BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part two

In part one of this post we discussed some of the issues arising from Yolande Knell’s filmed and audio reports titled “Death at the Junction” which were broadcast on BBC World News television and on BBC Radio 4 on April 23rd.Knell Our World TV

An additional feature of both reports is Knell’s employment of PLO terminology and messaging. In the audio report she tells listeners:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger but [interviewee] Daniel believes incitement is driving the upsurge in attacks.”

Cited by whom? That Knell does not reveal but a guidance document for members of the media which was issued by the PLO in November 2015 tells foreign reporters that “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, journalists are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

Knell later goes on to say:

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

In the filmed report viewers are told that:

“The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest place in Islam. Jews call it Temple Mount and it’s also their holiest site. It lies at the heart of the conflict. Last year, with hopes of a political solution further away than ever, the latest round of violence began right here. Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians. As Jews visited during religious holidays, fears grew that Israel had plans to change a rule that forbids non-Muslims from praying at the site.”

In November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s habitual negation of Jewish history and the BBC – which used to use the term ‘Haram al Sharif’ – has since frequently been found complying with that attempt to promote the inaccurate notion that the whole of Temple Mount “forms the Mosque” and amplifying baseless Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to change the status quo at the site.

Knell’s filmed report also includes extensive promotion of falsehoods which go completely unchallenged. During her interview with the father of a terrorist who was shot and killed whilst in the process of carrying out a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction on October 27th 2015, Knell tells viewers:

“Nadi [the terrorist’s father] himself is a former militant who spent 10 years in an Israeli jail but he says his son wasn’t politically motivated in the way that he was. He was impulsive, inspired by social media.”

Knell fails to tell audiences that Izz al-Din Abu Shakhadam’s accomplice had served a 16-month prison term in Israel for Hamas activities and that Hamas issued death notices for them both.

Viewers then see the following unqualified statements from the father in the sub-titles on screen:

“Izz al-Din was always keeping up with events on Facebook. He used to see the raids of the settlers on Al Aqsa, to see the Occupation army executing our girls and boys. Of course this affected him a lot and made him determined to stand up to this horrible occupying force. If we let them do what they want, tomorrow they’ll stamp on us.” [emphasis added]

Making no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impressions given by those false statements, Knell goes on to showcase another terrorist who carried out a car-ramming attack on March 4th.

“But many deadly incidents at the Gush Etzion junction are not so clear cut. Instead there are conflicting Israeli and Palestinian narratives that reflect the deepening mutual distrust. Israel’s army says the woman driving this car ploughed into soldiers and was shot dead. A knife was found on her dashboard. […] But in her village the mourners tell a different story. Mohammed Sabatin says his wife was scared and took a wrong turn at the junction.”

Viewers see the following unchallenged claim in the sub-titles translating an interviewee’s response to Knell’s question concerning the knife.

They planted it there. We haven’t got a knife like that and that is always what the occupation does. They planted the knife by the windscreen. It’s not logical; why would she put the knife where everyone could see it?” [emphasis added]

That false theme has been repeatedly seen during recent months and it is part of the incitement spread by Palestinian Authority officials. Viewers of this programme are not however informed of that crucial context before Knell goes on to show a gory display.

“The family claims Israel used excessive force to stop Amani and I’m shown her clothes, riddled with bullet holes.”

“The circumstances surrounding Amani’s death remain uncertain.”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not share Knell’s uncertainty with regard to the circumstances which brought about the death of the ‘martyr’ as she was termed in the PA president’s condolence letter to her family.

Towards the end of the filmed report Knell tells viewers that “for Palestinians […] Gush Etzion is a symbol of Israel’s occupation” and audiences then see the following on-screen translation of the words of Nadi Abu Shakhadam:

They enjoy killing our children – only God knows why.”

Like the other lies highlighted above, that too goes unchallenged by Yolande Knell.

Both the half-hour long film and the radio report presented an opportunity for Knell to provide BBC audiences with more wide-ranging background and context than news reports on the terror attacks which have plagued Israel for over half a year allow. Instead, the corporation’s funding public was fed politicised messaging by means of the use of terminology such as “Palestinian land” and “illegal” settlements, undiluted PLO propaganda and downright lies which went entirely unchallenged by a journalist supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.   

Related Articles:

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part one

On April 23rd the BBC World News television channel aired a half-hour long filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell on its ‘Our World’ programme. Titled ‘Death at the Junction’ (available for a limited period of time on iPlayer here and also here), the report was broadcast four times on that particular day, with a further eleven repeats scheduled. Its synopsis reads as follows:Knell Our World TV

“Over the past year, a new wave of violence has brought terror to the streets of Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians have attacked Israelis in apparently random acts. In some cases the attackers have been young teenagers, armed with kitchen knives. The Gush Etzion junction is one site of many attacks. It’s on the main road between Jerusalem and Hebron and is used by thousands of Jewish settlers. The junction used to be a place where Palestinians would also shop and work. Now people are scared that being there could cost them their lives. The film contains disturbing images from the start.”

An audio version of the report (from 05:41 here) was also aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on April 23rd with the synopsis reading:

“In the West Bank a roundabout encapsulates what’s going on, and going wrong, in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

Both reports raise a number of issues – including the following claims from FOOC presenter Kate Adie in her introduction to the audio item:

“In the past six months young Palestinians have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car rammings. Some 30 Israelis have been killed and the state response is usually lethal with about 200 Palestinians killed; most of whom – Israel says – were carrying out attacks.” [emphasis added]

With ‘usually’ meaning what typically or normally happens, it is worth taking a closer look at that claim from Adie. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center produced an overview the seven months of violence between mid-September 2015 and mid-April 2016 which does not support Adie’s use of the term ‘usually’ or her employment of the qualifier “Israel says”.

“Two hundred forty terrorists were involved in the 204 significant terrorist attacks, that is, most of the attacks were carried out by single attackers. In addition, at least 59 terrorists were detained during preventive activities, so that the total number of terrorists who carried out or planned to carry out terrorist attacks was at least 299.

Of the 240 terrorists who carried out significant terrorist attacks, 138 were killed during the attacks. Two were killed in “work accidents” (one in a car crash and one when an IED blew up in his hands). One hundred and two terrorists were apprehended and detained while carrying out attacks, or escaped.

What is the overall number of Palestinians killed during the current terrorist campaign? Dozens of Palestinians who were killed rioting against the Israeli security forces can be added to the 138 terrorists killed while carrying out significant terrorist attacks. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent (April 2, 2016), the total number of Palestinians killed is 204. That figure may indicate that 66 Palestinians were killed during riots, of whom 27 were killed in the Gaza Strip (according to an NGO calling itself the “National Association of Shaheed Families”). Therefore, 39 were killed in Judea and Samaria (Note: Since the count was not carried out by the ITIC, there is no certainty that the numbers are correct, but in ITIC assessment they accurately reflect the situation).”

Adie also tells listeners that:

“Yolande Knell has been to a previously peaceful junction in the occupied West Bank that’s become a flash point.”

Was the Gush Etzion junction really “previously peaceful”? In fact numerous fatal and non-fatal terror attacks have been perpetrated at that location over the years.

Notably, both the audio and filmed reports include some exceptionally rare – if brief – BBC reporting on the history of the location. In the audio report Knell tells listeners that:

“In the early 20th century Jews bought land in this area but in fighting with Arab armies in 1948 they were forced out or killed. After Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, Jews returned. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

A similar portrayal is given in the filmed item, with Knell concluding her short excursion into history by telling audiences that following the Six Day War, Israelis:

“…began to rebuild Kfar Etzion. It was the first settlement in the occupied West Bank after the war. Settlements are Jewish communities built on occupied land. They’re considered illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

Revealingly, Knell does not provide any explanation – or logical legal argument – to support her claim that communities built on land purchased by Jews and then belligerently occupied by the invading Jordanian army for a period of 19 years are now “illegal”. As ever, audiences are not informed that the interpretation of ‘international law’ adopted and promoted by the BBC is contradicted by additional legal opinions or that past peace proposals have included Gush Etzion in areas which would remain under Israeli control.

Moreover, Knell goes on to encourage her audiences to view the location as ‘Palestinian land’, telling viewers that:

“Gush Etzion – Hebrew for the Etzion bloc – is now thirty times larger than the original sites. Ninety thousand people live in more than 20 settlements and much of it is built on confiscated Palestinian land.” [emphasis added]

And telling Radio 4 listeners that:

“Now Gush Etzion is thirty times larger than it was historically. Areas of Palestinian land have been added to it causing deep resentment.” [emphasis added]

Knell makes no effort to contribute to her audiences’ understanding of the factors – including Ottoman land laws – which form the basis for land classification in Judea & Samaria and neither does she inform them of the 1979 Israeli government decision according to which new communities in Judea & Samaria would be constructed exclusively on state land, the resulting land surveys intended to prevent construction on land privately owned by Palestinians or of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Israel is responsible for zoning and planning in Area C – which includes Gush Etzion. Instead, Knell dumbs down the picture presented to listeners and viewers of these reports by use of the inaccurate, misleading – and politicised – term “Palestinian land”.

The use of inaccurate and misleading language is also seen in the filmed report’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian building:

“Khirbat Zachariah is surrounded by the Gush Etzion settlements and Mohammed Saad says life has become harder and more risky with new security measures at the [Gush Etzion junction] roundabout. […] Already Palestinians here feel great resentment. They’re forbidden from building by the Israelis whilst the neighbouring settlements are allowed to expand.”

Knell refrains from clarifying to her audiences where “here” is exactly and fails to prevent confusion by informing audiences that the vast majority of Palestinian towns and villages in Gush Etzion are located in Area A or Area B – meaning that their requests for planning permission and building permits are submitted to the Palestinian Authority. Khirbat Zachariah (also Sakariya) is indeed located in Area C and hence falls under Civil Administration planning laws but Knell’s report does not include any mention of the help Saad and his fellow villagers have received on that front from their neighbours in Gush Etzion.

In the filmed report Knell goes on to tell viewers that:

“The villagers (of Khirbat Zachariah) have lost parts of their land to the settlements. Most can no longer earn a living from their own farms.”

And in the audio version listeners hear the following:

“‘It’s difficult’ says Mohammed Saad, a farmer, as he prunes his grapevines.’Israel forbids us from building and we’ve lost some land’.”

BBC audiences are not told that the residents of Khirbat Zachariah were originally tenant farmers who rented land from an Arab Christian family from Bethlehem. The land was sold to a subsidiary company of the Jewish National Fund in 1944 before the family emigrated to America and when one resident of the Khirbat Zachariah claimed ownership of the land after the Jordanian occupation of the area in 1948, he lost the case in a Jordanian court and subsequently, in 1980,  his claim of ownership of the land was also rejected by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

Additional aspects of Knell’s reports will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality


Context erased from BBC report concerning 2009 Gaza incident

On April 15th a filmed report made by Jane O’Brien and Bill McKenna for BBC World News and BBC News US was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Palestinian doctor turns personal tragedy into dramatic play“. The synopsis tells BBC audiences that:Jane Obrien report

“The real life story of the Palestinian doctor who lost his children in Israeli air-strikes has been turned into a play.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the tragic incident in which Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters and niece were killed in 2009 was not the result of air-strikes at all – as the subsequent investigation showed and as the BBC itself has previously reported.

“The IDF concluded Wednesday that Israeli tank shells caused the deaths of four Palestinian girls, including three daughters of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, when his house was accidentally attacked on January 16, during Operation Cast Lead. Following the investigation, the army confirmed that two shells had hit the building. […] The IDF said that a Golani Brigade force was operating near Beit Lahiya when it came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives. After determining that the source of the fire was in a building adjacent to Abuelaish’s home, the force returned fire. While the IDF was shooting, suspicious figures were identified in the top floors of the doctor’s house, and the troops believed the figures were directing the Hamas sniper and mortar fire, the army said. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures, and it was from this fire that his three daughters were killed, said the IDF. Once the soldiers realized that civilians, and not Hamas gunmen, were in the house they ceased fire immediately, continued the army.”

However, neither the synopsis nor the report itself provides any indication to audiences that the incident took place during a period of conflict brought about by Palestinian terrorism, with Jane O’Brien telling viewers that the play:

“…chronicles his childhood in a Palestinian refugee camp, his determination to become a doctor, the death of his wife to leukemia and a few months later his three daughters – killed when Israeli missiles hit the family home in Gaza.”

That essential context is also absent from the rest of the report, in which thousands of missile attacks against Israeli civilians by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip are erased entirely from the one-sided picture of passive Palestinian suffering it portrays.

O’Brien: “Do you think that the Palestinian conflict has become forgotten?”

Abuelaish: “It’s not forgotten. Of course there are priorities but as long as there is a child who is suffering and Palestinian people who are alive, the conflict is alive. But when are we going to solve it? That’s the problem – and the suffering; to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Among the obligations set out by the BBC’s public purposes remit is the commitment to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. Clearly context-free reporting such as that displayed in this item not only does nothing to contribute to fulfilling that remit, but actively hinders the BBC’s supposed aim.


The synopsis appearing on the BBC News website has now been amended.

BBC World News’ GMT promotes spurious linkage and smear

In any country – including Britain – one can find extremist groups with a racist and/or discriminatory agenda. It is however highly doubtful that the BBC would broadcast a report in which a leader of the BNP or the EDL claimed to have the support of the whole of the British people without that statement being challenged or qualified.

On February 9th a filmed report by freelancer Camilla Schick appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Jerusalem Jewish group on anti-Arab patrol“. The report is about the fringe group ‘Lehava’ and it opens with statements from an unidentified interviewee. Later on Schick speaks to a woman who identifies herself as part of a counter group called ‘Speaking in the Square’ and asks her whether Lehava is “mainstream Israeli”.Lehava filmed

Woman: “Not mainstream Israeli…ahm….”

Schick: “But a significant minority.”

Woman: “A minority.”

That exchange does not of course clarify to BBC audiences that Lehava is a small fringe group with very limited following. Later on in the report Schick interviews the group’s leader and the misleading impressions already received by viewers are further compounded.

Schick: “Do you think that your views represent a large section of Israeli society?”

Gopstein: “We are the majority. Most of the nation are with us.”

Schick: “So you would argue that because it’s Jewish law that only Jews can marry Jews, that actually a majority of people in Israel believe in what you do?”

Gopstein: “We do what all the people here think.”

Schick presents no challenge to Gopstein’s delusional and patently inaccurate claims; evidently preferring to leave audiences with the false impression that his group’s extremist ideologies and agenda are supported by “a majority of people in Israel”. She makes no effort to inform audiences of the criticism of the group from the public and politicians alike (even though the BBC has reported on such condemnations in the past) or of the legal and police action taken against its activists.   

Although Lehava was established in 2009, the synopsis to the version of this report appearing on the BBC News website clearly attempts to create linkage between that group’s activities and the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis.

“As tensions between Israelis and Palestinians remain high amid spiralling violence, relations between the two communities have become more strained.

Each side views the other with suspicion and hostility, a mood often visible on the streets.

In Jerusalem, an ultra-nationalist Jewish group called Lehava has been organising patrols aimed at stopping Jewish Israelis from even talking to Arabs.

Lehava says it wants to protect Jewish identity – but Left-leaning Israelis monitoring it have condemned Lehava as racist and violent.”

This filmed report is actually just part of an item which appeared on the BBC World News programme GMT. Presenter Lucy Hockings’ very similar introduction to the film also promoted the notion of linkage between the activities of Lehava and the current wave of violence whilst promoting the notion of equivalence.

Hockings: “We take you now though to Israel where tensions between Israelis and Palestinians remain high and relations between the two communities are becoming even more strained. In Jerusalem an ultra-nationalist Jewish group called Lehava has been organizing patrols aimed at stopping Jewish Israelis from even talking to Arabs. Lehava says it wants to protect Jewish identity but Left-leaning Israelis monitoring it have condemned them as racist and violent. Camilla Schick has more.”

After the airing of the clip, Hockings interviewed a member of Lehava named Eli Rakov. During the conversation, viewers again saw an attempt to link Lehava to the current violence in the form of a sub-title reading “Israeli Palestinian tensions: relations between 2 communities becoming more strained”.

Hockings closed that interview with a question which again implies that the current wave of violence can be linked to the activities of Lehava.

“But can I ask you – if you have now got weddings taking place under police protection because your group is there chanting things like ‘death to Arabs’; there is this feeling even that you are creating a climate in which dialogue is offensive and racist – how do you think there can ever be peace in your country?”

In addition to the fact that the placement of Schick’s filmed report as a stand-alone item on the BBC News website clearly misleads BBC audiences by promoting the inaccurate impression that Lehava’s extremist agenda has support from the wider Israeli public, there is an additional aspect to both versions of this report which is worthy of note.

As abhorrent and offensive as Lehava’s agenda and activities are, they are by no means new and have little if any connection to the current wave of terrorism in Israel which – not for the first time – is misleadingly represented by the BBC in equivalent terms such as “tensions between Israelis and Palestinians” and “strained” relations “between two communities”.

Given that the BBC has for five months studiously avoided producing any serious reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources which underpins the ongoing wave of violence and often includes racist themes, it is particularly remarkable that it now chooses to showcase and inflate a fringe Israeli group in order to promote the notion that it is that group’s offensive and racist dialogue which is the barrier to “peace in your country”.  

Are BBC audiences positioned to ‘judge’ Iranian denials of antisemitism?

The January 16th edition of ‘Hardtalk’ was devoted to an interview with two people described as “respected political analysts” from Iran and Saudi Arabia. The programme is available in the UK on iPlayer here and an audio version broadcast on BBC World Service radio is available here.

“There’s a faultline that lies beneath much of the current turmoil in the Middle East, and it runs between Riyadh and Tehran. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are locked in a series of conflicts by proxy. It’s a dangerous and costly struggle for regional supremacy that weaves from Lebanon to Yemen by way of Syria and Iraq. Stephen Sackur talks to Mohammad Marandi in Tehran and Jamal Khashoggi in Jeddah. Is there any way to take the heat out of the Saudi-Iranian confrontation?”

Oddly for a programme with that synopsis, at around seven minutes or so in, the discussion took another turn.

But does host Stephen Sackur’s claim that audiences listening to that Iranian propaganda from Marandi can “judge for themselves” really hold water? In order for that to be the case, the BBC would have had to report, for example, on the subject of this year’s Holocaust denying cartoon contest.Hardtalk 16 1 filmed

“Iran has announced that it will be holding a cartoon contest aimed at creating caricatures denying the Holocaust. This year, the contest’s grand prize has been increased from $12,000 to $50,000.

The contest, organized by the Teheran municipal authority, is calling for cartoonists worldwide to send in works denying and satirizing the Holocaust. Unlike previous contests of this kind, this one is especially significant due the fact that it is organized by official authorities of the Iranian capital, and has an international emphasis. The prize money is also several times what it was before.”

Not only has the BBC not covered that contemporary story but in the past it has downplayed similar events.  It has also distorted the results of a poll on antisemitism in Iran, promoted the false notion of ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial, airbrushed statements concerning the Holocaust made by Rouhani and in general done its level best to promote the chimera of a ‘moderate’ Iranian regime.

Contrary to Sackur’s claim, it is therefore highly unlikely that BBC audiences would be able to “judge for themselves” the authenticity of the claims made by the gently spoken Mr Marandi because the BBC has for the past two and a half years consistently avoided fulfilling its obligation to “keep them in touch with what is going on” in that field.

BBC Hardtalk host tells viewers Temple Mount is ‘the holiest of places for Muslims’

Earlier this month the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was interviewed by Stephen Sackur for ‘Hardtalk‘. The filmed version of the programme (broadcast on BBC World News on January 5th) is available to those in the UK on iPlayer here and can also be found here. The synopsis to the filmed version reads as follows:Barkat clip

“Stephen Sackur talks to Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, about his ambitious plans to turn his city into a top global city hosting 10 million tourists a year.”

An audio version of the interview was broadcast on BBC World Service radio on January 6th and the synopsis to that item reads as follows:

“The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, has grand plans to turn Jerusalem into a world city but is his vision far removed from the reality on the ground? He talks to Stephen Sackur about his aspirations.”

In fact listeners and viewers heard nothing about Nir Barkat’s plans to develop tourism in his city – not least because Stephen Sackur spent almost as much time talking as did his interviewee. Just under ten minutes of the airtime of a programme 23 minutes and 51 seconds long (including opening title and closing credits) were taken up by Sackur himself as he repeatedly interrupted Barkat’s answers in order to pursue his own agenda.

As is not at all unusual to see in his ‘Hardtalk’ interviews with Israeli politicians, Sackur ascended his pulpit and proceeded to ensure that what audiences took away was not insight into how the Mayor of Jerusalem plans to develop his city or what special challenges he faces, but politicized preaching on the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The tone was already set in the introduction.

“Israel declares Jerusalem to be its undivided capital but the physical evidence inside the city points to a different reality. Jerusalem is a city of checkpoints, security barriers and constant tension between Jews and Arabs.”

That theme was further promoted by Sackur several times throughout the interview.

“If we as outsiders look at the city today it seems more tense, more full of fear and – frankly – full of division than ever before.”

“It’s a division. It’s a division. It’s a myth this idea of an open undivided Jerusalem.”

“Well as it happens…yeah Mister Mayor…as it happens I know Jerusalem quite well. I’ve lived there for several years myself [1995 to 1997 – Ed.]. It’s changed a lot since I lived there – not least because there are new security barriers, there are new checkpoints in place. This idea that you peddle that Jerusalem is an open and undivided city is patently not true. It is more divided – by armed checkpoints and the security wall and everything else – than it’s ever been before.”

Naturally viewers heard nothing about the nineteen years during which the city really was divided because part of it was under Jordanian occupation. As Nir Barkat pointed out, the vast majority of the checkpoints put in place in late 2015 in order to curb terrorism by attackers from Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem have since been removed: obviously Sackur failed to check the facts before employing that subject in his sermon. 

Another theme seen in this interview – that of irresponsible, trigger happy Israeli politicians – was also found in a previous one with Yair Lapid.

“You are the very mayor who, in the autumn of last year, advised all Jerusalem…Israeli Jewish Jerusalem residents…to carry a pistol. I mean, what kind of message is that sending?”

“…what do you feel about senior Israeli politicians like Yair Lapid who we had on this programme saying that in his view, if anybody was seen to pull a knife or even a screwdriver – to quote him – don’t hesitate; shoot to kill. Do you think that was the right, responsible message to send?”

“It’s not for you as politicians to inflame emotions and get involved in this sort of way, is it?…”

The perennial theme of Israeli racism was also promoted.

“You said ‘I’m a strong believer in profiling’. ‘Profiling’, you said, ‘helps keep the citizens of Jerusalem safe’. What do you mean by profiling? Who are you profiling?”

“I appreciate that answer but with respect, mister mayor, I don’t think anybody in the outside world really believes that the Shin Bet spends as much time profiling and seeking out Jewish extremists as it does Muslim Arab extremists. So I’m very struck by what Binyamin Netanyahu said just the other day […]. He talked about enclaves. He clearly meant Arab communities – Arab enclaves with – quote – Islamist propaganda, plenty of weapons, constant crime. This wasn’t pointing to individual threats and dangers. He was tainting an entire community. Do you do the same?”

“So do you disown the words of your own prime minister? […] Do you think – in the words of Ha’aretz newspaper – that what he said was very close to outright racism?”

Netanyahu’s words were as follows:

“There are many among Muslim Israeli citizens who have come out against the violence and are crying out for full law enforcement in their towns. At the same time, we all know that there is wild incitement by radical Islam against the State of Israel in the Arab sector. Incitement in mosques, in the education system, on social media,” he said, vowing to continue efforts to stop the incitement.

The prime minister said he is unwilling to have a state within a state in Israel, in which some citizens live in “enclaves with no law enforcement, with Islamist incitement and an abundance of illegal weapons that are often fired at happy events, weddings, and during endless criminal incidents.”

Sackur – who only minutes earlier claimed to “know Jerusalem quite well” – came out with the following inaccurate and materially misleading statement:Barkat audio

“Yeah, you’ve raised one particular grievance, one area of tension, which is access to the holiest of places for Muslims – they call it Haram al Sharif – it’s holy for Jews too; you call it Temple Mount…” [emphasis added]

Politicised messaging continued with repeated portrayal of Arab residents of Jerusalem as “second class citizens” and depiction of Jerusalem neighbourhoods as “settlements”.

“Yeah, but you know what Mister Mayor? What you haven’t mentioned at all are the realities about, for example, housing, planning permits construction. Look at the reality. Even today thousands of new housing units have been sanctioned by your municipality and the Netanyahu government for a whole bunch of Jewish settlements – as the international community still calls them – on occupied land in East Jerusalem. At the very same time we see that 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked since 1967. It’s almost impossible for most Palestinians to get permission to build new housing on empty land in East Jerusalem. The reality of the situation is that, again, they’re second class citizens.”

Sackur is apparently convinced that he knows more than the Mayor of Jerusalem about construction statistics in that city.

“Are you telling me…are you telling me that the UN and others who have looked at the stats and say that more than three times as many housing permits, construction permissions, are given to Jews in East Jerusalem than to Arabs – Muslim Arabs in East Jerusalem – are you telling me that’s just plain wrong?”

Promotion of the PLO talking points put out a while ago by ‘Hardtalk’ frequent flyer Saeb Erekat was also evident.

“…but I spoke not a long time ago to Saeb Erekat […]. He almost cried with frustration when I put it to him that Israelis see ideological reasons behind the incitement – as you put it – of young Palestinian men. He said look don’t they understand that as long as Israel refuses to engage on the question of settlements, on the question of realistic negotiation of a two state solution, these people, the anger, the hate, will continue. Do you not get that?”

“Are you comfortable with the fact that unless you and other Israeli politicians recognize that in the end there has to be a sharing of the sovereignty of Jerusalem for a two state solution to work, if you’re not prepared to accept that then there can never be meaningful peace negotiations, can there? Are you comfortable with the position that you and your city are in?”

Sackur also came out with this gem:

“Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Barak, Olmert: all were prepared as realistic, pragmatic politicians to accept that there would have to be some sort of deal with the Palestinians over Jerusalem – some sort of symbolic shared sovereignty and internationalization of the holy places. Why won’t you?”

Leaving aside the fact that there is no evidence to support Sackur’s highly dubious claim that Yitzhak Rabin embraced the idea of “shared sovereignty” of Jerusalem, it is notable that he has obviously failed to ask himself why – if it is indeed the case that four Israeli prime ministers have offered to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem – have the Palestinians not seized any of those opportunities to make a peace deal during the last two decades.

Like so many others who adopt the messianic far-Left approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict whereby if only Israel did this, that or the other, then salvation would be instantly at hand, Sackur strips Palestinians of all agency or responsibility for the ongoing conflict. Hence, whilst able to admonish Barkat for his allegedly ‘unrealistic’ views on the subject of the division of the city, he is also able to ignore the fact that the “realistic, pragmatic” approach he holds up as the gold standard has been repeatedly rejected by the Palestinian side to the dispute. Likewise, that same cognitive dissonance enables Sackur to rebuke Barkat (and by extension, Israel) for the implementation of measures designed to cope with repeated waves of terrorism whilst exonerating those actually carrying out the attacks.

Obviously Stephen Sackur’s aim in this programme was not to provide his audiences with the opportunity to learn more about Jerusalem, the man who runs it or his plans for the city’s development. Instead, yet again, ‘Hardtalk’ audiences simply heard a so-called ‘interview’ with an Israeli public figure which is nothing more than a sermon based on Sackur’s weary – and by now decidedly dog-eared – charge sheet.

Related Articles:

Selective framing, inaccuracies and omission of context on BBC’s Hardtalk

BBC’s Sackur touts ‘racist’ Israel in Hardtalk interview with Herzog

BBC’s Sackur suggests being pro-Israel should be a problem

BBC’s Sackur promotes notion of Israeli settlements as a ‘war crime’

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ erases the Oslo Accords from history

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Whilst stuck in early morning traffic on the way to Manchester airport last Monday I found myself listening to BBC Radio 5 live’s morning broadcast. The programme understandably focused mostly on the weekend’s terror attacks in Paris and one feature particularly notable to Israeli ears was the effort made to personalise and humanise the victims. 

Listeners were given a range of information which typically included names, ages, occupations, family statuses, places of birth and education and in some cases also heard of the reactions of loved ones. Such information of course enables the listener to get beyond mere casualty figures and goes some way towards helping audiences appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

A week on from the attacks, that trend continues to be a feature of BBC content, with an article titled “Paris attacks: Who were the victims?” appearing on the homepage and World page of the BBC News website on November 20th and the BBC News Twitter account promoting a Facebook post devoted to tributes to the victims.

BBC News Twitter paris Victims 1

BBC News Twitter Paris victims 2

BBC News FB Paris victims

By way of contrast, the BBC’s descriptions of five victims of terror murdered in two separate attacks on November 19th in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion are notable for the paucity of personal details. TA & Gush attacks 19 11

“Five people have been killed in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, officials say.

In the first attack, two Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian man at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in the city of Tel Aviv.

Later, a third Israeli, a Jewish American and a Palestinian were killed in an attack near a Jewish settlement.” […]

“One of the victims, a man in his 20s, was declared dead at the scene by the Magen David Adom ambulance service. The second was rushed to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.” […]

“Hours later, an attacker in a car opened fire at a busy junction and then crashed into a group of pedestrians, killing three people and injuring several others, the Israeli military said.

Two of the dead were identified as Jewish – an 18-year-old American tourist and a 50-year-old Israeli. The third was a Palestinian.”

Rabbi Aharon Yesayev, 32, from Tel Aviv, Reuven Aviram, 51, from Ramle, Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts, Yaakov Don, 49, from Alon Shvut, and Shadi Arafa, 40, from Hebron were not even named by the BBC in its report on the two incidents – even though that information was in the public domain by the time its final version was updated. Their photographs and personal stories are not featured in any dedicated BBC article or Facebook post.

Predictably, the BBC article on the attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion does not mention the word ‘terror’ whilst the article about the victims murdered in Paris opens with the words “Tributes have been paid to the 130 people who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks”. Evidently the BBC’s two-tier system of reporting terror attacks is not only confined to the use of language.

BBC Hardtalk for Israel, Softchat for Palestinians

This is a guest post by Aron White.

In his October 21st Hardtalk interview, Israeli MK Yair Lapid turned the tables on presenter Stephen Sackur and made the following remark:Hardtalk logo

Yair Lapid: “I have been watching the show. Whenever a Palestinian is on, you don’t ask the questions that are that difficult.”

Steven Sackur: “Well you haven’t been watching the show enough then, because the Palestinians say exactly what you just said, “Oh, you are tougher on me than you are on him (the Israeli).”

An objective analysis will show that Yair Lapid is totally correct – Israeli guests on the show face a tough grilling whereas Palestinians and their supporters get basically a free pass.

Here is the introduction Stephen Sackur gave Yair Lapid last week:

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a wave of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks, Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat, an innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd. Well, my guest is Yair Lapid, former finance minister, and leader of the Yesh Atid party. He has called on Israelis to”shoot to kill” at the first sign of danger. Will that kind of language enhance anyone’s security?”

This is a genuinely harsh introduction – and considering that Sackur draws no distinction between the Israeli victims of terror attacks and Palestinian attackers killed by policemen, it maybe is too harsh. But let us compare this with the opening Hardtalk laid out for Saeb Erekat during an interview in February 2014.

“What does the new right-wing Israeli coalition government under Benjamin Netanyahu mean for the Palestinians? The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has made moves recently to win international backing for his cause, particularly through the United Nations. Will this strategy help or hinder their aspirations for statehood? My guest today is the Palestinian veteran chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Can they isolate Israel, and achieve recognition of a Palestinian state through international diplomatic channels?”

This is not the opening to a difficult interview in which Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism, incitement, corruption and human rights violations will truly be open for discussion. The question on the table is how best can the Palestinians isolate Israel: instead of asking hard-hitting questions, the BBC is merely asking whether the Palestinians can achieve their goals.

The Hardtalk bias was open for all to see during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hardtalk conducted two interviews on consecutive days – the first interview, on July 24th, was with Danny Danon, a former Israeli government minister, and the second interview the next day was with Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas.

Here is the introduction to the interview with Danny Danon:

“Israel says its current campaign in Gaza is in response to rocket strikes from Hamas militants, and is aimed at destroying its illicit tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle arms. In more than two weeks of conflict, more than six hundred Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, and nearly four thousand wounded. The U.N. Human Rights Commission (sic.) says Israel may have committed war crimes. About thirty Israeli have died, nearly all of them, soldiers. My guest today is Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, He was dismissed as deputy defence minister earlier this month, for accusing the prime minister of being too weak in his Gaza campaign. How does he justify the high Palestinian death toll?”

Compare this to the introduction to the interview the very next day, with Khaled Masha’al.

“My guest today is Khaled Masha’al, the political chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently locked in a grim and costly military confrontation with Israel in Gaza. Right now, the pressure on Hamas is immense, military, political and diplomatic. So, is the showdown in Gaza a battle for Hamas’ survival?”

Masha’al is not being asked any hard questions at all – no question about Hamas rockets, human shields, human rights abuses, or its openly jihadist constitution. Rather than hard questions, sympathy for Hamas simply oozes from the description of a “costly” conflict with Israel that may be a battle for Hamas’ very survival.

This highlights a further point: not only does Hardtalk ask Israelis far tougher questions than Palestinians; the interviewers openly display sympathy for Palestinians and their supporters. 

During his interview with William Schabas, initially appointed head of a U.N. Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas who resigned from the post due to concerns about his objectivity, Stephen Sackur asks:

“You have talked about the campaign against you. We remember the full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal condemning you, talking about your bias, I believe also, you had personal emails. You had threats. Did it get to a point where you could just stand it no longer?”

Yet when he interviews Yehuda Glick, the man who was shot four times because of his activism to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Stephen Sackur never asks him how he felt, but instead offers this musing:

“I am guessing, Yehuda Glick, that what happened to you wasn’t entirely a surprise to you. You have been a controversial figure described by many Israelis, indeed many Israelis in the Israeli government and security establishment as a provocative figure and as an extremist for years. You have known that there have been threats upon you for years too. So although it was awful, it wasn’t really a surprise was it?”

So one man who actually got shot four times (for campaigning for what he sees as religious freedom) should have seen it coming because he received threats but another man who received threats (though admittedly, by “personal email,” no less) deserves our deepest sympathy. I mean, how bad are four bullets compared to an advertisement in a newspaper?

Hardtalk is deeply biased. It challenges Israelis about how they defend themselves, but poses no hard questions to the inciters, jihadists, rocket launchers and terrorists. For Israelis, an appearance on the show is a hard talk. For Palestinians and their supporters, it is merely a soft chat. 

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’



Selective framing, inaccuracies and omission of context on BBC’s Hardtalk

Israeli MK and leader of the ‘Yesh Atid’ party Yair Lapid appeared on the BBC World News and BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ on October 21st. Readers in the UK can find the programme on BBC iPlayer here and a clip also appeared on the BBC News website.Hardtalk Lapid

Many of the questions posed by presenter Stephen Sackur during the interview provide an opportunity to look at the way in which inaccuracies, falsehoods and selective framing can be casually promoted by an interviewer.

In his introduction, Sackur frames audience views of the programme’s subject matter by depicting a wave of terror attacks carried out by Palestinians on mostly civilian Israelis as equivalent violence “between Israelis and Palestinians”, whilst portraying attacks in which people were deliberately sought out because of their ethnicity as “random” and their perpetrators as “suspects”. [all emphasis in bold added]

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a host of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks. Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat. An innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd.”

In that last sentence Sackur refers – as is evident later on in the interview – to Haftom Zarhum who was killed during a terror attack at the main bus station in Be’er Sheva on October 18th. As the post-mortem showed, Zarhum’s death was actually caused by bullet wounds sustained when members of the security forces shot him after mistaking him for a second terrorist – but that does not prevent Sackur from promoting an inaccurate and context-free version of the story.

Sackur steers viewers towards a specific view of the cause of the current wave of terrorism in several ‘questions’, whilst again promoting the notions of equivalence and random attacks:

“Are you suggesting that the violence coming from the Palestinian side; that is the random stabbings we’ve seen – primarily stabbings – are you suggesting that it has nothing to do with the realities that Palestinians have to live with?”

“Of course that narrative may suit you but the Palestinians are quite clear. As Mahmoud Abbas has said, you know, ‘we are living’, he says, ‘under unbearable conditions’. And when that is the case, you get the kind of desperation – particularly amongst nihilistic young people – that results in the violence on your streets.”

Sackur manages to insert several ‘questions’ relating to a particular incident without providing viewers with a particularly important piece of context.

“Are you saying that some of the videos we have seen uploaded onto Youtube and elsewhere of Israeli police appearing to shoot in cold blood young Palestinians who appear to present no real and present threat – are you saying that those must be investigated and the police must be punished?”

“Have you seen the videos? Have you seen the killing of Fadi Aloon? You used the word justification earlier; are you saying to me that in the case of the young teen Fadi Aloon who was running toward the police, trying to get away from a mob who were baying for his blood and when the police apprehended him he ended up shot dead – are you telling me that was justified?”

Crucially, Sackur neglects to clarify to audiences that nineteen year-old Fadi Aloon had just stabbed a fifteen year-old boy when he was shot.

Sackur goes on to deliberately conflate terrorism with crime and imply Israeli institutional racism.

“But the bottom line is when people are committing crimes you don’t necessarily know whether they’re Jewish, whether they’re Muslim – whatever they are. Coming back to the words of the police chief; he says anyone who stabs a Jew is due to be killed. I mean, let’s face it; there are serious crimes in Israel that doesn’t involve Muslims. […] Do you think that the police chief would have said of a Jewish criminal that as soon as he commits any sort of crime like that he is due to be killed?”

The actual words of the Jerusalem police chief were spoken immediately following yet another terror attack – which Sackur again refrains from mentioning.

“Police said officers who ran to the scene “saw two Jewish men with stab wounds to their upper bodies. The policemen saw the terrorist with a knife in his hand and called on him to halt. The terrorist ran towards them with his weapon and the two cocked their weapons, fired at him and neutralized him.” […]

Jerusalem Police chief Moshe Edri praised the officers’ actions, and warned that anyone attacking civilians faced a similar fate.

“Policemen carried out their duties and arrived quickly. The terrorist was killed in under 90 seconds. Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocents — his due is to be killed,” Edri said.”

Sackur promotes the notion that Israeli politicians are to blame for “fear and anger” among the population while again inaccurately describing 29 year-old Haftom Zarhum as having been killed “by a mob” and giving a very tepid account of the terror attack in the bus station in which Sgt Omri Levy was killed:

“Did it give you any sort of pause when the young Eritrean man in Be’er Sheva was beaten to death by a mob who thought, wrongly, that he was involved in the shooting of an Israeli soldier? Did that make you wonder whether your message to the Israeli people was perhaps inflammatory and dangerous?”

“Senior politicians like you help to establish that fear and anger.”

Although he categorically states that Israelis have ‘dehumanised’ Palestinians (with no factual evidence provided for the claim), Sackur has nothing to say on the topic of whether those who shoot, stab or deliberately run over identifiably Jewish people have dehumanised their victims.

“Why do you think that – you called it a lynching – that kind of incident can happen in today’s Israel? Why is it, do you believe, that some Israelis have dehumanised the other – the Palestinians – to the point where they are prepared to engage in that sort of behavior?”

Viewers are told by Sackur that the “Palestinian leadership” (he doesn’t clarify whether that includes Hamas) is “committed” to the two-state solution.

“Of course the Palestinian leadership is committed to a search for a two-state solution. They say the problem is that Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have no intention of delivering a two-state solution and they say Netanyahu’s own words prove that because during the election campaign he made it quite plain: under his watch there would be no two-state solution.”

That very selective presentation of course fails to inform viewers that following the March 16th interview with NRG, Netanyahu later clarified his stance.

When Lapid tries to explain the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, Sackur interrupts:

“Jerusalem is also the site of the third holiest religious site in all of Islam. […] Palestinians see what has happened; they see the facts of the last ten years. Used to be only hundreds of Jews every year would make the ascent up onto the top of the Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, the Temple Mount – call it what you will. Now it is thousands. They see that the Ministry of Religious Affairs in your government is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade. To Palestinians it looks as though this idea that the government of Israel will guarantee the status quo as was is no longer true.”

BBC Watch has been unable to find any factual information pertaining to that claim that the Ministry of Religious Services – as it is actually titled – “is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade”. The Israeli government, as Lapid notes, has repeatedly clarified that there is no intention of changing the status quo on Temple Mount. 

Once again donning his Palestinian advocate hat, Sackur also misleads viewers on the topic of construction.

“Let’s talk about settlements too because you say, you know, what’s happening today has nothing to do with the facts on the ground but the Palestinians beg to differ and they point to the massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade. Now, most of their towns across the West Bank, ringed by Jewish settlements.”

Had Sackur consulted the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, he would know that:

“In fact, since Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, there has been less construction activity in the settlements than under any other prime minister since 1995.

According to data from the Housing and Construction Ministry, an average of 1,554 houses a year were built in the settlements from 2009 to 2014 — fewer than under any of his recent predecessors.

By comparison, the annual average was 1,881 under Ariel Sharon and 1,774 under Ehud Olmert. As for Ehud Barak, during his single full year as prime minister, in 2000, he built a whopping 5,000 homes in the settlements.”

So Sackur’s claim of “massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade” is as inaccurate and misleading as his claim that most Palestinian towns are “ringed” – i.e. surrounded – by “Jewish settlements” and that has happened within the last ten years.

During this interview, Sackur claims that Palestinian interviewees on Hardtalk are ‘challenged’.

“Believe me; we challenge the Palestinians on the language they use….”

Readers wishing to judge for themselves whether that claim is true can find several interviews with figures such as Saeb Erekat and Suha Arafat here. Notably, Erekat was not challenged when he told ‘Hardtalk’ audiences that there is such a thing as “the ’67 borders” and Stephen Sackur had nothing to say about Erekat’s claim to be “a Canaanite”. 

So, while this may have been an interview with an Israeli politician, BBC audiences were also treated to selective framing, omission of relevant context and the promotion of inaccurate information which was not only materially misleading but would clearly influence their views of the subjects selected for discussion and the wider topic in general.