BBC radio listeners get misinformation from Lyse Doucet

The day after the general election in Israel – April 10th – listeners to BBC radio stations heard commentary from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet who had been ‘parachuted’ in (along with Martha Kearney) to cover the event.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 1:33:13 here) during which listeners again heard Doucet claim that the election had been called by Netanyahu alone. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “But in Israel […] it’s not just about winning the election; it’s winning the battle to form a new coalition. And the numbers look like it is the Right-wing, that the prime minister’s been wooing ever since he announced this election campaign, that he looks set to be the man who can do the job. But the arithmetic is still complicated. There’s…Israel also gives a new name to horse trading and electoral promises and electoral…ah…pulling back promises. So we have to wait and see. It’s not going to be straightforward.”

Kearney: “And what are these smaller parties like – the kinds that Benjamin Netanyahu are talking to?”

Doucet: “Let me say another thing about this election. This has told us two things about Israel. One is that in a way Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu both won and lost. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu will get to stay in power, get to try to avoid those indictments on corruption and fraud, but he has been…trounced in a way by Benny Gantz. A total newcomer to politics has surged ahead to show Israelis that there is an alternative. So it is in a sense a victory for Benny Gantz but also for the electoral landscape. The far-Right parties who also were the newcomers – people had thought that they may be the kingmakers. As the votes show now they did not enter…they’re not going to enter the Knesset; the parties who were condemned here by many Israelis as being racist and homophobic.”

As we saw in a previous post, Doucet had likewise referred to unnamed “far Right-wing racist parties” – i.e. more than one – in a report the day before even though until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – ‘Otzma Yehudit’ (Jewish Power) as racist.

A report from Doucet was also aired in the April 10th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:44 here) and the same claim was repeated.

Doucet: “This is a man [Netanyahu] who managed to win again even though indictments are looming on three big charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust. But the attorney general is still expected to press charges and Israel now does not have any legislation which says you can’t indict a sitting prime minister so he’s going to want to have politicians who’ll say ‘well no, you can keep governing even though you’ll have to fight those indictments; it’ll go on in the background but please, Benjamin Netanyahu, keep ruling us’ and that seems to be the message from the political electorate which is moving to the Right – not the far Right. Some of the new far Right parties didn’t manage to make it into the Knesset and some Israelis here see that as a victory for democracy. These were parties described as racist and homophobic.” 

So which “new”, “far Right”, “racist and homophobic” parties (plural) was Doucet talking about? The answer to that question was revealed in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 34:12 here) presented by Tim Franks.

Doucet: “…it was said that he [Netanyahu] called this election nine months earlier [sic]. He was trying to preempt the attorney general who basically would not be preempted. He came out with his report on the three corruption cases where the prime minister is facing likely indictment before the elections. […] Israel currently doesn’t have any laws which say that you can [sic] indict a sitting prime minister. He was hoping for one of two things: either that there would be a…some kind of acceptance by the parties in his coalition that he can continue to govern even after he’s indicted – in other words while the political [sic – legal] processes take their course.” […]

Franks: “And Lyse, it was said of his last coalition that it was the most Right-wing in Israel’s history. What were…how’s the new one going to shape up?”

Doucet: “There were worries before the election that it would not just be a Right-wing but a far Right-wing government and that prime minister Netanyahu was reaching out to new parties just formed which were racist and homophobic – so much so that even members of the Democrats in the United States and AIPAC, the American Jewish organisation, said that they were not consistent with Jewish values. The way the votes have turned out they did not cross the threshold – at least two of the far-Right parties – to take seats in the senate [sic] so maybe more of the more familiar Right-wing and religious parties which will form part of his coalition.”

The one party which garnered criticism from AIPAC and others is ‘Otzma Yehudit’ which – contrary to Doucet’s claims – is not “new” or “just formed” but has been in existence since 2012. In this election that party ran together with two others on a list called the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP).

Where Doucet got the idea that the URWP “did not cross the threshold” is unclear. The exit polls conducted by the three Israeli TV channels predicted that the list would secure between four and five seats in the Knesset and the final count gave it five seats.

One new party which did not gain enough votes to secure any seats in the Knesset was ‘The New Right’ party headed Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Nobody has branded that party “racist and homophobic”.

Obviously the BBC’s chief international correspondent did not bother to familiarise herself with the differences between ‘Otzma Yehudit’ and ‘The New Right’ before giving BBC audiences her ‘expert analysis’. Clearly too she did not make any effort to check out the facts before repeatedly telling listeners around the world that there are “racist and homophobic” parties – plural – in Israel.

We have seen before – especially during conflicts – that journalists ‘parachuted’ in to Israel to cover a major event often produce low-quality and inaccurate reporting due to a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Nevertheless, this is not some junior reporter but the BBC’s chief international correspondent and one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of flying in extra journalists to report a specific story, it would at least ensure that they are familiar with the basic facts in order to ensure that the corporation’s funding public gets accurate reporting. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports election campaign speculation as fact

Advertisements

BBC WS ‘Business Matters’ sails close to antisemitic trope

The lead story in the April 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ (which ostensibly provides listeners with “global business news”) was, for reasons unknown, the previous day’s general election in Israel.

Listeners first heard (from 1:07 here) some of the more sensible commentary concerning the election aired on BBC stations in recent weeks from the Jerusalem Post’s Knesset correspondent Lahav Harkov.

Referring to Netanyahu, at 5:32 presenter Roger Hearing asked her “why do they keep voting for him?” and – noting the absence of good foreign press reporting on the topic – Harkov responded by citing the fact that the Israeli economy is doing well, that unemployment is down and that international relations are thriving.

Hearing next briefly and superficially discussed aspects of Israel’s economy with one of his two guests before turning to the other – previously introduced as Ralph Silva of the Silva Network but with listeners having been given no indication of what makes a “Broadcasting Analyst Focused on Banking, Technology and Media” qualified to comment on the topic of Israel or the Middle East.

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

[7:21] Hearing: “And…err…Ralph: I suppose the thing also, Israel’s slightly got pushed to the back of the news agenda with everything else that’s been happening in the world and even in the Middle East itself but it is still a very…a place that matters a great deal more that its size would indicate in political terms and of course Mr Netanyahu’s quite closely aligned to Donald Trump.”

Silva: “Well he is and I think that there are some concerns there, especially considering the election campaign. We’ve heard quite a bit about developments in the West Bank and pushing that process forward and making it more stable and more secure and with the US government such as it is, it’s basically in support of that so I think that while we haven’t seen a huge amount of developments in relation to the West Bank in the past couple of administrations, now the situation’s a bit different where they do have support especially from the US now. So I am a little bit concerned because there’s been a lot of rhetoric about the West Bank and about how aggressive they’re going to be in the West Bank and of course an aggressive move there could cause some problems. But I think it’s going to be a space to watch and I think we’re going to see a lot of developments in the next elec…in the next 4 to 5 years.”

With that commentary being as clear as mud, listeners would likely have taken away little more than the notion that some party – apparently either Israel or the US – is going to be “aggressive…in the West Bank”.

Hearing: “And of course there’s also Iran. Within the last few days they’ve advanced moves against Iran, making the Revolutionary Guard there an illegal organisation as far as – a terrorist organisation – as far as the US is concerned. And a lot of people see the moves towards Iran including the sanctions that have been put on – the economic sanctions – as being to some extent dictated by Israel or at least influenced by Israel.”

Silva: “Well certainly and if you listen to the press in the United States that’s exactly what is being said. It’s being said that Trump’s administration is supporting them and I think that there’s this new bravado going on because they feel that – the Israelis right now feel like they got a lot of backing right now and clearly they do. Ahm…and there’s been a lot of aggression and what we have to see is sort of a calming down and so I think after this election – during the election we saw that – but as soon as this election is decided I think we’re going to see a calming down of that. At least history has shown us that there is the calming down right after an election so that’s good news.”

Once again it is difficult to imagine how the BBC can claim that such commentary from a guest whose credentials concerning the Middle East were not clarified can possibly be said to contribute to audience understanding of the topic.

What listeners did hear however was the BBC sailing very close to an antisemitic trope by advancing the unsourced and facile notion that American policy on Iran is “dictated by Israel” rather than based on the US’s own considerations.

That, apparently, is the dismal level of ‘analysis’ that the BBC is capable of providing to its worldwide audiences.

BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports election campaign speculation as fact

On December 26th 2018 an overwhelming majority of MKs voted to dissolve the 20th Knesset and go to elections just over three months later.

“The bill for the dissolution of the 20th Knesset was given final approval by the plenum Wednesday night. The government-sponsored dissolution bill was merged with private bills submitted by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Ayman Odeh (Joint List).

The bill, which passed by a vote of 102-2 in its third (final) reading, also sets early elections for April 9, 2019. The MKs who voted against the bill were Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Yaron Mazuz (Likud).”

Two days earlier the BBC had correctly told visitors to its website that:

“Israel is to hold a general election in April, the ruling coalition has said.

The political partners decided to call the poll after failing to resolve a dispute over a draft conscription bill for ultra-Orthodox Jews. […]

The ruling coalition was recently reduced to holding a one-seat majority in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) after the then-defence minister resigned in protest over what he said was a weak approach towards dealing with attacks from Gaza, the Palestinian enclave bordering Israel.

By Sunday night it was clear the government faced collapse after ultra-Orthodox parties threatened to withdraw over the draft conscription bill.”

Listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ on April 9th however heard a completely different account of those events from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

In the programme’s afternoon edition presenter James Coomarasamy introduced an item (from 18:37 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Now another election now and it was an early call but was it the right one for him? Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be finding out whether his decision to hold an early election today will secure him his record-breaking fifth term in office.”

In contrast to Coomarasamy’s claim that the decision to call an election was made by Mr Netanyahu alone, it was actually taken by the heads of all five coalition parties and – as seen above – endorsed by a majority of Knesset members from parties across the entire political spectrum.

After listeners had heard recordings of statements made by Netanyahu and the Blue and White list leader Benny Gantz at their polling stations, Coomarasamy brought in “Newshour’s very own Lyse Doucet who’s in Jerusalem for us”. Having mentioned the weather and voter turnout percentage, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “There’s a bit of apathy this time round because in effect this election campaign is about only one issue and that is Benjamin Netanyahu. Will he get that fifth term in office and put himself in the history books as Israel’s longest serving prime minister? So the question in this whole election is will Bibi, as he’s known, win and is Bibi good for Israel.”

Seeing as the BBC’s coverage of the run up to the election totally ignored the topic of what concerns the Israeli voter, it is of course hardly surprising that Doucet would come out with that inaccurate and superficial claim. Coomarasamy went on to suggest yet again that Netanyahu had called the election alone.

Coomarasamy: “And at the moment, I mean, he…he’s sounding confident. He sounds as though he made the right decision. I suppose, you know, this early election is…was a gamble. He’s made a gamble before and it didn’t pay off.”

Doucet: “He called early elections – eight months earlier – because he was trying to get in ahead of the attorney general but the attorney general got the best of him and has already indicated that charges are pending – corruption charge, fraud, breach of trust – and so there’s criminal investing…there’s criminal charges pending against Benjamin Netanyahu and he was hoping that he would call these elections and secure his fifth term before the attorney general filed. So this cloud is hanging over his head and what he would like to do is first of all get the high…get his Likud party to get the highest number of seats tonight – but remember: no party in Israel has ever ruled on its own – that he would then be chosen by the president to try to bring…to forge a governing coalition which will be comprised of not just Right-wing parties but far Right-wing racist parties – ah…and that’s causing some concern here – and then be able to pass a new law in the Israeli Knesset which says you can’t be charged when you’re a sitting prime minister. Israel doesn’t have that yet. So that’s the gamble really that he’s dealing with now.”

Until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) as racist but apparently the BBC’s chief international correspondent sees no problem in branding more than one Israeli political party in that way.

Coomarasamy: “That’s his personal gamble. What’s at stake for the country as a whole would you say, Lyse?”

Doucet: “Well that is the big issue. I mean one Israeli commentator was saying that it’s not just fateful issues on the agenda, it’s the fate of the country which is on the agenda. Israel has been moving steadily to the Right over the past decades, largely fuelled by the failure of peace making with the Palestinians. It’s noticeable that that simply wasn’t an issue at all in these elections. And look at what has happened in the past year thanks to Mr Netanyahu’s greatest champion in the White House, Donald Trump. The Americans have moved their embassy to Jerusalem, they’ve recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – effectively trying to take that issue off the table. They also have recognised the Golan as part of…under Israeli jurisdiction – not Syrian. So in some ways they’ve been trying to move toward resolving these issues and Mr Netanyahu even threatened or even indicated – again, in a bid to get those far Right-wing votes – that he would annex large parts of the West Bank, which takes another issue off the agenda.”

As we have regrettably had cause to note here before, despite the best efforts of BBC journalists to ignore it, the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties”.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – presented by Tim Franks – also included a contribution from “our very own Lyse Doucet” (from 45:05 here) in which she again paraphrased anonymous Israeli commentators.

Doucet: “…but I have to say, Tim, that the Israeli analysts are already saying this is a message to Benjamin Netanyahu that you may have snuck in again but your days are numbered.”

Franks: “Right and I suppose there would be a question also, were he to get in, just how long he might be in for because there are these corruption allegations hanging over him.”

Doucet again promoted the falsehood that Netanyahu had called an election all on his own.

Doucet: “He called this election eight months earlier than he had to. He was hoping to get a new mandate before the attorney general published or finished his investigation. The attorney general preempted him. The charges have been published – he’s facing possible indictment on three major corruption, bribery, breach of trust charges. What he wants from…if he does form a new government he will want that government to bring in new legislation which means a sitting prime minister cannot be indicted. He wants legal cover for those charges. It’s…this is quite clearly being discussed here. So it’s not just about winning these elections; it’s about winning his personal freedom as well.”

The as yet non-existent legislation touted by Doucet is known in Hebrew as ‘the French Law’ after similar legislation in France. Four days before Doucet laid out her theory according to which Netanyahu had dissolved the Knesset and called elections all on his own in order to get such a law passed, the Times of Israel reported that:

“Several political allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday they would not back an effort to pass a law giving the premier immunity from prosecution. […]

…several senior ministers said they would not back the law, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“He [Netanyahu] promised he wouldn’t try, and if a proposal like this comes up from others in the Knesset, I’ll oppose it,” Erdan told Army Radio.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who helped torpedo a bid in 2017 by a Netanyahu ally in the Likud to pass an immunity bill, said he would continue to oppose it. “Everyone is equal under the law,” he told Army Radio. […]

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is also seen as a likely coalition partner for Netanyahu should he be tasked with forming the next government, also said he was against a retroactive measure.

He blamed speculation about Netanyahu seeking a measure on “the media.””

Indeed speculation on that topic was rife during election campaigning but senior BBC journalist Lyse Doucet did not report it as speculation: she reported it as fact – even constructing a supporting story about a one-man deliberate dissolving of parliament and subsequent election – without providing any concrete evidence to support her claims.

So much for BBC accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC Watch prompts correction to error on Israeli elections

Reviewing BBC News website pre-election coverage

 

Inaccuracies in BBC WS ‘Newsday’ report on Israel election

Listeners to the later edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on April 9th heard a five-minute item replete with factual errors and misleading claims.

The item was introduced (from 04:23 here) by a presenter who managed not only to pronounce the Israeli prime minister’s first name in three different ways in 44 seconds but also inaccurately described him as Israel’s “longest-serving prime minister”. In fact, only if Netanyahu is still prime minister on July 17th 2019 will he overtake David Ben Gurion – currently Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The presenter also failed to note that whether or not what she described as “imminent criminal indictments” against Netanyahu will be filed depends upon hearings to be held in the coming months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Presenter: “Let’s take you to Israel now…eh…Israelis are going to the polls today as the country’s longest-serving prime minister Benyamin [sic] Netanyahu faces his toughest challenge yet. Plagued with controversies and under the shadow of imminent criminal indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, many are still tipping him to win. Let’s speak now to our Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman. Tom, it’s been described as almost a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule but now he has a real contender and a challenger…eh…in the former…general – or retired general – Benny Gantz. Let’s talk about Benny Gantz for a minute. What’s he promising and why has he proven such a strong challenger to Binyamin Netanyahu?”

Bateman: “Well Benny Gantz was a chief of the Israeli army. He was actually in position under Mr Netanyahu’s leadership when he was prime minister in this last term.”

Netanyahu’s latest term in office began in May 2015 following elections in March of that year. Benny Gantz retired from army service in February 2015 and so – while Gantz was chief of staff during parts of two of Netanyahu’s earlier terms in office, Bateman’s claim that he was “in position” during “this last term” of Netanyahu’s office is clearly inaccurate.

Bateman went on to promote false equivalence while describing a Hamas rocket attack on a moshav in central Israel last month.

Bateman: “He oversaw the military operation – the all-out conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel – in 2014 so he is an experienced general. He entered the race after…they have to have a three year…ah…period of rest away from the military or politics because former generals in Israel are usually pretty hot stuff when it comes to Israeli politics and they can be very popular. He entered this race and he has put up a very serious challenge to Benjamin Netanyahu who, remember, likes to portray himself as the guarantor of Israel’s security. That has been his number one pitching point to the Israeli public and so to have this former chief of staff to come in and who has said that in his view Mr Netanyahu has not been effective on the security front. There has been a military flare-up again between Hamas and Israel during the election campaign and Mr Netanyahu’s rivals, including Mr Gantz, were quick to jump on that and say that he should have been tougher.”

Presenter: “And Mr Netanyahu has been appealing to the Right-wing voter base. How and…and…will that make a difference in the way that people vote given how close the challenge is?”

Once again avoiding the topic of the effects of Palestinian terrorism on Israeli public opinion and the tricky question of how a two-state solution could come about under Palestinian leadership split between Fatah and Hamas, Bateman promoted PLO messaging on the topic of ‘settlements’.

Bateman: “Well the Israeli public has shifted to the Right over the decades, particularly since the Left in Israel saw its last high-water mark in the 1990s in the Oslo peace accords – the peace process with the Palestinians – which has very much been frozen and in many ways begun to fall apart since then. Particularly the Israeli youth are…many of them vehement supporters of the Right wing and Mr Netanyahu. And I think even during this campaign we have seen him tack further to the Right and in the closing days of the campaign he said that he would phase the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, so extending Israeli sovereignty formally over those settlements which have grown in number since he was last elected into office. They’re illegal under international law although Israel disputes this but fundamentally they are seen by the Palestinians as the single biggest obstacle to them establishing a future state. And so what we have seen in this election, I think, with that further appeal to the Right wing is the prospect of the internationally held formula – a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians – really moved even further to the margins.”

In addition to Bateman’s promotion of the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ we see that he also promotes the inaccurate claim that the number of what the BBC chooses to call ‘settlements’ has “grown” since Netanyahu was “last elected into office” – i.e. since the previous election in March 2015.

In June 2017 the BBC itself reported that work had begun on what it described as “the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for more than 20 years”. That community – Amichai – will house former residents of Amona which was evacuated in February 2017. No additional new communities have been built by the Israeli government in the past four years and proposals to legalise outposts built without government consent have not progressed. It is therefore unclear on what evidence Bateman bases his assertion that “settlements…have grown in number” since March 2015.

The item continued:

Presenter: “And I mean we…we talk about Mr Netanyahu of course facing a tough challenge but he’s also, you know, facing…ehm…he’s…he could be removed from office under criminal indictments. Mr Netanyahu still faces charges of corruption. How is that affecting, you know, his campaign and how’s that affecting the support for him?”

Bateman: “Well among his most loyal supporters, I mean they’re…they’re…they’re fiercely loyal of [sic] him. They know about the allegations – some might even believe them – but they really don’t care.”

Presenter: “Hmm.”

Only at that point in the item did listeners hear an accurate portrayal of “what will happen next” in relation to the repeatedly referenced legal cases involving Netanyahu but no information was provided concerning Israeli law in such a situation.

Bateman: “I think it possibly has had some effect and it has allowed Benny Gantz to pick up some votes from the Right wing although most of the votes he has taken seem to be coming from the Left. As for what will happen next, well we’re due at some point later this year – the Israeli attorney general – to give Mr Netanyahu a hearing and then those charges could be formally laid against him so you will then have a sitting prime minister with a formal indictment against him which would be a rare or unprecedented situation in Israeli politics and what may happen over the coming days, if he wins the election he has to put together a coalition government. Perhaps there will be a price to membership of the coalition in that parties and their leaders will have to say that they would support him through that process and not resign from government which would then precipitate a collapse of the government and then potentially another general election.”

Once again we see that the profuse amount of BBC coverage of Israeli affairs and the permanent presence of BBC staff in Jerusalem does not preclude shoddy and inaccurate reporting which misleads audiences around the world.  

Related Articles:

Another Israeli election, another BBC claim of a ‘shift to the right’

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The April 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:11 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life in hotly contested elections next week, trying to win another term in office despite facing possible indictments on corruption charges. His election campaign has made much of his ability to deliver dividends from Israel’s relationship with America and has highlighted his friendship with President Trump but for some time his Right-wing policies have been chipping away at America’s strong bi-partisan support for the Israeli government and that fracture is becoming ever more public. Barbara Plett Usher takes a closer look.”

Listeners heard no justification for the use of the buzz words “Right-wing policies” and no explanation of what those policies supposedly involve. They were given no evidence to support the claim that American support is for “the Israeli government” rather than Israel as a whole. Neither was any evidence provided supporting the claim that such support has been diminished solely and exclusively because of the Israeli prime minister’s policies. Plett Usher’s report opened with a recording of the Israeli prime minister speaking.

Recording Netanyahu: “Thank you President Trump. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship.”

Plett Usher: “Benjamin Netanyahu has always believed he’s best at reading the wind when it comes to Americans and he felt that wind at his back on a trip to Washington last week.”

Recording Trump: “Under my administration the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”

Barbara Plett Usher went on to repeat the buzz words heard in the introduction but while this time listeners learned that those policies supposedly relate to “the Palestinians and Iran”, they were not told what those policies are or in what way they are “Right-wing”.

Plett Usher: “President Trump has embraced him and his Right-wing policies on the Palestinians and Iran.”

As Jonathan Spyer recently pointed out, there is in fact “an almost complete consensus between a broad mass of the Israeli (Jewish) public” on the issue of Iranian threats against Israel and “a decline in the level of polarisation within the Jewish voting public over the last two decades” concerning “the security challenge of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinian Arab national movement”.

“Regarding Iran, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, which forms the main challenger to the ruling Likud party in the 2019 campaign, has made clear that there are no disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the question of Iran and the threat it poses.

The consensus, however, goes beyond the rightist Likud and centrist Blue and White party. Labor and Meretz, representing the centre-Left and left-wing spots on the political map, are similarly supportive of the government’s stance on Iran.”

Quite how Plett Usher justifies her claim of “Right-wing policies on Iran” is therefore unclear.

On the subject of the conflict with the Palestinians, Spyer notes that:

“…this debate has lost much of its passion. On the Left, the belief that a partner for historic compromise had been found in the PLO lost many adherents after the collapse of the peace process and the commencement of Palestinian insurgency in late 2000. On the Right, the fervent and ideological commitment to avoidance of any land concessions west of the Jordan River also faded.

This has been reflected in the 2019 campaign. The main contenders – Likud and Blue and White, are clearly competing for the centre ground. “

Once again the justification for Plett Usher’s use of the slogan “Right-wing policies” is unclear.

She continued with a segment including unidentified interviewees at the recent AIPAC conference –using another label for which she did not bother to provide evidence.

Plett Usher: “But outside the White House the wind is shifting. [music] Not here. Support was rock solid at this conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – or AIPAC. It has promoted Israel’s relationship with the US for decades in both political parties. But a few young, newly elected Democrats have been challenging that orthodoxy, triggering a controversy over charges of antisemitism and the level of bi-partisan support.”

Man 1: “The three vocal Democratic representatives are just vocal. They’re loud mouths. And I feel their uproar – people like uproar, they like a tumult, OK – and I think it’ll die down.”

Man 2: “I think that there’s enough love and support in the United States for Israel and an understanding of the importance of the alliance that it really will not affect the relationship.”

Referring to a small demonstration against AIPAC in March, Plett Usher went on to introduce a representative of a political group which, interestingly, she did not find it necessary to locate on the political spectrum.

[shouting: ‘Free Palestine, Free Gaza’]

Plett Usher: “Only a handful of demonstrators showed up but in fact opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s policies has been building for some time, especially when it comes to treatment of the Palestinians and especially in the younger generation. [shouting] That includes many American Jews who say Israel has lurched so far to the Right they no longer share its values. Ethan Miller belongs to a protest group called ‘If Not Now’.”

Miller: “You know, we’re a rising movement – a rising grassroots movement – of American Jews but I think we’re starting to see changes in Congress as well. We’re starting to see members of Congress both in the house and in the Senate actually start to speak up for Palestinian human rights in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”

The group ‘If Not Now’ claims to be “working to transform the American Jewish community’s support for occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all”. Apparently Plett Usher would have her listeners believe that “the occupation” – which of course began as the result of a defensive war during the term of a Left-wing government when the current Israeli prime minister was still four months short of his eighteenth birthday – is one of “Mr Netanyahu’s policies”.

Plett Usher: “It’s a trend that’s never been so pronounced or contentious.”

Recording: “Breaking news coming out of the House of Representatives where a resolution has just passed condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”

Plett Usher then presented a highly selective version of a story from February, failing to clarify that the congresswoman did in fact use an antisemitic trope.  

Plett Usher: “A Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was accused of using antisemitic language. That broke open divisions within the party in a public and messy way. Still, there was an upside says Jeremy Ben Ami. He heads a liberal pro-Israel lobby called J Street that is challenging AIPAC and he organised a conference call on the controversy.”

Recording Ben Ami: “The space that we need to have is the space to discuss the occupation. I think that we are in a place now where those conversations can actually start to be had.”

Plett Usher did not bother to inform listeners that J Street – which some would dispute is “pro-Israel” – was founded in 2007 when the prime minister of Israel was Kadima’s Ehud Olmert or that, in contrast to AIPAC which does not donate to candidates or campaigns, J Street donated some $4 million to exclusively Democratic candidates in 2018. She went on:

Plett Usher: “Or maybe not.”

Recording Trump: “But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

Plett Usher: “President Trump has seized the moment to go after the Democrats, even though he’s been accused of enabling antisemitism. Republicans are claiming to be better defenders of Israel and Democratic lawmaker Tom Malinowski says there’s now less space for conversation about Israel within the party – not more.”

Malinowski: “I am absolutely convinced it is possible to have a debate about our foreign policy towards Israel or any other country but when people start using blatantly antisemitic tropes in that debate, it actually makes it harder. It actually tends to shut down serious debate about foreign policy because everybody becomes defensive and angry rather that thoughtful about the choices that are before us.”

Plett Usher finished by building up what she apparently knows to be an imaginary story about a ‘boycott’ of the recent AIPAC conference.

Plett Usher: “The young and outspoken lawmakers have received an outsized amount of coverage but it is not just about them. Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for president include a mix of liberals and ethnic minorities who have also been more critical of Israeli policy.”

Recording Pence: “And as I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”

Plett Usher: “The vice-president Mike Pence brought up the 2020 election at the AIPAC conference.”

Recording Pence: “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Plett Usher: “In fact only one candidate – Bernie Sanders – explicitly said he was not attending because of policy differences. But it does look as if Israel will be an issue in America’s presidential campaign long after the Israeli prime minister has finished his.”

Plett Usher’s framing of this story is abundantly clear: ‘liberal’ Americans are, according to her, abandoning Israel solely because of its prime minister’s “Right-wing policies”. Unsurprisingly she ignored the relevant issue of the Democratic party’s leftward shift over the years in order to uncritically and unquestioningly promote a narrative advanced by the anti-Israel group showcased in her report.

“My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change,” said Simone Zimmerman, 28, a co-founder of a progressive group, IfNotNow, that opposes what it calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Ms. Zimmerman scorned what she called “the Trump-Netanyahu” alliance and said “too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let them off the hook.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” intended to “build people’s understanding of…the wider world”. 

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

 

 

 

More one-sided Gaza coverage on BBC World Service radio

As we saw in an earlier post, the March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary” and following reports from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, listeners heard five full minutes of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda from a professor at a university established by Hamas leaders.

Later on in the same programme (from 44:06 here) presenter Lyse Doucet recycled part of that interview. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “A reminder of our top story this hour: thousands of Palestinians have been demonstrating on the border of Gaza on the first anniversary of weekly protests against Israel. Dr Mosheer Amer is professor of the Islamic…at the Islamic University of Gaza. He told this programme why his students were so frustrated with life there.”

Amer: “…there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza.”

Given the BBC’s obligation to provide “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”, listeners may have expected that “top story” to go on to include the perspective of residents of the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year.

However, despite Yolande Knell’s rare visit to one of those communities, rather than balancing Mosheer Amer’s five-minute portrayal of life in Gaza with an equivalent item recorded in Israel, Doucet went on to introduce a commentator from a think-tank heavily funded (see also page 43 here) by the same Gulf state – Qatar – known for harbouring and funding Hamas.   

Doucet: “Back to our top story this hour: today’s one-year anniversary of the weekly Gaza protests along its border fence with Israel. It all comes at a time of mounting tension. This week a rocket attack from Gaza wounded 7 Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv. Israel launched a wave of airstrikes. There’ve already been three wars between Israel and Gaza in the past decade. Is there a risk of another? I’ve been speaking with Daniel Byman. He’s a foreign policy editor of Lawfare and he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. What are the prospects of another serious escalation between Hamas and Israel?”

Byman: “There is always a prospect of serious escalation. You have a situation in Gaza that is miserable for the Gazans. You have a Palestinian leadership that is divided and competitive and you have Israel that’s very willing to use force to protect what it sees as its security and that combination is very combustible. The good news is that despite having this potential we haven’t seen it spill over into a massive conflict – especially not in the last year or so. No side is particularly eager to begin the fighting but the potential is quite real.”

Apparently the BBC’s supposedly neutral expert does not consider an entire year of weekly violent rioting at the border or the launching of over a thousand rockets into Israeli territory in 2018 or the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Moshav Mishmeret within ten days as ‘eager to begin the fighting’.

Clearly from her subsequent remarks, Lyse Doucet too does not take over a thousand rocket attacks in twelve months too seriously, given that she went on to describe Israel as suffering from “tension” while Gaza suffers from “violence”.

Doucet: “Now we know there are back-channels to try to de-escalate the tension if not try to move towards some agreement. Egypt, for example, is trying to play this role. Do you see anything happening behind the scenes that Gaza can somehow get out of this endless cycle of violence and Israel can get out of this endless tension along that boundary?”

Erasing the Palestinian terror which has made counter-terrorism measures necessary, Byman replied with a curious claim of a current “state of peace”.

Byman: “In the near term there’s no hope for a deal that’s going to resolve this but there is hope for a deal that will at least ease the conditions in Gaza, that will open some [sic – there are two] of the crossings, that will expand the fishing zone, that will otherwise make life a little better for Gaza and as a result allow Hamas – which is ruling Gaza – to be able to say that they’ve achieved something; that they’ve made life better for Gazans and thus they have a reason to maintain the peace. And so that’s not a final status solution, that’s not something that’s going to resolve it forever but hopefully we could take the current uneasy state of peace and continue it.”

Doucet: “Now Israel of course accuses Hamas of using the people of Gaza as human shields to attack and terrorise Israeli civilians and as you know there were recent rare protests inside Gaza by citizens blaming Hamas in part for the dire state of affairs. Do you see any signs of any kind of shift in Hamas’ position?”

Byman then whitewashed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and its use of violence to maintain power while bizarrely framing the terror organisation in terms of Western politics.

Byman: “This is very hard to tell. So Hamas has a fairly tight grip on politics in Gaza and certainly dealt with the protesters. There is criticism but it’s hard to tell whether the movement itself is relatively popular as some polls indicate or if people are simply afraid. What makes things much better for Hamas is that it doesn’t have strong Palestinian rivals within Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, its main rival, is weak in Gaza; it’s not particularly popular and in general Hamas has been able to suppress most dissent. Hamas worries about criticism on both its right and its left but it’s been able to navigate that for over ten years now.”

Readers may recall that back in 2017, Lyse Doucet inaccurately claimed on the same BBC World Service programme that Hamas had ‘changed’ its charter. Apparently the BBC’s refusal to correct that inaccuracy at the time has led to Doucet holding on to that illusion.

Doucet: “But you see it as…its posture as being consistently just anti-Israel? There was a lot of attention a few years ago, as you know, that Hamas was changing its posture, looking for another way out in terms of its relationship with Israel. What…how do you see that now?”

Byman: “I would say Hamas is certainly anti-Israel but it’s also pragmatic. It recognises that Israel has military superiority. It recognises that it is diplomatically isolated. So Hamas is hoping that it now might be a time to strike at least a temporary deal. Now might be a time to try to achieve economic expansion in some way that will enable it to have accomplishments and they can claim that it’s doing something for the Palestinian people even if it isn’t achieving liberation through what it would call resistance.”

Doucet did not bother to clarify to listeners that as far as Hamas is concerned, “liberation” means the eradication of Israel and “resistance” means acts of violence.

Doucet: “And does Gaza, Hamas fit in in any way to this expected new American deal for the Middle East – it’s been called the deal of the century – which would focus on…largely on Israel, what’s happening in the West Bank – which of course is not run by Hamas – and the wider region?”

Doucet refrained from informing audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication.

Byman: “There are a dozen or so reasons to be sceptical of the so-called deal of the century and I think there’s a reason we haven’t seen any real details despite President Trump being in office for quite some time now. On Gaza I would stress that if the deal ignores Hamas, which I think is likely, Hamas can easily disrupt the deal. Hamas attacks in Israel will lead to a very ferocious Israeli response and that back and forth discredits any moderates who are negotiating. It’s very hard to negotiate when rockets are falling. It’s very hard to negotiate when Israel is bombing Gaza. And so Hamas effectively has a veto over a deal and ignoring it is going to be a mistake.”

Byman has been touting that idea of negotiating with Hamas for almost a decade regardless of the fact that the terror group has no interest in making peace with Israel.

Doucet: “So in a situation where you have the UN and many aid agencies and there are some people warning that Gaza’s a ticking time bomb, that its deepening humanitarian crisis and this tension of course, this continuing violence that shows no sign of ending, do you see any way out?”

Byman: “I think the best we can hope for in the near term is that there are fewer crises and the crises that happen involve fewer deaths. From Israel’s point of view it feels that it has achieved some degree of deterrence with Hamas and that even when larger scale conflicts have occurred, that Israel has been able to navigate these with relatively little loss of life on the Israeli side. And as a result Israel feels it can endure the current situation. So I don’t think there’s an answer short of much more comprehensive peace talks and those talks seem likely any time soon.”

Apparently the ‘expert’ brought in by the BBC is unaware of public conversations in Israel concerning ‘deterrence’ and the approach to Hamas. Apparently too he is disinterested in the Israeli citizens that bear the brunt of the terror organisation’s violence.

As we see, while around a quarter of this edition of ‘Newshour’ was devoted to this one story, most of its content focused on the promotion of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda concerning a non-existent “siege” on the Gaza Strip and analysis from a person who promotes the idea of negotiations with the same terror group, while not one Israeli voice was heard. So much for ‘balanced’ coverage.

Related Articles:

Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

BBC refuses to correct an error on a topic it previously reported accurately

 

 

 

Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary”. Illustrated with an image captioned “The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of return”, its synopsis read:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the start of protests along the boundary fence with Israel.”

Presenter Lyse Doucet began (from 00:25 here) by framing the story in the fashion seen throughout the past twelve months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “We start today’s programme in Gaza and the Great March of Return, as it’s called. Today marks one year of weekly protests at Gaza’s border fence with Israel. And Palestinian protesters are at the boundary again, some burning tyres, some using slingshots to hurl stones. And on the other side Israeli troops are massed again, bolstered by tanks and snipers. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past year as well as an Israeli soldier. The protests are meant to highlight the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. But Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields to terrorise Israeli civilians. The anniversary comes in the midst of growing tension between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling this sliver of land along the Mediterranean.”

As we see, the BBC’s chief international correspondent managed to tick nearly all the BBC’s framing boxes in her introduction. That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return’ and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Doucet then brought in Tom Bateman (on a bad line) in the Gaza Strip who, after he had described seeing around a thousand people “close to the fence” who were throwing rocks from slingshots and burning tyres, went on to note the use of tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces, claiming to have been “told” of the death of one person and 40 others injured. Doucet then reinforced the framing:

Doucet: “So it’s not just a protest but it’s a risky protest.”

Having wound up her conversation with Bateman, Doucet brought in Yolande Knell who was situated on the other side of the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Despite that rare visit by a BBC correspondent to one of the Israeli communities which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year (the last one was in July 2018), BBC World Service radio audiences once again did not hear a word from any of its residents.

Informed listeners – obviously not the majority – would have noticed Knell’s allusion to Hamas’ ability to control the level of violence according to its own interests and the fact that she is aware of what she termed “night time protests” – about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing at all.

Knell: “…Hamas officials in Gaza indicating…that they would put pressure on the protesters to turn up but then to stay calm and not to go so close to the fence as they have done previously.”

Knell: “…we know what its [Israel’s] demands would be – among them to stop the night-time protests that have taken place along the fence as well and also the incendiary balloons that have caused so much damage. Balloons and kites sent into Israel.”

Doucet then chose to uncritically amplify the recent UNHRC report while once again concealing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have been shown to have links to terror organisations – primarily Hamas.

Doucet: “And as you know, Yolande, the UN has said…has accused Israel of directly targeting civilians using excessive force. What kind of forces are lined along the border today?”

Following a rambling response from Knell, Doucet moved on.

07:17 Doucet: “So what’s it like to live in Gaza in the midst of this tension and deepening economic hardship for its 2 million residents? The UN often expresses alarm over a territory mired in grinding poverty and unemployment without access to even the basics of life: adequate health, education, water and electricity. Much of Gazan anger is directed at Israel but there were also protests against Hamas this month – rare protests – and they were forcibly suppressed. I’ve been speaking to one Gaza resident, Dr Mosheer Amer who is the professor of discourse analysis and linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.”

Presuming that before inviting him onto the show, the programme’s producers had checked out the record of the professor from a university co-founded by Hamas leaders whose political stance is plainly evident in articles and on social media, it is obvious that they had no problem with the fact that listeners were presented with a totally one-sided, context-free near monologue over the next five minutes.

07:53 Amer: “There is I think quite a strong resolve and determination to continue on the Great Return marches because I think that there is a large position among Palestinian civil society that this is effective in raising awareness internationally of the predicament that they’re facing over the past 12 years especially in Gaza. But there is also a feeling of, you know, sadness over the loss of civilian lives.”

Doucet: “What is life like? Are you – if I can ask – are you a father? You have children?”

Amer: “Yes I am a father of children, 2 kids, and it’s a difficult life. I’m a university professor so I think my condition is a little better than the other ones but I still get close to 30% of my salary. That is barely the minimum for, you know, having a good quality of life. But overall the situation is really difficult. We’re talking about restrictions on travel and movement in and out of Gaza. We have the electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day which is really appalling. I mean you cannot imagine that it is only on 4 to 6 hours electricity per day. And then you have to adjust all your life to this condition. And this is not just a month or two or three months: it’s been going on for quite some time. And then we have the overall economic conditions and the health conditions in Gaza hospitals. So in all aspects of life the situation is really dire and really unbearable and that’s why you see thousands – hundreds of thousands [sic] – of Palestinians flocking to the eastern side of Gaza to raise their voice, to say that enough is enough and we can no longer stay in, you know, this kind of a slow death rhythm of life.”

None of the ‘Great Return March’ events have seen more than 50,000 participants (and most have seen significantly fewer) but Doucet made no effort to correct Amer’s claim of “hundreds of thousands”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Gaza’s perennial electricity crisis and the standard of its healthcare have nothing to do with Israel.

Doucet: “What do your young students tell you? What sense do you get of them and how they think about their future?”

Amer: “Well there’s a sense, a large sense of desperation actually because I mean I’m teaching university students majoring in English and in media and journalism and there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find after I work. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza. And this is because of, again, the situation that the Gaza population have found themselves in because of this 12-year siege on Gaza and the repeated wars and this kind of abnormal state of life that we’re living here in Gaza.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2018 was 52% – not “over like 60%”. Doucet made no effort to challenge that inaccuracy or the false claim of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip.

Doucet: “And this…recently there were I think quite unprecedented protests against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Is this anger also rising?”

Amer: “I think this is anger rising at everybody, including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah and everyone. And there is quite a strong division amongst the Palestinians and there is sort of a trading of finger-pointing at Hamas and at PA’s President Abbas. But I think we have to put this in the context of the severe life conditions that the Gazans find themselves in because of the punitive measures that [are] imposed by the PA and also because of certain policies, economic policies, that the Hamas government here has imposed which aggravated in a sense the kind of suffering that people are facing. But the root cause actually behind all of this is the Israeli siege of Gaza. The policies and the measures adopted by the Israelis to keep life to a bare minimum. Gaza cannot live, it cannot die. And this is what we see that this kind of a slow death. Life is sucked out of Gaza and we have people really living a very difficult life.”

Again failing to challenge Amer’s promotion of the “siege” falsehood and plainly uninterested in hearing more about “economic policies that the Hamas government here has imposed”, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “You…do your own children or children of friends of yours – when I say children, even teenagers – do they go to the protests today?”

Amer: “My kids are like 5 year-olds, you know, and 4 year-old so they’re very…they’re very little. You know, and I wouldn’t take them to that protest at the moment. But I think that my friends’ families, their children have gone; they’re a little bit older. When we think about the Great Return March it’s sort of includes all peoples from all walks of life and also from all sort of socio-economic backgrounds and also from all ages, men, women and young children and adults and so on. So it’s not only restricted to what we see in the images; these sort of 18, 19 years old teenagers.”

Having failed to explain the context to Israel’s security measures that include a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip – and without even one mention of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians – Doucet closed that five minutes of unchallenged propaganda there, leaving BBC World Service audiences even worse informed than before.   

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

 

 

 

 

Inaccurate and misleading BBC WS radio report on Hamas rocket attack

The March 25th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ purported to inform listeners “Why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again”.

“Hours after a rocket hit a house near Tel Aviv and injured seven people, Israel is carrying out strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Could this be the start of a full-scale conflict?”

While able to inform audiences who was carrying out strikes in the Gaza Strip, the ‘Newshour’ team evidently chose not to clarify who had fired the rocket that brought about those strikes.  

Presenter James Coomarasamy’s introduction at the start of the programme included the following:

Coomarasamy: “Tensions rise in the Middle East as President Trump recognises Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights and rockets are fired in both directions between Gaza and Israel.”

Not only do we see a specious suggestion of linkage between the US president’s signing of a proclamation and a rocket fired by terrorists hours earlier but Coomarasamy also promoted false equivalence with the inaccurate claim that rockets were being fired from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

Introducing the item itself (from 00:54), Coomarasamy added the topic of the upcoming election in Israel to his mix of ‘explanations’. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “First though to the Middle East and with Israel’s general election just a couple of weeks away, are we seeing the start of a major conflict in the Gaza Strip? A rocket strike from that territory injured several people and destroyed a house today in a neighbourhood [sic] north of Tel Aviv – the furthest that a rocket fired from Gaza has reached since Israel’s last war with the group – the militant group – which controls the territory, Hamas, five years ago. Spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces Captain Libby Weiss said there was no doubt who was to blame.”

After listeners had heard a recording of Captain Weiss explaining that the rocket in question was produced and launched by Hamas, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “In the past few hours Israel has closed all [sic – actually two] crossings with the Gaza Strip including access to the sea and has launched a series of retaliatory airstrikes.”

The relevant announcement from COGAT actually referred to “a reduction of the fishing zone in Gaza” rather than closure of “access to the sea” as claimed by Coomarasamy, who then changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut short his visit to Washington to oversee the operation but not before President Trump had officially broken with the international consensus and recognised Israel’s claim to the occupied Golan Heights. The Arab League has condemned this move as illegitimate. At the White House Mr Trump said the attack near Tel Aviv today showed how important it was for Israel to be able to defend itself.”

After listeners had heard a recording of the US president’s remarks, Coomarasamy went on to introduce the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 02:51) with “the latest”.

Bateman: “What’s happened tonight is that the Israeli military has carried out now numerous airstrikes in locations in the Gaza Strip. There have been powerful explosions seen and heard in Gaza City, in the centre of the Strip in Khan Younis, in the south. The Israeli military says that one of its targets has been a headquarters for Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, which housed, it says, its general security forces and general intelligence, also military intelligence: the place where it believes that military sites in Israel are gathered by Hamas’ intelligence forces. And it’s also now reported that the offices of Ismail Haniyeh – who is the political leader of Hamas – have been targeted in an Israeli airstrike as well.”

Did “the Israeli military” really say that it believes that those targeted Hamas headquarters are “the place” where the terror group’s military intelligence gathers information on “military sites in Israel”? Here is the relevant IDF Tweet in English, stating only that “Hamas collected intelligence for planning attacks against Israel” and with no mention of “military sites”.

Here is the equivalent Tweet in Hebrew. It states that “Hamas’ military intelligence department is responsible for gathering and studying intelligence against the State of Israel”.

Again we see no evidence to support Bateman’s claim that the IDF said that Hamas’ military intelligence gathers information exclusively about “military sites in Israel”. Moreover, another IDF statement clarified that:

“In response to the attack, the IDF has begun striking Hamas buildings which were utilized to plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. The IDF has struck Hamas’ previously secret military intelligence headquarters, its Internal Security Service offices, the office of Hamas Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, and a number of other military compounds.” [emphasis added]

That unsupported claim from Bateman is particularly pernicious given that not only does the BBC refuse to use the words terror and terrorist when describing Hamas, but Bateman has now implied that its targets are – as Hamas itself often claims – exclusively military rather than predominantly civilian.

No less significant is the fact that an hour before Bateman came on air, the IDF had already reported some 30 rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against civilian communities in the border region (with a further 30 later on through the night). Bateman however elected to erase that deliberate targeting of civilians from view.

Bateman went on to describe the rocket attack on the house in Moshav Mishmeret early the same morning before once again bringing up the topic of the April 9th election in Israel.

Bateman: “This kind of strike, which hasn’t happened since the war between Hamas and Israel of 2014 and comes at a very sensitive time because there are Israeli elections due to take place in two weeks’ time. Some of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals have been saying that he hasn’t taken a forceful enough approach in the last year or so when it comes to Gaza and so there has been political pressure on him.”

Coomarasamy: “Meanwhile, he’s been getting political support from the US president.”

Bateman once again told listeners about the US president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and “criticism” from Syria “as well as other Arab and Muslim states” before Coomarasamy asked whether the US decision is “likely to have an impact on the election”.

With Bateman having replied that “it gives prime minister Netanyahu an electoral lift” and “it does help him to some degree”, the item closed.

With a very significant proportion of this item having focused on the Israeli election and the US proclamation concerning the Golan Heights, BBC World Service radio audiences could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that the answer to the programme’s question of “why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again” (rising tensions in southern Israel were obviously considered to be of less interest) lies in those two topics rather than in the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by terrorist organisations armed with military grade projectiles.

Related Articles:

BBC unquestioningly amplifies unsubstantiated Hamas claims

Improved BBC News website reporting on Sharon rocket attack

 

 

 

Rafi Eitan: BBC WS radio promotes an unproven allegation

The afternoon edition of the March 24th BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a long item (from 14:04 here) relating to the death of Rafi Eitan the previous day.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item as follows: [emphasis added]

Menendez: “Now you may not know the name Rafi Eitan but you’ll almost certainly remember his most famous achievement: the daring operation he led in 1960 to snatch the fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and smuggle him back to Israel for trial and then hanging. Eitan, who’s died in Tel Aviv at the age of 92, became one of Israel’s most renowned agents. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as one of the heroes of Israel’s intelligence services. Indeed he had a hand in many high-profile operations including the apparent theft of uranium from a US laboratory, the attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor and he was also the handler for Jonathan Pollard, the US Navy analyst who was caught spying for Israel.”

Later on in the item (from 18:44) while speaking with Israeli film-maker Duki Dror, Menendez said:

Menendez: “What’s also extraordinary is that he seems to have had roles in – and I guess it’s just a suggestion – that he was involved or perhaps even did it…took this pile of uranium from an American laboratory.”

Dror: “Yeah, there’s so many stories that are connected to his name and his role in the Mossad and sometimes you don’t know how to separate the reality from the myth.”

Although the vast majority of BBC World Service listeners would not know it, there is a good reason for Menendez’s use of the words “apparent” and “suggestion”.

Like ‘Newshour’, the New York Times also promoted those unproven allegations concerning the theft of uranium  – as our CAMERA colleague Tamar Sternthal documented:

“The New York Times’ obituary for Rafi Eitan states as fact that the just deceased Israeli spymaster played a key role in the theft of highly enriched uranium from an American company, though the allegation has never been proven and the disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.”

As Tamar Sternthal notes in her article, the alleged disappearance of more than 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear processing plant in Pennsylvania in the late 1960s has been investigated over the years by a range of US bodies and organisations without result. Moreover, it is not even clear that the material was actually stolen. 

Following communication from CAMERA, the New York Times has since corrected its report. Obviously BBC World Service radio needs to do the same in order to avoid misleading audiences by amplifying what it apparently knows – judging by Menendez’s use of qualifying language – is an entirely unproven allegation.   

BBC’s Stephen Sackur does ‘the Israeli psyche’

The guest appearing in the March 13th edition of the BBC’s interview programme ‘Hardtalk’ was Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen who has previously appeared in BBC content.

Hosted by Stephen Sackur, the programme was aired on the BBC World News television channel, on BBC World Service radio and is also available as a podcast. A clip from the programme was posted on the BBC News website.

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, a prize-winning Israeli novelist who brings a trained psychologist’s eye to compelling stories set in her home country. Hers is a world of moral ambiguity where truth, memory, right and wrong aren’t necessarily what they seem. Does her work tell us something important about the Israeli psyche?”

On several occasions throughout the interview, Stephen Sackur employed fictional characters and quotes from Gundar-Goshen’s novels to try to support his own narratives concerning Israel and Israelis and many of his questions were – predictably – aimed at framing Israel in a specific fashion. [emphasis in italics in the original]

0:40 Sackur: “That is interesting ‘cos it’s searching for the nuance, for a deeper understanding of actions and events. It seems to me that may be difficult in a country, Israel, which I know from personal experience is such a very intense place where people, in a sense, always feel there are existential questions and there are always sides to be taken – our side, their side, good against bad.”

8:29 Sackur: “In some ways your books have magic in them but they also have very difficult, dark stuff in them and when we come back to this theme of your take on truth and lies, you examine and challenge some of the truths that all Israelis think they know and hold very dear, some of them connected with the Holocaust which in your books hangs over so much of your fiction and it’s interpreted in different ways and frankly some people tell lies about what happened […] But also, the story of Israel’s creation. The coming about of the state, the fight in ’47 and ’48 that established the nation. You suggest in one of your books that people who fought in that war don’t always tell the truth about it. That there are serious lies told about how Israel was created.”

11:41 Sackur: “Do you think Israel has a problem with empathy with those who are not – well, we’re talking about Israeli Jews – those who are not Jewish?”

18:46 Sackur: “You live in a country where, if one looks at politics, the majority opinion right now is pretty Right-wing. Binyamin Netanyahu’s been prime minister for a long time. The Likud party looks like it, you know, might well win the next election too. You and a whole bunch of Israeli writers – if I can put it this way – of the progressive Left seem to be out of sync with the majority of the people in your own country.”

In one part of the conversation Sackur brings up the topic of African migrants in Israel in relation to one of Gundar-Goshen’s books. After his guest has clarified that the dilemmas raised in that novel do not apply solely to Israelis, Sackur goes on to contradict her with some obviously pre-prepared material.

13:45 Sackur: “I think that is a really powerful point you make but nonetheless there are some interesting statistics around this which do suggest there’s a difference between Israel and some European countries. For example many people won’t know but there is a significant number of Eritreans and other Africans – but mostly Eritreans – who illegally migrated into Israel in search of a better life. They’re mostly kept in detention centres. Some live illegally in the country. There are believed to be 40 – 50 thousand of them. Israel has recognised the refugee status…actually I think literally of a handful of Eritreans. In…in Europe the EU says that Eritreans who actually make it onto European territory, 90% of them – because of the way Eritrea is – are given refugee status. So there is a difference and it does seem that Israel is absolutely adamant that it doesn’t want to help the outsider in that way.”

Let’s examine Sackur’s claims one by one. Firstly, according to the government office responsible, there were 37,288 migrants in Israel at the beginning of 2018 rather than “40 – 50 thousand” as claimed by Sackur. Those migrants are not “mostly kept in detention centres” – the Holot detention centre was closed a year ago – they “mostly” live in southern Tel Aviv and in additional towns.

While failing to clarify how many of the people he admits “illegally migrated into Israel in search of a better life” have actually made applications for refugee status, Sackur compares an unspecified number – “a handful” – with a percentage. He quotes an EU statistic but without clarifying that in 2017 for example, “90%” in fact related to some 26,900 Eritreans granted protection status (rather than exclusively “refugee status” as claimed by Sackur) in 28 EU countries with a collective population of well over 500 million. So while in 2017 for example Croatia accepted 100% of the applications made by Eritreans, that actually amounted to ten people. Lithuania also accepted 100% of applications – 25 people – as did Latvia – 20 people in all. 

Of course those familiar with Stephen Sackur’s track record when interviewing Israelis would not be in the least surprised by this latest promotion of his long evident chosen narrative concerning their country.