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.

 

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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.

 

BBC’s ‘Today’ touts ‘destabilising’ factor in the Middle East

The April 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included discussion of what was still at that time the possibility of military action in Syria by the US and allies. Following an interview with a representative from a Moscow think tank, the programme’s new presenter Martha Kearney introduced another guest (from 2:37:53 here) and an additional topic. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Kearney: “Beyond the prospect of a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the [United] States there are of course other powerful forces in the region. Israel was accused of launching its own strike on a Syrian airbase recently which left seven Iranian military personnel dead. Major General Yaakov Amidror – former national security advisor to the prime minister of Israel and former head of the Israeli national security council.”

After Amidror had spoken about lost American credibility following the US failure to respond to Syria’s crossing of its ‘red line’ in 2013 and the necessity for credibility in order to prevent chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime, Kearney suggested that Israeli attempts to stop Iranian arms being transferred to Hizballah (rather than Iran’s arming of a terror organisation with advanced weaponry) are “destabilising” the region.

Kearney: “But you will understand the fears that many people have about the conflict escalating beyond the borders of Syria. Ahm…many people believe that Israel was behind an airstrike on a Syrian airbase on Monday. Isn’t this possibly destabilising for the wider region?”

While Amidror was explaining that Iran is building “a duplicate of Lebanon” in Syria and that Hizballah has 120,000 Iranian supplied rockets and missiles, Kearney interrupted him.

Kearney: “But you have so many external powers operating in Syria at the moment and a warning to your country from Russia saying that the strike on the Syrian airbase carried out by Israel has only worsened stability.”

Amidror then asked Kearney if she affords similar credibility to Russian statements concerning the attempted murder of two people in Salisbury last month before stating that the Russians “know that the Iranians are building a duplicate of Lebanon in Syria” and “they know that we will not let” that come about.

Kearney – apparently unwilling to distinguish between Western strikes on targets related to Bashar al Assad’s chemical weapons and the separate topic of Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons shipments to Hizballah – then asked:

Kearney: “Is there any evidence that airstrikes are effective? After all the United States carried out an airstrike on a Syrian base last year and still we have allegations of a chemical attack this year.”  

After Amidror had taken issue with Kearney’s use of the word “allegations” he went on to state that while he did not know if the US and its allies would carry out strikes in Syria, “I know that without attack, for sure the Syrian regime will continue to use chemical weapons against civilians” and commented on the role of “the free world” in stopping such attacks.

Kearney closed the interview at that point with listeners left none the wiser as to whether Amidror had been invited in to speak about what was at the time the possibility of a US strike in Syria or about the entirely different topic of an alleged Israeli strike on an air base in Syria used by Iran’s IRGC.

Nevertheless the notion that of all the things going on in Syria, an alleged Israeli airstrike is what is “destabilising for the wider region” had been promoted to Radio 4 listeners.

Related Articles:

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

 

 

BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On March 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The March 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the March 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

When, in July 2014, a BBC presenter chided an Israeli spokesman for carrying out a military operation in the Gaza Strip rather than trying to arrest members of Hamas using what she termed “surgical strikes of the arresting kind” we noted on these pages that:

“One of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict in this region is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and ‘international law’…”

That practice was evident once again in the March 31st edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today which included two items relating to the previous day’s events on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip when mass rioting took place under the guise of a ‘protest’ dubbed the ‘Great Return March’.

In the introduction to the first of those items (from 09:04 here) listeners heard presenter Justin Webb unquestioningly quote information supplied by Hamas – one of the co-organisers of the propaganda stunt. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “First to events on the border between Gaza and Israel. According to Palestinian officials there are 16 dead, hundreds injured on that border – the worst violence since the war of 2014.”

Webb then brought in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell who accurately stated that not only is Hamas involved in the organisation of this six-week ‘protest’ but is financing it. Knell also accurately pointed out that the camps set up at five locations by “the Hamas authorities” are “a few hundred meters from the border fence” and that the violent incidents of March 30th began when crowds “started to approach the border fence with Israel” with “people throwing stones and firebombs” and “tampering with the fence”.

However Knell then also went on to unquestioningly promote information supplied by Hamas which there is no evidence of the BBC having independently verified.

Knell: “And there were really hundreds of people who were injured…ahm…along this 40 mile-long Israel-Gaza border. Many of them had bullet wounds.”

Justin Webb then chipped in with his commentary on a filmed incident:

Webb: “Yeah because the IDF have issued a statement saying that there was an infiltration attempt by three terrorists but what we see – what people who were there will have seen – is not a targeted attack on people who are making a concerted effort to get through but just sort of firing through the…through the fence.”

Later on in the conversation Knell stated that “we have to expect further flare-ups” because:

Knell: In the coming weeks we’re going to have Israel celebrating what it sees as its independence day […] but then you have that very controversial move of the US embassy expected on the 14th of May, just ahead of that day that the Palestinians call their Nakba day: the catastrophe day.”

Later on in the same programme (from 01:09:59 here) Justin Webb introduced the second item on the same topic which began with a barely audible telephone interview with PA official Sabri Saydam.

Webb: “Dr Saydam; what is your version of what happened at the border and led to the deaths of 16 people and the wounding of hundreds more?”

Saydam: “As you know, yesterday marked the anniversary – the 42nd anniversary – since the Land Day where 13 Palestinians [sic- actually 6 Arab-Israelis] were shot dead in 1976, which is an annual demonstration arranged by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and this was arranged again yesterday. As you know this year marks 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba – the catastrophe – and almost 51 years since the 1967 war so this was an expression of discontent, a display total despair that exists in the West Bank and Gaza for the prevailance [sic] of the Israeli occupation – the longest occupation [sic] in modern times. So people who are marching in peace, protesting against occupation, Israel [inaudible] with force.”

Webb: “Are you saying that people who were peacefully protesting were fired on? There is evidence of that, is there?”

Saydam: “Absolutely and you can look at the footage that you broadcasted and other networks and you can see that they were peacefully marching. There was no confrontation using armed guns, machine guns. There was no application of violence. If anything, they were carrying just flags and marching towards the fence. This is Gaza where 2 million people are deprived of basic needs and this is Gaza that lives under occupation same as West Bank and East Jerusalem and the continuation of the occupation will yield the results of [inaudible] saw yesterday.”

Webb could at this point have clarified to listeners that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for nearly thirteen years. He could have asked the PA minister about his government’s cutting of electricity and medical care and supplies for the deprived people of Gaza as ways to put pressure on Hamas. He could also – given the fact that this publicity stunt organised by Hamas and other Gaza terror factions rests on the so-called ‘right of return’ – have asked Sabri Saydam if he agrees with that demand aimed at destroying the Jewish state – especially seeing as just over a year ago the BBC provided a platform for Saydam’s repeated insistence that all Palestinians support the two-state solution.

Webb however did none of that. Instead he twice asked whether or not the people taking part in the propaganda stunt should “go home…for their own safety” and listeners heard Saydam promote the falsehood that “this is not a Hamas orchestrated kind of demonstration”.

After Webb had asked a question concerning “the charge…that you are cynically using the lives of civilians, including children, to create the kind of tensions and violence that focuses the attention of the world on this area”, Saydam suddenly disappeared from the broadcast.

Webb then introduced the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, and that interview – in which listeners witnessed the return of the well-worn BBC favourite ‘disproportionate’ – can also be heard here.

Webb: “Your troops have fired on civilians, on children. They’ve fired through a fence. That is – is it not? – indefensible.”

After Regev noted that “we can’t allow the Hamas activists to tear down the border fence and enter Israel”, Webb donned his ‘military expert’ hat while misleading listeners about the border fence.

Webb: “You say ‘Hamas activists to tear down the border’: what – and Dr Saydam referred to this – what you’ve seen online in the footage is quite young children, some of whom have been shot, who are not capable of tearing down…this is an electric fence, isn’t it?”

Regev: “You saw attempts to physically destroy the fence. You saw attempts…”

Webb [interrupts]: “But attempts that would not have been successful.”

After Regev had disagreed, pointing out that the ‘protests’ were not spontaneous, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “Yeah but whoever it was who sent them, whether they were there voluntarily these youngsters…”

Regev: “They weren’t. It was orchestrated.”

Webb: “Well alright. Even if it was orchestrated, to shoot them, to kill 16 of them, to injure hundreds according to the United Nations with live ammunition – that is not proportionate, is it?”

The United Nations got its information on the casualties from the Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza but listeners were not given that relevant information.

Regev explained methods of crowd control and again referred to attempted infiltrations but Webb interrupted him once again and yet again misrepresented the border fence.

Webb: “But you have troops – sorry to interrupt you on that – but just thinking about this border, we’re talking about an electrified fence. We’re then talking about a lot of troops behind it – way before there are any Israeli civilians. The idea that there’s someone coming through and about to kill Israeli civilians is just fantasy, isn’t it?”

Some of the Israeli communities in the area are of course located less that a mile from the border that Webb ignorantly described as “way before there are any Israeli civilians”.

Regev: “That’s exactly what they want to do.”

Webb then put on his ‘laws of armed combat expert’ hat:

Webb: “Yes it might be what they want to do but I’m saying to you that actually they would not have been capable of doing it and therefore killing them – particularly killing kids, people running around next to the fence – is disproportionate and probably illegal.”

After Regev had pointed out that if the demonstration had remained in the camps set up – as Yolande Knell previously noted – several hundred meters away from the border nothing would have happened, clarified that Israel withdrew from Gaza over a decade ago and pointed out that Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist, Webb went on to downplay Hamas’ role in the agitprop but made no effort to inform listeners of the involvement of additional terror factions such as the PIJ and DFLP.

Webb: “Dr Saydam was saying it’s not just Hamas – it’s much wider than that and he was pointing out that he’s not a member of Hamas but actually it is a widely felt feeling among the Palestinians that this is the right demonstration at the right time and that they have a right to make it. It’s not just Hamas.”

Following a ‘question’ about a potential UN investigation Webb continued:

Webb: “You have…I mean this is not the first time that Israel has found itself in this situation where you are accused of using hugely disproportionate force and I think what some people – including some friends of Israel – would say is why do you not learn from what happens in these situations? Why is there an inability actually in a sense in practical terms to defend yourself, to defend that border fence, without using live rounds?”

Regev again explained that non-lethal crowd control measures had initially been used before Webb went on:

Webb: “You see you keep saying armed members of Hamas. The people who were killed – almost all of them – and the people who were injured were not armed members of Hamas – were they? – and I don’t think you’re claiming they were. They were civilians.”

That of course is not the case – ten of the sixteen dead on that first day belonged to terror factions – but when Regev tried to reply, Webb once again interrupted him and once again uncritically parroted claims put out by the terror group that co-organised the propaganda stunt.

Webb: “But there are hundreds of people in hospital with gunshot wounds – they weren’t armed members of Hamas, were they?”

The impression of events that Justin Webb was trying to communicate to BBC Radio 4 listeners is blatantly obvious. Webb’s portrayal includes only ‘peaceful protesters’ and “kids… running around next to the fence” and his quoted – but unverified – casualty figures are sourced (as has been the case all too often in the past) from a terror organisation that is party to the violence.

Equally unsurprising is the opportunistic dusting off of the ‘disproportionate’ charge and the miraculous but entirely predictable transformation of a breakfast news show presenter into a self-appointed expert on military strategy and the laws of armed combat.

That, after all, is a pattern that has regularly been seen at the BBC in the past when the terror faction that rules the Gaza Strip has initiated violence. 

 

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

As previously documented, BBC News website reporting on the violence and rioting on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 30th failed to provide audiences with a clear view of what the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means in terms of the two-state solution, that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state or what the non-binding UN GA resolution upon which that demand is supposedly based actually says.

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

Seeing as the agitprop organised by Hamas and other terror factions such as the PIJ and DFLP that is dubbed ‘the Great Return March’ uses that issue as its justification, it is obviously necessary for BBC reporting on the topic to provide audiences with that essential context and background.

So did BBC radio programmes do any better than the corporation’s website?

Among the BBC Radio 4 programmes covering the story on March 30th was ‘The World Tonight presented by James Coomarasamy.

In the news bulletin at the start of the programme (from 01:34 here) listeners heard the following from newsreader Kathy Clugston: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Clugston: “Palestinian officials say at least 15 people have been shot dead and hundreds wounded during a mass protest on the border between Gaza and Israel. Thousands of demonstrators gathered for the start of a six-week campaign for the right to return to homes that are now in Israel. The Israeli military said it had fired weapons to disperse rioters. The UN Security Council is meeting tonight to discuss the situation.”

Later on (from 07:42) listeners heard Coomarasamy claim that Israelis will be celebrating Independence Day in May – rather than on April 18/19th as is actually the case – and give a context-free portrayal of the circumstances under which Palestinians became refugees when Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state while portraying (as he also did right at the top of the programme) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the Middle East conflict”.

Coomarasamy: “When Israelis celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of their state in May, Palestinians will be commemorating what for them is known as the Nakba or catastrophe: the point in history when hundreds of thousands of their forefathers became refugees. Today marked the beginning of six weeks of protests across the Palestinian territories in the lead-up to that date with thousands of people heading towards Gaza’s border with Israel chanting slogans on what is known as Land Day – the anniversary of the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces in 1976. The demonstrators said they wanted to send a clear message that they have a right to return to what used to be Palestinian land: one of the major issues of contention in the Middle East conflict.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the words of an unidentified (and severely factually challenged) speaker, with no clarification of the fact that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for nearly 13 years.

V/O: “We need to change the way we deal with the Israeli occupation. Every peaceful and non-peaceful way has failed. We must find a way to go back to our homeland. It’s been 100 years now and Palestinians are stranded while all other nations of the world are enjoying peace and democracy.”

Coomarasmay: “Well despite calls for today’s protest to be peaceful it ended with some of the bloodiest confrontations in recent years. As the marchers moved towards the fortified fence separating Gaza and Israel, Israeli forces fired tear gas and bullets at the crowds just across the border after what they described as riots broke out. By nightfall at least 15 Palestinians had died and hundreds of others were injured and in the last hour the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the deaths of the demonstrators and called on the United Nations to provide protection to the Palestinians.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures he quoted come from the same terror group which organised the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt.

Coomarasamy: “Well Issam Hamad is the vice-chair of the international coordinating committee of the ‘Great Return March’ – the six-week series of protests.”

Hamad: “We have been waiting 70 years for the right of return to be implemented and also the Palestinian-Israeli issue and we have to rise up for our rights and try to draw a new line in the Palestinian era requesting the rights to be implemented.”

Coomarasamy: “But what has been achieved today is the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinians. That could have been avoided, surely?”

Hamad: “They have shoot by snipers 16 people; unarmed civilians as declared their intention earlier that they are going to be peaceful. It just ensures again towards the international community that this country [Israel] is working above the law.”

Coomarasamy: “The Israelis insist that amongst civilians there were armed members of Hamas who were using the civilians as cover.”

Hamad: “Today Gaza has received hundreds of journalists and has media coverage, satellite coverage, that has never been in Gaza since the day of the prophet Adam. Also we are in 2018: people have their mobile phones. If there is a single seen between those hundreds of thousands of civilians there was a rifle or a gun or anything, that can be easily seen. We have not seen today any arms – only civilian people.”

Failing to challenge Hamad’s inflated portrayal of the number of people taking part in the publicity stunt Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But amongst those crowds there were many children. Surely that was irresponsible to bring children to a march like this when you could have foreseen what was the expected Israeli response?”

Hamad: “We will continue calling on the Palestinian refugees to be present in these camps over the coming weeks and it is the responsibility of Israel to keep their safety and not use these tools and snipe the people and kill them because this is not in accordance with the international law and the camera can look…”

Coomarasamy [interrupts]: “So just to be clear, what’s happened today is not going to stop these marches: they’re going to continue for several more weeks.”

Hamad: “Today is a celebration [sic] of Land Day. This Great Return March will start tomorrow and it will continue until we go back to our lands and homes and property that was confiscated from us and we were expelled out of Palestine in 1948.”

Coomarasamy: “When the Israelis hear that they hear a threat to their security.”

Actually, when Israelis hear that they understand that the intention of Issam Hamad and his fellow march organisers is to destroy the Jewish state but Coomarasamy did not clarify that point to Radio 4 listeners.

Hamad: “This is our land. We are going to go back to our land no matter who is ruling, no matter who’s in the political parties or leading the country.”

Coomarasamy: “But you have to deal with the leadership of the country, don’t you? You can’t simply demand this right in a vacuum.”

Hamad: “This debate you are talking about, this is a political debate. This is we are not interested in. We the refugees have been thrown in the diaspora. Now in Gaza is not suitable for dogs to live so why should we stay in Gaza while we have a resolution calling that we return to our land? Why if we are registered by the United Nations and we carry registration number and each one has his name written on it and the place he should return to – why should we wait? Why should the people in Syria now suffer from the war – the Palestinian? Why should they? They were thrown in 1948 and the resolution say they must be allowed to return. So they should return. It’s the problem of Israel how to manage this return journey.”

Making no effort to relieve listeners of the erroneous impressions created by Hamad’s deliberate misrepresentation of UN GA resolution 194, Coomarasamy changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “But at the moment Israel is adamant that what’s happening is sponsored by Hamas and it is a threat to the Israeli state.”

Hamad: “They say this. The cameras have seen, have shown today hundreds of thousands of people coming: children, babies, pregnant women, elderly, men, youth, girls. Every kind of the society today were. There was not a single flag of Hamas. There’s only the Palestine flag.”

Coomarasamy: “The other thing that is said by the Israeli army is that people were throwing stones, firebombs and that there was rioting.”

Hamad: “Today they used snipers to kill people and to injure them. If this is according to the international law, then they can claim this. But today the Palestinians are talking peace and law. People did not like rockets, did not like war, did not like that way. Now we are showing a new way. This is our right. It’s a legal right. It’s a humanitarian right. They cannot deny it. They have accepted. The only thing they can do now is implement it. It’s over. The Palestinian people have taken their decision. If we want to create a third World War now we can go ahead and do it. But halass [enough] it’s over. The people have decided. We are fed up now. It’s over.”

Coomarasamy ended that five-minute long interview at that point and went on to speak to former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s events. However, the item closed without listeners being informed that UN GA resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

Neither did Coomarasamy bother to clarify to listeners that the vast majority of the people his interviewee termed ‘refugees’ are in fact descendants of refugees condemned to that status by the fact that the UN agency responsible for their care does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside (even if that is under Palestinian rule) nor resettlement in third countries.

Once again we see that while the BBC provides a platform for exactly the type of media coverage that this publicity stunt was intended to garner, it fails to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for full understanding of this latest Hamas campaign to delegitimise Israel. 

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

 

 

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

On March 26th BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programmes understandably devoted a considerable amount of airtime to the topic of the letter put out the previous evening by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the JLC criticising the leader of the British Labour Party and calling for a protest outside Parliament.

One of those programmes – ‘World at One’ – seemed to attempt to present listeners with a more comprehensive view of the background to the story than others, but did that portrayal really give audiences the full view?

Presenter Martha Kearney opened the item (from 07:21 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Kearney: “At half past five this afternoon Jewish community leaders are gathering at Westminster in a protest against Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of siding with antisemites again and again. They say it’s their first protest against a mainstream political party since the Second World War. The Labour leader has responded by saying ‘we recognise that antisemitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country’. He added ‘I’m sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused’. These accusations have been levelled at Jeremy Corbyn for years.”

Kearney then presented her first example and – in contrast to her colleagues at the BBC News website – was able to give an accurate portrayal of the mural concerned.

Kearney: “In 2012 he offered his backing to a street artist whose mural, featuring antisemitic stereotypes, was due to be removed after complaints. Jeremy Corbyn replied ‘Why? You’re in good company’. He compared the mural to Rockefeller destroying one made by Diego Rivera because it included Lenin. But last week Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement saying ‘I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on’.”

Kearney then cited her next example of “accusations…levelled at Jeremy Corbyn”.

Kearney: “In 2009 Jeremy Corbyn welcomed members of Hamas and Hizballah to the UK and referred to them as friends. He later refused to apologise for this in an interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news.”

Listeners then heard some of the less angry parts of that 2015 interview, including the claim from Corbyn that Hamas and Hizballah are “part of a peace process” and:

“I’ve also had discussions with people from the Right in Israeli politics who have the same view, possibly, that the State of Israel should extend from the river to the sea as it is claimed people from the Palestinian side do.” [emphasis added]

On the topic of his describing members of the two designated terrorist organisations as ‘friends’, listeners heard Corbyn say:

“I’m saying that people I talk to…I use it in a collective way, saying our friends were prepared to talk. Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hizballah and what they do? No.”

Martha Kearney did not however inform listeners that in the original March 2009 speech in which he repeatedly called Hamas and Hizballah ‘friends’, Corbyn also 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…”

Neither were ‘World at One’ listeners told that – despite the ‘explanation’ they heard for his use of the term ‘friends’ and the claim that it does not mean that he agrees with Hamas and Hizballah – Corbyn 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.”

Martha Kearney’s next example referred to a story the BBC failed to report accurately at the time.

Kearney: “In 2016 Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, apologised for writing a series of antisemitic posts on Facebook, including arguing for Israel’s population to be transported out of the Middle East. Then, while defending Naz Shah, the former London mayor Ken Livingstone claimed that Hitler had been a Zionist. He was suspended but not expelled from the Labour Party and spoke to the ‘World at One’.”

Listeners then heard parts of Kearney’s 2016 interview with Livingstone, including his insinuation that “people” were “smearing and lying about” him and the claim that “if you’re a bigot, you’re not going to join the Labour Party”.

After parts of the letter written by the Board of Deputies and the JLC had been read out, Kearney went on:

Kearney: “During the 2015 Labour leadership contest Jeremy Corbyn took calls from listeners on the ‘World at One’. One of them was Lee Barnett from Richmond.”

Listeners heard a recording of Mr Barnett speaking about antisemitism and Holocaust denial “posted by those who say they’re your supporters” followed by Corbyn responding that he had spent his life as a campaigner against racism and mentioning his mother’s presence at Cable Street in the 1930s – but without substantially addressing the caller’s points. That 2015 recording continued with Martha Kearney saying to Corbyn:

Kearney: “But there have been questions raised about the kind of people that you associate with: story in the papers today about the fact that you invited Diane [sic] Abu Jahjah to the Commons as a special guest. Now this is a man who’s talked about ‘hoax gas chambers’.”

Corbyn: “Sorry, who?”

Kearney: “You’ve not met him?”

Corbyn: “No. Well I’ve…I saw the name this morning and I asked somebody who is he.”

Kearney: “Right so this was somebody who…so you definitely didn’t invite this man to the Commons as a special guest?”

Corbyn: “Well my views are that the Holocaust was the most disgraceful and vile process of the history of the twentieth century, if not the wider world. And that has to be understood by successive generations and has to be understood by all our children in schools. That surely is important. The idea…”

Kearney: “So just to be absolutely clear on this: there’s an accusation which I think you’re denying. I’m giving you the opportunity to deny it.”

Corbyn: “The idea that…the idea…”

Kearney: “You didn’t invite this man?”

Corbyn: “I’m sorry; can I answer please? The idea that I’m some kind of racist or antisemitic person is beyond appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive. I’ve spent my life opposing racism. Until my dying day I will be opposed to racism in any form.”

Kearney closed that section of the item there, moving on to another related topic.  Remarkably though, despite having aired Corbyn’s recorded response denying knowing who Dyab Abou Jahjah was, Kearney did not bother to inform listeners that – as the BBC itself reported in August 2015 – Corbyn subsequently claimed that he “must have forgotten meeting him in 2009”.

Dyab Abou Jahjah (whose organisation had published a Holocaust denying cartoon three years earlier) was in fact at the same March 2009 ‘Stop the War Coalition’ meeting at which Corbyn called Hamas and Hizballah ‘friends’. Abou Jahjah was subsequently banned from visiting the UK by the British government: a decision he blamed on “the lobbying of the Zionists” while claiming that “MP Corbyn is filing a complaint against this disgrace”.

Although this programme clearly did attempt to provide the BBC’s domestic audiences with more background to the story than other Radio 4 programmes aired on the same day, it is notable that while listeners did hear rather a lot of Jeremy Corbyn’s fairly standard evasive responses to the long-standing criticism against him, parts of the story that are highly relevant to full audience understanding of it – such as the fact that he did meet Dyab Abou Jahjah and his self-professed opposition to Jewish self-determination – were airbrushed from the portrayal.

Related Articles:

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

 

 

More context free portrayal of Jenin on BBC Radio 4

On March 15th BBC Radio 4 aired an edition of a “contemporary art” programme called ‘The Art of Now titled ‘Dangerous Places’.

As can be seen in the synopsis, all but one of the stories showcased in that programme relate in one way or another to Israel.

“Composer Errollyn Wallen meets some of the artists working in places of conflict, violence and oppression around the world. She hears their personal testimonies and explores why art and music, poetry and drama can sometimes flourish in times and locations of danger and violence.

What use is art in a warzone, and what can these individuals and their work tell artists in more peaceful places about making art that helps us question and communicate?

Cartoonist and free improvisational trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj talks about his work during the 2006 Lebanon war and the problem of exoticising art from warzones. Journalist and poet Bejan Matur describes how living as a Kurd in southeastern Turkey has shaped her work. Actor and educator Ahmed Tobasi explains how Jenin’s Freedom Theatre changed his life, and Mustafa Staiti discusses his work as artistic director of the city’s new Fragments Theatre. Composer Matti Kovler explores the impact of his experiences in the Israeli Defence Forces during the Second Intifada.”

In the first story listeners hear a completely context-free account of the second Lebanon war in 2006. The artist is described as having played “a ragged duet with the bombs falling on his home town” and “playing trumpet on the balcony while the Israeli air force was bombing Beirut”.

“You would see a hundred kids dead or a hundred persons. Then the second day it’s a hundred and seven. Then the third day it’s sixty-seven and you’re almost happy to say oh, it’s less than yesterday.”

How that war began and what was happening on the other side of the border have no place in this story – and neither does the all-important context of the Hizballah HQ in a specific neighbourhood of Beirut. 

The second story’s location is Jenin and Ahmed Tobasi sets the scene by telling listeners that “when Israel was created” his grandparents left their village and “came here to Jenin refugee camp”. No context – such as the invasion of Israel by surrounding Arab states – is provided at all. 

Wallen’s own account of her visit to Jenin is similarly devoid of context.

“On the surface Jenin city and its permanent refugee camp seem quite comfortable. As a privileged visitor you can begin to feel that life here is normal. But then you remember the journey: the separation barrier, checkpoints and soldiers. The watch towers dotting the ancient landscape.”

While Wallen tells listeners that the Freedom Theatre’s director was “assassinated”, she does not clarify that the murderer was a Palestinian. After Tobasi has admitted his membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Wallen gives an account of the second Intifada that promotes the notion of equivalence between Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

“In 2000 when Tobasi was 15, the second Intifada started: a time of Israeli and Palestinian violence which changed the lives of a generation.”

The fact that Jenin was one of the main centres of terrorism during the second Intifada is not mentioned. All listeners hear of the terrorists from Jenin who blew up Israelis on buses and in restaurants is a feeble reference to “bomb attacks”.

“During the 2002 Battle of Jenin, Israeli forces – responding to bomb attacks – fought to control the Jenin refugee camp.”

Tobasi tells listeners that:

“After the first five days when the 13 soldiers were killed, they went crazy. They start to destroy houses, to let tanks go inside the camp…”

The relevant fact that the terrorists in Jenin had booby-trapped buildings in the camp was not mentioned of course.

Wallen later promotes a context-free, unevidenced story:

“The young people I saw rehearsing in Jenin were making wonderful, vibrant, physical theatre….partly a way of processing things that have happened to them. Things that are terrible and hard to understand. One boy suddenly showed me a phone picture of his friend lying dead in a body bag. He told me that he’d been shot just two weeks earlier by an Israeli soldier”.

Wallen’s one Israeli interviewee is a composer who tells stories from his military service. Thus, having whitewashed the many thousands of Israeli civilians whose lives were permanently blighted by Palestinian terrorism from the picture, she is able to opine:

“For the people I met in Jenin the suggestion of any comparison would be offensive. Their lives are not directly comparable.”

Notably, only her Israeli interviewee has questions to ask of himself.

“Who are we? What are we doing here and do we have the right to do the things that we’re doing? And how to live with all this? Artists of my generation who find themselves very often outside the borders of Israel have to ask themselves these questions”.

As readers may recall, this is the second time in just over a month that Radio 4 audiences have heard a context-free portrayal of events in Jenin during the second Intifada in programmes supposedly about entertainment or art.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 airs partisan portrayal of Jenin masked as ‘entertainment’

 

BBC R4’s Bethlehem crime fiction flunks accuracy and impartiality

A BBC Radio 4 series called ‘Foreign Bodies’ is described as follows:

“Mark Lawson examines how mystery novels reflect a country’s history and political system.”

The episode aired on March 4th (and to be rebroadcast on March 10th) is called “The Bethlehem Murders” and – despite the BBC’s style guide stating that “you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” – it is described in the synopsis as: [emphasis added]

“Crime fiction set in Palestine. Omar Yussef, schoolteacher and amateur sleuth, tries to clear the name of his former student George, falsely accused of murder in their hometown of Bethlehem. […]

In The Bethlehem Murders, Yussef tries to save the life of his former student George Saba, a Christian recently returned to his home town of Bethlehem, who has fallen foul of a Palestinian militia group. In doing so, Yussef uncovers a world of corruption, cynicism and fear which makes him regret the passing of a time when Christians and Muslims lived peacefully side by side.”

That drama – like another one scheduled for broadcast next week – is based on a novel written by a former Time Magazine correspondent from Britain who was based in Jerusalem from 2000 – 2006.

“This is the second novel of the Palestinian Quartet series by Matt Rees to be dramatised for Radio 4 by Jennifer Howarth. Matt Rees draws on his experience as Time Magazine’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief to create detective stories which give us an insight into life in Palestine in the early 2000’s.” [emphasis added]

Given that latter claim, one would expect the backdrop to the drama to be accurate and impartial. BBC editorial guidelines relating to “factually based drama” state:

“When a drama portrays real people or events, it is inevitable that the creative realisation of some dramatic elements such as characterisation, dialogue and atmosphere may be fictional.  However, the portrayal should be based on a substantial and well-sourced body of evidence whenever practicable and we should ensure it does not distort the known facts, including chronology, unduly.”

Editorial guidelines on impartiality in Drama, Entertainment and Culture state: 

“A drama where a view of ‘controversial subjects’ is central to its purpose, must be clearly signposted to our audience.  Its excellence and insights must justify the platform offered.  It may be appropriate to offer alternative views in other connected and signposted output.”

‘The Bethlehem Murders’ opens with a monologue by the main character and narrator.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Omar Yussef and I’m a teacher in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine. My family, my tribe, have been here nearly 60 years – ever since we were kicked out of our homelands at the point of a gun.” [emphasis added]

The character goes on to explain that “this story opens in 2001”.

“For nearly a year now we’ve been at war with Israel. We call it the second Intifada: the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation.”

Audiences are not told that by the time the second Intifada began, Bethlehem had been under exclusive Palestinian Authority control for almost five years.

The main character goes on to introduce a secondary character, describing him as living in “Beit Jala – a Palestinian Christian town just south of Bethlehem”.

Beit Jala is of course located to the north of Bethlehem.

The drama includes numerous additional issues of accuracy, impartiality and omission. While central figures in the story belong to what are described as “the Martyrs Brigades”, audiences are not informed that that terror group belongs to the ruling political party Fatah. Terrorists are repeatedly portrayed as “freedom fighters” while audiences are told that Israel “bulldozes the houses” of Palestinians who “won’t collaborate”. Israeli forces entering Bethlehem after a suicide bombing in Jerusalem are portrayed as “here to take revenge”.

Even the image chosen to illustrate the drama’s webpage lacks accuracy. A person presumably intended to represent the main character is shown against the background of a section of the anti-terrorist fence. The fence is not even mentioned in the story itself and the obvious explanation for that is that the drama is set in 2001 and construction of the fence did not commence until July 2003, when the first section was built many miles to the north of Bethlehem. Nevertheless, the BBC selected that anachronistic image to illustrate this programme.

Obviously the BBC’s claim that this radio drama gives audiences “an insight into life in Palestine in the early 2000’s” is unfortunately diminished by such accuracy and impartiality failures.

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BBC amends style-guide breach in R4 synopsis

 

BBC R4 ‘Sunday’ adds more confusion to Jerusalem church story

Listeners to the March 4th edition of the BBC Radio 4 religious affairs programme ‘Sunday‘ heard a report (from 01:07 here) billed “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopens”. However, not until the very end of that four-minute item did they discover who closed the church in the first place.

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Stourton: “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was shut for three days earlier this week because of a row between Christian churches and the Israeli authorities. Jordana Miller is based in Jerusalem and reports for ABC News in the United States. […] And this of course is the church which is said to include the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial so shutting it down is a pretty big deal, isn’t it?”

Miller: “Absolutely. This is one of the most visited churches. I mean 2 million Christians visit Israel each year. The vast majority of them are thought to pass through this church. It is where the tomb of Jesus was just renovated this past year. So always on people’s list as one of the kind of spiritual peaks of their visit to the holy land and closing it was heartbreaking. I was reporting outside the church and people came, some were crying saying that they had, you know, waited years and years to visit Israel and to come into this church and they had to pray actually at its wooden doors instead of going inside.”

Stourton: “And as I understand it one of the sources of dispute between the churches and the authorities is the taxes that the church pays on its properties.”

That dispute is of course about taxes that the church has not paid on its properties for years. Listeners were then led to believe that “Israel” – rather than the Jerusalem municipality, as is actually the case – has demanded payment of those taxes.

Miller: “That’s right. The dispute – there are two – one revolves around Israel’s decision to begin to tax the commercial properties of the church. And now this is done in cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa but for a long time there was an exemption on commercial properties that the church operated in Jerusalem – hotels, restaurants – that may be attached to religious institutions and the city decided to start to tax those institutions. Part of the problem is that there doesn’t seem that there was a lot of communication with the church heads and suddenly priests started getting notices, bills and get visits from, you know, tax authorities from the city. So they decided this was unacceptable.”

Obviously that account does not adequately clarify that – as in the UK – the property tax does not apply to “religious institutions” that are places of worship.

Edward Stourton then gave unqualified amplification to messaging put out by church leaders while inaccurately claiming that the proposed bill is “being debated” when in fact the debate had already been postponed nearly a week before this item was aired.

Stourton: “And at the same time there is this legislation being debated which has an impact on the sales of church land. Can you unpack that for us?”

Miller: “Right. This is such a complicated issue but essentially the Greek Orthodox Church has sold lands – they’re actually leases on lands and they were previously held by the Israeli government for let’s say 75, 85, 99 years.”

In fact the Greek Orthodox Church has sold lands – rather than leases – and the related leases were held by the Jewish National Fund rather than “the Israeli government”.

Miller: “And those leases are about to run out in about 30 years and they sold these leases to a private company. We don’t even know that much about the buyers but the problem is that the lands – there are, you know, thousands of Israeli residents that sit…that own…they think they own their homes because even though they technically didn’t buy the land, they assumed it was going to be held in perpetuity by the church.”

The people concerned do own their properties but pay leasehold fees on the land on which they are built.

Miller: “Now suddenly it’s going to transfer into the hands of private companies and they fear they’re going to get evicted, they’re going to have to re-buy the land. So the Israeli government really is trying to step in and buy these leases from the private companies and the church is saying listen, this infringes on who we can sell our property to and so that was another reason they decided to close the church.”

As has been clarified here previously, the proposed bill would mean that:

“…deals to sell the land would have to be approved by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice committee, that buyers would have to be Israeli citizens or Israeli-owned companies, that lease extensions would be dealt with by a national body, the cost of extensions would not be passed onto residents, and in cases where a national institution was not involved in a church land transaction, the state would use the tools at its disposal to protect the residents against losing their homes.”

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “Well clearly a bit of a tangle there and it’s going to take some sorting out. The church is now open again – does that reflect a better relationship or at least an attempt to sort things out?”

Miller: “Well absolutely. I mean the prime minister actually had to step in because he potentially had on his hands a crisis with the Christian world. I mean this is really the most important Christian holy site – one of them – in the world. To keep it closed would have, you know…he would have had a real crisis on his hands. So essentially he carved out a deal where he set up two adminis…two committees basically that will work on sorting both the tax and the land issues. They’re government ministries that will be set up now so under that arrangement the church agreed to reopen its doors.”

In fact no “government ministries” will “be set up”: a government committee has been established to resolve the issue.

This is the second time that Radio 4’s religious affairs programme ‘Sunday’ has covered this subject in just over three months but neither of the two reports have given listeners a clear, accurate and impartial account of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4, ‘religious freedom’ and a half-told story

BBC again amplifies church leaders’ PR hyperbole

BBC News amplifies church leaders’ Nazi analogy yet again