Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

On the early evening of August 13th members of the BBC’s domestic audience listening to BBC Radio 4 heard reports about the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier.

Listeners to Radio 4’s ‘PM‘ heard presenter Chris Mason introduce an item (from 36:15 here) with the inaccurate claim that the story was about antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “Jeremy Corbyn has been talking about antisemitism. Our correspondent Jonathan Blake is at Westminster. What’s he said, Jonathan, and specifically about what?”

Blake: “Well Chris, not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn has faced questions about his attendance at a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery. He was in the country for a conference organised by the Tunisian president bringing together different Palestinian factions to try to form a unity government.”

Where Blake got the idea that the purpose of a conference titled the ‘International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression’ was “to try to form a unity government” is unclear.

Listeners then heard Blake portray members of a terrorist organisation as “activists” and give a context-free description of an operation which took place in response to a terror attack in Cyprus that he failed to mention.

Blake: “And what is not in question is whether he laid a wreath to victims of an attack by the Israeli air force in 1985 on the headquarters of the Palestinian [sic] Liberation Organisation in which many people were killed. What is less clear is his involvement in the laying of a wreath at the graves of a memorial [sic] to the Palestinian activists who were suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 – members of the so-called Black September terrorist group. And they took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes. During a visit to the West Midlands Mr Corbyn was asked about this earlier on and spoke about attending the conference and whether he took part in that controversial ceremony. Here’s what he said.”

As for Blake’s claim that the wreath was laid at the graves of those “suspected” of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre – Fatah describes one of those buried there as “the head of the Black September organization’s department of operations and assassinations” and states that “He came up with the idea for the Munich operation”.

Listeners then heard a recording of Corbyn admitting what Blake had just told them was “less clear”.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Mason: “And listening carefully, Jonathan, to what he said there – ‘I don’t think I was actually involved in it’ – ehm…which appears to leave plenty of scope for his critics to criticise.”

Blake next cited reactions from two British politicians – while finding it necessary to mention the ethnic/religious background of just one of them:

Blake: “It does and it’s one reason that it is probably not the last time Mr Corbyn will have to answer questions on this. Not only his political opponents – the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he should resign. One Labour MP – the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger has tweeted this afternoon criticising Mr Corbyn, saying ‘being present is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. Where is the apology?'”

Blake went on to quote an earlier Tweet from the Labour Party which had already been shown to be inaccurate by Corbyn’s statements made on that West Midlands trip.

Blake: “Last year when he was asked about this Mr Corbyn said that he was there at the conference and at the headquarters and was laying a wreath to all those who died in the air attack on the PLO headquarters. But the Labour party are pushing back quite hard with a statement saying that the Munich widows are being misled – those were those quoted in this morning’s Daily Mail – Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

Mason: “Cheers, Jonathan.”

An hour later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ heard another report from Jonathan Blake which was introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 10:12 here) using the same bizarre description of terrorists.

Sleat: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appeared to admit to being present at a wreath-laying ceremony for the Palestinian activists suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre but said he didn’t think he was involved in it. Mr Corbyn has been criticized for his controversial visit to the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014. In the past hour the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the laying of the wreath deserved unequivocal condemnation. Here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake then came up with a politicised description of terrorists and failed once again to provide BBC audiences with the context to the 1985 operation.

Blake: “Not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a cemetery commemorating those who’ve died in pursuit of the Palestinian cause has been questioned. When this visit was criticised during last year’s general election campaign, Mr Corbyn said he had laid a wreath to commemorate the victims of an Israeli air strike on the headquarters of the PLO in Tunisia in 1985 and he confirmed that again today. The accusation against Mr Corbyn – which has seen the Home Secretary call for him to resign – is whether he took part in a ceremony where a wreath was laid at the graves of those accused of carrying out the attack on the Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed. Mr Corbyn was asked about that on a visit to the West Midlands this afternoon.”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Yet again Blake found it necessary to mention a British MP’s ethnicity/religion and once again he amplified a Labour Party claim that had already been shown to be false.

Blake: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved is unlikely to satisfy Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has been critical of Mr Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism row within the party, said ‘being present is the same as being involved’ and asked ‘where is the apology?’. In response to the Daily Mail publishing criticism from the wives of those killed in the Munich massacre, a Labour Party spokesperson said their widows were being misled. Jeremy Corbyn did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

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BBC Radio 4 news bulletins mislead UK audiences on Gaza rocket attacks

h/t CL

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ on August 9th included an item (from 18:09 here) concerning events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip which had begun several hours beforehand.

The BBC’s newsreader refrained from informing listeners who carried out the missile fire mentioned in his chronologically reversed portrayal of the story. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has carried out a dozen airstrikes on targets in Gaza in response to the firing of around 36 missiles into Israel. One Palestinian man was killed. The Israelis said at least three people were wounded inside Israel. Yesterday two fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, were killed by Israeli fire. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

By the time that news bulletin went on air (02:00 Israel time), over 70 projectiles had been launched from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Radio 4 news reduced the number of attacks on Israeli civilian targets by half. Notably too, the report presented a Palestinian casualty as fact (without telling listeners that he was a Hamas operative) while presenting Israeli wounded using the “Israel says” caveat. Unnecessary qualification was also evident in Yoland Knell’s report.

Knell: “Israel’s military says that its fighter jets targeted sites across Gaza that were used by Palestinian militants to build tunnels for attacks, to make rockets and for logistics. Earlier, Israeli television broadcast pictures of a house and cars said to have been damaged when two rockets hit the town of Sderot. Several other missiles were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defence system and most landed in open areas. Hamas had warned that Israel would pay for an attack one day ago which killed two of its militants. An Israeli tank fired at a Gaza watchtower after soldiers believed gunshots had been aimed at them. Palestinian and Israeli media later reported that the gunfire had actually been part of a Hamas training exercise. The latest violence follows reports that progress had been made in talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to try to achieve a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Notably, while she did use Hamas’ own terminology to describe its threats of retaliation, Yolande Knell did not clarify to BBC audiences that the terror group was attacking exclusively civilian targets.

Eight hours later, Radio 4 listeners were again given an inaccurate picture of the number of missile attacks against Israeli civilians in the station’s 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:06:11 here) read by Chris Aldridge during the August 9th edition of the ‘Today’ programme.  

Aldridge: “The Palestinian authorities say three people, including an 18 month-old girl, have been killed in a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israeli warplanes. The Israeli army said it was targeting what it called ‘terror sites’ in the Palestinian territory in response to three dozen rockets fired into Israel.”

Four hours before Aldridge read that news bulletin the number of missile attacks launched against Israeli civilians since the previous evening was already over 150. In other words, the BBC concealed over 75% of the attacks that actually took place – and 100% of the Israeli civilians injured by them – from audience view. As we see, the ministry of health run by the terror group launching those missiles was inaccurately portrayed as “the Palestinian authorities”: terminology which listeners used to hearing about ‘the Palestinian Authority’ no doubt found very confusing.

Remarkably, although that news bulletin was aired after the BBC News website had amended a problematic context-free headline, Radio 4 also chose to present the story to its audiences in reverse chronology.

Related Articles:

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BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

Hot on the heels of Paul Adams’ July 25threport from the Gaza Strip for Radio 4 came another report from the same location on the same radio station – this time from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Aired in the July 27th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’, the report was introduced (from 23:12 here) by presenter Jonny Dymond using a decidedly unsubtle metaphor to commence promotion of some very overt framing. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “As depressing David and Goliath metaphors go, you don’t get much closer than the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. For 18 consecutive weekends now Palestinians – many of them children – have gathered to protest at the fence that separates Gaza from Israel: protests with rocks and burning tyres and balloons carrying flaming strips of cloth designed to set fire to nearby Israeli farmland. They have been confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed in the protests since March and one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Amongst the Palestinians, 19 children have been killed and hundreds more injured. From Gaza, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Notably Dymond’s “David and Goliath” framing excluded all mention of the IEDs, grenades, petrol bombs and shootings which have also been an integral part of the violent rioting he euphemistically and uniformly called “protests”. Neither did he bother to inform listeners of the fact that a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed since March were linked to terror factions.

Bateman began his report with a visit to the father of a youth – reported by many other media outlets to be fifteen years old – who was shot on July 13th as he participated in violent rioting that included a grenade attack in which an Israeli soldier was injured. Notably that attack was completely excluded from Bateman’s account of those “protests”.

Bateman: “This is a road that runs parallel with the fence on the east side of the Gaza Strip. We’re just driving with the fence to our right. You can see Israeli fields and farmland on the other side. And this is an area where the sprawling suburbs of Gaza City almost meet the fence itself. I went to the home of Rami Helles. Two weeks ago his son Othman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to climb the perimeter fence. Othman was 14 years old, among the large numbers of young people in Gaza attending the weekly protests. Why did he go to the fence?”

Voiceover Helles: “Because he loved his land, his country. He went like everyone else. After he was martyred – may his soul rest in peace – it turned out that he had been going every Friday. After he came back I used to ask him where he had been and he would say I was in the coffee shop or I was here or there.”

Naturally Bateman had no questions to  about the responsibility of the parents of “children” attending weekly violent riots organised by terror factions for months on end.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry.”

As usual, BBC audiences were not told that “Gaza’s health ministry” is run by the same terror group which co-organises this weekly agitprop and has an interest in inflating casualty figures for PR purposes.

photo credit: ITIC

Neither were they told that Hamas has been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those under the age of 18 killed since the end of March were operatives with terror factions and some linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Bateman then introduced IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, saying:

Bateman: “I mean many people might look at that footage and they will think simply that it was completely disproportionate.”

After noting that the circumstances of Othman Helles’ death would be investigated (as all such incidents are), Conricus went on to say:

Conricus: “We’ve had in the last week two events where sniper fire was conducted from the Gazan side towards Israeli troops. Two Israeli soldiers have been hit – one injured, one unfortunately killed a week ago – and that has been done using the cover of these so-called demonstrations.”

Those two events are the fatal shooting of Staff Sgt Aviv Levi on July 20th and the shooting of another soldier – drawn by youths gathered near the fence – on July 25th.

Bateman then visited a clinic:

Bateman: “At a center in Gaza City of the medical charity MSF they have a rehabilitation clinic.”

Speaking to a youth reportedly 14 years old, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “He said he was near the fence burning tyres on the 3rd of July. The soldiers shot him in the leg.”

Although the involvement of terror organisations including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the DFLP in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ was known even before the events began, Bateman whitewashed them as “political factions”.

Bateman: “The protest camps are set well back from the fence, organised by a committee of political factions.”

Failing to clarify that the aim of the so-called ‘right of return’ is to eradicate Israel and avoiding the question of why there are no “protests” along Gaza’s border with Egypt, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “The focus has been on the Palestinian claim of a right of return to the land that is now Israel and on the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, which Israel says is for security reasons. The Israelis believe Hamas has used the protests to attempt militant attacks and threaten its population. I spoke to 17 year-old [name unintelligible]. He said three people had thrown petrol bombs towards the fence. He went to help the injured, he said, and was shot. He has had his right leg amputated. Now he is waiting for a prosthetic limb, for which he would need to travel to Turkey.”

Refraining from telling audiences who laid on buses, he continued:  

Bateman: “Messages at the Mosques and buses laid on have boosted the protests. Why did the boys at the clinic go? Most told me simply they went like everyone else. One wanted to give Trump a message, he said, that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Another spoke of supporting a Hamas leader attending. But Israel says children were used to distract its troops during the incident this week when an Israeli soldier was shot and wounded by Palestinian gunmen from the fence area.”

Radio 4 listeners next heard from the same Hamas official promoted by the BBC World Service days earlier.

Bateman: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister is Ghazi Hamad.”

Hamad: “The main goal [of] this march; just to get attention of the international community to the miserable situation in Gaza.”

Bateman: “It’s not peaceful; it’s not all peaceful though is it? There have been, you know, Molotov cocktails, people trying to break the fence down, explosive devices placed at the fence.”

Hamad: “No, look I think I can say we control 99% of the march. Maybe there’s some [unintelligible] done by some individuals but this is not an excuse for Israel to kill people.”

Failing to clarify that most of the “ten Palestinians” he cited were Hamas operatives killed in strikes in response to massive rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman closed his report as follows:

Bateman: “The tension along the Gaza boundary has risen. There have been a series of military flare-ups in recent weeks. At least ten Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes on militant sites. An Israeli soldier was shot dead and four civilians have been wounded in recent rocket attacks. Palestinians have been sending flaming kites and helium filled condoms to burn Israeli fields. The air is combustible. Gaza’s clinics will hope there are not more young patients coming in.”

The same report by Bateman was aired the following day – July 28th – in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 36:29 here) and in the evening edition (from 30:06 here) of the same programme. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced it thus:

Marshall: “Tensions have escalated again in recent days between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip. It comes against a backdrop of Palestinian protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence, now in their 18th consecutive weekend. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during the protests since March. Another reportedly died of his injuries today. And one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Among the Palestinians killed are 19 children, with hundreds more injured – something that the UN has previously condemned.”

photo credit: ITIC

Obviously this widely promoted report from Tom Bateman fails to give BBC audiences – domestic and worldwide – the full range of information needed in order for them to understand Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the under-18s described as “children” in its weekly agitprop that is designed to prompt media coverage of exactly the type that Bateman has produced.

Instead, listeners heard a context lite “David and Goliath” story in which Palestinian “boys” and “children” who throw rocks, burn tyres and fly kites are “confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region” with results portrayed by the BBC’s reporter as “completely disproportionate”.

Ghazi Hamad was no doubt very pleased with this effort to “get attention of the international community”. 

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BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

 

Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Book of the Week’ is described as:

“Serialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history”

Last week’s five episodes featured a book titled “Where the Line is Drawn” by Raja Shehadeh.

Episode One – July 23rd:

“Raja Shehadeh is an award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human right’s [sic] organisation, Al Haq. In Where the Line is Drawn he reflects on his forty year friendship with Henry, a Jewish Israeli. As idealistic young men when they first meet in 1977, they connect over shared interests in literature, writing and walking. As the years pass, their friendship is challenged by history, politics, enmity and violence, but it also points the way to a common future. Raja Shehadeh’s books include Occupation Diaries; Language of War, Language of Peace and Palestinian Walks which won the 2008 Orwell Prize. He has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta.”

Episode Two – July 24th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, visits Jaffa, the city from which his father was exiled during the Nakba in 1948 when 750,000 were forced from their homes with the end of the British Mandate and the creation of Israel. It’s now 1978 and he is staying with Jewish friends who moved into one of the old Arab houses in Jaffa. He is curious about their choice of home.”

Episode Three – July 25th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq recollects a humiliating experience on his way home to Ramallah.”

Episode Four – July 26th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, remembers a terrifying night time drive. Meanwhile, tense times lie ahead for Raja and Henry as the new millennium dawns.”

Episode Five – July 27th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq receives shocking news and he comes to a new understanding about the value of his friendship with Henry. He also reflects on the controversial killing of a young Palestinian attacker by a teenage Israeli soldier who was later jailed for manslaughter.”

Although the NGO ‘Al Haq’ is mentioned in each and every one of those five synopses, BBC Radio 4 audiences were given no information about the political agenda of that so-called “human rights organisation” or its alleged ties to a terror group.

Despite the frequent references to “illegal occupation” and “occupied territories”, no proper historic context was provided to listeners throughout the entire series. In episode one listeners were told that “Israelis…in 1967 had taken the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan” without any mention of the fact that Jordan illegally occupied those areas for 19 years.

Listeners to episode one heard a partisan description of the circumstances in which Palestinians including Shehadeh’s father – also a lawyer – left their homes which left them with the inaccurate impression that they were universally “forced out”.

“In 1948 during the Nakba, where around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes with the establishment of Israel, he lost his practice, his home, and all his properties. And he had to start all over again in Ramallah.”

In episode two listeners heard a reference to Jaffa as “my father’s city from which he was exiled” and were again told that in 1948:

“…with the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of Israel, around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. The Palestinians who managed to stay were placed in the Ajami quarter surrounded by barbed wire. It was like a ghetto.”

Listeners also heard that in 1967 “I drove with my parents to visit the city they had been forced to leave 19 years earlier.”

Notably, when Raja Shehadeh appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ in 2014, he told a rather different version of that story: a version in which his parents were not “forced to leave” Jaffa but decided to relocate to their second home.

“Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

Throughout the five episodes listeners heard Israelis described as “settlers” (regardless of their place of residence in Israel) and “colonisers”. Notably, all the Israeli voices in the dramatisation were done in a bizarre quasi-American accent – regardless of where they were born – which implied that they were ‘foreigners’. In episode two listeners heard the story of Shehadeh’s visit to a plant nursery in which he asked how the owner – described as a woman from Canada – “could establish her nursery on land expropriated from villagers who were now forced to live in crowded refugee camps with no land to cultivate for themselves” and accused her of ‘exploiting’ the land.

Listeners also heard a context-free account of the beginning of the second Intifada – described as “futile” rather than wrong – and justification of terrorism:

“Israel was fighting for the retention of this land. We were fighting to end the occupation in accordance with international law which gave us the right to resist.” [episode three]

“…the human and political issues that led these young men to brutally kill themselves, and others, in despair.”

In episode three listeners were told that Shehadeh’s father had been “murdered…by a collaborator working for Israel” even though it was later admitted that “no-one was ever charged”.

In episode five listeners heard the wave of Palestinian terrorism which began in the autumn of 2015 described thus:

“This uprising was different. There was no unified leadership guiding these young men and women. They had no political platform or concrete demands. They simply improvised ways of resisting. Some of these were non-violent, others violent involving the stabbing of not only soldiers but also innocent Israelis. The Israeli government responded with violence, defining all resistance as terrorism.”

Also in episode five listeners heard a long section relating to an incident in Hebron in March 2016 which was inaccurately portrayed as having begun when:

“Abdul Fattah al Sharif, 21, from the occupied old city of Hebron lay on the ground shot after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

As the BBC’s own reports on that incident show, the words “allegedly” and “tried to” are completely superfluous and materially misleading.

“Sharif and another 21-year-old Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.”

There is of course much more on which to comment in these 75 minutes of entirely one-sided stories which completely erase Palestinian agency and responsibility and prompted Sunday Times journalist Rod Liddle to write to the BBC.

“A nice man called Andrew in the BBC Press Office is kind enough to send me a list of stuff the corporation is doing each week. […]

I have never replied to Andrew’s email, but I did last week because I had been listening to the book that Radio 4 was serialising. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your weekly bulletins about what the BBC is up to. I wonder if you could answer my inquiry below, or pass it on to someone who can.

Here’s the thing. I am hugely enjoying the serialisation on Radio 4 of the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh’s entertaining book, How My People Were Robbed, Murdered and Crushed by the Vile Occupying Fascist Israeli State. I may have got the title slightly wrong, for which apologies. I was wondering if the BBC intended, at any point, to serialise a book that might give a contrary point of view on this disputatious issue — perhaps by an Israeli?

All the best,
Rod

I got a friendly acknowledgment from Andrew — and later a two-line reply from the BBC, stating that the corporation’s coverage is impartial. Mr Shehadeh has spent most of his life railing against Israel and Jews, while claiming to be a moderate. And his book is serialised by Radio 4. Of course, it will not serialise a book by an Israeli to provide the political balance that the corporation is duty bound to strive for (even if, frankly, it doesn’t strive terribly hard).”

That just about sums it up.

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A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC R4 presenter portrays response to violent rioting as “attack”

The July 23rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 02:51:43 here) concerning an incident which had taken place the previous night. In her introduction, presenter Martha Kearney described the alleged shooting of a Palestinian youth during violent rioting that included the use of IEDs, rocks, petrol bombs and grenades as an “attack”. [emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian teenager during a raid in the West Bank. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent and Tom – tell us a bit more about this attack.”

Bateman: “Well this was the Deheishe refugee camp. It’s a big refugee camp in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military went in for a raid during the night – I mean these are things that happen frequently. They say they’re often looking for suspects or for weapons manufacturing sites.”

Readers may recall that in May the BBC failed to report the murder of an Israeli soldier during such an operation in another location. Tom Bateman did not clarify to listeners that the places he described as “occupied” – Bethlehem and the Deheishe camp – have been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades. He continued:

Bateman: “They went into the camp looking for two people. They say this triggered clashes The Israelis say that they came under fire with rocks and firebombs and grenades and say they responded using live fire. And in that incident a 15 year-old boy was shot in the chest and died. His name was Arkan Mezher. Following that there were some protests; residents of the camp marching to the local government hospital.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that the incident is under investigation or that the youth was wrapped in the flag of the PFLP terror faction at his funeral.

Martha Kearney went on:

Kearney: “And this comes at a time of increased tensions throughout the region.”

Once again the BBC avoided informing its audiences that Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “Well this is the West bank and I mean there has been, you know, increasing simmering tension on the Gaza boundary between Gaza and Israel. At the…on Friday there was yet another flare-up – really the third in a couple of months – between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There was an Israeli soldier who was shot dead near to the fence. Israel then responded with a wave of airstrikes killing four Palestinians and I mean at the time the UN envoy to the region Nickolay Mladenov was warning that Gaza was on the brink of war. Now over the weekend there seems to have been a relative calm restored but yes; I think the context is about heightened tension.”

Bateman likewise failed to clarify that at least three of those “four Palestinians” were members of Hamas’ militia or that Palestinians subsequently launched three rockets into Israeli territory.

Kearney: “Relative calm and what about ceasefires?”

Bateman: “Well a ceasefire was announced by Hamas on the early hours of Saturday morning. There has been mediation by Egyptian intelligence, by the United Nations. I mean Israel never really comments on these ceasefires but clearly there appears to be some kind of agreement that does for the time being seem to be holding.”

Bateman of course made no effort to inform listeners that Hamas’ July 20th announcement of a ceasefire came just six days after the previous one it announced – and broke.  

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.

Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]

In a news bulletin broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ (from 02:04:51 here) listeners were told by newsreader Diana Speed that:

“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.

In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:

“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):

“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

But is that actually what the legislation says?

In the original Hebrew the relevant clause is titled התיישבות יהודית” – ‘Jewish settlement’, not settlements – and when translated into English it says that:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.

That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.

As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:

“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””

Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification. 

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UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

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UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

Inaccuracies, politicised framing and salad on BBC R4 ‘Woman’s Hour’

h/t CL

Readers may recall that last month we took note of a BBC report in which the programme presenter described an Israeli Arab as ‘Palestinian’ even though the person in question had not identified himself as such.  

“According to a study carried out last year by the Israel Democracy Institute just 14% of the Arab citizens of Israel define their primary identity as Palestinian. However, even in the contemporary era of race and gender self-identification, one BBC World Service radio presenter appears to have granted himself the prerogative of deciding how Israel’s Arab citizens should be defined.”

That issue arose again in the July 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ which included a segment (from 25:48 here) described in the synopsis thus:

“Writer and cook Yasmin Khan’s travels took her from the olive groves of the West Bank and the fruit markets of Jerusalem to the first micro-brewery in Bethlehem [sic]. While breaking bread with the Palestinian people she learnt about the realities of their everyday lives. Yasmin joins Jenni to Cook the Perfect…Fattoush.”

Despite Fattoush being a dish found across the Middle East, in response to a question in the introduction from presenter Jenni Murray, Khan told listeners that “Fattoush is just a classic Palestinian salad”.

Although the BBC Academy’s style guide instructs that “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”, listeners heard Yasmin Khan make repeated references to ‘Palestine’.  

Khan: “…I thought it was so important to try and use food as a way of sharing stories from Palestine…”

Khan:”…in Palestine the olive tree and, you know, olive oil really represents both Palestinian culture, their connection to the land and every Palestinian has an olive tree kind of in their garden…”

Every Palestinian”? Really?

Listeners also heard Khan’s politically motivated definition of other people’s identities.

Murray: “So where, apart from Jerusalem where you learned how to make this, did your travels around Palestinian kitchens take you?”

Khan: “Well I went all over really. I visited Palestinian communities in the north of Israel in Acre and Haifa […] then I went over to the Galilee…”

Having stated that she “cooked with refugees in Bethlehem” without listeners being told why there are refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades, Khan went on:

Khan: “And then I even, you know, found time to have a drink with workers at the Taybeh beer factory…”

The Taybeh brewery is, unsurprisingly, located in Taybeh rather than “in Bethlehem” as inaccurately claimed in the programme’s synopsis.

Murray asked: “Alcoholic beer?”

Khan: “Absolutely. I mean 30% of Palestinians are Christian so you know there’s a wonderful wine industry. They make beers, beautiful arak.”

According to the CIA World Factbook just 1 – 2.5% of the population of the ‘West Bank’ are Christians and in the Gaza Strip Christians make up less than 1% of the population. The “wonderful wine industry” in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas is primarily composed of one winery run by the same family that owns the Taybeh brewery and a winery in the Cremisan monastery.

In response to Murray’s question “how do you define yourself what is actually authentically Palestinian?” listeners heard a reply from Khan which steers readers towards the view that “millennia” old Palestinian cuisine predates other “influences”:

Khan: “Well you know Palestinian food has evolved through several millennia of different influences, whether they’re Islamic, Jewish, Roman, Persian, Ottoman.”

Later on they heard the following context-free statement:

Khan: “There is no doubt that Palestinians are going through incredible hardship especially in places like Gaza where, when we talk about food, I mean, you know, 80% of them are dependent on food aid to survive, 90% of the water is undrinkable.”

Near the beginning Murray noted that her guest had “worked as a human rights campaigner for a very long time”. Radio 4 listeners were not however told that Khan previously worked for the anti-Israel NGO ‘War on Want’ and is on record as promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and campaigning for an arms embargo on Israel.

Aired on the day that Khan’s cookery book was published, this item obviously includes political messaging that will come as no surprise to those familiar with Yasmin Khan’s campaigning record. Listeners to ‘Woman’s Hour’ were not however informed that Khan is “associated with a particular viewpoint” as BBC editorial guidelines require and hence were unable to put the politically motivated claims and messaging they heard in an item portrayed as being about food into their appropriate context. 

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