couple of years in recognising, for example, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and also recognising Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights – another area of course that was occupied during the Six Day War of 1967. But the timing has surprised some people because, you know, many Palestinians will feel – even over those four decades during which the United States did consider the building of settlements inconsistent with international law, it never really stopped those settlements expanding at a rapid rate to the point now where some of them are as big as cities.”

Maqbool then came up with another falsehood:

Maqbool: “One of them in particular – Ma’ale Adumimcuts the West Bank in half.”

‘Cuts in half’ obviously means divides into two parts but Ma’ale Adumim does nothing of the sort.

Of course similar inaccurate claims have been made by journalists in the past but Maqbool’s false statement clearly materially misleads BBC audiences.

Maqbool also repeated his inaccurate “four decades” claim in a report aired in the November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 08:43 here).

Maqbool: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in that sentence overturned more than four decades of official US policy. It was under President Carter the State Department decided that, in keeping with much of the rest of the world, that Israel’s building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land was not allowed under international law.”

That ‘four decades’ spin which the BBC knows full well to be false and misleading continued in later BBC Radio 4 broadcasts, as will be seen in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

 

 

BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

Those who followed recent reports from the BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman on various BBC radio programmes may have noticed some interesting framing of the activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Ata who was killed by Israeli forces in the early hours of November 12th. [emphasis in italics in the original]

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, November 12th 2019 from 2:26:06 here:

Bateman: “Well Abu al Ata was a commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the north and east of the Gaza Strip – significant areas where there has been over the last 18 months or so much tension between militants in the Strip and Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, November 12th 2019, from 00:29 here:

Bateman: “He [Abu al Ata] has really come to prominence within Gaza only within the last year, commanding a brigade of fighters in the north of the Gaza Strip for Islamic Jihad. […] he was seen as somebody who was […] taking it upon himself to order rocket fire into Israel after these very tense events on Fridays in which many Palestinians protest at the perimeter fence and there are violent confrontations and Israeli troops shoot at – using live fire – at the Palestinians. I mean ten days ago there were dozens of injuries and al Ata it seems had ordered rocket fire into Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, Global News podcast, November 12th 2019, from 01:00 here:

Bateman: “He had become increasingly significant over the last year. He was spoken about more and more within the Gaza Strip because he was the commander of an Al Quds brigade – that is the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad – and he was in charge of several hundred fighters in the north and the eastern Gaza Strip. Now that area was significant because of the rising tensions over the last 18 months or so at the perimeter fence with protests and escalations between Israel and militants in Gaza. […] around ten days ago, after dozens of Palestinians did [sic] when they were shot by Israeli soldiers, there was a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel which Israel responded to with airstrikes.”

As readers may recall, the BBC completely ignored those November 1st rocket attacks which Bateman alleged in these reports were prompted by events earlier in the day (that also got no BBC coverage) at the so-called ‘Great Return March’.

The ITIC’s report on the events of November 1st includes the following: [emphasis added]

“According to Israeli security sources quoted by the media, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was responsible for the rocket attacks. The Palestinian media also reported that the PIJ fired the rockets. At this point the reason for the attacks is unclear. During the return march of November 1, 2019, no exceptional events were recorded, so the PIJ had no immediate excuse to fire rockets. […]

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the return march was held in the Gaza Strip with the theme, “May the Balfour Declaration be thwarted,” to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Declaration. Before the march the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March held a press conference declaring it would be a “very powerful mass march.” The Authority also prepared a program to encourage the Palestinian public to participate in the march, part of which included announcing the march in all the mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip.

On the ground, however, the march was similar to those held in previous weeks. About 6,500 Palestinians participated, and the level of violence was similar to that of recent weeks. There were a number of attempts to sabotage the security fence, and IEDs, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at IDF forces. Senior figures gave speeches and mostly related to the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian struggle against it. Calls were heard demanding the British apologize to the Palestinian people. Senior figures also stressed that the marches would continue. The Palestinian ministry of health reported that 96 people had suffered varying degrees of wounds.”

Although the BBC has never reported it, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been involved in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop from the beginning and at least six of those killed during the weekly violent rioting were members of its ‘military wing’.

Nevertheless, Bateman’s simplistic analysis framed the actions of the PIJ commander solely as a response to Israeli actions against ‘protesters’ – while concealing both the violent nature of those events and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s involvement in them. In other words, Bateman’s bottom line told BBC audiences (who have yet to be informed of the terror group’s basic ideology and aims) that Israel is to blame for PIJ rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

Related Articles:

BBC News avoids the word terror in report on strike on terrorist

‘Quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach’: guess what the BBC is describing

Rocket attacks on Israel prompt BBC WS interview with serial Gaza contributor

BBC R4’s Mishal Husain sells her listeners short with self-indulgence

BBC News website adheres zealously to editorial guidelines

BBC doublethink on display in report on rocket attacks

BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

What did BBC audiences learn from a PIJ leader interview?

BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

NPR covers up Islamic Jihad casualties (CAMERA)