BBC bias on terrorism highlighted again in reports from Spain

As was the case when vehicular terror attacks took place in Stockholm, Nice, Berlin and London, despite its supposed policy of avoiding the word ‘terrorist’ without attribution in order to avoid “value judgements”, the BBC made appropriate use of that and related terminology when reporting on the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on August 17th and 18th.

As readers are no doubt aware, attacks on Israelis using the same or other methods are never described by the BBC as terror in its own words. The reason for that glaring double standard lies in the BBC’s failure to distinguish between method and aims, with the result being that when somebody deliberately drives a vehicle into a group of people, the corporation’s description of the attack as terror – or not – depends on the perceived aims and affiliations of the perpetrator.

Earlier this year the BBC came up with a new ‘explanation’ for the egregious double standard repeatedly seen in its reporting of terror in Israel and elsewhere – particularly Europe.

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The bottom falls out of that argument when we recall that the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The corporation’s complaints department also appears to have tried to find a way of dismissing the fact that UK forces are involved in the military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria by means of use of the term “direct physical combat”. Notably, the BBC is apparently not inclined to promote the notion that those actions of a state fighting terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.”

Like the UK, Spain is also a member of the international coalition “united in defeating Daesh” and the word terrorist has also been seen in a BBC report concerning another country involved in “direct physical combat” with ISIS.

The fact that the BBC does manage to report terror attacks in other parts of the world using appropriate language means that its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology in coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israelis becomes even more glaring and the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines and guidance is highlighted all the more. Absurdly, the BBC will no doubt still claim that it produces ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ reporting from Israel.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

 

 

 

 

 

Is a BBC WS claim about Israeli politicians true?

The August 16th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:53 here) in which the BBC managed to shoehorn Israel into its coverage of last weekend’s shocking incidents in Virginia, USA.

Presenter Owen Bennett-Jones told worldwide listeners that:

“Video of the white supremacists in Charlottesville clearly shows them chanting openly antisemitic slogans, with organisers amongst other things complaining that President Trump allowed his daughter to marry a Jewish man.

While President Trump has come under a lot of flack from Jewish leaders and politicians in the US for his perceived hesitancy in condemning the groups, in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and most politicians have been rather more muted regarding what the president said. So why is that?”

The issue of whether or not it is appropriate for politicians from any country to comment on the internal affairs of another state is not discussed in this item and listeners are not given an answer to the question of why Bennett-Jones singled out Israeli politicians rather than those in any other nation. But is the claim regarding Israeli politicians made by Bennett-Jones accurate?

Earlier on the same day that this item was broadcast, the Times of Israel published an article titled “Israeli politicians reject Trump claim of two sides to Virginia hate march“.

““There aren’t two sides,” Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said in a Wednesday statement.

“When neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.” […]

Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister and No. 2 in the opposition Zionist Union faction, also rejected Trump’s assertion.

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period,” she said in a Wednesday statement. […]

…Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked […] urged that the neo-Nazis face prosecution.

“The neo-Nazis in the United States should be prosecuted,” she said Tuesday. Allowing them to march violently through American streets “was not the intention of the American Constitution. A democratic state does not have to tolerate such phenomena.”

On Sunday [Naftali] Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, condemned the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and called on US leaders to denounce its “displays of anti-Semitism.”

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the US is not only offensive towards the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the US and entire world from the Nazis,” he said in a statement

“The leaders of the US must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days,” he added.”

In addition to those decidedly not “muted” statements, the Israeli prime minister put out a tweet condemning the racism and, despite members of the Knesset currently being on holiday, a number of other politicians from a range of parties likewise made their views on the matter clear – including Michael Oren, Zahava Galon, Revital Swid, Ksenia Svetlova, Manuel Trachtenburg, Avi Gabbai, Yehuda Glick, Yitzhak Herzog, Dov Hanin, Shelly Yechimovich, Amir Peretz, Meirav Michaeli, Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin, Miki Rosental, Nachman Shai, Itzik Shmuli and Tamar Zandberg – who even went on American TV two days before this ‘Newshour’ programme was aired to talk about the issue.

And yet, the BBC apparently came to the bizarre conclusion that it was accurate to describe the responses from those Israeli politicians and others as “muted”.

Another interesting aspect of this item comes in Bennett-Jones’ introduction of his interviewee. [emphasis added]

“Ruthie Blum is a Trump voter living in Tel Aviv and a conservative commentator too with a number of publications including the Jerusalem Post.”

Seeing as in the past the BBC has on countless occasions failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by refraining from clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees,  that detailed introduction is noteworthy.

What does the BBC tell audiences about the first Zionist Congress?

August 29th will mark the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress in Basel. So what information can BBC audiences find online concerning that historic event and its background? The answer to that question is very little.

Still available online is an undated page in a backgrounder called “A History of Conflict” that appears to have been published over a decade ago. Titled “First Zionist Congress“, that backgrounder (a version of which also appears in Turkish) provides the following information:

“The First Zionist Congress met in Basle [sic], Switzerland, to discuss the ideas set out in Theodor Herzl’s 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). Herzl, a Jewish journalist and writer living in Vienna, wanted Jews to have their own state – primarily as a response to European anti-Semitism.

The Congress issued the Basle [sic] Programme to establish a “home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured by public law” and set up the World Zionist Organisation to work for that end.

A few Zionist immigrants had already started arriving in the area before 1897. By 1903 there were some 25,000 of them, mostly from Eastern Europe. They lived alongside about half a million Arab residents in what was then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. A second wave of about 40,000 immigrants arrived in the region between 1904 and 1914.”

Another piece of BBC content still available to audiences is an item in the BBC World Service archive dating from 1997 which is titled “Theodor Herzl and the Jewish State“.

“Basel, Switzerland was the venue for the first Zionist Congress in 1897. It was called to campaign for a land which Jews could call their own, and where they could be safe from persecution.”

The unidentified presenter of that programme rightly tells listeners that:

“What spurred Herzl on was antisemitism. The Jewish State was to be a refuge from it.”

Bernard Wasserstein is then heard saying:

“He tried to find the most realistic solution and the most realistic solution as he saw it was not integration in states which did not want to have Jews as integrated elements. It was not the dissolution of Jews in an international socialist revolutionary movement. No; he saw the separating out of the Jews in a state of their own through which they could become part of the modern world.”

Presenter: “They weren’t part of the modern world where antisemitism was worst; in eastern Europe.”

The next contributor is Noah Lucas.

“The Jews had been impoverished and viciously persecuted. The persecution of the Jews was pretty endemic in eastern Europe. Of course in today’s terms, following the Holocaust, the extent of persecution and its severity was really almost trivial. I mean you’re talking about scores – sometimes at most hundreds – of Jews perhaps being killed in the entire continent. But nevertheless; persecution and impoverishment and cruel official antisemitism very often in the case of Russia.”

Presenter: “In western Europe, by contrast, the spread of liberal ideas had enabled Jews to advance in society as never before. But this inspired antisemitism in those who saw them as rivals or just too pushy.”

Later on (10:46) the presenter tells listeners:

“And it didn’t seem to occur to Herzl that the Arabs living in Palestine could possibly object to his plans.”

Lucas: “He saw the Jews as people who would bring beauty and light to the country. They would build and there would be an economy in which everybody there would thrive and everybody would be brothers and there was no sense of an impending conflict with the indigenous population of the country. This was a very typical attitude of course. The Palestinians living there were some half a million perhaps in number. They had no national consciousness at that time. They didn’t themselves exert a claim to statehood in Palestine as it was. Palestine was a political vacuum in that sense.”

Other than those two items, members of the BBC’s audience would have difficulty finding any available information concerning the birth of political Zionism and its context. Given the way in which Zionism and the birth of Israel are often presented in contemporary BBC coverage, accurate and impartial information on that topic is clearly lacking.

 

 

More narrative-driven ‘history’ from the BBC World Service

The August 8th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is titled “The Murder of Naji al-Ali” and it is described as follows in its synopsis:

“The acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist was gunned down in London in 1987. His attackers have never been identified. Naji al-Ali’s cartoons were famous across the Middle East. Through his images he criticized Israeli and US policy in the region, but unlike many, he also lambasted Arab despotic regimes and the leadership of the PLO. His signature character was called Handala – a poor Palestinian refugee child with spiky hair, who would always appear, facing away with his hands clasped behind his back, watching the events depicted in the cartoon. Alex Last has been speaking to his son, Khalid, about his father’s life and death.”

Despite that synopsis, listeners actually hear very little about the substance of Ali’s criticism of Arab regimes and the Palestinian leadership and even less about how that may have been connected to his murder. They do however hear promotion of the familiar context-free narrative of displaced Palestinians with no responsibility for or connection to the events that resulted in their displacement.

Erasing the essential words ‘British Mandate’ from his use of the term Palestine, presenter Alex Last introduces his guest:

Last: “Some fifty years earlier Naji al Ali was born in a village in Galilee in 1936 in what was then Palestine. Khalid al Ali is Naji’s eldest son.”

 Ali: “The village had Muslims, Christians and Jews and they’re all playing together and sharing things together, I mean, in the village square, so he had a happy life, a normal life.”

The 1931 census shows that the village concerned – al Shajara in the sub-district of Tiberias – had at the time 584 residents: 556 Muslims and 28 Christians – but no Jews. A similar demographic make-up appears in the 1945 census. In contrast to the idyllic impression created by Ali, the villagers of al Shajara frequently attacked their Jewish neighbours in the moshava Sejera (known today as Ilaniya) during the ‘Arab Revolt‘ that began in 1936.

Listeners then hear Last say:

Last: “But in 1948, following the creation of the State of Israel and in the fighting that ensued, at least three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs either fled or were driven from their homes. Naji, his family and the other Palestinian Arabs in their village were among them. They became refugees. Naji ended up in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. It was an experience that would define him.”

Contrary to the impression given by Last, the fighting did not break out after and because of “the creation of the State of Israel” but had begun well before that event took place following Arab rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947. Listeners are not informed of the all important context of the infiltration of the Arab League’s ‘Arab Liberation Army’ into the Galilee in early January of 1948 and the series of attacks it launched against Jewish communities in the region, including the moshava Sejera. The fighting in Naji al Ali’s village of al Shajara actually took place on May 6th 1948 – eight days before Israel declared independence.

The narrative of passive victims with no responsibility for the conflict that saw them displaced is then further promoted by Ali.

Ali: “Being used to your surroundings, being part of the family, the wider villages, this overnight ended completely and that was a great shock. And suddenly [they] became refugees in a tent. There’s no income. They lost their land. They’ve lost their businesses. No end of [in] sight in a way. It was imprinted on them. I mean my father, his main agenda is Palestine. For him, till the last day of his life he wanted to go back to his village, he wanted to go back to Palestine. It’s very straightforward, it’s very simple. He could not see why not.”

A similarly context-free representation comes at 05:05 when Last tells listeners:

Last: “In 1982 Naji was in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps; events which, says Khalid, had a profound effect on his father.”

Audiences are not informed that – despite the impression they may very well have received from Last’s portrayal – the Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out by a Lebanese Christian militia.

The programme ‘Witness’ purports to provide BBC World Service audiences with “the story of our times told by the people who were there”. All too often, however, we see that when the story relates to Israel, narrative takes priority over history.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘The Fifth Floor’ highlights cartoonist known for antisemitic imagery

BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist 

 

 

BBC WS history show ‘explains’ Camp David summit failure

h/t JB

The August 4th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is described in its synopsis as follows:

“In 2000 the US led a major effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bill Clinton brought the two sides together at the leafy presidential retreat in Maryland. The Israeli leader, Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, failed to reach any agreement and the summit ended in failure. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the senior American diplomatic interpreter and policy adviser, Gamal Helal who attended the Camp David summit.”

Promotion of the programme on Twitter showed that it purports to inform BBC audiences why the Camp David summit failed.

So what do listeners hear on that topic and what conclusions would they reach? [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

After introducing the programme, presenter Farhana Haider tells audiences that:

“Israel had been pushing for this summit. Chairman Arafat for the Palestinians had argued there’s not been enough progress on earlier agreements to merit such a high level meeting but President Clinton had pressed ahead.”

Later on Haider tells listeners that the actual process of negotiation:

“…involved the negotiating teams meeting with each other and also separately with the Americans on most days. Face to face contact between Arafat and Barak was very limited. Mistrust was clearly running deep, says Gamal.”

Helal: “The main meal was dinner and all three parties were attended by the principals. So during dinner was the only time when they would sit together. […] Sort of like mingling. What did not happen was a bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks or the trilateral talks at the principals level. That did not happen because Prime Minister Barak did not want it.”

Haider alleges:

“…both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions. The US and the Israelis had also overestimated Arafat’s willingness to bargain away sovereignty over Jerusalem. In fact, the city’s final status was as much of a red line for Arafat as it was for Ehud Barak.”

 Gamal Helal recounts how, in a one-on-one conversation with Arafat he tried to persuade him to seize the historic opportunity and that:

“…at the end he looked at me and he said ‘I can’t’. And I said ‘why can’t you?’ He said if I accept this they will kill me’.”

Listeners never find out who ‘they’ are and Haider asks “could you sense his frustration?” without clarifying whether she is referring to Arafat or Clinton. Helal answers:

“Yes and I think there was also a lot of frustration as a result of Prime Minister Barak’s behaviour and attitude during Camp David. For example he promised that there would be negotiations around the clock and the two sides would be meeting discussing all permanent status issues and none of that happened. He basically locked himself up in his cabin. He met only with President Clinton. There was no bilateral meetings with Chairman Arafat except a very short encounter but no actual negotiations between the two leaders. He was not engaged at all. The Palestinians, when they saw that they decided to withdraw and simply say no to everything.”

Haider sums up the story:

“After 15 days of talks, nothing was agreed. Though President Clinton came and went, leaving the parties to continue their discussions, the basic problem was that the maximum Israel offered was less than the minimum the Palestinians could accept. On July 15 2000 the parties left Camp David, blaming the other for the failure.”

The Camp David summit did not end on July 15th 2000 but actually took place between the 11th and 25th of July. Although this programme clearly steers listeners toward the view that the negotiations failed because of “Barak’s behaviour and attitude”, a report published in the New York Times the day after the summit concluded gives a different account.

“The president [Clinton] and other American mediators made clear that it was Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who balked in the end, and by all accounts the issue was Jerusalem, the Holy City both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their sacred capital.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Clinton singled out the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, for his readiness to make hard compromises. ”I would be making a mistake not to praise Barak, because I think he took a big risk,” the president said. ”The prime minister moved forward more from his initial position than Chairman Arafat, particularly surrounding the question of Jerusalem.””

In an interview he gave to Ha’aretz in 2002, Ehud Barak cast light on the circumstances behind Helal’s claim that he “locked himself up in his cabin” and the allegation that the Palestinian delegation’s negative responses were the product of Barak not being “engaged”.

“The moment of truth at Camp David occurred when Clinton brought his ideas and put them on the table. Overall, Clinton’s ideas said that in return for ending the conflict and acquiescing to some Israeli security demands and leaving 80 percent of the settlers in Israeli territory, [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat would get a sovereign Palestinian state, demilitarized and contiguous, in ninety-something percent of the West Bank and a hundred percent of the Gaza Strip. Including exit points to the neighboring countries, a hold in East Jerusalem and the right of return to the Palestinian state but not to Israel. Israel would agree to accept a certain amount of refugees on a humanitarian basis but not a single one on the basis of the right of return.

For us these ideas are no simple matter. They are far from a simple matter. Especially when you try to go into a bit of detail about Jerusalem. But we held lengthy discussions and in the end we decided, because of considerations of historic responsibility, that we have to accept the plan as a basis for discussion. Arafat twisted and turned with it and effectively said no. Clinton went back to him and pounded on the table and Arafat again did not answer but effectively gave an answer that was no.

At this stage Clinton has to go to Okinawa, for a meeting of the G-8. So I say to him, Look, until you extract readiness from Arafat to accept your ideas as a basis for negotiations, there is nothing to discuss. It is hard for us, too, we also have reservations, these ideas are very close to the Palestinian position, but we accept them as a basis for discussion. When you get a positive answer out of Arafat, I’m here. You know where my cabin is.

Clinton goes off to Okinawa, leaving me with the impression that he understands that there can be no discussion. But he leaves a different impression with his staff and with the Palestinians. They understand that in the meantime the discussions can proceed with [secretary of state Madeleine] Albright. When I discover this, I find myself in an impossible position. That is the origin of the story that Barak locked himself in his cabin in a state of depression. But in fact I had no choice. I couldn’t undercut Albright but I couldn’t continue with the negotiations, either. So I told everyone to leave my cabin and I did some sports and I read the book `Five Days in London’ from cover to cover.”

As for Haider’s claims that “both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions” and her description of Jerusalem as “a red line […] for Ehud Barak”, Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David, Shlomo Ben Ami, has some interesting recollections.

“Question: I understand that there was a stage at which Barak astonished everyone by agreeing to divide the Old City of Jerusalem into two quarters under Israeli sovereignty and two quarters under Palestinian sovereignty. Did he do that on his own or was it a joint decision made by the entire Israeli team?

Ben Ami: “As I told you, I suggested that a special regime be introduced in the Old City. In the wake of that discussion, sometime later, the president put forward a two-two proposal, meaning a clear division of sovereignty. In a conversation with the president, Ehud agreed that that would be a basis for discussion. I remember walking in the fields with Martin Indyk [of the State Department] that night and both of us saying that Ehud was nuts. We didn’t understand how he could even have thought of agreeing. Afterward I wrote in my diary that everyone thinks that Amnon [Lipkin-] Shahak and I are pushing Barak to the left, but the truth is that he was the one who pushed us leftward. At that stage – this was the start of the second week of the meeting – he was far more courageous than we were. Truly courageous. Clinton told me a few times: I have never met such a courageous person.””

And Ben Ami also comments on why the Camp David summit failed.

“Camp David collapsed over the fact that they [the Palestinians] refused to get into the game. They refused to make a counter proposal. No one demanded that they give a positive response to that particular proposal of Clinton’s. Contrary to all the nonsense spouted by the knights of the left, there was no ultimatum. What was being asked of the Palestinians was far more elementary: that they put forward, at least once, their own counter proposal. That they not just say all the time `That’s not good enough’ and wait for us to make more concessions. That’s why the president sent [CIA director George] Tenet to Arafat that night – in order to tell him that it would be worth his while to think it over one more time and not give an answer until the morning. But Arafat couldn’t take it anymore. He missed the applause of the masses in Gaza.” […]

“But when all is said and done, Camp David failed because Arafat refused to put forward proposals of his own and didn’t succeed in conveying to us the feeling that at some point his demands would have an end. One of the important things we did at Camp David was to define our vital interests in the most concise way. We didn’t expect to meet the Palestinians halfway, and not even two-thirds of the way. But we did expect to meet them at some point. The whole time we waited to see them make some sort of movement in the face of our far-reaching movement. But they didn’t. The feeling was that they were constantly trying to drag us into some sort of black hole of more and more concessions without it being at all clear where all the concessions were leading, what the finish line was.”

Obviously the explanation of why the Camp David talks failed given in this BBC World Service ‘history’ programme is heavily tipped towards a particular politicised narrative that does not accurately reflect the whole story and therefore misleads BBC audiences.

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, BBC News website reporting on the Israeli government’s intention to bar Al Jazeera from reporting and broadcasting in Israel failed to provide any examples of the incitement broadcast by the network that prompted that move – in sharp contrast to its coverage of a recent similar case in the UK.  

The story was also covered in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on August 6th with presenter James Menendez introducing the item (from 38:30 here) as follows:

Menendez: “The Israeli government says it wants to take the Qatar funded broadcaster Al Jazeera off the air. The move was announced by the country’s communications minister Ayoub Kara at a news conference in Jerusalem today.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of a small part of the minister’s statement.

Voice-over: “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera which has actually caused us to lose the best of our sons and has been the source of incitement.”

Menendez: “So what exactly did he mean and why now? Questions for our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Those two questions are obviously crucial to audience understanding of the story but did Tom Bateman actually provide any answers?

Bateman: “The communications minister in this press conference today said that it was about a long-running dispute that they have with the network, accusing it of inciting violence – he said – siding with extremist organisations. And this has been a refrain we’ve heard from the Israeli government repeatedly; not least from the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who last month launched an outspoken attack on the network. He said that it was inciting violence, particularly around the recent security crisis over the holy site of Haram al Sharif – Temple Mount – in the old city of Jerusalem. Now this was a particularly violent episode that lasted a couple of weeks and the prime minister had effectively suggested that the network’s reporting of that event – the events surrounding it – was leading people to violent attacks or at least suggesting that they carry them out.”

Failing to provide any examples of such incitement or to clarify the term “extremist organisations”, Bateman then swiftly moved on to the technicalities.

Bateman: “I mean the specific measures being suggested this afternoon are that the Israeli government will seek to force cable and satellite providers to block the signal in Israel and also to revoke the press accreditation – the press cards – for Al Jazeera reporters in Israel, which will effectively make it impossible for them to work here. The network itself has been covering this extensively today and recently its bureau chief in Jerusalem said that in effect Israel and its prime minister was siding with Arab autocratic states who similarly had sought to ban the network.”

Menendez: “Yeah, that was gonna be my next question. Is this Israel just doing it for its own reasons or is it acting – perhaps not in conjunction – but at least siding with those countries who’ve been demanding that Qatar shut Al Jazeera down? And I’m thinking of course of, you know, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Bateman: “Well certainly that would be the view of the network itself who’s, you know, have said that amid this furious diplomatic rift between a number of Sunni Arab states – including Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and Qatar, which of course funds Al Jazeera, that they believe Israel is simply siding with them because it’s politically convenient to do so. I mean its editor also pointed out what he called was the irony of Al Jazeera being one of the very few media networks in the Middle East that is prepared to air, you know, Israeli voices – Israeli government voices – and yet they believe that a self-proclaimed functioning democracy has sided with dictatorships, as he put it.”

Listeners then heard the following garbled portrayal of the core story which obviously did nothing to inform listeners about the kind of incitement broadcast by Al Jazeera and also confused bias and one-sided reporting with the very serious issue of incitement.  

Bateman: “I think the Israeli government view will be simply that it’s had enough and in their view they, well, believe, you know, particularly the Arabic facing service they believe has, you know, been biased against Israel. They will say it’s failed to give, you know, sufficient credence to the Israeli argument – the Israeli side of arguments – in these situations and therefore that that is, you know, that incitement is so serious that it merits closure.”

Bateman went on, returning to the technical topics with which he is clearly more comfortable:

Bateman: “Having said all of that, this will have to go through the Israeli parliament and that may be easier said than done because I, you know, particularly with the desire to block transmissions, that it likely to require parliamentary approval so there’s no time scale on this. It is simply at the moment a desire of intent.”

Menendez: “And just to be clear, is it both the Arabic and English networks?”

Bateman could at this point have clarified the significant differences between Al Jazeera’s English language and Arabic language content but declined to do so.

Bateman: “Well certainly they both operate from…they have correspondents of both language services in Israel – in Jerusalem – and so I think the assumption must be that it will be…will be both. I don’t think, you know, the Israeli government sees a distinction.”

As with the BBC News website’s written article, this report failed to adequately explain the story to audiences because it refrained from providing them with any examples of the kind of incitement that is at its core. That editorial policy turns the story into no more than a list of competing claims which audiences then have to judge for themselves without the benefit of factual information. Clearly that approach does not meet the BBC’s remit of providing “accurate and impartial news […] so that audiences can engage fully with issues” and it stands in sharp contrast to its own reporting of the recent similar story concerning the closure of a UK radio station on the grounds of incitement. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two 

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

The lead story in the July 27th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ related to the removal of security measures at the entrance to Temple Mount. In all, almost 28% of the programme’s total air time was devoted to that particular story.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the first part of the item (from 00:53 here) as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “We begin though with the resolution of a story that has been bubbling away since mid-July in the city of Jerusalem and which was showing signs of escalating more widely in the region. The location? A potent cauldron that is a sensitive and holy site to both Jews and Muslims known as Temple Mount to the Jews and as Haram al Sharif to the Muslims. And the issue? Israel’s decision to install new security measures at the entrance of al Aqsa after two Israeli policemen were killed by three assailants.”

Those new security measures were of course installed at the entrance to the site as a whole rather than at the entrance to the mosque named al Aqsa. In other words, we see here that Iqbal – like some of her colleagues – has adopted terminology recommended by the PLO in an ‘advisory’ document put out to members of the foreign media in 2014.  She continued, failing to inform listeners that the attack on the two policemen was a terror attack and of the relevant fact that the perpetrators used guns smuggled into al Aaqsa mosque by an accomplice.

Iqbal: “The authorities say the men initiated the attack from inside the compound. The installation of metal detectors prompted protests and they were replaced with cameras which also did not satisfy Muslims who boycotted the area. Instead of praying in the mosque, they did so on the streets. It was a tense situation. Israeli police have now removed all new security measures and the situation has returned to what it was before July the fourteenth. Muslim officials say they’re satisfied and that they’ll urge worshippers to begin praying at the site again.”

The programme’s worldwide listeners then heard Iqbal again refer to Temple Mount as “al Aqsa mosque” as she described scenes that actually took place outside Lions Gate, along with comments from two people who made identical remarks in a video put out by Reuters – both of whom were not “outside al Aqsa mosque” but on streets elsewhere in the city.

Iqbal: “Palestinians gathered outside al Aqsa mosque to celebrate. The fate of the site is an emotional issue and many Palestinians like Umm Dir [phonetic] hope it’s a first step towards Israel giving up control.”

Voiceover: “Thanks to God it’s a victory. And with God’s help we hope that a time will come in which we will see all of Jerusalem and Palestine free.”

Iqbal: “Salim Amr [phonetic] from East Jerusalem expressed his gratitude, quoting from the Koran.”

Voiceover: “This is a blessing from God. If you stand for God, God will help you in victory. The closer you are to God, God will help us.”

Iqbal next introduced comment from a member of the Waqf but without clarifying to listeners that he and his organisation were central to the initiation and perpetuation of the boycott of the site supposedly over security measures, using the canard that they ‘violated’ the status quo. Neither did Iqbal inform audiences that Salhab has a rich history of denial of Jewish history and rights on Temple Mount and promotion of incitement using baseless rumours about ‘threats’ to the site.

Iqbal: “Abdul Azim Salhab is the head of the Waqf council: a Jordanian-backed body that oversees the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem.”

Voiceover: “The destructive Israeli occupation tried to break the will of this nation – the Palestinian nation – and especially the people of Jerusalem who all stood proudly together. And we want them to keep standing to defend the holy al Aqsa mosque, outside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque and now – God willing – inside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque.”

Iqbal then spoke to an Israeli minister.

Iqbal: “So; some Palestinians seeing this as a victory. I’ve been speaking to Yuval Steinitz who is a member of Israel’s security cabinet and the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources. Is this decision a climb-down by the Israeli government?”

In his responses to Iqbal’s questions, Steinitz raised an issue which has been glaringly absent from the BBC’s coverage of this story as a whole.

Steinitz: “When we realised that this [security measures] is being used – or actually abused – in order to incite against Israel, against the Jews, not just in the Palestinian Authority but also in the wider Arab and Muslim world, we have to re-evaluate and we will consider other, maybe more sophisticated, less apparent but not less effective counter-measures in order to enhance security for all visitors in the region – Muslims, Jews and Christians.” […]

Steinitz: “…and if our enemies; Hamas, the Islamic movement and even the Palestinian Authority unfortunately – even the Palestinian Authority – are using this terrible terrorist incident and our necessary counter measures in order to incite against Israel, against Jews in general, you know, very strong – even antisemitic – kind of incitement, we have to diffuse this card; to consider other measures in order to enhance security.”

While BBC audiences did see brief whitewashed mentions of “protests” in Jordan in reports concerning the attack on a security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, they have not been informed of scenes in the Jordanian parliament, of repeated incidents of intimidation of Jews in Istanbul, of repeated inflammatory statements made by Turkey’s president or of anti-Israel protests as far away as Kuala Lumpur.

Neither have BBC audiences been provided with a comprehensive picture of the incitement fomented by Mahmoud Abbas, by the Palestinian Authority and by its dominant party Fatah as well as Hamas and the Waqf.

However, when Razia Iqbal had the opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the scale, nature and significance of that incitement in her subsequent conversation with Fatah’s Nasser al Qudwa, she not only allowed him to promote unchallenged falsehoods but bailed out in the face of his disingenuous denials of Palestinian incitement.

Iqbal: “So does the Palestinian Authority feel vindicated by this decision? Let’s speak to Nasser Qudwa who is the media and culture commissioner of the ruling Fatah party central committee and a former Palestinian representative at the United Nations. Ah…what’s your reaction to this decision by Israel to withdraw all of this new security apparatus – the metal detectors and the cameras?”

Qudwa: “Well I think what happened represent a real achievement for the Palestinian people, especially our people in Jerusalem who fought the Israeli attempt to create new facts, to curtail and hamper the free access of worshippers to al Aqsa – the holy al Aqsa.”

That of course is a lie: apart from a two-day closure while police conducted their investigation into the July 14th terror attack and a brief ban on entry to men under 50 after violence was threatened on July 21st, worshippers were free to access the site and – despite the efforts of the Waqf – many did just that. Qudwa went on to promote additional unchallenged falsehoods.

Qudwa: “And by the way, these measures have nothing to do with security. This is a huge lie. This is part of strategies or a strategy that is aimed at turning the situation at al Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and the proof is very clear including official statements by some governmental…governmental officials who claim crazy things such as Israeli sovereignty and Israeli ownership of…of the holy place in addition of course to Israeli actions, Israeli measures…”

Iqbal: “It is perfectly – I’m sorry to interrupt you, sir – but it’s perfectly legitimate for the Israelis to want to see some security isn’t it? I mean there were police officers who were killed just by this site.”

Qudwa: “Yes that’s true. However, these were killed by three that came from Israel. No Palestinian faction group had anything to do with this. The attack…eh…eh…attack was carried [out] outside…outside the Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and it has never been the case that there was security danger or security threats within the compound, within Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque.”

That lie also went unchallenged by Iqbal despite the fact that the BBC has covered violent rioting on Temple Mount in the past and al Aqsa mosque has been used to stockpile rocks used in such pre-planned disturbances. Of course, had Iqbal bothered to clarify earlier that the July 14 attack was carried out using guns brought into the al Aqsa mosque, listeners would have been better placed to judge Qudwa’s falsehoods for themselves.

Iqbal: “OK, so…”

Qudwa: “After that – let me just finish this – I might add that there was a telephone conversation between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu during which the president condemned the attack and requested the prime minister not to take any measures that might change the situation and he promised – the prime minister promised – to do precisely that.  And unfortunately he didn’t keep his word and we saw those measures that, again, have nothing to do with security but they are part of a strategy – of a scheme – Israeli scheme that’s very clear for everyone.”

Iqbal: “OK, so the minister that I’ve just spoken to, Yuval Steinitz, he accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence against Israel. Is he right?”

Qudwa: “Listen, this is insulting; insulting for every Palestinian. Any human being under pressure, under…under discrimination, subject to oppressive and oppressive policies and measures by foreign occupation that’s being transformed into colonialism has to react. They don’t need incitement. They don’t need any nodding from anybody. This is like accusing Palestinians of being sub-humans. This is outrageous. This is outrageous.”

Iqbal: “OK.”

Qudwa: “No reason is needed for any Palestinian to reject Israeli policies and Israeli positions, especially with regard to al Aqsa and East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem.”

Iqbal: “We’ll leave it there.”

And so, in addition to not being pressed for an honest answer on the topic of Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement, Qudwa was allowed by Iqbal to promote unchallenged mendacious propaganda about a “foreign occupation” and “colonialism” which not only did absolutely nothing to meet the BBC’s obligation to help listener understanding of this story or the broader issues at hand, but actively hindered that purpose.  

 

 

 

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

When the BBC’s former Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza City in 2007, another BBC journalist gave an interesting view of his job description.

“”It is his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament in the Gaza Strip,” said the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, Paul Adams, himself a former Middle East reporter.” [emphasis added]

At the time, the BBC also reported the following statement:

“On Tuesday, Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said the government was making every effort it could to secure Mr Johnston’s release.

“We in the government are deeply sorry and ashamed that this kidnapping is ongoing, especially since he is a friend of our people and has done a lot for our cause.

“His kidnapping is detrimental to our nation and our national cause,” Mr Barghouti said.” [emphasis added]

Another member of the Barghouti clan had this to say:

“Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appealed Wednesday to the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston to release him immediately, calling him a “friend” of the Palestinians. […] “From my cell, and in the name of 10,000 prisoners in the occupation jails, I appeal and call immediately for the release of journalist Alan Johnston, the friend of the Palestinian people,” Barghouti said in a statement sent to reporters.” [emphasis added]

Following his release in July 2007, Johnston spent several years broadcasting and reporting on issues unrelated to the Middle East but was later appointed to the post of BBC World Service Middle East editor. Although those following the BBC’s Israel related coverage have heard comparatively little from Johnston since that appointment came into effect some two years ago, that has changed in the last couple of weeks, with Johnston providing commentary on the latest flare-up of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere. 

The lead story in the July 23rd late edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the attack on a security official at the Israeli embassy in Amman (from 00:11 here). Presenter James Coomarasamy brought in “our Middle East analyst” Alan Johnston who had little news to bring listeners about the incident itself at that stage. However, Johnston went on to tell listeners:

Johnston: “Now, we have no more information; it’s just not clear what sparked this but in the absence of more concrete information, I think there is bound to be speculation – speculation – that this was an attack of some kind and that it was linked to the current tensions in Jerusalem. And as you know, Palestinians there have been angered by Israel’s introduction of new security measures at the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.”

Coomarasamy: “What’s the latest about that particular controversy?”

Johnston then gave a noteworthy portrayal of the story that began on July 14th.

Johnston: “Well that controversy [sighs] began when there were two Israeli policemen killed in the vicinity of the holy site and the Israelis introduced metal detectors in the area.”

Remarkably, the BBC World Service’s senior “analyst” did not bother to inform listeners who murdered the two Israeli policemen or that the incident was a terror attack. Neither did he make any mention of the all-important fact that the terrorists used weapons smuggled into al Aqsa mosque by an accomplice – as shown in footage released by the Israeli police three days before this programme was aired. Although that footage is obviously crucial for understanding of the decision to install metal detectors, it has not been shown or described to BBC audiences on this or any other BBC platform. Johnston continued:

Johnston: “They [Israel] would argue that that’s a wholly legitimate security measure but of course Palestinians see this very, very differently. They see the arrival of the metal detectors as a sign of their Israeli occupiers seeking to gain more control over this crucially important, sensitive holy site.” [emphasis added]

Johnston did not bother to balance his uncritical amplification of the Palestinian narrative with factual information that would help listeners understand that Israel is responsible for security at the site and that the installation of metal detectors does not breach existing arrangements. Neither did he make any effort to tell listeners of the incitement and repeated calls for ‘days of rage’ by Palestinian leaders before he went on to promote equivalence between Palestinians killed while rioting and Israelis murdered by a terrorist while having a family dinner.

Johnston: “There’ve been protests, there’s been violence and there’s [sic] been deaths on both the Israeli and Palestinian side.”

After Johnston had noted the installation of CCTV security cameras at the site, Coomarasamy summed up his framing of the story as follows: [emphasis added]

Coomarasamy: “So it’s a case of popular frustration and anger. But what sort of impact is this having on a political and diplomatic level?”

Johnston: “Well this site is of such huge importance; it’s difficult to overstate that and everybody involved knows just how dangerous tensions there can become. They can rip across not just the Palestinian territories but the entire Muslim world.”

That of course is true – and it is precisely the reason why journalists reporting this story need to tell it in its entirety rather than editing out or downplaying Palestinian terrorism, incitement and pre-planned violence and rioting.

This is not however the first time that Johnston has done just that. Exactly two years ago when Palestinians rioted on Temple Mount, Johnston ‘explained’ to BBC audiences that Israel was to blame:

“…it’s more than just religious feeling that gives rise to scenes like this. Decades of Israeli occupation fuels an endless, simmering frustration among Palestinians and that always feeds into this kind of violence in Jerusalem.”

While reporting that promotes the notion of ‘frustrated’, ‘angered’ Palestinians devoid of any agency or responsibility for their actions while avoiding uncomfortable facts such as the racist hatred, incitement and glorification of terror regularly promoted by Palestinian leaders may be conducive to being lauded as a “friend of the Palestinian people”, it certainly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public or meet the BBC’s obligations.

One would of course expect better from any BBC journalist – but in particular from one carrying the title BBC World Service Middle East editor.

Related Articles:

 More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting 

 

BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

Last week we noted that the synopsis to a BBC World Service radio report on the recent Radiohead concert in Tel Aviv inaccurately described that city as “the Israeli capital”.

After BBC Watch alerted the programme concerned to that inaccuracy, the wording was changed.

However, the edit does not include acknowledgement of the error and – in line with long-standing BBC policy – of course does not bother to inform those who previously read the misleading information that Jerusalem is in fact the capital of Israel.  

 

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

As recorded in part one of this post, politically partisan terminology – that contradicts the BBC’s style guide and was first seen in BBC content in early November 2014 following the issue of a PLO ‘advisory’ document to members of the foreign media – recently reappeared in reports by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell.

Just hours after Knell told listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 21st that the day’s rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere was caused by the fact that Israel had placed metal detectors “at the entrance to the al Aqsa mosque compound“, a later edition of the same programme included a report on the same story from her colleague in Jerusalem, Tom Bateman.

The item (from 26:36 here) was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby – who either had no idea why the orchestrated violence took place or was deliberately promoting the false narrative that it was prompted by the age restrictions on access to Temple Mount that were in fact implemented after – and because of – the calls from Palestinian leaders for a ‘Day of Rage’.

Kesby: “…clashes in Jerusalem today over restricted access to religious sites. Palestinians are angry that many have been prevented from praying at the al Aqsa mosque. Many protested. Well let’s get the background to all of this now from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Well I was down at the Old City just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem when prayers were taking place after midday. Now this part of the Old City is where the compound is…the al Aqsa mosque is to be found. It’s the same site that Jews refer to as Temple Mount; the most revered site in Jerusalem.”

Notably, Bateman’s description of “the al Aqsa mosque” as being “the same site” as Temple Mount conforms to that 2014 PLO ‘media guidance’:

“In addition to promoting its preferred terminology “al Aqsa Mosque compound”, the PLO document from November 5th also states:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, sometimes referred to as the Noble Sanctuary (“Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic), is the compound that contains Al Aqsa building itself, ablution fountains, open spaces for prayer, monuments and the Dome of the Rock building. This entire area enclosed by the walls which spans 144 dunums [sic] (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque.” [emphasis added]”

Bateman went on: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Bateman: “And normally you would see thousands of Muslims heading into the al Aqsa mosque compound. Now people were praying in their hundreds on the streets outside of the Old City walls and as we arrived there – many people had turned up – the police were blocking the road. They were preventing men under the age of 50 from going past those roadblocks. This was all after the killing last week of two Israeli police guards at the compound there. And the Israeli authorities have said that this was to do with maintaining security at the site – having the metal detectors there and the measures today to ban men under 50 – which they said were temporary. But all of this has created a real amount of anger among Palestinians, among Muslim religious leaders who called for this day of protest today.”

As we see, Bateman downgraded the ‘Day of Rage’ that was actually declared to a “day of protest” and failed to inform listeners that the attack on July 14th was an act of terrorism. He continued – giving an eye-witness account that notably erases the actions of the rioters:

Bateman: “Now before and after prayers took place there were some pretty angry confrontations. We saw stun grenades being fired. We saw people running from police officers on horseback. And shortly after that the tensions then spread to other parts of the city – to neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem – and in the last few hours the Palestinian Red Crescent has said that three people have been killed. They say there are 391 people hurt and they say nearly a hundred of those serious enough for people to have to have been taken to hospital.”

Kesby: “And as you say there, lots of complaints from the Palestinian side that the security forces have been heavy-handed. Is it your understanding that these measures in place at the moment after those deaths last week are temporary or could this be something that we see continuing?”

Bateman: “Well I think the Israeli authorities certainly were saying that the measures about preventing men under 50 from entering the site are temporary. As for the metal detectors at the site, well the police have said that weapons were smuggled into the compound before those three Arab Israelis carried out that attack last week. Now the point is that Palestinians – for whom the al Aqsa mosque is a crucially important site, not just to their faith but to their identity as well – that they fear that this may signal some kind of change; an assertion… a further assertion of Israeli control at the site there. And as international leaders appeal for calm in all this, I think that everybody realises and understands that tensions surrounding the al Aqsa mosque do have the potential to escalate.”

Notably, Bateman qualified his statement on the smuggling of firearms into al Aqsa mosque prior to the July 14th terror attack with the phrase “police have said” – despite the existence of video evidence. He then amplified Palestinian ‘fears’ without clarifying to listeners that they are baseless and without informing them that under the terms of the existing arrangements, Israel is responsible for security at the site.

As we see, although Tom Bateman has only been based in Jerusalem for a couple of months, he has already ditched the BBC Academy style guide’s instruction on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount and – like his more veteran colleague Yolande Knell – has compromised BBC impartiality by adopting partisan language that endorses the political agenda of one side to a complex conflict.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC backgrounder on Palestinian ‘metal detector’ outrage fails to tell all

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one