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.

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BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

As documented here at the time, earlier this month the BBC chose to ignore the release of information concerning Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan Heights.

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

Not only have BBC audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in south-west Syria in recent years but the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

That framing was again promoted by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barabara Plett Usher in several recent reports concerning US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In an article titled “Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory” that appeared on the BBC News website on March 21st, readers saw superfluous scare quotes attached to the phrase military entrenchment.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has warned about the “military entrenchment” of his country’s arch-enemy Iran in Syria and has ordered air strikes in an attempt to thwart it…”

Subsequent analysis from Plett Usher suggested to readers that the subject of the Iranian build-up of force in Syria is not only open to debate but a tactic used by Israel to advance its interests. [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

The same ‘analysis’ from Plett Usher appeared in a report published on March 22nd under the title “Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks”.

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

In an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means” which first appeared on March 22nd and was then posted in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 25th as well as promoted in a report titled “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli” published on the same day, Plett Usher wrote:

 “…Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.”

In the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 12:17 here) listeners heard Plett Usher claim that:

“Mr Netanyahu had stepped up lobbying for such a move since Mr Trump took office. He’s gained traction by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel and the Golan Heights is the front line.”

The week before she produced those reports Barbara Plett Usher had been at a press briefing given by the US Secretary of State and had asked a question concerning the Golan Heights.

“MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara.

QUESTION: […] And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

Not only did Plett Usher herself sound significantly less sceptical about “Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan” in that question but she got a very clear answer from the US Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, in her reports to BBC audiences Plett Usher’s framing includes promotion of the notion that there is room for doubt with regard to the actions and intentions of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

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BBC’s Knell claims Gaza IED attackers ‘demonstrate against Israeli policies’

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on Friday, March 22nd heard a report (from 16:53 here) concerning the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption earlier in the day of the report submitted by the commission of inquiry it set up last May. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning what it calls Israel’s apparent use of unlawful and other excessive force after an inquiry into last year’s deadly protests at the Gaza border. The UK has expressed concern about anti-Israel bias and abstained from the vote. Health officials in Gaza say Israeli forces have killed two people and wounded 55 today in the latest demonstration. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Audiences were not told that “health officials in Gaza” are in fact one and the same as the terrorist organisation which encourages thousands of people to riot at the border fence every week.

Knell: “Israel condemned this hard-hitting resolution, saying it was an absurd and hypocritical ritual of the council to single it out for criticism. While 23 countries voted in favour and eight against, the UK was among 15 to abstain. On Twitter the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had earlier written ‘it cannot be right that Israel – the world’s only Jewish state – is the only nation the UN Human Rights Council dedicates an entire agenda item to’. The resolution followed a UN inquiry which said Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding over six thousand in Gaza protests last year. Israel says its military acts only to defend its civilians. Today, Gaza’s Hamas rulers – keen to distract from recent economic protests – again encouraged locals to demonstrate against Israeli policies.”

Apparently Yolande Knell has not sufficiently studied the Commission’s report (see page 104) as she cites the number – 189 – of Palestinians it claims were killed during the rioting rather than the number it claims were killed by Israeli forces.

As we see, throughout this news bulletin the year-long rioting that has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts was euphemistically portrayed (in line with BBC editorial policy from day one) as “protests” and “demonstrations”.

Knell’s portrayal of the March 22 incidents as a demonstration “against Israeli policies” clearly does not give audiences a clear understanding of what actually happened on that day.

“Several thousand Palestinians were protesting along the Gaza Strip border on Friday, throwing explosive devices and rocks at soldiers who were responding with tear gas and occasional live fire. Palestinians said two people were killed.

Also Friday, a balloon carrying an incendiary device launched from Gaza set a blaze between homes in the nearby Israeli kibbutz of Nir Am. The fire was extinguished and there were no reports of injuries. Another blaze was started near Kibbutz Be’eri.

In riots along the barrier, Palestinians tried to destroy the border fence in several places, but were pushed back by the IDF. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians, an 18-year-old and a 29-year-old, were killed by live fire and 55 wounded.”

For fifty-one weeks the BBC has been producing coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting that has uniformly downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in their organisation and execution has (until some recent but isolated clarification by Yolande Knell concerning Hamas’ involvement) been repeatedly ignored.

The BBC’s funding public has heard absolutely nothing about the airborne explosive devices employed in recent months or the night-time rioting organised by Hamas. Audiences have however heard and seen homogeneously uncritical promotion of the UNHRC commission’s report on a subject about which they have been serially under-informed.

That of course means that the BBC’s domestic audiences are – in contrast to the corporation’s public purpose obligations – not well placed to understand what their own foreign secretary means when he refers to “discrimination” and the intention of the UK to oppose Item 7 resolutions at the UNHRC.

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A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

 

BBC gets Golan Heights population wrong again

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 21st heard (from 17:47 here) the following report: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “President Trump has said it’s time for the United States to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – territory which was captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. The announcement – in the form of a Tweet – has been welcomed by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu but is highly controversial as our world affairs correspondent Paul Adams explains.”

Adams: “Not for the first time Donald Trump has chosen Twitter to make a foreign policy announcement with huge ramifications. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war – the same conflict which saw it occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It never formally annexed the Golan but passed a law in 1981 which had much the same effect. Twelve thousand Israeli settlers have moved there. Now President Trump says it’s time to recognise what he calls Israel’s sovereignty. The Golan, he said, was of critical strategic and security importance to Israel. If he follows through, Israel will be delighted – as it was when he decided to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year. Bit by bit Mr Trump seems determined to change the course of long-established American Middle East policy.”

The population of the Golan’s one town, Katzrin, is currently around 8,000. The combined population of the other smaller Israeli communities on the Golan Heights (not including the four Druze communities and the Alawite village of Ghajar, where the residents are also Israeli citizens) is around 17,600. The total number of what Paul Adams terms “settlers” in the Golan Heights is therefore around 25,600 – i.e. more than double the number of people he claims “have moved there”.

With nearly 52 years have passed since the Golan Heights came under Israeli control, a significant proportion of the people living in the region did not ‘move there’ at all but were born as second and third generation Golan Heights residents. Seeing as it is however highly unlikely that Paul Adams was seeking to differentiate between those who came to live in the Golan Heights after 1967 and those residing there since birth, we can conclude that Adams’ inaccurate claim of 12,000 “settlers” is once again the result of inadequate research.

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What is missing from BBC news bulletins on Gaza protests?

As we saw earlier in the week, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell managed to write an entire feature on the topic of the recent popular protests against the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip without explaining how Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism has affected that situation.

“While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.”

The day after that article was published – March 19th – listeners to the ‘Six O’Clock News’ on BBC Radio 4 heard another report from Knell on the same topic (from 19:06 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The Hamas-run authorities in Gaza have been continuing to make arrests following unprecedented protests about the economic conditions there. Dozens of journalists and human rights workers as well as the group’s political opponents are among those who’ve been detained. The clamp down has been documented online as our Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem, Yolande Knell, has been finding out.”

Knell: “A woman screams as a man is dragged away by Hamas security forces in a video uploaded to social media. Other footage online showed people being badly beaten with live ammunition being fired in the air. Protests with the slogan ‘We Want to Live’ began last week, bringing hundreds of people onto the streets across Gaza. Nothing of this scale has been seen since Hamas took full control here over a decade ago. This woman doesn’t hold back in her criticism. ‘The sons of Hamas leaders have houses and cars. They can afford to get married. They have everything’ she says ‘and our children have nothing – not even a piece of bread’. Recently, high taxes have pushed up prices but already Gaza’s economy was broken. 70% of young people have no jobs. Israel and Egypt have kept a tight blockade in place since the take-over by Hamas, which is widely seen as a terrorist group. Hamas is blaming its political rival Fatah for stirring up unrest in Gaza – something it denies. After years of ruling this tiny territory with an iron fist, recent days have shown cracks in the authority of Hamas. Its tactics may now be scaring people away from protests but that’s not stopping them from venting their anger online.”

The same report was also aired in the BBC Radio 4 ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 18:20 here).

In addition to giving a euphemistic portrayal of the violent coup perpetrated by Hamas in 2007, Knell failed to clarify to listeners that what she terms a “tight blockade” was made necessary by the rise in Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians following that violent coup – including over 3,000 attacks using rockets and mortars in the first year alone.

Clearly Knell intends listeners to understand that Gaza’s ‘already broken’ economy is linked to the counter-terrorism measures implemented by Israel and Egypt. However, once again she has absolutely nothing to tell BBC audiences about Hamas’ prioritisation of its terror infrastructure and activities over the welfare of residents in the Gaza Strip.

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Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

h/t GB

Since February 28th BBC audiences have seen several examples of uncritical amplification of a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

As has been documented here over the past twelve months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ weekly violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as mere “protests” and “demonstrations”. BBC reporting has serially downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in the organisation and execution of the provocation has been repeatedly ignored.

On March 18th the Commission of Inquiry presented its report at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. Even before that presentation had taken place, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ aired an item (from 02:49:40 here) in which that partisan framing of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting was repeated.

Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item with a portrayal of Israel as an ‘occupying force’ in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the territory nearly 14 years ago.

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

Robinson: “A commission established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate what it calls the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians is due to deliver its conclusions later today. Israel has always insisted that it has no choice but to protect its border with Gaza using, if necessary, live fire and dismisses the report as anything but independent.”

Having framed those participating in year-long acts of violence as “civilians” despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of those killed had links to terrorist organisations, Robinson went on to falsely assert that ‘the core facts are not in dispute’ even as he described the violent rioting as “protests”.

Robinson: “The core facts though are not really in dispute. The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website published an article about Loubani last May in which he made the same claims. As was documented here at the time:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.”

As noted here when the BBC interviewed Loubani in 2015:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.”

Robinson of course did not bother to provide his listeners with that relevant background information before introducing another doctor.

Robinson: “Well listening to that is an orthopaedic surgeon all too familiar with these sorts of injuries. He works at the al Shifa hospital. He’s Dr Mahmoud Mattar and he’s at the United Nations in Geneva today to hear what the UN Human Rights Commission will have to say. […]

Once again Robinson promoted the BBC’s chosen framing:

Robinson: “The Israeli military say that they often fire into the legs of protesters but that they only do it as a last resort and they do it to avoid killing people. Explain to us what the impact of the injury you treat and see is, please.”

After Mattar had described the injuries and the difficulties faced by hospitals trying to treat large numbers of patients (but without clarifying that the hospital where he works is run by the same terror organisation which organises the violent rioting), Robinson again gave an inaccurate portrayal of the past year’s events along the border.

Robinson: “The human toll is terrible but what do you expect from the commission because clearly Palestinians will say they have a right to protest peacefully but Israel will say if you approach the border you are a risk to the Israelis on the other side of the border and they have repeatedly warned that people who do approach the border may well be shot.”

Mattar replied with the claim that hospitals in the Gaza strip should be given better equipment in order to deal with the injuries and Robinson – obviously looking for a political sound-bite – interrupted him.

Robinson [interrupts] “So you think the right reaction today is a humanitarian response – more money for medical care – rather than a political response about who is to blame.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m not here to blame anyone actually. With all the aggression we know by all the international law that the protester have the right to demonstrate peacefully. In addition we also have the right to be treated fully as the international world.”

Robinson: “But of course the Israelis would say they have the right under international law to defend their border.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m talking from this point as a medical professional. I’m not know too much about the border and what happen in the border but actually what I know…”

Apparently realising that he was not going to get the reaction he was looking for, Robinson interrupted his interviewee again and closed the conversation.

Robinson [interrupts]: “But you will be back, Dr Mattar, in Gaza soon.”

Mattar: “Yeah, yeah.”

Robinson: “Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us.”

The BBC’s consistently one-sided coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ over the past twelve months, means that audiences lack essential background information on that topic. Rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, this latest BBC item again downplays the threats facing Israel and ignores the fact that the violence is orchestrated by terror groups. Once again we see unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report without any mention of its defects and the continuing promotion of a blatant politically motivated narrative.

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A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

On March 18th the BBC got round to telling listeners to one of its radio stations something about the demonstrations against Hamas which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip since last week.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 37:47 here) by Yolande Knell in which – oddly – those and other recent events in the region were framed as being connected to the upcoming general election in Israel.

Presenter Nick Robinson began by referring to the terror attacks that took place the previous morning in Samaria which had hitherto been ignored by the BBC.

Robinson: “Tensions are rising ahead of Israel’s elections. The Israeli army says that a person has been killed and two seriously injured in a shooting near the Ariel settlement on the occupied West Bank. We can talk to our correspondent Yolande Knell. Tell us more about that incident, Yolande, please.”

Knell began by giving an account of the incident which – predictably – did not include the words terror or terrorist.

Knell: “Well the Israeli military is still searching this morning for a Palestinian man who was…ehm…this attacker yesterday in the West Bank. He killed an Israeli soldier of 19 years old and then wounded badly two other people. Basically he stole the gun of the soldier after stabbing him and then started firing at cars heading towards the nearby settlement. He took one of those cars, having injured a man inside, and then drove it to another nearby junction where he shot and badly injured a second soldier before he drove off. So I mean really Palestinian attacks with guns, knives, car rammings; they have continued to occur sporadically in the West Bank but really the frequency of such attacks has decreased a lot from back in 2015 and 2016 when there was a real series of them. But this in very worrying for the Israelis as they head towards the April 9th general election where the prime minister wants to run for his fifth term. He’s really brandishing his credentials as Israel’s Mr Security.”

As recently reported at the Times of Israel, Knell’s portrayal of “decreased” terror attacks since 2015/16 does not tell the whole story.

“…Israeli officials say that slightly more than 200 terror attacks were prevented in 2015, about 350 in 2016, roughly 400 in 2017, and almost 600 in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been almost 100 thwarted terror attacks — and these are only of the kind defined as severe: shootings, explosives, vehicle-rammings, and the like. In other words, terrorists are attempting to perpetrate more terror attacks each year, and their motivation remains high.”

Robinson continued with further reinforcement of that questionable framing.

Robinson: “I talked of increasing tensions ahead of those elections. There were rocket attacks on Tel Aviv from Gaza and retaliatory strikes on Gaza by the Israeli armed forces.”

Knell: “That’s right. Quite a lot of unusual things happening in Gaza in just the last few days. Last Thursday night, as Hamas leaders sat down with an Egyptian security delegation which has been trying to mediate a longer-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, there were two longer range rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv. That’s something that has not been seen here since the 2014 full-scale armed conflict…ahm…between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Then the Israel military responded with airstrikes on dozens of Hamas targets.”

Notably Knell failed to inform listeners that residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip had also been targeted with several barrages of rocket fire overnight and the following morning. However we discover that – in contrast to her colleagues at the BBC News website – Yolande Knell was able to tell ‘Today’ listeners who is behind the weekly rioting along the border fence.

Knell: “There was then this insistence from Hamas and the Egyptians that the rocket fire was some kind of mistake and as Egypt tried to broker calm, Hamas called for the cancellation of its demonstrations along the boundary fence last Friday. That’s the first time that’s really happened since those protests began nearly a year ago.”

Knell moved on to another topic:

Knell: “The other thing that’s caught us somewhat by surprise…erm…is…several days of protests in Gaza by another group calling itself ‘We Want to Live’ and they’re really protesting – defying the tight control of the Hamas authorities – protesting about the rising cost of living and high taxes in Gaza. And that’s led to dozens of arrests, people being beaten up by the Hamas security forces including journalists and human rights workers.”

Failing to mention the reports of Hamas’ use of live fire against the demonstrators, Knell then rounded off her report with more dubious framing relating to the upcoming election.

Knell: “And Israeli commentators writing in the papers this morning that there’s kind of a paradox here. Normally Israel would be very pleased with the kind of public protest in Gaza, seeing it as proof that its closure policy in Gaza, which often says could lead to Hamas’ downfall, is working. But right now this is the kind of turmoil that will be more worrying for Israeli officials. It doesn’t want to see some kind of disintegration in Gaza – possibly even leading to another full-armed conflict – just ahead of those elections.”

Despite Knell’s use of the plural, one Israeli commentator wrote one piece in one newspaper claiming a “paradox” on that day. The paper is Ha’aretz and the commentator is Zvi Bar’el. This is what he wrote:

“The paradox is that under other circumstances, Israel would be pleased with the public protest in Gaza and see it as proof of the success of the closure policy, which it believes could lead to Hamas’ downfall. But the turmoil Hamas is experiencing worries Israel too. It needs a partner to take responsibility for running the Strip, stop a disintegration that could lead to a large-scale armed conflict on the eve of the election, and serve as an address for mediation. Suddenly it turns out that the confrontations at the fence are a marginal threat, if at all, compared to the risk of instability of the Hamas government.”

Leaving aside the fact that what Knell and her unnamed source describe as “closure policy” primarily came about because of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli citizens, the BBC’s domestic audiences now know that their obligatory licence fee goes towards paying for Yolande Knell to sit in a Jerusalem studio and recite almost word for word selected passages from a publication read by less than 4% of the Israeli public which they could actually have found online for themselves.

Knell also used Bar’el’s commentary in a written report published later in the day on the BBC News website as we shall see in part two of this post.

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BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

Last month we documented one of many examples of BBC reporting on antisemitism in which an antisemitic statement was inaccurately and misleadingly described as “comments about Israel” and insufficient effort was made to explain why the statement was considered antisemitic. We observed at the time that:

“…as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.”

On March 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme witnessed another such example in the introduction to an item relating to US politics (from 2:51:23 here) by presenter Justin Webb. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “President Trump limps from crisis to crisis but his opponents, the Democrats, seem themselves to be in a mess. They won control of the House of Representatives last autumn and they sent some very high-profile new faces to Washington, among them the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Well it hasn’t turned out though to be such plain sailing for her or the others. She is now accused of being antisemitic after she suggested that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel.”

Leaving aside the fact that criticism of the comments made by Ilhan Omar in late February has focused on the antisemitic nature of the dual loyalty charge found in her statements rather than on the congresswoman herself and so Webb’s claim that “she is now accused of being antisemitic” does not reflect that criticism, no effort was made to explain to listeners that the claim that “Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel” – or as Omar actually put it “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country” – is categorised as a manifestation of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

Without that essential information, listeners would obviously not be in a position to understand this story fully. Webb continued:

Webb: “And that has prompted some very deep soul-searching as the party works out how it’s going to get rid of President Trump in the presidential elections. I’ve been hearing from the Democratic supporting polling expert John Zogby.”

After Zogby had spoken about “the demographic battle within the party between an old guard versus a new group of Young Turks that represent really millennials and Generation Z”, Justin Webb came up with the following bizarre question.

Webb: “The party’s having a big row about antisemitism and it’s fair to say to the surprise, I think, of some Democrats who really thought it wasn’t going to be the issue that it is. If…if the party decided to say to its supporters ‘look, we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism; that actually it’s a different order of racism, it’s not as important, it’s still bad but it’s not as important as some other forms of racism’, what impact do you think that would have?”

We have been unable to find any evidence of such a suggestion having been put forward by the Democratic party (and indeed Zogby’s response was “you won’t see it happen”) so why Webb found it appropriate to float the grotesque notion of more important and less important types of racism is unclear.

Unsurprisingly, Webb failed to challenge Zogby when he came up with the inadequately explained claim that some people within the Democratic party are confusing antisemitism with “opposition to Israeli policies”.

Zogby: “By the same token to confuse antisemitism with Israeli policies and opposition to Israeli policies is a very difficult road to go down and by some establishment figures within the Democratic party, we saw how dangerous that gets. And that is one of the key points within this demographic revolution. Younger people let’s just say don’t have the automatic admiration for Israel. They know a post-intifada Israel and they know Israel as a foreign country.”

Webb went on to ask Zogby what would happen “if the Democratic party moved in the direction of being much more critical of Israel than it has been in the past, never mind the antisemitism issue”. Zogby replied that while some Jewish voters “would move away”, the numbers could be “more than made up…by energising millennials and energising non-whites”.

After a final question concerning the presidential election, Webb closed the item.

Following the broadcast the Jewish Chronicle contacted the BBC for comment and was told that “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better”. Apparently a BBC representative also said that “Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because “the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are””. 

For years we have watched the BBC fail to provide the accurate and impartial reporting which would help its audiences understand antisemitism related stories in the UK. As we see, that serial failure is now being replicated in stories relating to US politics – not least because the BBC still does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism and because BBC staff too often appear to have forgotten that it is their job to inform audiences rather than subject them to esoteric insider chats that show off their own ‘familiarity’ with a topic. 

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

 

 

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

The March 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item by Mishal Husain who is currently in Lebanon for a special broadcast from that country on March 11th to mark eight years since the beginning of the uprising in Syria.

Although the report (from 35:20 here) was introduced by both co-presenter Martha Kearney and Mishal Husain as being connected to the topic of “the war in Syria” and UK aid to Syrians displaced by that conflict, its focus soon shifted to a different topic.

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

Husain: “The UK’s just pledged an extra £100 million for Syrians in need and the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has told me host countries like Lebanon need ongoing support too. He came to Beirut straight after the government’s decision to ban the political wing of Hizballah – an organisation that’s had elected MPs in the Lebanese parliament for years. It’s part of the current government, controlling three ministries. I’ve been speaking to Amal Saad, professor of political science at the Lebanese University and the author of a book on Hizballah.”

As we see, that introduction (notable for Husain’s promotion of the entirely false notion of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah) was no more helpful in aiding listeners to understand that they were about to hear from a Hizballah supporter than were the introductions heard by audiences on previous occasions when the BBC brought in Amal Saad for comment.

Listeners also received no information which would help them understand that when Hizballah and its supporters speak of ‘resistance’ against Israel, they in fact mean the destruction of that state.

Saad: “It’s first and foremost priority is resisting Israel and now fighting jihadis.”

Husain: “How entrenched is it in Lebanese politics, in Lebanese society today?”

Saad: “For the past 15 years or so Hizballah has been deeply entrenched in the Lebanese state: in the civil service, also in municipalities – across the board basically. And of course there is also the military and security cooperation that Hizballah has with the Lebanese army and with Lebanon’s security services.”

Listeners heard no mention of the fact that the 2006 UN Security Council resolution 1701 stated that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State” should be implemented. Predictably, neither Husain nor her interviewee bothered to inform listeners that Hizballah is funded and supplied with weapons (also in violation of that UN resolution) by a foreign power.

Husain went on to once again promote the chimera of different ‘wings’ of the terror group.

Husain: “The UK says it can no longer make a distinction between the military and the political wing of Hizballah. Is it a false distinction to make?”

Saad: “I think it was an artificial one and it was a politically expedient one to facilitate dialogue and cooperation with Hizballah in Lebanon. In fact Hizballah is not a party with a military wing. It’s a resistance army and it has a political wing.”

Husain: “And that has meant fighting on the same side as President Assad in Syria and it’s been linked to the Houthi fighters backed by Iran in Yemen. One assumes that that is what the UK means when it says it’s destabilising the Middle East.”

The BBC’s domestic audiences then heard the claim that their own government’s policies are dictated by foreign interests.

Saad: “The British focused a lot on its role in Syria in the parliamentary report. The main argument was about Hizballah’s destabilising role in the region with emphasis on Syria. There was very little about actual terrorist incidents anywhere in the world. The UK is very troubled by Hizballah’s role in the region in the sense that it conflicts with US interests in the region. I think that’s the real problem.”

Despite having been told that Hizballah is a militia, Husain persisted in labelling it as a political organisation:

Husain: “But it is a party which has a history in what you call the resistance to Israel. It’s been responsible in the past for bombings, there were tunnels that have been dug into Israel. You look at all of that and around and then perhaps people say well, this is a valid decision for the UK to have taken.”

Saad: “This is part and parcel of an open war between Hizballah and Israel. There’s a balance of deterrence between the two. Even if we were talking about any transgressions that the UK has decided Hizballah has made, you know, they could try Hizballah for war crimes if they like. But that’s not the same thing as terrorism.”

That part of the item closed with that whitewashing of Hizballah’s terror activities and with no mention of UNSC resolution 1701 or Iran’s role as Hizballah’s mentor and supplier and no explanation of what the euphemism ‘resistance’ really means.

Despite having been told by Amal Saad in very plain terms that the notion of separate wings of Hizballah is “artificial”, Husain then went on to press her point (from 38:35) with Alistair Burt.

Husain: “We did make that distinction for more than a decade. So what has changed?”

Husain: “Last year a minister said that there wasn’t the evidence to proscribe the political wing of Hizballah. What changed between last year and this year?”

And when Burt mentioned the annual ‘Quds Day’ marches in the UK, Husain interrupted him with the following flippant remark:

Husain: “You made this decision on the basis of flags at a demonstration?”

Clearly this item, with comment coming from a Hizballah supporter and numerous grave omissions, comes nowhere near to providing licence fee paying listeners with the “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” that is supposed to improve their ability to understand their own government’s decision to proscribe Hizballah.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio listeners get unchallenged Hizballah messaging – part one

BBC WS radio listeners get unchallenged Hizballah messaging – part two

BBC’s Newshour Extra listeners get a partisan ‘explanation’ of Hizballah

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

If the BBC was making a report about homophobic remarks or racist comments directed at black or Asian people it would be unlikely to solicit a contribution from a person promoting the view that criticism of such statements was intended to “shut down legitimate debate”.

That, however, is exactly what listeners to the March 4th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ heard in an item by Gary O’Donoghue which was introduced by presenter Sarah Montague (from 25:03 here) using a rather curious claim. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Montague: “Now then, Labour isn’t the only Left of centre political party having to weather accusations of antisemitism at the moment. In the United States Democrats are having to counter claims that the leftward shift of their party is leading to antisemitic attitudes among some of their new members of Congress. Republicans have been trying to make the most of their political difficulties. From Washington, here’s our correspondent Gary O’Donoghue.”

Using an archive recording of former US president Harry Truman that includes the phrase “the problem of Israel”, O’Donoghue began by noting the longstanding Jewish American support for the Democratic party before asking “So what’s wrong?”. Listeners then heard from a person subsequently identified as Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times.

Weisman: “I think that the Labour party of Britain right now is what the Democratic party dreads and is desperate to avoid.”

O’Donoghue explained:

“…it’s the antisemitism label he’s talking about when he says the Democrats are desperate to avoid Labour’s mistakes in Britain. But why would a party that gets 75% of Jewish American votes risk being called antisemitic?”

Listeners then heard the phrase “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” read out before O’Donoghue explained:

O’Donoghue: “A Tweet from a new young progressive Democrat elected to the House of Representatives called Ilhan Omar – one of the first two Muslim women ever to sit in Congress. She was talking about the influence of AIPAC – the American Israel Political Action Committee – a powerful lobbying group. The Benjamins is slang for $100 bills carrying, as they do, the face of Benjamin Franklin.”

O’Donoghue then brought in Deborah Lipstadt to explain further.

Lipstatdt: “When you say ‘it’s all about the Benjamins, baby’, that’s using a trope. Whether she was conscious of it or not – she says she was not conscious of it so I don’t know – American politics is infused with money. So if you say only this is about money, again, how come only this and not everything else?”

O’Donoghue went on to tell listeners that Lipstadt “says money is just one of a whole range of tropes that constitute antisemitism” before another recording was heard.

O’Donoghue: “Enter Rashida Tlaib; fellow Muslim freshman in Congress and […] someone else facing accusations of antisemitsm. In her case it was criticisms of fellow Democrats for not backing the so-called BDS movement which promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

As ever in BBC content, listeners heard no further explanation of the anti-Israel BDS campaign and its aims before O’Donoghue went on:

O’Donoghue: “And yes, it was a Tweet.

‘They forgot what country they represent. This is the US where boycotting is a right and a part of our historical fight for freedom and equality.’

That, say her critics, manifests another antisemitic trope: that Jews have split loyalties.”

Listeners then heard the BBC’s idea of ‘balance’: promotion of what is known in the UK as the Livingstone Formulation.

O’Donoghue: “But Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights says antisemitism allegations are used to shut down legitimate debate.”

In breach of editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be made clear, O’Donoghue did not bother to inform his audience of the fact that Munayyer is himself a supporter of BDS and that the organisation he represents mobilises anti-Israel BDS campaigns. Lacking that obviously relevant information, listeners then heard from Munayyer:

Munayyer: “It weaponises one form of bigotry and one form of oppression to help defend and enable another. It is important to be able to say, you know, in one voice that we oppose antisemitism. We also oppose what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.”

And so we see once again that the BBC’s interpretation of impartiality leads it to amplify claims from inadequately introduced anti-Israel campaigners which actually hinder audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism.

O’Donoghue’s report continued with comment from a representative of a Jewish organisation linked to the Democratic party before he went on:

O’Donoghue: “But it’s not just two members of Congress. Others on the Left face similar allegations. Most recently leaders of the Women’s March organisation have been heavily criticised over their connections to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who many regard as overtly antisemitic.”

Failing to provide his British listeners with anything more informative than that tepid portrayal of Farrakhan’s long-standing record of antisemitism and additional forms of bigotry, O’Donoghue brought in Deborah Lidstadt once again before closing his report.

O’Donoghue: “It’s not of course just a problem for the Left. Far-Right white supremacists trade in the same antisemitic ideas. But the Democratic leadership are conscious that a new, younger, more Left-leaning party base could drive a wedge between them and Jewish Americans, already wooed by Republican policies such as pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.”

Remarkably, although there was no room in O’Donoghue’s portrayal of antisemitism in the United States for the no less relevant issue of Islamist antisemitism, he did find the space for promotion of false balance in the form of the Livingstone Formulation – just as has been seen so often in BBC coverage of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

David Ward saga: BBC still prevaricating on antisemitism

One-staters get BBC WS platform for promotion of BDS, ‘resistance’ and ‘apartheid’ trope