What was missing from a ‘not to be missed’ report on BBC Two’s Newsnight?

The July 3rd edition of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight’ included a report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman which was described by the BBC as “not to be missed”.

As well as being shown on the programme itself, a clip from the report was posted on the Newsnight webpage under the title “Growing tensions between West Bank Palestinians & Israeli settlers”.

“The fate of the two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is looking bleaker than ever.

The Americans now barely mention the term; their envoy in Jerusalem speaks instead of Israel’s “right” to sovereignty in parts of the occupied West Bank and UN figures suggest growing cases of violence by settlers amid a recent spike in bloodshed by both sides.”

Neither in that synopsis nor the report itself were audiences told which UN agency produced those figures but it is more than likely the highly partisan UNOCHA which produces regular reports based on information provided by political NGOs, some of which are involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigns against Israel.

Bateman opened his report with an incident which took place in Yasuf in early June, telling viewers that:

“The Israeli police say they are searching for the suspects but so far they’ve found no-one: a common outcome in these kinds of cases.”

After giving air-time to unevidenced claims from another interviewee from the same village, Bateman told viewers that:

“These villagers grew up under military occupation. Now their children see the Israeli watch towers too. Reported hate crimes against Palestinians doubled to nearly 300 last year says the UN. Villagers must ultimately turn to the Israeli army for protection, with all the complexity that entails. A military drawn from one people among two hostile populations.”

Having spoken to the deputy mayor of Yasuf, Bateman told BBC audiences:

“I think the main thing is that this is not just about isolated incidents. When you come here and you speak to people, you’re really struck by how this is a way of life: a low-level conflict. People feel intimidated, under threat. And at the end of that really you have two sides, both seeking control of the same land.”

By now at the half-way point in his report, Bateman told viewers that “the village [Yasuf] looks out onto several settlements – and they’re growing” and then went on to interview an Israeli couple from Tapuach West, promoting the BBC’s partisan international law mantra en route.

“Rivka took me to see the settlement outpost her family built. Like most Israelis she rejects the view of international law that sees the settlements as illegal. She is among the most ideological supporters. But an anti-occupation group recently petitioned the Israeli courts and her home was demolished.”

While Bateman did not identify that “anti-occupation group”, he was apparently referring to the political NGO ‘Yesh Din’. He told viewers:

“They talk of a constant threat. Late last year there was a surge of violence in the West Bank. In a matter of months five Israelis were killed by Palestinians and alleged attacks by settlers saw at least two Palestinians die.”

Between October and December 2018 inclusive five Israelis were murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. We have been able to find record of one Palestinian fatality during the same period of time. Bateman did not inform viewers that a suspect has been charged in connection with that case.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has a long record of under-reporting Palestinian terrorism, particularly when attacks do not result in fatalities. In 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities. Throughout the whole of 2017 the BBC News website reported a total of fourteen incidents – i.e. 0.92% of the terror attacks which actually took place –  and 89% of the total fatalities.

Quoting anonymous “campaign groups” but providing no evidence to support the claim, Bateman closed his report by telling viewers that:

“Settler violence reinforces the goals of the state, say campaign groups, to take as much land as possible.”

He did not bother to clarify that such attacks have long been publicly and repeatedly condemned by Israel’s prime minister, leaders of the communities in Judea & Samaria, security officials and the Israeli public.

Bateman concluded with two further claims:

“Israel routinely says it investigates these cases but conviction rates are extremely low.”

“…the settlement movement is arguably enjoying more support than ever…”

The most notable aspect of this “not to be missed” report from Tom Bateman is, however, the part of the story that he chose to leave out. Throughout the entire item, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the differences between the policies of the Israeli authorities – investigations, arrests, and legal action taken against those suspected of carrying out attacks – and the approach of the Palestinian Authority to those of its citizens carrying out violent attacks against Israelis: glorification of the acts and their perpetrators and financial rewards

That is obviously a very serious omission, particularly given that the BBC’s record of reporting on PA incitement, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to terrorists means that audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

 

BBC impartiality – a case study

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that: (update: link to new version here

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument. The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

And:

“Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion.  We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts.  We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument. […]

Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item.  Instead, we should seek to achieve ‘due weight’.  For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

Nevertheless, the omission of an important perspective, in a particular context, may jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.  Decisions over whether to include or omit perspectives should be reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied editorial judgement across an appropriate range of output.”

The corporation’s coverage of the recent US initiated economic workshop in Bahrain provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage ahead of a debate in the UK Parliament on that topic on July 15th.

Between June 20th and June 26th 2019 various BBC departments put out content relating to the conference in Bahrain. Common threads running through that coverage included:

  • Heavy promotion of Palestinian Authority and PLO talking points both by BBC journalists and by means of interviews with Palestinians.
  • Promotion of the notion of ‘the Palestinians’ as a homogeneous entity under one leadership with no mention of the long-standing splits between Palestinian factions and the fact that the PA and PLO do not represent the Palestinians as a whole.
  • The absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas and additional factions reject the idea of a peace agreement with Israel.
  • Exclusive promotion of the PLO’s interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’.
  • Use of partial terminology such as “illegal settlements”.
  • The absence of any mention of the participation of Palestinian businessmen in the conference and subsequent events.
  • Downplaying – and in most cases, ignoring – Palestinian terrorism and its role in creating the need for counter-terrorism measures.

While the table below is not exhaustive, it gives an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligation to “give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument” and to reflect “a breadth and diversity of opinion”.

As we see, the BBC chose to provide air-time to three times more Palestinian officials than Israeli officials and did not include any interviews with US officials in its coverage at all. Audiences saw or heard extensive and repeated comment from Palestinian civilians while just two Israeli voices were heard in a single item. Interviews were conducted with two representatives from US think tanks, one Saudi Arabian journalist and one inadequately presented UN official. 

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

[2] More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one & More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

[3] BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

[4] https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141985649131757569 & https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141986084525674496

[5] Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

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

[7] More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

[8] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743663

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743429

[10] BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one & BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part two

[11] BBC WS ‘Newshour’ listeners get little more than PA talking points

[12] BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one & BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

Across a variety of BBC platforms, audiences were given a very specific and overwhelmingly one-sided view of the Bahrain economic workshop and the US peace initiative in general. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear “a breadth and diversity of opinion” at all. 

Whether or not the fact that BBC journalists were given a ‘briefing’ by a Palestinian Authority representative three days before coverage began (a BBC decision which in itself is detrimental to “perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality”) had an effect on the chosen framing is of course difficult to determine but certainly the corporation’s coverage of the Bahrain economic workshop did not live up to its supposed standards of editorial impartiality. 

The purpose of those editorial standards is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. In this case it is abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports. 

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

No BBC reporting on arrest of Bahrain workshop participant

 

BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ fails to challenge misinformation on antisemitism

The news that the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) had opened an investigation into the UK Labour Party in order to determine whether it “has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” prompted the BBC Two flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’ to air a related report on May 28th.

The report included an interview with Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and former Labour MP Clare Short by presenter Emma Barnett.

Much of Clare Short’s contribution focused on promoting one specific false claim which, given her record of anti-Israel activism and her previous statements concerning the Labour party antisemitism scandal, could hardly have come as a surprise to those who solicited her participation.

“…what’s happened is there’s been a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. The anyone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called antisemitic. That’s what’s happened.”

“…but what I’ve said about this whole dilemma is true. They’ve broadened the definition to say criticism of Israel, which is in breach of international law, is part of antisemitism. And then people who are active on that issue are being picked on.”

“I am saying that criticism of Israel’s breaches of international law is not antisemitism.”

“…but if the definition has been stretched to include criticism of Israel…”

“Do you think the definition of antisemitism should include criticism of Israel?”

“…everybody should make this distinction: antisemitism is evil. Extending the definition to prevent people having any sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians is a misuse of that allegation.”

Although Siobhain McDonagh did protest Short’s claims on two occasions – “That isn’t what’s happened” – at no point during the item were viewers informed that Short’s Livingstone Formulation allegation is patently false or that the opening paragraph of the relevant IHRA working definition of antisemitism specifically states:

“Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, ‘Newsnight’ further promoted Short’s misinformation on Twitter.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding…so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.”

 

Looking beyond BBC Two’s portrayal of the Gaza Strip

As recorded here last week, the recent BBC Two film ‘One Day in Gaza’ told viewers that:

“…Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. Today the economy is in freefall. More than half of Gaza’s two million inhabitants live in poverty and rely on aid. And they’re prevented from leaving what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth.” [emphasis added]

That misleading claim is of course not novel to BBC content and neither is the related and not infrequently seen politicised framing of the Gaza Strip as an ‘open-air prison’ – see examples here, here and here.

At the Erez crossing into Israel:

“Every day an average of 1,000 Gazan residents enter Israel through Erez Crossing. The vast majority of these people are those in need of medical treatment, but it also includes businessmen, industry professionals, students, individuals going to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and others.”

The BBC Two film made no mention whatsoever of the fact that the Gaza Strip also has a border with Egypt and that the territory’s other pedestrian crossing into a neighbouring country is located on that border. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been mostly open since November 2017 and Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“According to data compiled by aid agencies affiliated with the United Nations, 60,907 Palestinians left Gaza via Egypt in 2018…”

That data of course refutes the BBC’s claim that inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are “prevented from leaving”. However, the Ha’aretz report goes on to state that:

“…only 37,075 returned, a net exodus of around 23,800. But other sources provide different numbers, and Israel’s estimate is that around 35,000 Gazans left for good. […]

Hamas initially viewed Rafah’s opening as a source of income, since anyone who leaves must pay it to obtain a passport, visa and other documents. Additionally, an industry of bribes soon developed, in which anyone who sought to obtain the documents quickly had to pay Gazan government officials hundreds of dollars.

But in recent months, Hamas realized that Rafah’s opening had allowed educated members of the younger generation to leave and sought to stem the brain drain. In particular, due to Gaza’s collapsing health system, it decided to bar doctors from leaving.” [emphasis added]

It remains to be seen whether or not the BBC will tell its audiences about those particular restrictions on movement for Gaza Strip inhabitants – and who is enforcing them.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

 

 

 

 

 

BBC gives multi-platform amplification to antisemitism

On the evening of May 17th the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight’ posted a Tweet which included a 1:42 minute clip from an interview by host Kirsty Wark with Bobby Gillespie, a member of a pop group called ‘Primal Scream’.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Wark: “Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv; Madonna’s going to play…

Gillespie: “Well Madonna would do anything for money, you know, she’s a total prostitute. And I’ve got nothing against prostitutes but I think, you know, the whole thing is set up to just, you know, ehm…it’s set up to normalise the, you know, the State of Israel and the, you know, and its disgraceful treatment of the Palestinian people. And by going to perform in Israel, I think what you do is you normalise that. So, you know, Primal Scream would never perform in Israel and I think Madonna is just desperate for publicity, desperate for the money, because she’d be getting paid…they pay very, very well.”

Wark: “This suddenly gets into difficult territory because you believe in the State of Israel’s right to exist? Because this is what the big argument is…”

Gillespie: [interrupts] “No, I believe in the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Wark: “And the rights of the Israelis?”

Gillespie: “It’s stolen land.”

Wark: “I have to ask this one question which is if you do not believe in the right of the State of Israel to exist, do you understand why you are then being seen as antisemitic?”

Gillespie: “I’m not antisemitic at all. All my heroes are Jews. Karl Marx, Bob Dylan, [laughs] the Marx Brothers [laughs].”

Given Gillespie’s long-standing record of anti-Israel actions and statements, Wark must have known in advance what sort of reaction she was going to get to the question concerning the Eurovision Song Contest which she bizarrely chose to pose during an interview ostensibly about the group’s new album.

But rather than having any qualms about giving a platform to a person ‘Newsnight’ obviously recognises as holding antisemitic (and misogynistic) views, the BBC elected to further promote those views on Twitter, in Radio 5 live news bulletins, on the ‘Newsnight’ YouTube channel and on the ‘Middle East’ and ‘Entertainment & Arts’ pages of the BBC News website as well as on BBC Two’s main news programme itself.

Apparently the BBC has convinced itself that the multi-platform amplification of antisemitic views meets its obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming”.

BBC Two’s ‘One Day in Gaza’ adheres to existing BBC practice

The BBC programme ‘One Day in Gaza’ which was aired on BBC Two on May 13th and on PBS in the US the following day has come under criticism from many commentators due to its mistranslation on at least five separate occasions of the Arabic word ‘Yahud’ – Jew – as ‘Israeli’. As the Jewish News reported:

“The BBC has been accused of “playing down” antisemitism after the Arabic word for Jew was mistranslated to Israeli in the English subtitles for a documentary on Gaza border clashes. […]

Among the Palestinian protesters interviewed, 24-year-old Bader Saleh said in Arabic: “I’m not one for fighting or burning tyres, but when I went I was convinced by it.

“The revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off.”

But the English translation of Saleh’s remarks offered by the BBC refers to an “Israeli”, not a “Jew”.

This was just one of at least five instances of the Arabic word for “Jew” (Yahud) being mistranslated to “Israeli” in the subtitles.”

The BBC has responded to the criticism as follows:

“A BBC spokesperson said: “We sought expert advice on the translation before broadcast and we believe the translation of ‘Yehudi’ as ‘Israeli’ in this documentary is both accurate and true to the speakers’ intentions.””

As regular readers will know, the issue of the BBC translating the word ‘Yahud’ as ‘Israeli’ is far from new. When it arose in a report by Jon Donnison in 2013 the then BBC Trust responded to a complaint concerning the mistranslation with the ruling:

“that it was not the case that only a literal translation would have met audience expectation for due accuracy.

that no interpretation of the editorial guidelines requires content producers to make direct word-for-word translations without also taking account of relevant context.”

The issue arose again in July 2015 in a film made by Lyse Doucet.

“A BBC documentary has substituted the word “Israelis” for “Jews” in its translation of interviews with Palestinians, its maker has admitted. […]

The BBC’s chief international correspondent said that Gazan translators had advised her that Palestinian children interviewed on the programme who refer to “the Jews” actually meant Israelis.”

Later the same month, another programme translated the word ‘Yahud’ as ‘soldiers’ but complaints concerning both those programmes were dismissed and the 2013 ruling was cited.  

Around the same time the BBC demonstrated that its choice of translation depends on the speaker in a report concerning a British Conservative party candidate in which audiences were given an accurate translation of the word ‘Yahud’.

However, that repeated mistranslation is far from the only problematic issue in the film ‘One Day in Gaza’.

1) As has been repeatedly noted here ever since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ fourteen months ago, audiences have never been properly informed of the background to that agitprop and the BBC has repeatedly downplayed the role of Hamas and other terror groups in its organisation and execution. As we reported here over two weeks before the first day of rioting at the border fence:

“The organizers got a green light from Hamas and the PIJ for the march. “The great return march” Facebook page posted a statement from Issam Adwan, head of Hamas’ department of refugee affairs, who emphasized the necessity and importance of the event. He said it was part of the “resistance” and that it was no less important than the “armed struggle.” He also said that the Land Day march would be only the opening move of a comprehensive global operation. […]

Talal Abu Zarifa, senior figure in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the Palestinian organizations had agreed on activities that would be consistent with the objectives of “the great return march.” […] He added that the organizations had agreed to continue mass recruitment, to make Israel responsible [for what happens] and realize the “right of return”.” [emphasis added]

Over a month before this BBC programme was aired the ITIC had published a report on the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ in which it noted that:

“Hamas quickly took over the reins and took control of the return marches, even before the first march took place, on March 30, 2018.”

Nevertheless, this BBC film misled audiences with the repeated claim that the events were organised by a “grassroots” movement and that terror factions only joined in later on.

01:02 “But in the Palestinian Gaza Strip a grassroots movement planned a different response.”

25:23: “Trump’s announcement that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem had been the catalyst for peaceful protests at the fence. Organised by a grassroots movement, at first they weren’t aligned with any political or armed groups.”

26:01: “As the protests grew more popular leaders of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both regarded by Israel as terrorist organisations, started touring the sites and rallying the crowds.”

2) In common with the BBC’s editorial policy over the past year, this film repeatedly described the ‘Great Return March’ as “peaceful demonstrations” and “protests” despite the fact that violent rioting has characterised the events since their outset.

3) Also in line with much previous BBC coverage, this programme gave viewers a distorted account of events which completely ignores the relevant ‘Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

00:42: “After President Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Middle East braced itself for violence.”

4) As is often seen in BBC coverage of the Gaza Strip, this programme repeatedly referred to the health authority in the Gaza Strip without clarifying that it is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the violent rioting.

40:46: “…Gaza’s health ministry reported that 37 Palestinians had been killed…”

5) The film’s presentation of the topic of Palestinian refugees was simplistic with no challenge presented to claims of “a legal right of return”, no mention of the context of the invasion of the new Israeli state by Arab countries which led to the creation of a refugee population and no reference to the controversial issue of hereditary refugee status.

03:19: “In Gaza 70% of the people are refugees. Their towns and villages lie beyond the fence.”

14:32: “70% of people in Gaza are descendants of refugees – Palestinians who fled or were forced to flee their land when Israel was created in 1948 and captured territory in the war of ’67. Palestinians across the Middle East have long held that they have a legal right of return to what they see as their homeland.”

6) Despite repeated references from interviewees to ‘occupation’, at no point were viewers informed that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip fourteen years ago and that the territory is not ‘occupied’.

37:03: “We’re a politicised people because we’re under occupation.”

7) The film gave viewers a distorted view of how Hamas came to control the Gaza Strip.

06:18: “In 2006 Hamas was elected to power in Gaza and then expelled its rivals.”

The January 2006 election of course did not apply to the Gaza Strip alone – Hamas actually won 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Eighteen months later it took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup.

8) The film went on to give a misleading portrayal of Israeli counter terrorism measures. which failed to clarify that restrictions on the import of goods apply solely to dual-use items which can be used for terrorism purposes.

“In response Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. Today the economy is in freefall. More than half of Gaza’s two million inhabitants live in poverty and rely on aid. And they’re prevented from leaving what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth.”

Audiences heard nothing whatsoever of the terror attacks which led to Israel’s declaration of the Gaza Strip as hostile territory in September 2007 and no mention was made of the measures – including border closure – imposed by Egypt.

9) Having been told (09:39) that Hamas is “seen in the West as a terrorist organisation”, viewers later saw a Hamas leader claim that:

27:11 “…it is unfair to describe an organisation resisting occupation as ‘terrorist’. The world needs to reconsider these classifications.”

The film again made no effort to explain to viewers that the Gaza Strip is not occupied and that the speaker was in fact referring to Israel as a whole. Neither was it sufficiently clarified that what was previously described (09:39) as Hamas’ “history of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against the Jewish state” puts it squarely under the ‘working definition’ of terrorism used by the BBC in the past.

10) As readers no doubt recall, after the events of May 14th 2018 Hamas claimed that fifty of the 62 people killed on that day belonged to its organisation and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed three of the dead. That clearly relevant Hamas claim was however only communicated to viewers almost at the end of the film.

01:59: “That day would end with at least 60 Palestinians dead or dying and almost three thousand injured.”

54:29: “By the end of the 14th of May 2018 at least 60 Palestinians were dead or dying and over 2,700 were injured. One Israeli was hurt. Hamas later claimed more than 50 of the dead as their own.”

11) Significantly, the film’s closing moments referred to a “UN investigation” into the events with no clarification of the fact that the report concerned was commissioned by the notoriously biased UNHRC.

12) At 50:50 viewers were shown a sequence of footage purporting to depict what was described by one participant in the rioting as follows:

“…the drone came and started dropping gas.”

Although audiences heard additional references to “gas” together with images of people vomiting and convulsing, they were not informed (as they had been earlier at 22:09 in relation to a different event) that the substance was tear gas and were hence likely to go away with inaccurate impressions concerning its nature.

Towards the end of this film audiences saw a Hamas official give a view of the events of May 14th 2018 which sums up Hamas’ overall strategy concerning the ‘Great Return March’.

56:14: “We didn’t expect the occupation to kill so many people, but we always said: if the occupation does that, then it will embarrass itself in front of the world and show its true face.”

Even before the ‘Great Return March’ events began their organisers described their aim as being to stage events “that the whole world and media outlets would watch”. As we see, the BBC’s latest contribution to that PR campaign by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip comes in the form of this hour-long film by Olly Lambert which – despite the promotional claim that it “reveals extraordinary new details of what happened” – actually did nothing of the sort but stayed well within the boundaries of existing BBC framing of this story.

Related Articles:

BBC Trust ESC rules: no requirement to translate accurately

BBC doubles down on its creative translation of ‘Yahud’

BBC does know how to translate ‘Yahud’ – when it is said in the UK

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

 

One to watch on BBC Two

Tonight – May 13th – at 9 p.m. UK time, BBC Two will air a programme titled “One Day in Gaza”.

“Film marking a year since one of the deadliest days of violence in the Gaza Strip for a generation. Made by award-winning documentary maker Olly Lambert, One Day in Gaza examines, moment by moment, what happened on that fateful day.

14 May 2018 started as a day of mass protest at Gaza’s border with Israel, and would end as one of the most deadly days in Gaza for a generation. For weeks, Palestinians had been protesting along the border fence, but tensions were running particularly high due to the opening of the new United States embassy to Israel in Jerusalem – the controversial step ordered by Donald Trump. As Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other senior US officials gathered in Jerusalem to inaugurate the new embassy, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered at sites along the Gaza border, barely 40 miles away. As the sun set that day, over 60 Palestinians were dead or dying, and over two thousand lay injured, many by live ammunition.

Drawing on more than 120 hours of archive footage filmed on both sides of the border that day – including exclusive videos released by both Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that dominates Gaza, and the Israel Defense Forces, this film reveals the complex reality and human toll of the day, and asks who is to blame for the bloodshed. It also features exclusive interviews with senior commanders and intelligence officers from the Israel Defense Forces, as well as political leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, and civilians who were present on both sides of the border. What really happened that day? Israel said its troops only opened fire in self-defence or on people using the protests as cover for an armed infiltration, while Palestinians and human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force against unarmed civilians who posed no threat. This 60-minute film reveals extraordinary new details of what happened.”

The programme will apparently also be broadcast the following day (May 14th) on PBS in the United States.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

Findings of the ITIC’s examination of the identity of Palestinians killed in the events of the “Great Return March”  (ITIC)

Past BBC interviewee on antisemitism gets jail term for antisemitic incitement

Long-time readers may recall that five years ago both BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ covered a story that was portrayed by the then ‘Newsnight’ presenter Jeremy Paxman as a ‘free speech’ issue:

“Now a French comedian has managed to short-circuit his country’s professed commitment to free speech. President Francois Holland, with support from both Right and Left, today encouraged local authorities to ban performances by Dieudonné M’bala-M’bala – usually known just as “Dieudonné”. It’s being done on grounds of public order because his alleged antisemitism has tested to destruction Voltaire’s supposed belief that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ “

That ‘Newsnight’ report included an interview with a man introduced by Paxman as “the French writer and film-maker Alain Soral” and “a close friend of Monsieur Dieudonné” who “helped him popularise the infamous quenelle gesture”. BBC audiences were told nothing of Soral’s far-Right affiliations and record of antisemitism before they heard him whitewashing the antisemitism of his “close friend” by means of antisemitic conspiracy theories.

In April 2017 Soral was featured in an article about the French elections on the BBC News website with readers told that “what makes him so controversial are the anti-Semitic views he is accused of peddling – under the guise of “anti-Zionism” – on his hugely successful website” and that:

“…on one issue Alain Soral undoubtedly has a point: speech is being policed with increasing zeal in France.”

Last week the man the BBC found it appropriate to interview on the subject of antisemitism was sentenced to a year in prison.

“A French court on Thursday sentenced far-right Holocaust denier Alain Soral to one year in prison for insulting a magistrate and making anti-Semitic comments on his website.

On the site, which is called “Equality and Reconciliation,” Soral wrote that Jews “are manipulative, domineering and hateful.”

Soral, 60, has been convicted multiple times of incitement to hatred over a constant stream of anti-Semitic comments over the years.”

While this latest conviction will come as no surprise to those familiar with Soral, five years on it is still unclear how BBC editors could have been so uninformed as to consider the airing of his antisemitic conspiracy theories and whitewashing of the racism of his “close friend” to be any kind of contribution to audience understanding of antisemitism.

Related Articles:

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ breaches editorial guidelines, fudges on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ joins ‘Newsnight’ in breach of editorial guidelines

BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism

BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

BBC interviewee selected to comment on antisemitism story convicted of antisemitism

Former BBC interviewee on antisemitism resurfaces on Holocaust denial list

One to watch out for on BBC Two

BBC Two has a programme called ‘See Hear’ which is described as a “Magazine for the deaf community highlighting the issues affecting the community”. The programme has in the past included a series called “On Tour” in which a deaf presenter has visited foreign cities in order to “explore deaf culture in other countries” and to ask:

“What is life like for the local deaf community and what are the highlights for deaf travellers seeking out a short city break?”

The current “On Tour” series – now presented by deaf British actor Nadeem Islam – has already visited Reykjavik:

“Nadeem Islam visits Reykjavik in Iceland, the land of ice and fire. The birthplace of the legendary Vikings, who pillaged and plundered their way around the world, today’s Icelandic people are more laid back – but there are still living, breathing deaf Vikings around – and Nadeem is going to meet one.

Nadeem experiences a dip in one of the hot springs that are dotted around Iceland’s mountainous landscape, watches a geyser erupt, tries on a few animal furs, enjoys a spot of knitting, does some whale watching and tastes one of the most revolting foods ever – fermented shark fat!

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention Nadeem’s trip to the world-famous penis museum!”

And Rome:

“Nadeem Islam visits Rome in Italy, also known as the Eternal City, to see what sights there are for deaf people to see. Starting with a guided scooter tour, Nadeem also meets the deaf signing guides who work at the Colosseum, and imagines being a deaf gladiator thousands of years ago.

Nadeem then has the opportunity to spend some time with one of the most powerful deaf men in Rome – Roberto Wirth, the proprietor of the five-star Hotel Hassler. Rome is a city where the inhabitants express themselves freely through gesture and body language – but do deaf people get equal status? With the campaign for legal recognition of Italian Sign Language still ongoing, it is a big issue.

Nadeem then rounds off his trip with a visit to One Sense, a deaf-owned restaurant, and gets to try his hand at a spot of Italian cuisine!”

The episode scheduled to be aired on the morning of January 16th is titled “On Tour: Tel Aviv” and its synopsis suggests that viewers may see a departure from the disabilities and travel genre.

“Nadeem Islam visits the city of Tel Aviv in Israel, also known as The Miami of the Middle East. Wandering the sunny boulevards and beaches with his deaf Israeli guide Omer, they take in the beautiful Bauhaus architecture and a show at the famous Nalaga’at theatre of the deafblind. Nadeem has a Muslim background, and Omer is Israeli – will international signing be a bridge for them to meet in the middle and discuss the issue of Israel and Palestine?

Nadeem also takes on a couple of deaf volleyball champions, meets a deaf Holocaust survivor, learns the Israeli fingerspelling alphabet, and joins Tel Aviv’s Pride march – one of the largest in the world!” [emphasis added]

The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ of course tells BBC journalists 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”.

Remarkably BBC Two appears to believe that this particular episode of its half-hour travel show should include a political discussion simply because its British presenter “has a Muslim background”.

Now there’s a stereotype for you.

Related Articles:

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Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

 

 

 

Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports