BBC radio listeners get misinformation from Lyse Doucet

The day after the general election in Israel – April 10th – listeners to BBC radio stations heard commentary from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet who had been ‘parachuted’ in (along with Martha Kearney) to cover the event.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 1:33:13 here) during which listeners again heard Doucet claim that the election had been called by Netanyahu alone. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “But in Israel […] it’s not just about winning the election; it’s winning the battle to form a new coalition. And the numbers look like it is the Right-wing, that the prime minister’s been wooing ever since he announced this election campaign, that he looks set to be the man who can do the job. But the arithmetic is still complicated. There’s…Israel also gives a new name to horse trading and electoral promises and electoral…ah…pulling back promises. So we have to wait and see. It’s not going to be straightforward.”

Kearney: “And what are these smaller parties like – the kinds that Benjamin Netanyahu are talking to?”

Doucet: “Let me say another thing about this election. This has told us two things about Israel. One is that in a way Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu both won and lost. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu will get to stay in power, get to try to avoid those indictments on corruption and fraud, but he has been…trounced in a way by Benny Gantz. A total newcomer to politics has surged ahead to show Israelis that there is an alternative. So it is in a sense a victory for Benny Gantz but also for the electoral landscape. The far-Right parties who also were the newcomers – people had thought that they may be the kingmakers. As the votes show now they did not enter…they’re not going to enter the Knesset; the parties who were condemned here by many Israelis as being racist and homophobic.”

As we saw in a previous post, Doucet had likewise referred to unnamed “far Right-wing racist parties” – i.e. more than one – in a report the day before even though until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – ‘Otzma Yehudit’ (Jewish Power) as racist.

A report from Doucet was also aired in the April 10th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:44 here) and the same claim was repeated.

Doucet: “This is a man [Netanyahu] who managed to win again even though indictments are looming on three big charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust. But the attorney general is still expected to press charges and Israel now does not have any legislation which says you can’t indict a sitting prime minister so he’s going to want to have politicians who’ll say ‘well no, you can keep governing even though you’ll have to fight those indictments; it’ll go on in the background but please, Benjamin Netanyahu, keep ruling us’ and that seems to be the message from the political electorate which is moving to the Right – not the far Right. Some of the new far Right parties didn’t manage to make it into the Knesset and some Israelis here see that as a victory for democracy. These were parties described as racist and homophobic.” 

So which “new”, “far Right”, “racist and homophobic” parties (plural) was Doucet talking about? The answer to that question was revealed in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 34:12 here) presented by Tim Franks.

Doucet: “…it was said that he [Netanyahu] called this election nine months earlier [sic]. He was trying to preempt the attorney general who basically would not be preempted. He came out with his report on the three corruption cases where the prime minister is facing likely indictment before the elections. […] Israel currently doesn’t have any laws which say that you can [sic] indict a sitting prime minister. He was hoping for one of two things: either that there would be a…some kind of acceptance by the parties in his coalition that he can continue to govern even after he’s indicted – in other words while the political [sic – legal] processes take their course.” […]

Franks: “And Lyse, it was said of his last coalition that it was the most Right-wing in Israel’s history. What were…how’s the new one going to shape up?”

Doucet: “There were worries before the election that it would not just be a Right-wing but a far Right-wing government and that prime minister Netanyahu was reaching out to new parties just formed which were racist and homophobic – so much so that even members of the Democrats in the United States and AIPAC, the American Jewish organisation, said that they were not consistent with Jewish values. The way the votes have turned out they did not cross the threshold – at least two of the far-Right parties – to take seats in the senate [sic] so maybe more of the more familiar Right-wing and religious parties which will form part of his coalition.”

The one party which garnered criticism from AIPAC and others is ‘Otzma Yehudit’ which – contrary to Doucet’s claims – is not “new” or “just formed” but has been in existence since 2012. In this election that party ran together with two others on a list called the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP).

Where Doucet got the idea that the URWP “did not cross the threshold” is unclear. The exit polls conducted by the three Israeli TV channels predicted that the list would secure between four and five seats in the Knesset and the final count gave it five seats.

One new party which did not gain enough votes to secure any seats in the Knesset was ‘The New Right’ party headed Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Nobody has branded that party “racist and homophobic”.

Obviously the BBC’s chief international correspondent did not bother to familiarise herself with the differences between ‘Otzma Yehudit’ and ‘The New Right’ before giving BBC audiences her ‘expert analysis’. Clearly too she did not make any effort to check out the facts before repeatedly telling listeners around the world that there are “racist and homophobic” parties – plural – in Israel.

We have seen before – especially during conflicts – that journalists ‘parachuted’ in to Israel to cover a major event often produce low-quality and inaccurate reporting due to a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Nevertheless, this is not some junior reporter but the BBC’s chief international correspondent and one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of flying in extra journalists to report a specific story, it would at least ensure that they are familiar with the basic facts in order to ensure that the corporation’s funding public gets accurate reporting. 

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the April 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which related in part to an unpublished US administration peace plan and which adhered to existing BBC framing of that subject.

Later on in the same show (from 1:33:59 here), listeners heard a longer item on the same topic introduced by co-presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “Post-election talks are continuing in Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu expected to be formally named prime minister for a fifth term tomorrow.”

In fact the Israeli president was due to task the candidate recommended by most party leaders with the forming of a new government. Husain went on to cite the same newspaper report referred to earlier by Knell.

Husain: “And then, most likely in June, President Trump is expected to unveil what he’s called ‘the deal of the century’ between Israel and the Palestinians. The Washington Post reports that the plan will involve Palestinian autonomy rather than a sovereign state and ahead of its publication a group of 30 senior European figures including former prime ministers and former foreign ministers have said Europe should reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution.”

The letter concerned can be found here. Without explaining the concept of the two-state solution, Husain introduced her guest.

Husain: “Well Douglas Alexander – former Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister – is one of the signatories to that letter and he’s with us. […] Why make this statement before we’ve seen what’s in the Trump peace plan?”

Alexander: “Because the core argument of the letter is that statehood for the Palestinians is not a gift to be given or indeed a gift to be denied by Donald Trump but a right to be recognised in international law. For decades the United States has been the key actor in this region trying to secure peace. But I think it’s important to recognise that this administration has taken a series of dangerous steps in a very dangerous region. Whether that’s the withdrawing of funding for the 5 million Palestinians who are supported by the UN Work [sic] and Relief Agency, whether that’s the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whether it was the recognition last week of Israeli sovereignty in relation to the Golan Heights. So at that point I think as Europeans we face a fundamental choice: are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

Husain failed to challenge that use of the politically motivated term ‘Palestinian land’ and made no effort to ask Alexander how he proposes to bring about a two-state solution given that the Palestinian Authority does not represent the whole of the Palestinian people and does not control part of the relevant territory. Neither did she inquire how ‘speaking up for democracy’ is served by advancing the creation of a state on territory currently ruled in part by a terrorist organisation which oppresses human rights and in part by an entity headed by a ‘president’ whose term of office ended over a decade ago. Instead, Husain in fact just repeated her first question.

Husain: “But you are making an assumption based on the actions you list about what will be in the Trump peace plan.”

Alexander: “Well let’s look at what Donald Trump has actually done over the last couple of years. His strategy seems to be pursuing a policy systematically to weaken the Palestinian Authority while lifting restraints on Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank.”

Although no land in “the West Bank” has been annexed at all in “the last couple of years”, Husain failed to challenge that falsehood.

Alexander: “And in that sense the destruction is coming from the Trump administration rather than the position we articulate in the letter, which is the end solution has to be based on the long-standing parameters.”

Husain made no effort to remind listeners that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected that “end solution” over the decades.

Husain: “Would you acknowledge though the limited power of European leaders in all of this? It is really the United States which is…which is the key influence on the…on the Israeli government.”

Once again we see the BBC portraying Israel as the only active party in the conflict.

Alexander: “Oh absolutely. I recognise that the United States has a key influence in the region but as Europeans we face a choice. Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people or do we accede to a view by Donald Trump of the international community. Let’s be clear: this is a Trump administration that fundamentally believes multilateralism is nonsense. Look at the institutions created after the second World War – the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, WTO. All of those as far as Donald Trump is concerned are really just a mechanism for small countries to rip off the United States. So we face a choice: do we stand for multilateralism and international law or do we accede to that radical viewpoint?”

Husain refrained from asking what that theory has to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. She then side-stepped another opportunity to explain to listeners why the two-state solution has “gone nowhere” – even when Alexander replied to her next question with a blatant falsehood.

Husain: “But you seem to be standing for an idea, a pledge – the two-state solution – which has gone nowhere for the last 25 years. Isn’t it time to think about something else?”

Alexander: “I think it’s certainly right to recognise that the Palestinians for 25 years have been negotiating to try to secure that outcome but in the face of what we’re now witnessing from the Trump administration and indeed from the statements we heard from Netanyahu last week, we can pretend that nothing’s changed, we could certainly do that. Or we can do what I think is the just and decent thing by an oppressed and marginalised people who aspire within the rules of international law to something that Israel has enjoyed since 1948 which is a land of their own. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable objective for European politicians.”

The BBC’s idea of balance to that superficial softball interview in which Douglas Alexander was given an unchallenged platform from which to promote assorted distortions and falsehoods was an interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel in which an impatient-sounding Husain interrupted her no fewer than eight times and brought the interview to an abrupt close when Haskel began talking about the prioritisation of “weapons, hatred and war” by the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip over the creation of an autonomous entity serving the interests of the Palestinian people.

Once again we see that the BBC’s portrayal of the as yet unpublished US peace proposal adheres to strict and selective framing in which there is no room for information which would enhance audience understanding of the topic, such as Palestinian rejection of that plan, Palestinian rejection of previous proposals, Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state or the twelve-year split in Palestinian leadership which renders the two-state solution irrelevant.

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

As we have most recently seen in BBC coverage of the Israeli election and in an article by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent, the corporation’s framing a US administration peace plan which has not yet even been made public continues.

That framing has included the failure to clarify to audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication, the failure to clarify that, significantly, the Palestinian Authority does not represent all the Palestinian factions and a total absence of information concerning Palestinian rejection of past peace proposals.

Additionally, BBC audiences have seen the two-state solution presented as “the formula for peace negotiations” but with that term only partially explained: the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples” is consistently absent from BBC presentation.  Instead, audiences repeatedly see the two-state solution defined according to the Palestinian interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s framing portrays the success of the as yet unpublished peace plan as dependent upon Israeli actions alone, with the Palestinian side reduced to a passive entity.

That pre-emptive framing continued in two items aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on April 16th. Listeners first heard a report (from 37:28 here) from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell introduced by co-presenter Justin Webb.

Webb: “Israel’s political parties meet the president today following the election of course. Yolande Knell is our correspondent in Jerusalem. What happens then, Yolande?”

Knell gave an explanation of the process of the president’s consultation with the heads of the parties which gained seats in the recent election in order to decide which party leader will be tasked with trying to form a new government before going on:

Knell: “…it’s extremely likely that it will be Benjamin Netanyahu that’s allowed to form the new government because he did win the greatest number of seats in the new parliament [not accurate – Ed.] and because he has support, we know, from the smaller Right-wing and pro-settler parties, he’ll be able to control the majority seats. And Israelis saying this is most likely to be the most Right-wing government in Israeli history. That was also the boast of the last government too. And of course this new government will be put in place – he’ll have 28 days to decide – Mr Netanyahu – if he can put…how he’ll put his government together…ahm…but this will come at a really important time.”

The item continued with pure speculation based partly on an article in a newspaper.

Webb: “Well an important time because Donald Trump says he has a peace proposal and a peace proposal that is acceptable to…ahm…err…the Netanyahu government potentially. In that case, if that were to be announced relatively soon, what would it be?”

Knell: “Well we’ve been looking for a lot of clues. Ahm…of course the big question is could the US abandon the two-state solution: this long-time international formula for peace that envisages the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. It’s been written up in UN resolutions and it’s also been the cornerstone of US policy for over two decades now. But we had yesterday the Washington Post reporting that the US proposal probably wouldn’t include a fully sovereign Palestinian state and then the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving a series of congressional hearings over the last two weeks and in questioning he didn’t give too much away for sure ahead of the publication of this long-awaited Trump administration peace plan but he did say that…or he seemed to imply that the idea of the two-state solution was bunched in with what he called ‘a failed old set of ideas not worth re-treading’ and he kept talking, as we’ve heard before, about recognising realities.

What’s also been pointed out really importantly is that the Trump administration and Mr Pompeo didn’t speak out against a campaign promise that was made very controversially by Mr Netanyahu in the last days of the election campaign where he promised to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank where there are Israeli settlements…ah…put them under full Israeli control. And…err…of course settlements seen as illegal under international law but the Palestinians say that would leave them with no contiguous territory for a Palestinian state.”

As we see Knell’s speculative portrayal adheres to the BBC’s standard framing seen to date. The second item on the same topic in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

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BBC’s ‘shift to the Right’ dogma challenged on just one radio show

As has been documented in our analysis of the BBC’s coverage of the recent general election in Israel, one very dominant trend has been (not for the first time) the repeated promotion in a significant proportion of the reports of the notion of a ‘shift to the right’ in Israel.

The April 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ featured several items concerning that day’s election including one (from 12:51 here) in which presenter Ritula Shah interviewed Sharren Haskel of the Likud party and former Labour and Independence parties MK Dr Einat Wilf.

At 14:56 Shah introduced that widely seen BBC claim. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Shah: “Einat Wilf, are you concerned that the narrative, certainly the narrative that’s been set out during the course of this election, is that Israeli politics is shifting towards the Right, leaving your party of the traditional Left far behind?”

The reply to that question probably came as something of a surprise to both listeners and the presenter.

Wilf: “This, it’s almost amusing because every election I go on BBC and always it’s like ‘Israel is shifting to the Right’ when every time the numbers are literally the same. I mean Israel is split in the middle. Israel has been split in the middle for decades now.”

Shah [interrupts] “But don’t you think the Black & White coalition which is challenging Mr Netanyahu – Blue & White; I apologise – the Blue & White coalition that’s challenging Mr Netanyahu is much further to the Right than your party would be?”

Wilf: “In many ways Blue & White – which is also the party I voted for this time – is channelling what the old Labour party was. Many people think of the Labour party as a very Left-wing party but Rabin on the eve…”

The conversation was cut off at that point and after communication was re-established, Wilf repeated her previous statements, adding that Labour:

Wilf: “…was very centrist and in many ways to the Right party. The positions of Rabin on the eve of his assassination were positions that are more to the Right of positions that were voiced by Benjamin Netanyahu. So Blue & White is very much where the old Labour party used to be and what we’re seeing now has really been a bit of a return to the traditional two-party system in Israel. The parties are now larger than they have been in quite some time and the Blue & White is a centrist party. You do not have a shift of Israelis to the Right. You have the decades-long split between Right and Left. In many ways the positions of the Israeli public are much more to the Left than they were decades ago.”

Shah responded to that with:

Shah: “Well if we accept that analysis for a moment…”

Wilf responded to a subsequent question regarding Netanyahu’s “unchallengeable” world view as follows:

Wilf: “What Netanyahu has done – and this is something that needs to be acknowledged – for an entire decade on his watch the number of Jews and Arabs who have died as a result of violent conflict has been the lowest in the entire history of the conflict. It’s not the stuff of Nobel peace prizes but people have been waking up alive after years of suicide buses and being blown to bits in cafés…”

Shah [interrupts] “So security is the key issue.”

Wilf: “Security in the sense of really knowing that people in the midst of a very chaotic Middle East, people have been able to lead a Western life-style which, if you think of it, is quite amazing.”

Shah interrupted her interviewee again at that point and the item ended not long afterwards.

Unfortunately for BBC audiences, that item was the exception to the rule. Only late evening listeners to one domestic BBC radio station heard that informed rebuttal of the BBC dogma of a ‘shift to the Right’. Those reading, viewing or listening to the hours and reams of additional BBC content concerning the Israeli election saw that notion go completely unchallenged. 

So much for ‘due impartiality’. 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 religious programme does Israeli politics

h/t HG

BBC Radio 4’s weekly programme ‘Sundaypurports to give listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. The lead item in the April 7th edition of that programme (from 01:01 here) had nothing to do with “ethical and religious issues” at all. 

The item relates to a political story taken rather more seriously by the foreign press than the Israeli public which emerged in an April 6th Channel 13 interview with Israel’s prime minister. During that interview Netanyahu was asked why, during his 2015-2019 term of office, he had not annexed Gush Etzion or applied Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim. Avoiding the word annexation, Netanyahu replied that the topic is under discussion and that he intends to apply Israeli law to Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria during his next (potential) term.

While no such action is likely to happen before the US presents its proposals for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (if at all, given that Netanyahu has in the past repeatedly scuppered such efforts when advanced by other MKs), Netanyahu’s remarks were presented to BBC audiences as a “vow” to “annex settlements”.

Presenter William Crawley introduced an interviewee who, on the same programme, has in the past shown herself to be less than reliable on Israel related stories. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Crawley: “This Tuesday is election day in Israel and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have advanced his own chances of success with his surprise announcement last night that, if re-elected, he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Jordana Miller is a foreign correspondent for ABC News based in Jerusalem. She joins us now. […] Did anyone see this coming?”

Miller: “I can tell you for those of us who’ve been covering Benjamin Netanyahu for years, we knew there was still gonna be something he was gonna offer to voters before Tuesday. We weren’t sure exactly what but here it is. He is now vowing to annex parts of the West Bank which would be a major change in Israeli policy and it would bring, you know, millions of Palestinians under Israeli law which, you know, is a very grey…their status as it is is under a very grey kind of…eh…cloud.”

By the time Miller claimed that what she described as a ‘vow’ to “annex parts of the West Bank” would lead to “millions of Palestinians” being brought under Israeli law, the government minister Israel Katz had already explained to a local radio station that not one Palestinian would be annexed in the event of application of Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria.

Crawley made no effort to explain to listeners that – despite his interviewee’s assertion – “millions of Palestinians” do not live in the “Jewish settlements” to which he referred in his introduction and he refrained from clarifying that – in contrast to her additional inaccurate claim – the status of the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria is not “under a very grey kind of cloud” because they are in fact Palestinian Authority citizens living in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Miller went on:  

Miller: “So this would be very complicated and I don’t believe he will actually do it ahm…but this is what he’s doing to kind of rally his base. He is really down in the polls and tied in a few, maybe by one and he needs to really get people to the ballot and that’s – to the ballot box – that’s what he’s doing.”

Crawley: “And I suppose this, from his point of view, might be a helpful distraction from the corruption scandals that have been engulfing him recently.”

Miller: “That’s right. The attorney general announced some weeks ago that he does plan to charge Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. But the really interesting thing is that it has seemed to barely register with Israeli voters. They simply don’t seem to care that much. At the top of their list are security concerns. Ah…from the north eh…that border with Syria which they fear Iran is moving into and in the south with the Islamic terror group Hamas and the economy. But the corruption charges really, in polls we’ve seen it comes, you know, in the top ten it comes in the bottom half for voters.”

Crawley did not bother to point out to listeners that – in contrast to the impression given by Miller – the attorney general’s final decision concerning charges against Netanyahu will only be made after pre-indictment hearings which will take place after the election.  

Crawley: “If this annexation did go through on the re-election of prime minister Netanyahu what would that mean for the Middle East peace process?”

Miller: “Well it would just be another severe blow for the Palestinians and they have been dealt many blows over the last…err, you know, almost two years under President Trump. So this would be I think…I think it would cause massive riots across the West Bank and of co… [cut off] harsh condemnations in the Arab world.”

Crawley: “Ahm…how much, Jordana, how much of a role does religious orthodoxy – Jewish religious orthodoxy – play in these kinds of political moves?”

Apparently not comprehending the question, Miller went on to give an account which few listeners would have understood.

Miller: “Well that’s been another fascinating thing about this election. Usually the ultra-orthodox parties hold a lot of power because they are some of the most powerful small parties and anybody who wants to be prime minister has to negotiate with them. But this year one of the traditional ultra-orthodox parties polling very low and what we see instead is the rise of the national religious parties in the middle: people who have broken off to support Israel’s minister of education who’s one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s big rivals. There’s another party called the Identity party headed by a national religious leader who’s advocating for separation of religion and state and who wants to legalise marijuana. So we are seeing a very different religious party or centre coming to the fore and they will have a much greater impact likely on creating more separation between church [sic] and state because they are not part of a kind of isolated ultra-orthodox community. So it’s interesting.”

Obviously the inaccuracies in this item mean that it contributed little to Radio 4 listeners’ understanding of this badly presented and as yet entirely speculative story.

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BBC apologises for ‘unfortunate oversight’

Last week we documented a breach of the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” during a BBC Radio 4 news bulletin broadcast on March 25th.

BBC R4 newsreader refers to a state the BBC knows does not exist

During that bulletin newsreader Zeb Soanes told BBC audiences:

“Mr Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington because of escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. [emphasis added]

As we observed at the time:

“There is of course no point in having a style guide if journalists, presenters and producers – particularly it would seem at BBC Radio 4 – ignore its guidance. Given that the style guide correctly states “there is no independent state of Palestine today”, there is obviously no reason whatsoever for BBC staff to be promoting the inaccurate impression that such a state exists – and even more so when they are in fact referring to a terror organisation that violently seized power from the representatives of the Palestinians recognised by the international community.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that issue and has received the following response:

“Thanks for contacting us regarding a Radio 4 bulletin on 25 March.

We discussed your concerns with the Radio 4 News team – this occurred within our hourly BBC News Radio 4 bulletin, rather than The World Tonight itself.

You’re right that this didn’t meet our established style – it was an unfortunate oversight on this occasion. We took action to ensure it was not repeated and reminded staff immediately of our approach as outlined in our guidelines.

We regret any instance where the incorrect terminology is used and appreciate you taking the time to raise this here.”

Despite that welcome action, with no correction issued BBC audiences however remain under the inaccurate impression created by that use of incorrect terminology.

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Another BBC absurd on ‘language when reporting terrorism’

In January 2018 we noted that in a report about the Israeli TV drama series ‘Fauda’:

“…the BBC has expanded its selectively applied guidance on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ to apply even to reporting on fictional Palestinian characters in a TV drama show. Can it get any more ridiculous?”

The April 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Fauda’s co-creator Avi Issacharoff (from 2:45:13 here) during which presenter Martha Kearney posed the following question: [emphasis added]

Kearney: “And do you try to challenge the audiences on both sides of this very divided…eh…territory in terms of the…you have people – Palestinians – who’ve been carrying out actions that could be described as terrorists and Israeli special forces out of control so both…both sides are challenged.”

Yes, the BBC’s controversial policy on ‘language when reporting on terrorism’ continues to influence even items concerning a TV drama.

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BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

As documented in part one of this post, listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th with a ‘Today’ programme report from Gaza the previous day by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ on March 28th had also heard Bateman reporting from the Gaza Strip and that item (from 46:20 here) included the following:

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

Bateman: “And inside Gaza itself, a sense of anticipation about the coming protests that will take place on Saturday marking a year since these weekly protests have taken place at the perimeter fence.”

Thus BBC audiences once again got a dose of the corporation’s framing of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “protests” rather than events organised, facilitated and executed by a coalition of terror organisations that have regularly included violent rioting, serious attacks and infiltrations into Israeli territory.

The March 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s 1 p.m. news bulletin included an item introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 07:46 here) thus:

Sleat: “Thousands of Palestinian protesters have massed on the boundary between Gaza and Israel to mark a year since the start of weekly demonstrations there. Palestinians have been throwing stones and Israeli forces using tear gas to stop them approaching the border fence. Our correspondent Yolande Knell is there.”

Knell: “Across a wind-swept field here lies a wire fence and beyond it there’s a large crowd at one of the Gaza protest sites gathered around a Palestinian flag.  Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza. Already this anniversary was due at a sensitive time: just over a week before an Israeli election and after recent economic unrest in Gaza which has put pressure on Hamas.”

In other words, even when the BBC knows that participants have been throwing petrol bombs and trying to infiltrate Israeli territory, it still portrays the events as “demonstrations” and those participants as “protesters”.

The same was the case when part of that report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell was recycled in a later news bulletin aired during the ‘PM’ programme (from 02:18 here):

Newsreader: “Tens of thousands of Palestinians are demonstrating along the boundary fence between Gaza and Israel to mark the first anniversary of weekly protests there. Three people are reported to have been killed, one before the start of the mass rally. Over the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops while one Israeli soldier has died. Yolande Knell reports from southern Israel.”

Knell: “Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 30th heard the newsreader give the following headline at the top of the programme.

“Palestinian health officials say at least two demonstrators have died in clashes with Israeli forces on the anniversary of weekly protests on the Gaza border.”

The item itself (from 05:34 here) was presented as follows, with no mention of the fact that “health officials in Gaza” actually means the terror group Hamas.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They’ve been throwing stones and petrol bombs and attempting to breach the perimeter fence. Israeli forces have used live ammunition and tear gas. Health officials in Gaza say three protesters have been killed. The demonstrations are marking the first anniversary of weekly protests at the border. From Gaza our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has sent this report.”

Bateman: “That’s live fire as the Israeli snipers are aiming towards a group of people that just got right up at the fence. Some appear to be trying to climb it. At the biggest protest site east of Gaza City, Palestinians turned up in their thousands. Most gathered near the smoothie vans and fruit sellers hundreds of meters from the fence. But others got close to it, burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs. From the other side Israeli troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. One of the demonstrators, Bahaa Abu Shamala, said Palestinians were highlighting their historical dispossession and calling for an end to the blockade which Israel says it imposes for security reasons.”

Abu Shamala: “We are here in Gaza. We are oppressed people. We want to feed our children. We want to get rid of this huge trauma that we suffered from the siege that Israel imposed against us for more than 12 years.”

Israel of course does not impose a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip at all but Bateman had nothing to say about his interviewee’s promotion of Hamas favoured terminology and made no effort to inform listeners of the years of Hamas terror which have made counter-terrorism measures including the blockade necessary.

Once again failing to inform listeners that some 80% of those killed at ‘Great Return March’ events in the past year have been shown to have links to terror groups, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “In the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops at the fence. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper last summer. The Israeli army spokesman is Jonathan Conricus.”

Lt. Col. Conricus: “This has after all been a year of thousands of rioters trying to breach into Israel using different types of violence. We’ve had grenades, IEDs, Molotov cocktails. We’ve even had live fire.”

In other words, the only mention of the violent nature of the year-long events heard by Radio 4 listeners throughout eleven hours of broadcasting came from an Israeli official.  

Bateman: “This week’s build-up to the first anniversary saw a significant military flare-up between Israel and Hamas which largely controls the protests in Gaza. Israel is 10 days away from a general election in which security is a major issue. There have been intensive efforts brokered by Egypt to prevent tensions at the boundary slipping out of control. It seems to have largely succeeded for now, despite today’s casualties.”

Although the BBC sent Tom Bateman to the Gaza Strip and Yolande Knell to southern Israel to cover the March 30th events, audiences once again did not hear a word from or about the residents of Israeli communities close to the border fence who have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year. Neither were listeners informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

One year on, the BBC’s across the board and inflexible editorial approach to this story continues to promote the monochrome framing which – while flouting the corporation’s public purpose obligations – denies audiences vital context and information.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

Listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th.

The March 29th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included a pre-emptive report (from 1:14:55 here) by Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which utilised the standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’ to which BBC audiences have been exposed for an entire year.

That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of returnand lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Listeners heard presenter John Humphrys introduce the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Tomorrow marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s fence with Israel. Hamas – the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip – is marking the anniversary calling for a million-person march at the fence.”

Audiences then heard an audio version of Bateman’s context-free report from a clinic in Gaza City which included the following:

Bateman: “22-year-old Iyyad who was shot at Gaza’s perimeter fence last May. He tells me he nearly lost his leg. He’s been coming here to the clinic for months to learn to walk again. Some seven thousand Palestinians have been injured by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman last summer. As tomorrow’s anniversary looms, tensions have been ratcheting up.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify what his interviewee was doing at the time he was shot and while citing numbers of Palestinian casualties, erased both the terror affiliations of most of those killed and the violence in which they were participating from audience view.

That formula was again evident the next day in two news bulletins aired during the March 30th edition of ‘Today’. At 05:48 listeners were told by newsreader Chris Aldridge that:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time while one Israeli soldier has died and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning. The leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a million people to join today’s action.”

In an additional news bulletin at 1:06:35 Aldridge told audiences:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning.”

Audiences were not told that the man “shot dead this morning” was participating in violent rioting at the time and was apparently a member of the so-called ‘night disturbance units’ active along the border fence during darkness. Aldridge’s claim that “Palestinians are gathering” was shown to be premature in a third item aired at 1:57:30 which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

Robinson: “All this week we’ve been hearing about the mounting tension ahead of the first anniversary of protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There’s reports this morning that Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian man at that border. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent. What do we know Tom?”

Bateman: “Well we know that a 20-year-old man has died already this morning. That was announced by the ministry of health here in Gaza. The circumstances are unclear. We don’t know if it was at one of the protest sites. It doesn’t appear to have been actually and it was very early in the morning. But already it adds to the tension and in the next hour or so after noon prayers there will be thousands of Palestinians who’ll make their way in buses and on foot to five protest sites at the perimeter fence with Gaza. On the other side of the fence the Israeli military build-up…ah…has led to there being around 200 snipers positioned all around the fence and three extra brigades of Israeli forces there.”

Robinson: “The Palestinians who go know the risk they take. The Israelis know the condemnation they will get if they open fire. Nothing seems to change.”

Bateman: “Well this will certainly be I think the biggest protest in months because of that first anniversary. The protests have actually…the numbers have really been dwindling over the weeks as they began a year ago, leaving a sort of hard-core of protesters who were going once a week. But I think the sense in Gaza is that people want to go to the fence to demonstrate. Now Hamas have called for these to be peaceful after some intensive negotiations…ah…indirect negotiations between the two sides. That of course remains to be seen. Israel is saying it is prepared for any eventuality with that build-up of troops. It comes at a time of elections in Israel – a very sensitive moment – and I think we’ll see as we enter the afternoon just how…just how that tension continues, just how it mounts and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said they are prepared for any eventualities.”

Listeners were then told that the upcoming Israeli election is a two-horse race.

Robinson: “Tom Bateman our Middle East correspondent thank you very much indeed. Yes, that election between the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the former military chief Benny Gantz is in just a few days.”

As we see listeners to the ‘Today’ programme heard a one-sided and highly sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ which adhered to the editorial policies that have been in evidence throughout the past twelve months. In part two of this post we will see whether Radio 4’s subsequent programmes throughout the day provided audiences with a more comprehensive picture.

 

BBC R4 newsreader refers to a state the BBC knows does not exist

As we all too frequently have cause to note here, the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” (published in the wake of the 2006 Thomas Report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) states:

There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…”” [emphasis added]

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on the evening of March 25th heard an item (from 02:24 here) presented as follows by newsreader Zeb Soanes:

Soanes: “President Trump has signed a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a strategically important plateau which was seized from Syria in 1967. Syria’s government has described Mr Trump’s action as a blatant attack on its integrity. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed the signing at a ceremony in the White House. He said it was important for his country’s security.”

Following a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that ceremony, Soanes went on:

Soanes: “Mr Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington because of escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. Israel launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a long-range rocket attack which injured 7 people near Tel Aviv. The targets included the office of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed but there’s been no confirmation from Israel.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no point in having a style guide if journalists, presenters and producers – particularly it would seem at BBC Radio 4 – ignore its guidance. Given that the style guide correctly states “there is no independent state of Palestine today”, there is obviously no reason whatsoever for BBC staff to be promoting the inaccurate impression that such a state exists – and even more so when they are in fact referring to a terror organisation that violently seized power from the representatives of the Palestinians recognised by the international community.

Related Articles:

Increase in breaches of BBC’s style guide