Mainstreaming the eradication of Israel concept on BBC Two

On October 17th the producers of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight‘ thought it would be a good idea to bring a person the BBC knows to be a terror supporter into the studio to talk about the Khashoggi affair.

At 3:05 minutes into the interview with Azzam Tamimi, presenter Evan Davis widened the topic of discussion: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Davis: “I hear everything you’re saying but the standards of the region are not high, are they? And there are people on your side of the argument – you support Hamas, you’re a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – people on your side of the argument of course who do cruel things, assassinations. These are not techniques that are kind of, you know, unique to the Saudis.”

Tamimi: “Are you accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of doing this?”

Davis: “No, but Hamas certainly.”

Tamimi:  “The Muslim Brotherhood today is paying for defending democracy. We have today forty thousand prisoners in Egyptian jails because they stood for democracy.”

Refraining from challenging Tamimi’s absurd portrayal of an Islamist movement as ‘defenders of democracy’, Davis went on:

Davis: “And Hamas of course, in its struggle against Fatah and against Israel…”

Tamimi: “No; Hamas is a national liberation movement. Hamas is struggling for liberation of Palestine which is occupied by the Zionists. But that’s a different issue. Let’s not confuse issues.”

Davis: “Well I don’t want to…I don’t want to get in there but I was just wanting to make that point.”

Not only did Davis not “make that point” but his introduction of the unrelated and irrelevant topic of Hamas actually served no purpose other than to provide Tamimi with a cue for an inaccurate portrayal of Hamas and its aims which went completely unquestioned by Davis.

Like Hamas, Azzam Tamimi’s definition of ‘occupation’ includes every square metre of Israel. And thus – with no challenge whatsoever from the BBC’s presenter – an extremist terror supporter got a free pass to mainstream the concept that the eradication of the Jewish state is ‘liberation’ on prime time British television.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service’s ‘Newsday’ gives ‘open mike’ to Azzam Tamimi’s Hamas propaganda

 

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BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire should read this A-Z thread on Labour antisemitism

As followers of BBC Watch no doubt recall, on Aug. 15th, BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed two British Jews, Mark Lewis and his partner Mandy Blumenthal, to discuss their view that antisemitism in the UK has become so bad that they no longer felt safe living there, and had decided to emigrate to Israel.

As we noted at the time, the interview was so biased – and at times hostile – that the BBC presenter could have been mistaken for a Jeremy Corbyn spokesperson, as she spouted off meaningless Labour talking points, used misleading statistics attempting to downplay antisemitism and seemed convinced that the couple was grossly exaggerating their concerns – despite death threats and other forms of abuse they’ve experienced.  

Derbyshire even at one point – in an attempt to discredit their claims – accused Lewis and Blumenthal of belonging to a non-existent Zionist political party in the UK.

Yesterday, @GasherJew, a twitter account that’s been doing extremely important work exposing antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, tweeted the following thread containing an A-Z of examples of Labour antisemitism.

The list is especially useful for journalists and pro-Corbyn activists who deny that antisemitism is a serious issue in the party, or suggest that the problem has been greatly exaggerated by the British Jewish community. (See web version of the twitter thread here)

Related Articles

 

Omissions in the BBC Jerusalem correspondent’s story of ‘fanaticism’

Back in July the BBC published a number of items on different platforms which clearly communicated to audiences what they should think about the Nation State law passed by the Knesset that month after seven years of deliberation.

BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

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

Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Two months later the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman returned to that topic in two reports – mixing in a partially told, unrelated story from an Israeli town with a name he could not be bothered to learn to pronounce properly.

On September 19th viewers of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight‘ saw a filmed report by Bateman.

On September 22nd listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 heard an audio version (from 06:24 here) of the same report which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie at the beginning of the programme as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “Today we’re in Israel on the hunt for the finest falafel while hearing what Arab and Jewish Israelis think of the controversial new law which characterises the country as principally a Jewish state.”

Adie’s introduction to the item itself included overt signposting.

Adie: “In July Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – narrowly voted in favour of a new Nation State law. It promotes Israel’s Jewish character and has been celebrated by religious nationalists, among other supporters, and not just within Israel itself but in the USA and Europe. It’s also sparked condemnation at home and internationally. Among its harshest critics have been the country’s nearly 2 million Arab-Israeli citizens who say it underlines their second class status, as Tom Bateman’s been finding out.”

Bateman’s report began in a falafel shop in Afula and listeners were told that he has “set out to gauge reactions to one of Israel’s most controversial new laws” before Bateman introduced his linkage of a local story to his main agenda.

Bateman: “My lunch companion wants to tell me about that. This is the world’s only Jewish state says Ilan Vaknin, a local lawyer turned mayoral candidate. Israel is surrounded by Arab nations and needs protecting, he asserts. He supports the new Nation State law. The legislation is an emblem for the Israeli Right, championed by Benjamin Netanyahu – a prime minister with an eye on elections next year, trying not to be outflanked by more hardline nationalists in his coalition.”

Bateman went on to give a particular view of the legislation.

Bateman: “The single-page law is stacked with symbols of Jewish sovereignty. It states that Jews have the unique right to national self-determination in Israel. That what it calls Jewish settlement is a national value. That Hebrew is the state’s official language – a statement seen as downgrading Arabic. But what of the central complaint from the law’s many critics, I ask, that it shreds Israel’s founding pledge of equality for all the inhabitants regardless of their religion or race?”

Given that account, uninformed listeners could of course be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that Jewish self-determination in Israel is an innovation that first appeared in the Nation State law. What Bateman refers to as “Israel’s founding pledge” is of course the Declaration of Independence which does indeed pledge “equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” but also – he refrains from clarifying – clearly defines Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Ilan Vaknin says that the Jewish people in Israel must safeguard their land. There has certainly been a struggle among the people of Afula. When 48 Arab-Israeli families tried to buy plots of land on the edge of this Jewish majority town, there were protests by Jewish residents. Mr Vaknin acted for those who wanted to stop the sales. He claimed the Arab families had illegally coordinated bids. The courts ultimately threw out much of that argument and most of the sales went ahead. Many such land disputes elsewhere have not always gone the way of Arab citizens. Afula’s story seemed to echo a desire in the Nation State law to assert Jewish identity.”

Presuming to tell audiences what Israel “is supposed to stand for”, in his filmed report Bateman described the same story thus:

Bateman: “An empty space to be filled – but by whom? There has been a struggle among the people of Afula. What should this town in northern Israel look like? Who should live here? From whose past should it seek its character? Afula isn’t a story of troops and teargas filling the foreign news but a less visible confrontation between Jews and Arabs that goes to the heart of what the State of Israel is supposed to stand for. Ilan Vaknin wants to be the mayor. The lawyer told me how he tried to stop the sale of land to nearly 50 Arab families in this majority Jewish town. The dispute, which started well before the row over Israel’s new Nation State law, provides an example of the tensions that led to the law’s drafting and why its supporters think Israel’s Jewish character needs protecting. […] He [Vaknin] fought the sale of this land to Arab-Israeli families, saying they illegally coordinated bids But, after two years, Israel’s High Court allowed most of the sales to go ahead.”

The only Israeli politician mentioned by Bateman in these two reports is the current prime minister and so BBC audiences could be forgiven for concluding that it was he who proposed the Nation State law. In fact, the legislation was originally proposed in 2011 by Avi Dichter – who was at the time a member of the Kadima party – together with 39 other MKs. In contrast to the impression given by Bateman, the Afula building plots story began in late 2015.

While some of those who demonstrated against the sale of plots to 48 families from Arab villages in the district may have had racist motives, there are relevant parts of the story that Bateman did not bother to tell BBC audiences – not least the fact that the full complement of tenders in the proposed new neighbourhood was won by Arab applicants.

“The protesters claimed that the winning tender applicants may have coordinated their bids to ensure the neighborhood is populated mainly by Arab residents. They also charged that the tenders were poorly publicized within the city, and only announced in two local newspapers.

Many of the protesters have previously expressed their opposition to having an all-Arab neighborhood in the city.

The tender was run by the Israel Land Administration, which accepted bids on almost 50 plots for homes in a planned community next to the Afula Illit neighborhood. The results, published last month, showed that none of the plots had been won by current residents of Afula and all had been awarded to residents of Arab villages in the area.”

In April 2016 the Nazareth District Court revoked the tenders.

“Court president Justice Avraham Avraham said in his decision that the 48 Arab families violated housing tender rules by coordinating their bids on several of the 50 lots for homes in a planned neighborhood next to the Afula Illit neighborhood in an effort to fix prices for the homes.

“The coordination between bidders severely damages the principle of equality,” Avraham said in his decision. “The bidders joined forces to coordinate their proposed prices in an effort to unfairly divide the market among themselves.””

In August 2017 the High Court found that while a bidding group which had won ten of the 27 available plots had indeed coordinated bids, the other applicants had not. The court ruled that, rather than cancelling all the tenders as the Nazareth court had ruled, only the tenders of those shown to have coordinated bids would be cancelled.

While those parts of the story are missing from Bateman’s account, he did make sure to tell his radio audience of statements made by another interviewee – Ghayadad Zoabi.    

Bateman: “She says when Jewish protests took place against families like hers buying plots in Afula the sense of division felt overwhelming. She worries for her children who she fears have harder days to come. As long as the Right-wing controls Israel, she claims, it is heading for fanaticism. She believes the Nation State law sends a message to people like her that they are citizens second to Jews.”

And that of course is the agenda behind Bateman’s sudden interest in a local story that the BBC has ignored for nearly three years. Despite the fact that Arab-Israelis won tenders organised by a government agency and the 63% of bidders who were shown not to have coordinated bids had their tenders upheld in Israel’s High Court, The BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent still has a tale of “fanaticism” to tell about just one of the 22% of the world’s countries – including the UK – that have a religion enshrined in their constitution or basic law.  

 

 

 

BBC ECU publishes ‘Alternativity’ complaint finding

In July the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) informed BBC Watch that it had upheld one of the three points made in a complaint concerning a BBC Two Christmas 2017 programme titled ‘Alternativity‘.

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

As noted at the time:

“According to further communication with the ECU, that finding “will be published in due course on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk“. BBC Watch does not know what the BBC considers to be “due course” after it has taken over six months for a point rejected at stages 1a and 1b to be upheld by the ECU.”

Two months later – and over nine months after the complaint was originally submitted – that finding now appears on the BBC News website.

 

One to watch on BBC Two

Next Tuesday and Wednesday – September 4th and 5th – at 9 p.m. BBC Two will air a two-part programme titled ‘We Are British Jews.

“In a two-part series, eight British Jews with a broad range of opinions, beliefs and practices, go on a journey to explore what it means to be Jewish in Britain today and examine some of the most pressing questions and challenges facing the Jewish community at home and in Israel.

In the first episode, the group meet in Manchester, home to the UK’s largest Jewish community outside of London. After getting to know each other, and discovering their differences, they explore what antisemitism looks and feels like in modern Britain and reflect on how perceptions of Israel affect them here at home. They meet the owner of a local restaurant which has been attacked a number of times in recent years and talk to a Labour MP who has been the focus of abuse online. The group go on to meet with Jewish students, where they hear how they have needed security when they have held Israel events on campus.

The group then travel to Israel, the country many of the group call their homeland. Starting their journey on a Kibbutz, a communal farm, they get some stark reminders of the realities of life in the Jewish State and meet a young American woman who has volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.”

“In the second episode, the group continues their journey in Israel. The group travel the country and go to the occupied West Bank, meeting with people from across the religious and political divide – Israelis and Palestinians – who force them to question their long-held views.

The group travel to Efrat, considered by the international community to be an illegal settlement built on land Israel doesn’t own. There they meet a settler who explains why he thinks this is just a regular town. In Hebron, they meet Noam, spokesman for the Jewish Settlers. He explains why he thinks Jewish people have a biblical right to the land there. They also meet Tsipi, a prominent Jewish activist whose father was murdered by a Palestinian. Challenged by some of the group about how Palestinians living in Hebron are treated, she gives them her perspective on the reason for restrictions on their movement and explains why she and fellow settlers have no plans to leave the town.

They also meet with Palestinians – Issa, an activist, Fadi, who tells them what his life is like living behind the West Bank’s separation barrier, and Atta, a Palestinian farmer living near Hebron who says his land was bulldozed by the Israeli authorities.

With their journey drawing to an end, the group head to Jerusalem. There, they visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in the world for Jews, before a moving meeting with two fathers – a Palestinian and an Israeli – who have both lost young daughters to the conflict and are now working together for peace.”

An interview with the programme’s producer can be found here and her post about the making of this BBC commissioned programme is here.

 

 

 

BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire and a non-existent political party

The August 15th edition of BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item introduced by the presenter as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Derbyshire: “Next: in simple terms antisemitism is described as hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jewish people. But even the definition of the term has been the cause of debate in recent weeks as the Labour antisemitism row goes on. Now one of the most high-profile lawyers in Britain, Mark Lewis, and his partner Mandy Blumenthal – a property company director – tell this programme in an exclusive joint interview that they believe the level of antisemitism in this country has become so severe that they no longer feel safe living here. Instead, they say, they’re moving to Israel and intend to do this by the end of the year.”

One might have thought that, having invited two people onto the programme ostensibly to hear about the experiences – including a death threat – that have prompted them to reach the decision to uproot their lives and relocate to a different country, Derbyshire would have refrained from spending the next fifteen minutes telling them why they are wrong.

However, the BBC presenter could have been easily mistaken for a member of the Labour Party’s press team as she read out a list of Jeremy Corbyn’s statements on antisemitism followed by a list of “actions that he has taken as leader of the Labour Party in order to tackle the antisemitism” as well as a pre-prepared statement from the Labour Party – while concurrently promoting a context free defence of Corbyn’s participation in a ceremony honouring terrorists in Tunisia four years ago obviously taken from a Labour Party statement.

Derbyshire: “And [Corbyn] absolutely explained why he was there. Absolutely explained why he was there. That they and others were paying their respects to those killed in an Israeli air raid in 1985 including civilians.”

Derbyshire later inaccurately described the conference in Tunisia in which Corbyn had participated together with senior members of terrorist organisations as a “peace conference” and the standard of BBC fact-checking was also on display in another segment:

Derbyshire: “Can we talk about your politics? […] Let’s talk about your politics because there will be some who will accuse you of saying this simply for political motivations because you’re not Labour supporters. You’re members of the UK Zionist party which was relaunched this year.”

Blumenthal: “Hold on, hold on. What is the UK Zionist party? I’m sorry to interrupt you but you’re saying that I’m a member of a UK Zionist party?”

Derbyshire: “Sorry – that was the information I was given. That’s obviously inaccurate.”

 

BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ breaches impartiality guidelines with ‘specialist’ academic

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Two television programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item concerning what presenter Reeta Chakrabarti euphemistically described as “the problems in the Labour Party”.

Although The BBC has been covering that topic with varying degrees of accuracy and impartiality for well over two years, it was presented to viewers as something that has recently come to light. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Chakrabarti: “It’s been widely assumed that all forms of racism exist within the far right of politics but it’s now being suggested that the Left has issues with antisemitism too. Where has that come from?”

In her second question to guest journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti, Chakrabarti said:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wonder if we can broaden this out a little bit from the Labour party to the sort of ideas of antisemitism – quite where they come from – because there’s often quite a conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, isn’t there? Can you explain just quite simply what the difference is?”

As Sacerdoti spoke about Jewish self-determination in Israel, viewers were shown a very interesting selection of images, none of which reflected the content of his reply.

Chakrabarti then brought in another guest – Katy Sian – previously identified as “a sociology lecturer at York University specialising in racism”.

According to York University Ms Sian’s field of interest does not include antisemitism.

“The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists.” 

Chakrabarti went on:

Chakrabarti: “[…] You study racism; that’s your…part of your profession. How big an issue do you think that antisemitism is within the whole spectrum of hate politics across the UK?”

Viewers heard that antisemitism “isn’t as bad as has been made out”, that it is “remarkable” that other forms of racism are not being discussed in the same way and that Katy Sian does not “think it’s right to just exceptionalise one form of racism over another”.

Chakrabarti then asked:

Chakrabarti: “…I wonder then why you think antisemitism gets so much air-time?”

Clearly one answer to that question would be that Labour Party members are not promoting Romaphobia, Islamophobia or anti-Black racism on social media or in local council meetings but the ‘expert’ answer viewers heard was as follows:

Sian: “I think it gets so much air-time because of Corbyn and his historic kind of…ehm…support for Palestinian rights. So it’s part of a much wider political project which is to essentially silence any critique of the Israeli state expansion.”

Leaving aside the question of what those three last words are supposed to mean (seeing as Israel has only withdrawn from territory throughout the last fifty years), it would of course have been appropriate – according to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint” –  for viewers to have been informed that Katy Sian stood on behalf of the Labour Party in a district of Leeds during local council elections in 2011. 

Moreover, seeing as the programme’s producer arranged her appearance via Twitter, one presumes that he was aware of the fact that Sian’s feed shows that she has not changed her political affiliations since then and that she regularly Tweets anti-Israel material.

At that point in the show, Chakrabarti read a statement from the Labour Party before bringing guest Geoffrey Alderman to speak about the historic aspect of antisemitism in the UK. When Professor Alderman said that he thought it “outrageous” to suggest that those objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party were doing so because they wanted to “get rid” of Jeremy Corbyn or “to do down the Labour Party”, she jumped in:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wanted to ask if it also has something to do with the actions of the Israeli government.”

Less than a minute later she asked Jonathan Sacerdoti:

Chakrabarti: “Do you not accept that for some people it’s the actions of the Israeli government they are protesting against?”

She subsequently claimed that Sacerdoti was misrepresenting Sian’s statement concerning “a wider political project” before going on to give her “a final right of reply”.

Sian: “I mean I would argue that bigotry, violence, harassment, abuse, hatred and systematic oppression enshrined through laws and policies directed at Jews for simply being Jews is antisemitic. To critique Israel’s settler colonial state is not antisemitic.”

Chakrabarti made no effort to challenge Sian’s false and materially misleading portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonial state”, instead allowing her to read out loud from an obviously pre-prepared statement on India which had nothing to do with the issue of antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party.

The fact that a Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporter – and quite possibly a party member – was brought in to comment on this topic while inadequately presented as a ‘neutral’ academic is clearly a breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The fact that audiences were also not informed that the same supposedly ‘neutral’ academic regularly promotes anti-Israel material and four years ago had a book launch organised by the (Corbyn favoured) Iran linked, self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – which organises the annual anti-Israel ‘Quds Day’ hate rally in London – likewise clearly impairs their ability to put her claims and pronunciations into their appropriate perspective.

Resources:

BBC Complaints website

 

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, after over six months and three complaints, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) finally acknowledged that a claim aired in the BBC Two commissioned programme ‘Alternativity’ in December 2017 was “materially misleading”.

However two additional points made in the same complaint by BBC Watch were rejected by the ECU. As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received on those points.

The second point raised concerned a claim made by Danny Boyle while being filmed in Hebron. As was documented here at the time:

“Standing on Emek Hevron street, Boyle then (22:40) presents pure conjecture as ‘fact’.

Boyle: “And the Star of David on the doorways which is declaring that obviously the…that in these circumstances, declaring that this is…this will become a settlement home…is shockingly reminiscent of something we all…one of the worst horrors of the world. That’s a bit mind-boggling.”

BBC Watch contacted a resident of that area and was informed that the Stars of David painted on those buildings are actually graffiti painted by unknown parties. […]

The doorways mentioned by Boyle are in fact entrances to small Arab market shops that were closed during the second Intifada due to Palestinian violence. Not only are those shops unsuitable for conversion into “a settlement home” – they have never even been considered for that purpose.

As we see, therefore, Danny Boyle – who earlier on in the programme admitted that the nearest he had previously ever been to the region was Majorca – has (presumably with a bit of help from his ‘guides’) let his imagination run wild – and presented his own uninformed assumptions as fact.

Moreover, he appears to be making an oblique reference to Nazi confiscation of Jewish property – an analogy that would be considered antisemitic according to the IHRA working definition adopted by the British government.”

In our initial complaint BBC Watch pointed out that Boyle had presented pure conjecture as fact and that:

“Boyle’s claim that the graffiti ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’ is unfounded and inaccurate.”

Although we did not raise the issue of Boyle’s apparent Nazi analogy in that complaint, in the reply received at Stage 1a we were informed by BBC Complaints that what appeared to be the case was in fact so.

“In the course of making the film Danny Boyle spent some time in Hebron (visiting both Hebron 1 and Hebron 2) and saw for himself properties formerly owned by Palestinian residents which were now claimed by Israeli settlers, and he saw that the Star of David was used to mark these properties. His comments in this section of the film are a reflection on what he had seen throughout his visit and on his awareness, as someone who loathes anti-Semitism, of what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s.” 

In our Stage 1b complaint submitted on January 22nd 2018 we noted that:

“The response provides no proof for the inaccurate claim that the shops on Emek Hevron street “were now claimed by Israeli settlers” – that allegation is simply untrue and unless the BBC can provide factual evidence must be withdrawn. Additionally the response states that Boyle was reflecting on “what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s”. The BBC – and Mr Boyle – should be aware that such a Nazi analogy is considered anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government.”

The relevant part of the response we received to that complaint was as follows:

“As stated previously, on his trip Danny Boyle saw properties formerly owned by Palestinians that had been claimed by Israeli settlers and marked with the Star of David.  It is your contention that the buildings in this specific scene have never even been considered for the purpose of settlement homes. Nonetheless we believe it was appropriate for Danny to comment on a practise that he had seen throughout his visit.”

Needless to say, no details were provided to support the claim that Boyle had seen Star of David graffiti expressing a claim by “Israeli settlers” to “properties formerly owned by Palestinians” in any other location “throughout his visit”.

In our complaint submitted to the ECU on February 28th 2018 we noted that:

“With regard to the second point raised in my complaint, the BBC once again provides no evidence to support the claim that the Star of David graffiti painted by unknown parties on doors on  Emek Hevron Street ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’. Moreover, it again justifies Boyle’s anti-Semitic Nazi analogy while ignoring the fact that other types of graffiti are in evidence on doorways on the same street.”

We included photographs of that additional graffiti, which includes (see here) Arabic writing and an anarchist symbol.

The reply received from the ECU four months after that Stage 2 complaint was submitted is as follows:

In other words, while admitting that Boyle’s remark was “conjecture” which may have been “mistaken as to the motive behind the particular graffito shown”, the BBC ECU still claims that audiences were not materially misled. The “evidence” cited by the ECU consists of three media reports: one from the Palestinian media outlet ‘Maan News’ dating from 2012, one from the New York Times dated 1997 and one from the Times of Israel dated 2014. While those articles may indeed support the ECU’s claim that graffiti can be a “declaration of…hostility to Palestinian residents”, that was not the claim put forward by Boyle in that part of the programme.

The third point raised in our Stage 1a complaint related to a statement made by the narrator at 33:11: [emphasis added]

Colman: “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads.”

BBC Watch pointed out that the claim is inaccurate and misleading, that even according to B’tselem just four Israeli communities are served by roads upon which vehicles with Palestinian plates cannot travel and that:

“Obviously “most” of the people the BBC chooses to call “Jewish settlers” do not live in those four communities.”

The response received at Stage 1a was as follows:

“Jewish settlements in the West Bank are increasingly connected and served by roads inaccessible to Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates. This is a result of the ongoing Israeli policy of expanding the settlements and their infrastructure.”

When we challenged that response – obviously irrelevant to the point made in the original complaint – at Stage 1b, this was the reply received:

“It is not disputed that the majority of West Bank settlers live in settlements. It is also the case that these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates.”

In our Stage 2 complaint to the ECU we pointed out that:

“With regard to the third point made in my complaint, the claim that “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads” is simply untrue and the BBC’s claim that “these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates” is only applicable to the entrance roads to a small number of communities – totaling at most less than 60 kms.”

Four months later the ECU replied with no small amount of ‘whataboutery‘, quoting a report from the politicised UN agency UNOCHA.

Readers can judge for themselves whether six months is an acceptable time-frame for the resolution of a complaint to the BBC and whether or not the practices of outsourcing complaints to a private company and basing responses to complaints on information supplied by political NGOs serves the interests of the public that funds the corporation. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

How the BBC outsources its complaints system

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part one

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part two

 

 

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

Readers no doubt recall that in December 2017 the BBC’s Christmas season programming included a programme commissioned for BBC Two titled ‘Alternativity’.

Contrary to prior claims from the station’s controller Patrick Holland, the programme did not present “a challenging and provocative exploration” of the nativity story at all. Rather, most of the hour-long programme was devoted to context-lite, one-sided political messaging relating to Israel promoted from both its narrator (actress Olivia Colman) and its main character Danny Boyle.

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part one

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part two

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning ‘Alternativity’ which, because of the word-count restrictions on complaints, focused on just three aspects of the programme.

Over six months later the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) has upheld one of the points made by BBC Watch and rejected two additional points.  As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received at those first two stages on a point that was eventually upheld.

The first point we raised in our initial complaint referred to a claim made by the narrator at 12:20 minutes into the programme.

Colman: “The separation barrier and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land have sliced through communities, separating neighbours. Thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land and although the exact boundaries are hotly disputed, many have been evicted and are now on black-lists banning them from entering Israel, meaning they are unable to travel for work. One of these is Amin. Imprisoned as a teenager, he now makes his living selling refreshments to the workers.” [emphasis added]

We argued that the highlighted claim is untrue. The response we received at stage 1a was as follows:

“Figures on the number of arrests, prosecutions or convictions directly related to the refusal of Palestinians to leave land which has been seized or confiscated by Israel are unavailable, but the claim that “thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is conservative given the scale of the confiscation, annexation and enclosure of Palestinian land, as well as the widespread and systemic scale of arrest and detention without charge or trial (known as administrative detention).”

We submitted a second complaint – Stage 1b – on January 22nd 2018:

“While admitting that the BBC does not have facts and figures, the response claims that the claim “thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is none the less accurate. Unless the BBC can produce concrete examples of people “imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” that claim cannot be considered accurate. The original claim related to land used for construction of the anti-terrorist fence and owners of such land are not only compensated but are entitled to appeal to the Israeli courts.”

Notably, the response we received to that point in our second complaint relied primarily on information sourced from the foreign-funded political NGO B’tselem and the PFLP linked group Addameer.

“The BBC has an obligation towards achieving “due accuracy”.  Our Editorial Guidelines say “Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right.  If an issue is controversial, relevant opinions as well as facts may need to be considered.  When necessary, all the relevant facts and information should also be weighed to get at the truth.”  As we are sure you are aware, the Israeli government does not publish the numbers of individuals subject to what it calls “administrative detention”, nor the reasons why those individuals have been detained (as detailed here www.btselem.org/administrative_detention). But there is a significant amount of information – what the Guideline is referring to when it uses the terms “relevant opinions”, and “relevant facts and information” – that can be analysed to provide a reasonable estimate.  For example, it is reliably reported that around 100,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention over the years. 

You note that Palestinians whose land has been appropriated for construction of the barrier are compensated. But that has no bearing on the issue of how the Israeli authorities dealt with protests against the barrier’s construction.  There have been many such protests, with Addameer documenting at least 295 cases of Palestinians detained for protests against barrier construction and land annexation in 2011 alone. So it is quite clear that numerous Palestinians have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land. 

The next question is therefore whether “thousands” is a reasonable estimate for the numbers detained. As noted above, there is evidence that there were 295 in 2011 alone, by which time a great deal of the barrier in the West bank had already been completed. The correct shorthand expression for 2011 alone would be “hundreds”.  But Israel started construction in 2002, and it is not yet finished.  It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that, over a fifteen year period, the total number detained is most likely to be in the thousands.”

Having exhausted stages 1a and 1b of the BBC complaints procedure, we continued with a complaint submitted on February 28th 2018 to the Executive Complaints Unit after having consulted the former IDF Chief Prosecutor in Judea & Samaria, Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch (at the time senior military justice consultant for NGO Monitor) who, inter alia, pointed out that:

“To the best of my knowledge, as someone intimately involved in law enforcement in Judea and Samaria for 20 years, no Palestinian has been imprisoned for “refusing to leave their land”! That claim is simply a fiction. Firstly, most (approximately 95%) Palestinians resident in Judea and Samaria live in the large Palestinian towns and the surrounding villages. With the exception of one, none of these towns are affected by the security barrier. Secondly, “refusing to leave your land” is not an offence, and consequently no one has been arrested or imprisoned on this basis. Thirdly, Palestinians separated from their land by the security barrier are entitled to and are in practice given permits to access their land.” 

With regard to the claim in the BBC’s response that ““thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is conservative given the scale of the confiscation, annexation and enclosure of Palestinian land, as well as the widespread and systemic scale of arrest and detention without charge or trial (known as administrative detention)”, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:

“As regards Administrative detention the BBC intentionally combines two subjects that have no connection whatsoever. According to international law (art. 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) a person can only be placed in administrative detention, if it is necessary for “imperative reasons of security”. No Palestinian has been placed in administrative detention for “refusing to leave their land”. According to precedent set down by Israel’s Supreme Court, a person can only be placed in administrative detention if the state proves that he poses an imminent, severe danger to the security of the public. It should be noted, that while the judicial review process of Administrative detention orders carried out by the military courts far extends the requirements of international law, Palestinians also have the right to challenge their administrative detention before Israel’s supreme court.”

With regard to the claim in the BBC’s response that “For example, it is reliably reported that around 100,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention over the years…as detailed here www.btselem.org/administrative_detention“, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:

“There is nothing ‘reliable’ about the report that 100,000 Palestinians have been held in Administrative detention. The occurrence of administrative detention between the years 1967 – 1987 was very limited. In response to the Palestinian terrorism that started in 1987 the use of administrative detention increased. With the onset of the Oslo Accords, Israel’s use of administrative detention waned. Only in 2001, as a response to the wide scale Palestinian terrorist attacks, did Israel revert to the use of administrative detention. Since then, the number of Palestinians arrested in administrative detention has fluctuated considerably. According to publicly available documents, that organisations like B’tselem chose to ignore, in the 20 year period, between 1995 and 2015, 16,041. In that period, in one year (2000) only 17 new administrative detention orders were issued. In another year (2002) 2,578 new orders were issued. In other words, if one were to use the 20 years between 1995 and 2015 as a basis, it would indicate that Israel placed 800 Palestinians a year in administrative detention. Assuming that these figures are automatically reflective of the statistics since 1967, the result would be that 40,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention. Having said that, noting the tremendous fluctuation in the use of administrative detention, any statistic given, that is not based on official numbers for every year, is inherently unreliable.”

In response to the claim in the BBC’s reply “…with Addameer documenting at least 295 cases of Palestinians detained for protests against barrier construction and land annexation in 2011 alone. So it is quite clear that numerous Palestinians have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land”, Lt. Col Hirsch noted that:

“There is no logical connection between these two statements. Palestinians “detained for protests against the barrier… and land annexation” include those who threw stones, molotov cocktails and committed other related offences. The arrest of these people had nothing to do with “refusing to leave their land”, but rather the fact that they committed violent offences. Moreover, considering the fact that demonstrations against the construction of the security barrier were organized by the Palestinian Authority and called for widespread participation, it is also factually inaccurate to assume that all those arrested were necessarily the owners of the land on which they were arrested.”

In response to the claim in the BBC’s reply “there is evidence that there were 295 in 2011 alone, by which time a great deal of the barrier in the West bank had already been completed. The correct shorthand expression for 2011 alone would be “hundreds”.  But Israel started construction in 2002, and it is not yet finished.  It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that, over a fifteen year period, the total number detained is most likely to be in the thousands”, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:

“…there is no logical or statistical basis to use a statistic for the prevalence of law enforcement in one year alone in order to ‘calculate’ a larger figure for multiple years. For example in 2006, a total of 1120 Palestinians were prosecuted for offences categorized as “Disturbances of the peace” (as opposed to Terrorism; Regular criminal offences; and Illegal entry into Israel). That number decreased in 2008 to only 593. This category included, among other offences, stone throwing. Accordingly, this simplistic statistical approach adopted by the BBC ignores the tremendous fluctuation in law enforcement every year.”

Four months after that complaint to the ECU had been submitted, we received a reply which includes the following:

According to further communication with the ECU, that finding “will be published in due course on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk“. BBC Watch does not know what the BBC considers to be “due course” after it has taken over six months for a point rejected at stages 1a and 1b to be upheld by the ECU.

In part two of this post we will look at some of the interesting responses received from BBC Complaints in relation to the other two points raised in this complaint.

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Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part one

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part two

Inaccuracy, partial language and speculation on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

As we saw in an earlier post, viewers of ‘Newsnight’ saw the Israeli prime minister being interviewed by Evan Davis on June 7th. However, BBC World Service radio listeners heard extracts from that interview several hours before it was broadcast on BBC Two in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘.

“During his trip to the UK the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tells the BBC recent protests in the Gaza Strip were violent riots aimed at killing at Israelis.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 01:08 here) by giving an account of the purpose of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Europe which was soon shown to be inaccurate by Netanyahu himself.

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

Iqbal: “We begin though with a visit by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK. London is the last stop in a series of meetings he’s had with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal. Mr Netanyahu has always opposed the deal and was delighted when President Trump decided to pull out of it. The Israeli prime minister has made it his business to persuade the other signatories to follow suit – especially since they have all said they will continue to see if it’s possible to keep the framework of the deal intact despite Washington’s departure. Today in an interview with my colleague Evan Davis of the BBC TV programme ‘Newsnight’, Mr Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal is dead. He said he would do everything in his power to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu: “…pressure can be of various kinds and I’ve seen in the past that when Iran faced very strong pressure – yes, a credible military response too but also by primarily paralysing sanctions – they came to the…”

Davis [interrupts]: “You’re not going to get the world behind sanctions.”

Netanyahu: “It’s already happened, Evan. I didn’t come here – contrary to news reports on another network that I’m going to try to persuade the E3, the Europeans, to leave the deal. That wasn’t my discussion. I said the deal is dead. It’s done; because of the force of the economic sanctions…”

Unsurprisingly (particularly given the fact that Iqbal allowed herself to shout inaccurate claims at an Israeli MK during live coverage of the rioting on the Gaza Strip-Israel border) listeners were not told that 53 of the people killed on May 14th were claimed by terror groups. Audiences did however hear Evan Davis’ editorialising.

Iqbal: “Well Israel has of course also been recently criticised internationally after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers on one day on the border between Israel and Gaza. The shooting happened on the day the US opened its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu described that moment as a glorious day. Evan Davis asked him, given the deaths of so many Palestinians, would he still use the words it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Netanyahu: “Tragic sounds like almost some force of nature. It wasn’t a force of nature. It was a deliberate policy of Hamas to push people into the line of fire, to try to kill Israelis and to present it as though this is Martin Luther King Day. It wasn’t Martin Luther King. It wasn’t Mother Theresa. These were not peaceful protests. This was violent riots directed at killing Israelis.”

Using an obviously partial term to portray the Israeli prime minister’s description of the events of May 14th, Iqbal then brought Lyse Doucet into the discussion.

Iqbal: “Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, speaking to Evan Davis. Let’s talk now to our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. Lyse – not in the least bit surprising that Benjamin Netanyahu should be defiant about what happened on that day on the border between Gaza and Israel.”

Doucet: “No; he has said it time and again. For him, of course, and for many who watch these events unfold, who watch the years of tensions between the two sides, that Israel has a right to protect its own security. It has a right to stop people from penetrating the security fence.”

Doucet then backed up her messaging using a quote from a German media interview with a disgraced former Israeli PM trying to make a political come-back and promoted some old BBC favourites: ‘disproportionate’ and the ‘Gaza prison’ theme.  

Doucet: “But what people are questioning – and even today the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert – and I’ll tell you what he said when he was interviewed about it. He says ‘I have doubts and questions over the use of lethal weapons against protesters near the Gaza border fence’. When you have that many people including children approaching the fence, what kind of force you use and it’s the question of disproportionate force and the fact that yes, of course Hamas was part of it and yes, Hamas militants did get killed but there are also peaceful activists including so many people, so many young people who are basically imprisoned in the Gaza Strip and see no hope.”

Apparently it has not occurred to Lyse Doucet that genuinely “peaceful activists” would most likely avoid mixing with terrorists committing attacks and infiltrations at a border fence, especially in light of seven weeks of prior experience. Doucet next promoted an anecdote from an anonymous source.

Doucet: “I was recently speaking to someone who has been working for years in the Gaza Strip trying to bring about a peaceful negotiation between Israel and Hamas and he said decades ago when he would speak to the young Gazans they would all say when we grow up we want to be teachers and doctors and lawyers. Now he said they all say we want to be martyrs; suicide martyrs.”

Perhaps if Lyse Doucet had carried out a more in-depth investigation into Gaza terror groups’ indoctrination of children when she had the chance, she would be able to report to BBC audiences on how the anecdote she chose to recount is connected to over a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza.

Razia Iqbal then made the following claim:

Iqbal: “Lyse, the United Kingdom has asked Mr Netanyahu to open an independent inquiry into those deaths in Gaza. Earlier this month the British government abstained from a UN Security Council resolution which called for an inquiry into the deaths. I mean, one wonders if Mr Netanyahu would have responded in the affirmative to the prime minister Theresa May.”

According to both the UK government announcement and media reports, Theresa May did not repeat the call she made on May 15th  for an ‘ independent inquiry’ (ironically while standing next to the Turkish president) during Netanyahu’s visit.

Doucet: “I think historically Israel has investigated its own incidents. It has not wanted international involvement. It believes that…you know Israel has always been regarded as having very strong judicial institutions. Of late questions have been raised about that but it has investigated and at times has been found to be wanting and fault has been found with the way Israel has responded to incidents like this. So I think it’s very much in keeping with how Israel responds to it. It is interesting the United Nations tried to introduce a new resolution at the UN Security Council last week and the only one who voted for it was the United States.”

Iqbal then gave Doucet the obviously pre-arranged cue for promotion of some remarkable speculation:

Iqbal: “Let’s talk in the brief time that we have left about the Iran nuclear deal which the BBC also asked Benjamin Netanyahu about. When Netanyahu says that the sanctions are already going to be put in place, that the deal is dead and that that isn’t going to change, do you think that the ultimate goal here of the United States and Mr Netanyahu is regime change in Iran? To put so much pressure on the country…because there have been appeals to the Iranian people by…specifically by the Secretary of State Pompeo and Mr Trump.”

Doucet: “Israel has never hid its desire to see regime change in Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always seen Iran as an existential threat to Israel. That hasn’t been helped by some of the comments that come out of some of the more radical politicians and clerics in Iran. And what you have now in power is you have Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, you have Donald Trump in the White House, you have Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. They want to see an end to the theocracy in Iran. President Trump’s…his national security advisor now, John Bolton, has for the years he was out of power been associating with groups which are bent on regime change in Iran. There were speeches about how he wants to see regime change in Iran. That is widely seen to be the real agenda behind trying…proclaiming the nuclear deal is dead. The nuclear deal is all but dead but the European…European powers who also signed the deal – Russia, China – they are trying to save the deal but there is a real worry that without the United States and with not just US sanctions but the secondary sanctions against any other companies who do business in Iran, it will be all but impossible to save the deal.”

John Bolton does indeed have past associations with anti-regime groups but he also stated last month that regime change in Iran “is not the Trump administration’s current policy”. As for Doucet’s claim that “that is widely seen to be the real agenda”, she does not inform listeners that “widely seen” in fact means a theory bandied about by some journalists, pro-regime lobbyists and commentators including Stephen Walt of ‘Israel lobby’ infamy.

The use of partial language and editorialising together with the promotion of inaccurate claims, one-sided quotes, anonymous anecdotes and unsupported speculation clearly signpost the overt bias in this relatively long item.   

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BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

BBC flouts its own editorial guidelines with Iran talks interviewees

Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis