BBC Complaints makes it up as it goes along

Back in August listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a report from Yolande Knell on the topic of property transactions carried out by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

Inaccurate and partial BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem’s Old City

In his introduction to the item presenter Justin Webb told audiences that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“The development’s taking place amid a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank…”

We noted here at the time that:

“Webb provided no evidence to support that misleading claim of “a recent increase in settlement building”. Even if his intention was to comment on construction within existing communities rather than to assert that an increased number ‘settlements’ had been recently built, the basis for that claim is unclear because the available statistics run only until the end of March 2019 and they show a decrease in construction completes in Judea & Samaria.

Both Justin Webb and subsequently Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that the story is about “the sale” of properties owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. That is not the case: the story is actually about 99-year leases for three properties (rather than two as claimed by Webb).”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those issues on August 28th. On September 5th we were informed by BBC Complaints that “it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On September 24th we received a message informing us that “we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

On October 2nd we received the following response from BBC Complaints:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the Today programme, broadcast on Thursday 22nd August.

Firstly, we’re sorry about the delay in getting back to you. We know people appreciate a prompt response and unfortunately we’ve taken longer to reply than usual – please accept our apologies.

We have spoken with the Today programme team about your concerns. In the intro to Yolande’s report we said, “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers from taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the city’s old Christian quarter. The Greek Orthodox Church has filed a new lawsuit trying to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on the sale of their hotels saying it was clear proof of corruption. The developments are taking place amid an increase in settler building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as Yolande now reports.”

While it is correct that the disputed sale of the Imperial Hotel happened around 15 years ago, we consider it was made clear both in the report and in the intro that this report was specifically focussing on the current lawsuit. Yolande also made it clear within her report that Walid Dajani has been renting the lease on the hotel, rather than being the owner of this building.

On your point about the size of the settler population, it is an established fact that number has been increasing over the past decade. The phrasing used is perfectly acceptable in a short intro, where not every detail can be explained.

We hope this has clarified the issues being raised within this report. We don’t consider that this report contained any inaccuracies on these points.”

BBC Watch then submitted a second (Stage 1b) complaint pointing out that although Knell did indeed state that Dajani had been renting the lease on the hotel, in contrast to that one statement, listeners heard three references to the “sale of the hotels”, “bought the building” and “sale of the property” which are inaccurate and misleading.

We also pointed out that although it was claimed in the reply that Justin Webb referred to “an increase in settler building” he did not – he in fact used the words “a recent increase in settlement building” – and we noted that:

“There is a difference between settlers (people) and settlements (places). While the number of people the BBC brands “settlers” may have “been increasing over the past decade” the number of communities of the type the BBC labels “settlements” has not. Webb referred to “settlement building” which reasonable members of the audience would take to mean the building of settlements rather than the number of people living in such communities. Listeners would therefore understand – erroneously – that the number of communities had increased recently and would therefore be misled.”

On October 15th we received a reply which BBC Complaints took it upon itself to declare a Stage 1a response, thereby making up the rules as it goes along.

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us again. We are sorry to learn that you were not satisfied with our earlier response.

I’m sorry you had to come back to us and I appreciate why. We always aim to address the specific points raised by our audience and regret any cases where we’ve failed to do this. Your [sic] previous reply didn’t tackle the exact issue you raised and we’d like to offer you a new response here. The following should now be considered your first reply.”

BBC Complaints then admitted that it had misrepresented Webb’s words in the previous reply.

“We have spoken further with the Today programme about your concerns. They would like to respond with the following:

“We have listened again to the broadcast and you are right to say that the introduction spoke of “a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank” not “an increase in settler building.” We’re sorry for the misquotation in our reply.

You suggest there is a difference “between settlers (people) and settlements (places)” but in this case we think this is a distinction without a difference.

Settlements invariably expand on their existing sites, and last month, for example, the AP news agency reported that in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, authorities had approved 1,861 housing units in East Jerusalem settlements, a 60% increase from the 1,162 approved in the previous two years. The figures, obtained by ‘Peace Now’, showed that 1,081 permits for settler housing were issued in 2017 alone, the highest annual number since 2000.

More generally, the Israeli government has approved approximately 6,100 settlement housing units this year, according to the UN. By comparison, it approved 5,600 housing units in all of 2018.
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24881&LangID=E
 
Rising Violence, Settlement-Expansion Continue to Spark Israeli-Palestinian Tensions as Talks Remain Stalled, Top Official Tells Security Council
https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/sc13930.doc.htm

As we see the BBC not only cites the notoriously biased UN Human Rights Council and its highly controversial ‘special rapporteur’ but also the partisan political NGO ‘Peace Now.

We also see that the BBC cites third party reports of on-paper-only building permits as ‘proof’ of an increase in building, rather than actual construction completes. As we have noted here in the past, that long existent practice denies audiences of accurate information essential for proper understanding of the topic.

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

Data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics last month concerning construction in Area C of Judea & Samaria clarifies that the BBC’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in…the West Bank” – even if one takes that to mean construction in existing communities – is questionable.

Notably the second response received from BBC Complaints did not address the issue of audiences being misled by Webb’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. One would of course expect the BBC (of all media outlets) to have sufficient command of the English language to prevent confusion between three different topics: the size of the ‘settler’ population, the rate of housing construction in existing communities and the number of new ‘settlements’ established.

The BBC Complaints response continues:

“Let me now turn to your previous points about the report itself.
 
It was clear from the report that Mr Dajani’s family were not the owners of the hotel but had been renting the building for decades – it stated that “his father started renting this hotel in 1948 but now Jewish settlers have bought the building” – and that it was in this respect that they would be affected by the sale.  It was also made clear that they had landlords, the Greek Orthodox Church.  Again, we think it is a distinction without a difference to suggest we should have emphasised more than we did that the sale of a lease was involved. The practical impact of the sale of a long-term lease is the same as that of a freehold. In terms of the date of the original, disputed, transaction in 2004, our report clearly focused on the current lawsuit to try to overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the legality of the sale, as the introduction made clear.”

The response then repeats the inaccurate claim of sale of properties:

“You are right to suggest that the sale of Greek Orthodox-owned properties to settlers involved three properties.  But our introduction in fact said “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers from taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the city’s old Christian quarter.” This was correct.  The two, former regal, properties are the New Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel, which are both in the Jaffa Gate plaza.
 
There was, as you imply, a third property involved in the lawsuit, a house in the Muslim Quarter, which was bought for $55,000 in 2004 (as opposed to $1.75 million for the two hotel leases).

We do not believe this makes a material difference to the story, and as you know the report clearly focused on the New Imperial Hotel.  The battle is over the two hotels at the entrance to the Old City, and the symbolism of their being occupied by settlers.”

In other words it is clear that the BBC is far more concerned that audiences should understand the politicised “symbolism” of this story than it is with giving them an accurate account of events – or running an efficient and professional complaints system which responds on time and without trying to fob off complainants by misquoting its own content and relying on irrelevant data.

Related Articles:

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

BBC portrayal of attacks on synagogues differs according to location

The day after the terror attack in Germany on Yom Kippur both domestic and worldwide BBC radio stations continued to cover the story.

The October 10th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 34:31 here) in which presenter Nick Robinson discussed the story with security correspondent Frank Gardner. During that conversation, the previous day’s events were accurately described as terrorism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson [36:18]: “And a reminder too that a growing number of terrorist attacks do come from the far-Right.”

Gardner: “Yes, ah…and in fact Germany’s interior minister said only last month that the danger of far-Right extremist attacks is now every bit as big as Jihadist. I mean this is extraordinary when you think that of all the attacks that Europe has suffered, you know, in Nice, in Barcelona, in Sweden and of course in Britain and here in the UK the authorities have said that the threat from far-Right extremism is the biggest growing – the fastest growing – security threat to this country.”

The BBC used the term terrorism in its reporting on all those previous attacks in the European locations mentioned by Gardner.

On the same day an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ also included an item about the Halle attack which was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 45:05 here) as follows:

Franks: “Wednesday was the holiest day of the Jewish calendar; the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. In the German town of Halle it was also a day of terror as a gunman sprayed fire on the closed doors of the synagogue inside which about fifty Jews were praying.”

Once again we see evidence of the BBC’s double standards on ‘language when reporting terrorism’: when a gunman motivated by a particular political ideology attacked a synagogue in Germany, the BBC accurately described that act as terrorism.  

But when similarly motivated gunmen attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem in November 2014 the BBC avoided describing the incident as a terror attack in its own words and compromised its own impartiality by refusing to discuss the blatant discrepancy it perpetuates between reporting on terror attacks against Israelis and coverage of attacks in some other locations.

Related Articles:

The BBC and definition of terrorism

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

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

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

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

 

Revisiting a BBC Radio 4 Christmas report from the Gaza Strip

Readers may recall that last year’s BBC Christmas programming included a report by Mishal Husain which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on Christmas Eve.

“This time last week we were reporting from Gaza and for its small Christian community this of course is the time of year when many dream of getting to Bethlehem which isn’t, after all, that far away to celebrate Christmas. However, given the blockade maintained by Israel – it says of course that’s for security reasons – travelling to the West Bank requires special permission which many do not get. Mishal Husain went to meet Palestinian Christians at one church in Gaza City.”

As was noted here at the time, Husain was conspicuously silent on the topic of how many Christians actually currently live in the Gaza Strip and her report was obviously intended to promote the politically motivated narrative that Gaza’s Christian population lives happily under Hamas rule, with its only tribulations caused by Israel.

Last week Israel’s Channel 12 aired an interview (in Hebrew and Arabic) by Arab affairs correspondent Ohad Hemo with a Christian who escaped the Gaza Strip four months ago.

“Since Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip the Christians living there have become scapegoats and the targets of that organisation as well as Salafist extremists. Due to their difficult situation most have fled and from a community of 4,200 people, now only a few hundred remain. Kamal Tarazi was there until recently. Four months ago he managed to escape: “Hamas people took over my home and turned it into a command post”, he recounts. […]

‘They put me in a number of prisons and Hamas’ prison is all just beatings and psychological torture’ he recalls. According to him the harming of the Christians in Gaza has become routine and does not stop even during times of conflict.  […]

‘They harass and harm the Christian public and Christian institutions, churches and charities’.”

The calibre of Mishal Husain’s reporting on the topic of challenges faced by the Christian community in the Gaza Strip is again all too apparent. 

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

BBC Radio 4’s inaccurate claim about Israel’s Christian community

BBC’s Middle East editor warns against premature claims yet makes one

The September 26th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was titled “Who Will Lead Israel?” and the synopsis to the programme’s lead item reads as follows:

“Last week’s general election in Israel produced an indecisive result, but President Rivlin has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the country’s next government, after Mr Netanyahu and his main political opponent Benny Gantz failed to agree a deal on a unity government.

Many observers suggested this election would be the end of an era for Israel’s longest-serving PM, but as the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen points out, the pre-emptive writing of Mr Netanyahu’s political obituary has proved premature before.”

That synopsis resembles the introduction given (from 00:23) by presenter Kate Adie. Listeners then heard the BBC Middle East editor’s reminiscences from Israeli elections in 1996 and 1999, with Jeremy Bowen providing a crude and unhelpful caricature of Israeli politics:

“In Israel, the more opposed you are to concessions to the Palestinians, the more Right-wing you are and vice-versa.”

Later on in his monologue, listeners were told that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“He [Netanyahu] will repeat his conviction that he is the only man who can protect Israelis against Iran and its allies and against the Palestinians – both those in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza and the Palestinians who make up around 20% of Israel’s population.”

Not only did Jeremy Bowen continue to amplify his new narrative defining Arab-Israelis as Palestinians regardless of how they self-identify but Palestinian terrorism – the reason why Israelis require ‘protection’ – was whitewashed from the Middle East editor’s simplistic analysis.

Radio 4 listeners also heard the following claim (from 04:32) from the man tasked with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.

“Netanyahu has a compelling reason to stay in office. He faces serious allegations of corruption, which he denies. They’re due to come to court next month.” [emphasis added]

That, however, is not the case: “next month” – i.e. October 2019 – pre-indictment hearings before the attorney general will take place over four working days commencing on October 2nd. As the Times of Israel notes:

“The hearings, which will see Netanyahu’s lawyers argue his conduct was entirely proper and within the boundaries of the law, will stretch over four days and wrap up before the start of the Yom Kippur fast on Tuesday evening.

Prosecution officials told Channel 12 news on Tuesday they hoped to reach a final decision on whether to indict the premier by the end of the year.”

In other words, Bowen’s claim that allegations against Netanyahu will “come to court next month” is inaccurate and misleading to audiences both from the point of view of the time frame presented and with regard to the implication that indictments have already been made. Any potential indictment is dependent upon the outcome of the ongoing hearings and as we see above, that process will take time

One would of course expect the BBC’s main gatekeeper of Middle East news to be sufficiently familiar with the story so as to avoid making such a “pre-emptive” and “premature” false claim.

Related Articles:

Israeli election coverage continues to advance a new narrative

Israeli election coverage continues to advance a new narrative

In a previous post we saw how a September 18th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday’ promoted the claim that “Arab Palestinian parties” had run in the recent Israeli election.

We also saw how two written reports published on the BBC News website on September 21st and 22nd described Arab Israelis as “Israel’s Palestinian citizens”.

In a later September 18th edition of ‘Newsday’, presenter Karnagie Sharp interviewed Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov (from 00:42 here) and one of her questions (at 03:34) was phrased as follows:

Sharp: “OK but we also saw another interesting development here. The Arab Palestinian parties, they did really well, didn’t they? The third…now forming the third largest party in the Knesset.”

Harkov explained:

Harkov: “Yeah, they’re Israeli. These are Arab citizens of Israel.”

In its coverage of previous Israeli elections in 2013 and 2015 the BBC described the Joint Arab List as being comprised of “Israeli Arab parties” and used the term “Israeli Arabs” to describe that list’s target electorate. So why has the BBC now taken to inserting the confusing term “Palestinian” into its reporting? A clue may be found in a conversation aired (from 23:03 here) in the September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme.

After having inaccurately claimed that “for a fifth of its existence Israel has had Benjamin Netanyahu as its prime minister”, presenter Evan Davis brought in the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Davis [26:05]: “Ahm, Jeremy, tell us about the Arab Israelis because as I understand it their turnout in this election rose pretty significantly compared to the last one which was, what, back in April.”

Bowen: “Yeah, ahm, 20% of the citizens of Israel are not Jews. They’re Arabs, or more specifically, they’re Palestinians. Not the Palestinians of the West Bank or of Gaza, though related of course, but Palestinians who are Israelis, who have an Israeli passport and are supposed to have full rights though in practice they don’t.”

In fact, as of May 2019, 25.76% of Israel’s population are not Jews. 20.95% are Arabs and 4.81% are ‘others’ including non-Arab Christians and non-Arab Muslims. A poll conducted in April 2019 indicated that 46% identified as Arab Israelis with the pollsters commenting that when compared to a previous poll from 2014:

“…the findings in the current poll show that the number of respondents self-identifying as “Arab-Israeli” has risen, and the number of those identifying only as “Palestinian” dropped.”

While other polls may give slightly different results, one thing is clear: the BBC’s Middle East editor has apparently adopted the political narrative according to which all Israeli Arabs are Palestinians – regardless of how they actually chose to self-identify – and that patriarchal approach is increasingly finding its way into BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio promotes a political NGO’s disinformation

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Israel’s election

 

A BBC R4 ‘Today’ Israeli election interview takes an interesting turn

The September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included six different items (three in news bulletins) relating to the previous day’s election in Israel. In the last of those items (from 2:35:17 here) presenter Mishal Husain spoke with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen before going on (from 2:37:59) to interview Likud MK Sharren Haskel. However things took an interesting turn when the Israeli member of parliament raised the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.

In one of her later questions (from 2:40:36), Husain made the false claim that the Israeli prime minister said he “wanted to annex the West Bank”. Netanyahu actually spoke about applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Rift Valley and Israeli communities rather than to the entire area previously illegally occupied by Jordan.

Husain: “Now over the course of this election campaign Mr Netanyahu said that he wanted to annex the West Bank. Would that prevent an alliance – a coalition government – with Blue & White?”

Haskel: “I don’t think that’s what’s going to prevent it because even Blue & White have spoken about the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea, which was the declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is a consensus among most Israeli[s] about these area[s] because it is a very important security and defence strip for the State of Israel and it is also a very historical area that goes back thousands of years…”

Husain [interrupts]: “And occupied territory under international law.”

Unsurprisingly, Husain did not bother to clarify which country’s sovereign territory she thinks that area was before it was ‘occupied’.

Haskel: “Ahm look, it’s a disputed territory and obviously we disagree on some of this area but we can agree definitely that the Palestinian leadership has been the refusal [refused] negotiation, has been the refusal [refused] to create stability and peace in the area. Instead of investing most of their funds into education, into infrastructure, into the people where there’s about 50% almost of unemployment, they’re pocketing the money, they are investing it in terrorists who are sitting in prison. It means that they give salaries to people who are [have] actually murdered innocent civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “They’re not…they’re not on the programme right now to answer those accusations.”

Haskel: “No I know. Well you know it’s all fact. It’s all been written before.”

Husain [talking over her interviewee]: “Sharren Haskel. Sharren Haskel of the Likud party – thank you.”

Husain’s abrupt termination of that interview on the grounds that no representative of the Palestinian Authority was there to “answer those accusations” is of course particularly noteworthy given that just three months ago she was perfectly happy to remain silent while the PLO’s Saeb Erekat used the ‘Today’ programme platform to voice a series of bizarre and baseless accusations concerning Israeli ‘apartheid’ with no Israeli representative given the right of reply.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

BBC reporter who “breached the requirements of due impartiality” back in Israel

The September 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item relating to events from the previous day which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 38:20 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “There’ve been clashes between Israel and the militant group Hizballah along the Lebanese border. Let’s talk now to Barbara Plett Usher, our correspondent in Jerusalem. And at the outset, Barbara, just explain to us why this is…ahm…such an important area. There has been actually war – hasn’t there? – between Israel and Hizballah…eh…around southern…southern Lebanon.”

As readers may know, while posted in Israel in 2004 Barbara Plett Usher produced a report which is still available online about Yasser Arafat that was described in a Telegraph editorial thus:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings. […]

Ms Plett’s flood of feeling is just the most overt and recent manifestation of a pro-Palestinian bias endemic within the BBC. As a publicly-funded organisation, it should remember that it is not paid to take sides. As things stand, however, we might conclude that Mr Arafat’s culpable “ambivalence towards violence” is echoed by our national broadcaster.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Plett Usher’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

That apparently has not deterred the BBC from sending Barbara Plett Usher – who has been reporting from the US in recent years – back to Israel.

Radio 4 listeners heard the following:

Plett Usher: “It is an important area because it’s the front line for conflict between Israel and Hizballah but the thing that’s interesting is that there hasn’t been much conflict between them for the past thirteen years. They fought a major war in 2006 but there’s been a sort of uneasy ceasefire between them since, so this flare-up is the first kind of clash we’ve seen like this in years.”

That of course is inaccurate. Incidents that have taken place along the Israel-Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 conflict include the planting of explosive devices in February 2007, the detonation of two explosive devices in March 2014, the detonation of explosive devices and the injury of two IDF soldiers in October 2014, the killing of two IDF soldiers and wounding of seven others in an attack using anti-tank missiles in January 2015 and the detonation of an explosive device in January 2016. In December 2018 the IDF commenced Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hizballah which were definitely not part of any “sort of uneasy ceasefire”.

Kearney: “And what’s been happening?”

Plett Usher: “So the Hizballah [sic] fired a number of anti-tank missiles at Israeli military positions and they received quite a large incoming return fire as a result. They claim to have killed a number of people although the Israelis said that wasn’t the case. Now the point here is that the Israelis had been expecting some kind of confrontation because there’s been tensions rising over the past week. A number of drone strikes in Lebanon and Syria attributed to Israel has meant that Hizballah has said it would retaliate.”

The August 25th strikes in Syria – which were not “attributed” because Israel immediately claimed them – were not carried out using drones as claimed by Plett Usher but did target IRGC drones intended for use in an attack against Israel. Plett Usher failed to inform listeners of the relevant fact that that two Hizballah operatives were killed in that strike before continuing:

Plett Usher: “In particular there was a drone strike in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, which Hizballah felt that’s its stronghold and it needed to respond. Now the Israelis did not confirm they carried out that strike but they did say that they were trying to prevent the…eh…the development of long-range precision missiles which is something they’re very concerned about. They believe Iran is helping Hizballah do that. So that was what was building ahead of time and then you had this flare-up.”

Israel does not “believe” that Iran is helping Hizballah to develop precision-guided missiles – it has solid evidence some of which was made publicly available four days before Plett Usher made this report, meaning that there was no justification for her use of the term “believe”.

As we see Barbara Plett-Usher produced a report which, despite being relatively short, was replete with basic inaccuracies and failed to provide Radio 4 listeners with the wider context of UN SC resolution 1701 and its relevant call for all armed militias to be removed from southern Lebanon.

What Barbara Plett-Usher is doing in Jerusalem and how long she is scheduled to be there is unclear. What is already apparent is that BBC audiences are not getting accurate reporting which will “build people’s understanding”.

Related Articles:

A familiar face returns to the BBC Jerusalem bureau

The BBC’s double standards on annexation

Back in April the BBC got rather excited about a pre-election statement made by the Israeli prime minister concerning the possibility of annexing Israeli communities in Area C.

An article headlined “Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected” informed audiences that “Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat” referred to such a move as a violation of international law and the BBC’s Arab affairs editor described Netanyahu’s comments as “potentially explosive” and bound to rouse “Palestinian fury” and “international condemnation”.

A commentator brought in by BBC Radio 4 described any such move as “another severe blow for the Palestinians” which “would cause massive riots across the West Bank”. The BBC’s Tom Bateman told visitors to the BBC News website that “the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the occupied West Bank” indicate that Israel has undergone “a marked shift to the right”.

BBC World Service radio audiences were informed by Bateman that the idea of annexing Israeli communities means that “the prospect of the internationally held formula – a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians – really moved even further to the margins”. Listeners to a business programme on the same station heard about “an aggressive move…in the West Bank”.

That “vow” has of course not materialised in the five months since it was made but in recent days another regional leader decided to take unilateral steps concerning Area C.

“The Palestinian Authority announced over the weekend that it has decided to cancel the division of the West Bank into Area A, B and C according to the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Liberation Organization had signed with Israel in 1993 and 1995. 

From now on, the PA will treat all West Bank territories as Palestinian territories under its sovereignty. […]

Palestinian Minister of Local Government Majdi al-Saleh, who is backed by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, asked the district leaders and branch heads in Shtayyeh’s office to broaden the master plan for Palestinian towns at the expense of open and green spaces bordering them, without regard to the existing divisions. Saleh explained that the directive was received following instruction from the PA to cancel the division of Areas A, B and C.”

Not only have BBC audiences not been told that the PA’s Oslo Accords breaching annexation (the addition of an area or region to a country, state, etc.) of Area C is a ‘violation of international law’ or “potentially explosive” or detrimental to the two-state solution – they have not been informed of it at all.

A familiar face returns to the BBC Jerusalem bureau

Long-time readers may have noticed that a familiar name appeared in recent written and audio reports concerning incidents in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers, BBC News website, August 28th 2019:

“The BBC’s Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says these rare attacks are embarrassing for Hamas and could be interpreted as a renewed effort by Salafist jihadists to confront the group.”

BBC Radio 4 ‘Six O’Clock News [from 22:13], August 28th 2019:

Newsreader: “The militant Palestinian group Hamas has carried out a wave of arrests of radical Islamists known as Salafists who, it suspects, have been behind two suicide bombings in Gaza. Three police officers were killed in the attacks on security checkpoints, which have been blamed on extremists with links to the Islamic State group. From Jerusalem, Wyre Davies reports.”

The background became evident the following day:

The context appears to be a vacancy advertised by the BBC as follows:

Wyre Davies previously reported from Jerusalem (see ‘related articles’ below) between 2010 and 2013. He was also brought in for a short period of time during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014.

Related Articles:

Revisiting a BBC journalist’s claim about ‘Palestinian land’

BBC ESC: ‘lack of due accuracy’ on Davies Tweet from Operation Pillar of Cloud

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report

BBC’s Davies describes new Golan fence as ‘controversial’

 

 

Inaccuracy left unchallenged and unedited on BBC R4 ‘Any Questions?’

BBC Radio 4 describes its programme ‘Any Questions?’ thus: [emphasis added]

“Any Questions? is the flagship political panel programme that goes out live on Friday evenings at 8pm on BBC Radio 4 (repeated on Saturday afternoons at 1.10pm). It was first broadcast in October 1948 and its current chair is Jonathan Dimbleby. Each week Any Questions? visits a different part of the country with a diverse panel of four speakers who answer questions from the audience. The programme provides the opportunity for people to challenge leading politicians, policy makers, writers and thinkers.”

The programme’s web page offers audiences the possibility of listening to past episodes – currently 521 of them – going back over a decade.

One would hence assume that the BBC would ensure that any issues arising which were not taken care of by means of the live show’s broadcast delay would be ironed out before the repeat airing and certainly before the recording was added to the archive of past episodes.  

Such issues might include what the BBC’s editorial guidelines call “a Serious Incident in a Live Broadcast” such as “offensive comments” or “factual errors”.

“If offensive comments are expressed during live interviews, the interviewer should normally intervene, challenge the comments where appropriate and/or distance the BBC from the comments. If this doesn’t happen we may need to consider making an on-air apology at the earliest opportunity. Potentially offensive comments include remarks that may be interpreted as, for example, racist, sexist, homophobic, prejudiced against a religious group, or reflecting an unflattering national stereotype. If offensive comments are made when, for example, football fans chant racist abuse we should consider making an on-air apology for broadcasting the comments.”

“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.”

The edition of ‘Any Questions?’ which was broadcast on August 23rd and repeated on August 24th included the following question (from 34:28 here) from a member of the audience:

“Should we understand and learn the lessons of history rather than attempting to pay for them?”

Presenter Ritula Shah explained the background to that question:

Shah: “This of course follows the announcement that the University of Glasgow’s agreed to spend £20 million in reparations after finding out it benefited by tens of millions of pounds from the slave trade…”

The third of the programme’s panellists to respond to the question (from 37:24) was the Conservative MEP for South East England Daniel Hannan.

Hannan: “…I think it’s important to look at and learn from things but it’s also important to remember the basis of modernity, the basis of post-enlightenment civilisation, which is that every individual is responsible for himself and that we shouldn’t define people through membership of a group. We should all ultimately stand in defence of our own actions. It’s striking to me that when…very often the kind of people who say ‘well, you know, we need to have reparations or we need to have kind of collective identity on these things’, when the same argument is made in the case of…I dunno…eh…Israel flattening a Palestinian village as a collective punishment, they are quite rightly the first to say ‘well hang on; you don’t do collective guilt. It’s banned by the Geneva Conventions’. And they’re right the second time. So we should never lose sight of the fact that everyone is ultimately responsible for himself.” [emphasis added]

Neither Ritula Shah nor anyone else challenged that highlighted offensive and factually inaccurate statement at the time that it was made. The BBC allowed it to remain in situ in the repeat broadcast and it appears in the archived version of the programme which will be available on demand for a very long time to come, thus leading the BBC’s funding public to wrongly believe that Israel ‘flattens’ Palestinian villages “as a collective punishment”. 

Once again we see just how seriously the BBC takes its own editorial guidelines.