BBC misleads on Gaza athletes travel

On August 15th a filmed report produced by Mike Lanchin for the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza’s history-making female runner“.

“In 2004, the 800m runner Sanaa Abu Bkheet became the first athlete from the Gaza Strip to represent Palestine at the Olympic Games.

She led the Palestinian delegation at the opening ceremony, the first time a woman had carried the Palestinian flag at an Olympics.

Sanaa, who still lives in the Gaza Strip, tells Witness about overcoming poverty and prejudice on her journey to the biggest sporting stage in the world.”

In that film viewers heard a voice-over translation of Abu Bkheet saying:

“I’m still training but because of the siege I cannot go outside the Gaza Strip. I cannot compete in international races.”

This of course is far from the first time that BBC audiences have seen amplification of that inaccurate Hamas-approved terminology to describe counter-terrorism measures which in no way meet the definition of the term ‘siege’:

“a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”

Viewers also heard Abu Bkheet say:

“For the past four years no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside. A short while ago there was an invitation to go to Jerusalem and Ramallah for events but we were all denied travel permits.”

Seeing as the date of the recording of this video is unclear, it is impossible to identify the events for which Abu Bkheet claims she was denied travel permits and fact-check that claim. However, even the foreign funded political NGO ‘Gisha‘ states in a document (p. 12) updated in September 2017 that:

“Gaza Strip residents who are members of national and local sports teams may enter Israel to travel to Judaea and Samaria and abroad, for the purpose of official team activities. Entry is also approved for members of the Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association.”

While issues have arisen in the past when applications for travel permits were not submitted in time, there is certainly no blanket ban on travel for athletes (or coaches) as viewers of this report are led to believe. Notably, the BBC did not offer its audiences any context concerning the reasons behind the need for counter-terrorism measures such as permits to enter Israel for residents of an enclave run by a terrorist organisation.

According to the International Association of Athletics Federations another runner from the Gaza Strip – Mohammed Abu Khousatook part in events in France in 2014, in Qatar in 2016 and in Tunisia in 2017, among others. Abu Khousa also participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Even a grossly one-sided AP report from April of this year acknowledged that a delegation of athletes from the Gaza Strip attended – albeit belatedly – the 2018 Arab Junior Athletics Championships held in Jordan.

As those two small examples show, the BBC promoted claim that “no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside” since 2014 is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

On the early evening of August 13th members of the BBC’s domestic audience listening to BBC Radio 4 heard reports about the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier.

Listeners to Radio 4’s ‘PM‘ heard presenter Chris Mason introduce an item (from 36:15 here) with the inaccurate claim that the story was about antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “Jeremy Corbyn has been talking about antisemitism. Our correspondent Jonathan Blake is at Westminster. What’s he said, Jonathan, and specifically about what?”

Blake: “Well Chris, not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn has faced questions about his attendance at a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery. He was in the country for a conference organised by the Tunisian president bringing together different Palestinian factions to try to form a unity government.”

Where Blake got the idea that the purpose of a conference titled the ‘International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression’ was “to try to form a unity government” is unclear.

Listeners then heard Blake portray members of a terrorist organisation as “activists” and give a context-free description of an operation which took place in response to a terror attack in Cyprus that he failed to mention.

Blake: “And what is not in question is whether he laid a wreath to victims of an attack by the Israeli air force in 1985 on the headquarters of the Palestinian [sic] Liberation Organisation in which many people were killed. What is less clear is his involvement in the laying of a wreath at the graves of a memorial [sic] to the Palestinian activists who were suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 – members of the so-called Black September terrorist group. And they took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes. During a visit to the West Midlands Mr Corbyn was asked about this earlier on and spoke about attending the conference and whether he took part in that controversial ceremony. Here’s what he said.”

As for Blake’s claim that the wreath was laid at the graves of those “suspected” of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre – Fatah describes one of those buried there as “the head of the Black September organization’s department of operations and assassinations” and states that “He came up with the idea for the Munich operation”.

Listeners then heard a recording of Corbyn admitting what Blake had just told them was “less clear”.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Mason: “And listening carefully, Jonathan, to what he said there – ‘I don’t think I was actually involved in it’ – ehm…which appears to leave plenty of scope for his critics to criticise.”

Blake next cited reactions from two British politicians – while finding it necessary to mention the ethnic/religious background of just one of them:

Blake: “It does and it’s one reason that it is probably not the last time Mr Corbyn will have to answer questions on this. Not only his political opponents – the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he should resign. One Labour MP – the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger has tweeted this afternoon criticising Mr Corbyn, saying ‘being present is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. Where is the apology?'”

Blake went on to quote an earlier Tweet from the Labour Party which had already been shown to be inaccurate by Corbyn’s statements made on that West Midlands trip.

Blake: “Last year when he was asked about this Mr Corbyn said that he was there at the conference and at the headquarters and was laying a wreath to all those who died in the air attack on the PLO headquarters. But the Labour party are pushing back quite hard with a statement saying that the Munich widows are being misled – those were those quoted in this morning’s Daily Mail – Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

Mason: “Cheers, Jonathan.”

An hour later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ heard another report from Jonathan Blake which was introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 10:12 here) using the same bizarre description of terrorists.

Sleat: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appeared to admit to being present at a wreath-laying ceremony for the Palestinian activists suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre but said he didn’t think he was involved in it. Mr Corbyn has been criticized for his controversial visit to the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014. In the past hour the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the laying of the wreath deserved unequivocal condemnation. Here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake then came up with a politicised description of terrorists and failed once again to provide BBC audiences with the context to the 1985 operation.

Blake: “Not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a cemetery commemorating those who’ve died in pursuit of the Palestinian cause has been questioned. When this visit was criticised during last year’s general election campaign, Mr Corbyn said he had laid a wreath to commemorate the victims of an Israeli air strike on the headquarters of the PLO in Tunisia in 1985 and he confirmed that again today. The accusation against Mr Corbyn – which has seen the Home Secretary call for him to resign – is whether he took part in a ceremony where a wreath was laid at the graves of those accused of carrying out the attack on the Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed. Mr Corbyn was asked about that on a visit to the West Midlands this afternoon.”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Yet again Blake found it necessary to mention a British MP’s ethnicity/religion and once again he amplified a Labour Party claim that had already been shown to be false.

Blake: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved is unlikely to satisfy Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has been critical of Mr Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism row within the party, said ‘being present is the same as being involved’ and asked ‘where is the apology?’. In response to the Daily Mail publishing criticism from the wives of those killed in the Munich massacre, a Labour Party spokesperson said their widows were being misled. Jeremy Corbyn did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

A report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on the afternoon of August 13th was initially headlined “Jeremy Corbyn pressed over ‘terror memorial’ claims”. Roughly two hours later the word terror was dropped from the headline, which was amended to read “Jeremy Corbyn ‘wreath laying’ attacked by Israeli PM“. The report was also posted on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

As noted on these pages last September, for decades BBC News has refrained from describing the members of the PLO faction that perpetrated the Munich Olympics massacre as terrorists. Surprisingly, the word terror was used in this report’s opening line:

“Israel’s PM has criticised Jeremy Corbyn over his presence at a ceremony said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack.”

However, the report later returned to form: [emphasis added]

“The questions were in response to a Daily Mail front page featuring photographs it said showed the Labour leader near memorials to members of the militant Black September group behind the 1972 attack.

Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian group at the 1972 summer games in Munich.”

Sixty-nine of the 778 words used in the report described the Israeli prime minister’s tweet criticising Corbyn’s participation in a 2014 event in Tunisia commemorating members of the ‘Black September’ terrorist faction responsible for the brutal murders of Israeli citizens. Forty-nine words were used to give readers background on the Munich Olympics attack itself and a further fifty-seven words related to the Daily Mail article published three days earlier which once again brought a story that first emerged in 2017 into the spotlight.

Amplification of the denials of Corbyn and the Labour Party concerning that event accounted for 35% of the article’s total word count and a further 77 words – including Labour Party denials – related to a previous event in 2013. 

Readers were told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved “unequivocal condemnation” for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Netanyahu’s claims about his “actions… are false”.

The Labour leader said he had attended the event in Tunis in 2014 as part of a wider event about the search for peace.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the “wider event about the search for peace” – subsequently also described as “a conference” – was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression” or that – as also reported by the Daily Mail – its participants included a senior Hamas official featured in past BBC content.

“At the event in Tunisia, top Hamas leader Oussama Hamdan presented a ‘four point vision to fight against Israel’ and praised the group’s ‘great success on the military and national levels’, adding that the violence was ‘magnificent’.

He had just given an interview to Lebanese media in which he said that the anti-Semitic myth that Jews drank Christian blood was ‘not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact.’

Othman Jerandi, a former Tunisian foreign minister, also gave a speech at the conference and stated: ‘ISIS and Israel are the same thing’.

Other delegates included activist Zaher Al-Birawi, who is close to the leadership of Hamas; and lawyer Sabagh al-Mukhtar, who appeared as an expert witness to support extremist cleric Abu Hamza before he was deported from Britain.”

Birawi is of course the UK-based activist involved in the organisation of both the recent failed ‘flotilla’ and the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting that has been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the past four and a half months. Birawi was also previously the director of the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ which has in the past donated to Jeremy Corbyn.   

Together with Corbyn at the wreath-laying ceremony linked to that ‘conference’ was a member of the PFLP terror group and a Fatah official who has appeared in BBC content.

Despite Corbyn having subsequently made statements that contradict the claim from “Labour’s press team”, readers of this report were told that:  

“On Sunday Labour’s press team said: “The Munich widows are being misled. Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.””

In an insert of ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s political correspondent Tom Barton readers found amplification of Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’ – with no mention made of the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting and attacks were linked to terror factions – as well as amplification of a baseless but unattributed allegation.

“In his reply, Jeremy Corbyn described the Israeli Prime Minister’s accusations as false. But he also took the opportunity to say that the killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces deserves “unequivocal condemnation”. His supporters say the purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu’s message is to shut down that sort of criticism of Israel’s actions.”

In contrast to the 269 words used to report denials from Corbyn and the Labour Party, statements made by “critics” were afforded 108 words.

The BBC’s report stated that in relation to his presence at the wreath-laying ceremony, Corbyn said:

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it.”

Readers were later told that:

“In a tweet, Labour said he and other Parliamentarians had been honouring victims of the 1985 Israeli bombings.”

As noted at the Times of Israel, the context to those statements – which the BBC did not bother to provide – is the fact that what audiences saw described as “Israeli bombings” was the response to another brutal Palestinian terror attack.

“The “terrorist incident” he was apparently referring to was an Israeli air force strike on the PLO headquarters in 1985 in response to the hijacking of an Israeli yacht and the execution of three Israeli passengers.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat escaped unharmed although several of his bodyguards and several civilians were killed in the strike, which completely destroyed the headquarters.”

Remarkably, the BBC had no ‘analysis’ to offer its audiences on the topic of the leader of a British political party – and potential prime minister – who apparently thinks that a counter-terrorism operation against the headquarters of a terrorist organisation which had claimed the brutal murders of three civilians was a “terrorist incident”. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing the language used in BBC reports on the Munich Olympics Massacre

 

Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, in the first part of the July 19th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ (aired on the BBC News channel and the BBC World News channel and available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the next eleven months) BBC audiences were exposed to a series of falsehoods, distortions and whitewashing of the ‘Great Return March’ violence that has been taking place throughout the past four and a half months.

After presenter Stephen Sackur had allowed his guest the PA envoy Riyad Mansour to get away with pretending not to have heard violent threats against Israelis from Hamas’ top man in the Gaza Strip, he changed the topic of the conversation.

Sackur: “You earlier referred to Gaza as a prison. You talked about the desperate conditions – humanitarian conditions – that people live in; pretty much 2 million people inside the Gaza Strip. In that circumstance, why is it that over recent months the Palestinian Authority has been imposing its own financial punishments and sanctions on the people of Gaza?”

Mansour retorted “I would not use, you know, these words that you are using” before going on to state that the Palestinian National Council had authorised the payment of salaries to employees of the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza.

Viewers were not told that those employees – who have not worked since 2007 – have repeatedly had their salaries cut and withheld by the Fatah dominated PA since April 2017. Instead, interrupting Mansour, Sackur went on:

Sackur: “Well forgive me Ambassador; maybe it’s slipped your mind but you know in recent months, after the failure it seems of the last reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, what we’ve seen is Mahmoud Abbas – the president of the Palestinian Authority – impose different punishments on Gaza including holding shipments of medicine, cutting payments for Gaza’s electricity; all sorts of different ways in which the people of Gaza are suffering – not at the hands of Israel or even Egypt which closes its border crossing with Gaza – but at the hands of fellow Palestinians.”

As regular readers will be aware, BBC audiences have not been informed of the PA’s cuts of medical supplies and treatment referrals to Gaza Strip residents. Moreover, since that PA policy began, the BBC has continued to mislead audiences with regard to the background to the chronic crisis affecting healthcare in the Gaza Strip by leading them to believe that it is connected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Similarly, with the exception of one report on the BBC News website, audiences have been repeatedly led to mistakenly believe that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is also related to those same counter-terrorism measures. It is therefore highly unlikely that viewers of this programme would be able to recognise Mansour’s denial as the falsehood it is.

Mansour: “I don’t think that this is accurate but if you’re saying that there is much more that can be done to help our people in Gaza, that is true. And the Palestinian government – including President Mahmoud Abbas – is trying with many parties, including the Egyptians and the United Nations and other parties, to alleviate the situation, the difficult situation of our people in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur then asked:

Sackur: “I mean you say you represent all Palestinians: have you seen the various protests and demonstrations by Palestinians against the policy of the Palestinian Authority inside Gaza? Have you also heard another senior Palestinian – I’m sure a man you know well; Mohamed Dahlan – who has called the PA government corrupt, fascist for punishing the Palestinians of Gaza. He says ‘I can understand the hardships facing the Palestinians. I cannot understand that the Palestinian leadership is imposing additional burdens on the people of Gaza’.”

Seeing as the internal Palestinian power struggles that are the background to Sackur’s chosen quote have been completely concealed from BBC audiences, it is highly unlikely that viewers would be able to put Mansour’s reply into its appropriate context.

Mansour: “Well I wouldn’t use quotation from the individual that you refer to. He used to be representing the Palestinian National Authority in the Gaza Strip. If he is referring to his conduct at that time then one can talk more of that. But he cannot speak with authority or respect about the behaviour of the Palestinian National Authority and the leadership of the Palestinian people, whether in the Gaza Strip or other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Sackur went on to pose two questions relating to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and viewers heard Mansour state that the PA’s top priority is reuniting the “land of the State of Palestine”, even though no such state currently exists. Despite the BBC’s style guide recognising that fact – “There is no independent state of Palestine today” – viewers then heard Sackur use the same term.

Sackur: “There is another development which may or may not come to fruition in the next few weeks and that is the grand plan, the ultimate deal, the deal of the century that Donald Trump and his team say they’re going to put on the table to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law is in charge of it. He said recently after a trip to the Middle East where he saw the Israelis, he saw the Saudis, he saw the Gulf leaders – he didn’t see any Palestinians ‘cos you appear to be absolutely unwilling to talk to the Trump team – Kushner said this: ‘the Palestinian leadership is scared that we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it’. Are you scared?”

Referring to Kushner, Mansour claimed “He is on one hand talking tough and on the other hand he is begging for us to engage with him” before going on:

Mansour: “For us if Jerusalem is off the table, refugees off the table and those who say that they are concerned about our people in the Gaza Strip they cut off $300 million from the budget of UNRWA, so how could you be helping the people in the Gaza Strip by depriving them of this large sum of money that helps 1.2 million Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip? And also they say settlements now is not objectionable and they don’t refer much to the occupied Palestinian territories. What is left on the table to talk about?”

Sackur “Why are the Saudis, the Gulf State leadership, the Egyptians and the Jordanians all very happy to talk to the Americans and appear to be involved in trying to figure out how a peace plan might work? It seems you’re dangerously isolated.”

Mansour: “We are not isolated. They are engaging them for their own reasons including things related, you know, to the role of Iran in the region.”

Mansour went on to state that the PA wants to convening “an international conference” of “all relevant parties including the Americans, including the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese and others” while claiming that the Americans “disqualified themselves from being honest broker”.

Sackur pointed out that there “won’t be a process without the Americans”, asking:

Sackur: “Are you Palestinians seriously saying that as long as Donald Trump’s in the White House you will not in any way whatsoever engage with the Americans?”

Mansour: “We will engage with them in collective process, through an international conference.”

Mansour then claimed that the UN Security Council had “legislated a decision to call for an international conference to be convened in Moscow”. Sackur did not clarify to viewers that he was apparently referring to the decade-old UN SC resolution 1850 which Abbas tried to resurrect in February of this year.

Sackur next raised the subject of opinion polls showing dissatisfaction with Palestinian leadership, stating “more than 60% of Palestinians…think Abbas should resign” and pointing out that he has “no obvious successor”.

Unchallenged by Sackur, viewers heard Mansour promote the fiction that the Palestinians have been ‘peacefully’ negotiating with Israel “for more than 20 years”.

Mansour: “One cannot blame the Palestinian people for their frustration. We tried the peaceful negotiation process for more than 20 years after the Oslo agreement and instead of putting an end to this occupation and enjoying independence, the reality on the ground moved from bad to worse, especially in the field of settlements. So one cannot but, you know, understand this frustration and the negative feeling among the Palestinian people.”

In response to Sackur’s statement that a generation of Palestinian leaders have failed, Mansour claimed “we assume our share of the responsibility” and went on to say that as a result the Palestinian National Council decided “to dissociate ourselves from the occupation and also not to continue on the path that did not lead us to the end of occupation, meaning the old style of negotiation.”

When Sackur again asked why Mahmoud Abbas has no obvious successor his guest replied:

Mansour: “I am confident that the Palestinian people will be able to elect the appropriate leader to lead us for the ongoing stage.”

Refraining from pointing out that the Palestinian people have not been able to elect their leaders for over twelve years, Sackur ended the interview there.

As we see, BBC audiences did not see any serious challenge from Stephen Sackur in response to Riyad Mansour’s lies about the ‘Great Return March’ and although Sackur twice insisted in the course of the interview that it was his job to ask ‘hard questions’, he continued to allow him to promote falsehoods on numerous other issues and to whitewash Palestinian violence.

It is of course difficult to see the point of an interview which includes questions relating to topics which the BBC has serially seriously under-reported (such as internal Palestinian power struggles and corruption) or inaccurately reported (such as medical supplies and electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip) – meaning that viewers do not have the basic knowledge necessary to understand the background to the question or form an opinion on the answer.

Related Articles:

Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part one

 

Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part one

As we have sadly had cause to note here on countless occasions over the past four and a half months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ propaganda stunt has not included providing audiences with details of the terror factions involved in its planning and organisation.

The BBC has repeatedly and exclusively promoted Hamas-sourced casualty figures while failing to clarify that the terror group is one of the factions involved in financing and facilitating what it repeatedly blandly describes as “protests”.

Many of the BBC’s reports have ignored or severely downplayed the violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts and for three months the BBC ignored the issue of the arson attacks launched as part of the weekly agitprop. When it emerged that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting were linked to various Gaza based terror factions, the BBC did a disappearing act.

Those editorial policies were on display once again in the July 19th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ aired on the BBC News channel and the BBC World News channel, which will remain available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the next eleven months.

“There have been three costly spasms of violent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza over the last 11 years. In the past week, a fourth seemed dangerously close. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Palestine’s Ambassador at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. With the Trump administration claiming a new US peace plan is coming soon, is there any prospect of change in the grim status quo?”

The programme commenced with presenter Stephen Sackur asking Riyad Mansour the same question three times while quoting Hamas sourced casualty figures and portraying violent rioting as ‘protests’.

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

Sackur: “Let me begin with a very grim figure. It now seems 140 Palestinians at least have been killed by Israeli forces during protests that began in March along the Gaza-Israel border. Is it not time now for senior Palestinians such as yourself to make a clear call to all Palestinians in Gaza to stop those protests in the interests of saving life?

Mansour: “Well I think you have it the wrong way. It is in the interest of saving lives that Israel should stop killing Palestinian civilians and injuring more than 15,000 since March 30th. And the international community is on the side of this kind of articulation because when we went to the Security Council seeking protection for the civilian population from Israeli attacks and aggression against our civilian population, the great majority of members of the Security Council endorsed the draft resolution which was denied by casting one single vote. And then we went to the General Assembly and we have a resolution that was adopted by 120 countries versus 8 calling for providing international protection for the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Secretary General was asked to submit a report with recommendations and suggestions to provide protection for the civilian population – the Palestinian civilian population – including international protection mechanism and he has until the 13th of next month to submit that report. We are engaging his teams with ideas and suggestions to fulfil such a demand for providing protection for the civilian population under Israeli occupation.”

Sackur did not bother to clarify to viewers that the UN GA resolution to which Mansour referred is non-binding.

Failing to challenge his guest’s repeated inaccurate and misleading portrayal of those involved in the ‘Great Return March’ as exclusively ‘civilians’ Sackur went on:

Sackur: “There is no doubt that governments and human rights groups as well have issued words of condemnation of the way Israel’s forces have handled this on the border.”

He then repeated his question while severely downplaying the violence, attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the weekly events since their inception.

Sackur: “Is it not time for Palestinian officials to tell all of those who gather at the border – including those who go with Molotov cocktails and those who go with the kites and the balloons which carry those firebombs over the fence and onto Israeli farmland – is it not time for you to call a halt to all of that?”

Mansour: “I think that when you have people living in that huge prison in the Gaza Strip – 2 million of them – for a long period of time, there is a tremendous amount of poverty, a dire situation and frustration. So when the civilian population decided from the 30th of March to peacefully protest against that miserable, disgusting situation why is it that, you know, that somebody to suggest for the Palestinian civilian population to stop, you know, their civilian activities, peaceful activities against this occupation, to lift the blockade and to allow the Palestinian civilians to enjoy in the Gaza Strip the access and movement…”

With no challenge to his guest’s inaccurate description of the violent rioting and attacks as ‘peaceful protest’ and making to effort to remind viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for thirteen years, Sackur interrupted Mansour in order to pose his question for a third time.

Sackur: “Whatever the situation in terms of Israel’s open fire policy on that border, you know and Hamas leaders in Gaza know that if people go down to that border – particularly if they go with an intent to throw Molotov cocktails or fly their kites – they are going to be targeted and in the interests of saving life, is it not time for this to end?”

Mansour: “I think that it is in the interest of saving lives to do the following: one, for the Israeli armed forces not to be trigger happy to aim at civilians and to shoot them. Secondly, if international presence to get closer to the borders – whether UN international presence or Red Cross teams – I think that that would lead to saving civilian lives. It is the right of not only the civilian Palestinian population but all civilian populations in any corner of the globe have the right to peacefully protest against certain issues that are influencing them in a very negative way. That is also including the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territory including in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur: “Things have escalated in the last week or so as you know. Last weekend we saw roughly 200 rockets and mortars fired towards Israeli territory from positions inside Gaza. Sderot – one Israeli town – was hit. In return the Israelis used their war planes to bomb targets across Gaza. What is your message to those inside Gaza who resumed the rocket and mortar fire?”

Sackur failed to clarify that those events in fact began when an Israeli officer was wounded in a grenade attack during what only seconds before had been portrayed to BBC audiences as ‘peaceful protest’, thereby paving the way for Mansour’s subsequent distortion of events.

Mansour: “Well first of all I’m not so sure that, you know, that this cycle of violence was initiated by the Palestinians. I think it was initiated by the Israeli aircraft and their bombardment, by their artillery in which a number of children were killed – at least four – and more than 65 have been injured through this violence from the Israeli side. I don’t believe that there is, you know, but maybe one or two from the Israeli side that were injured through this cycle of violence. From our position that we declare very repeatedly, we are against the killing of innocent civilians from any side and under any conditions.”

Failing to ask Mansour exactly how that ‘position’ aligns with the Palestinian Authority’s provision of financial rewards for terrorism, Sackur allowed Mansour to claim that an “international presence” would “provide protection for our people and would put an end to any justification from the Israeli side to unleash its massive military and armed fire against the civilian population.”

Quoting a speech made by Yahya Sinwar in April, Sackur went on:

Sackur: “One more question about Hamas. Obviously you represent the Palestinian Authority as the ambassador at the United Nations. Hamas – not the Palestinian Authority – is in control in Gaza and the leader of Hamas – I think he’s styled the prime minister – Yahya Sinwar, he said of the continued protests ‘we will ultimately take down the border and we’ll tear out their hearts from their bodies’. Of course he’s talking about Israelis – Israeli citizens. What is your view of language like that?”

Mansour: “First of all, I am the representative of the State of Palestine at the United Nations and I represent not only the Palestinian National Authority – I represent all Palestinians inside the occupied territories and outside the occupied territories.”

Sackur: “So you represent Yahya Sinwar?”

Mansour: “I represent everyone.”

Sackur: “So tell me what is your message to Yahya Sinwar?”

Mansour: “I represent all the Palestinian people, including those in the Gaza Strip, here at the UN. With regard to the statement that you refer to, I did not hear it – I am a man of peace, I work under international law, I promote and uphold international law at the UN. In defending the interests of the Palestinian people I do not advocate war. I stand against aggression against all people including the Palestinian people who live under the Israeli occupation including in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur: “It’s not so much a question of what you advocate it’s a question of what you’re prepared to unilaterally and categorically condemn. Will you condemn those words that I quoted to you?”

Mansour: “I condemn all words that harm civilian populations, whomever they’re emanating from and whomever they’re directed against.”

Refraining from exploring the obviously interesting topic of Hamas being represented at the UN according to the Palestinian envoy and ignoring Mansour’s convenient side-stepping of the issue of Hamas’ blatant agression, Sackur then changed the subject – as we will see in part two of this post.

BBC’s serial omission hinders understanding of history programme

As has been documented on these pages on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC usually avoids informing its audience of the circumstances under which Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem were occupied – and subsequently illegally annexed – by what was at the time still called Trans-Jordan.  

Time and time again BBC audiences are told of ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ without any mention of the inclusion of those areas in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. Also lacking is explanation of the belligerent British-backed invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews from the areas attacked by Jordan in 1948. Instead, the BBC’s portrayal of history almost inevitably begins in 1967 when, audiences are told, “Israel occupied the area” which is euphemistically described as having previously been “under the control of Jordan”.

Even the BBC’s country profile of Jordan erases its 1948 belligerent invasion of land beyond its western border from audience view.

It was against that background of serial omission that listeners to the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ on August 9th heard a programme about events leading up to the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

“In August 1994 Yitzhak Rabin became the first Israeli leader publicly to visit Jordan. But in fact talks had been going on for years. Former head of Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, was Israel’s secret peace envoy. He’s been telling Louise Hidalgo about Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan’s clandestine meetings during the often fraught road to peace.”

Listeners were not provided with any background information whatsoever concerning the context to the starting point of this otherwise interesting account. Statements such as the following from Ephraim Halevy went unexplained.

“In 1988 the king [of Jordan] came out with a statement saying that he was renouncing the interest of Jordan in Judea & Samaria, which we call the West Bank.”

Obviously the BBC’s past record of omission on the topic of how Jordan came to have an “interest” in that area and the absence of any reference to Jordan’s belligerent invasion of that territory forty years previously in the country’s online profile means that many if not most listeners would be unable to fill in the gaps for themselves.

 

 

More amendments made to BBC’s online Gaza rocket attacks report

Around five hours after the BBC News website had rephrased a problematic headline to a report concerning missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip which it had published two hours earlier, the article was amended once again.

Version 2

The inaccurate claim that violence had broken out “after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in Gaza on Wednesday” – which by that time had been online for over seven hours – was revised:

On Wednesday afternoon, the IDF said militants had fired shots at civilians constructing an underground barrier along the border fence, damaging a vehicle. In response, a tank targeted a Hamas post in northern Gaza, it added.”

Some five hours after that, the report was updated again to include further developments.

Providing BBC audiences with a link to the Hamas affiliated Shehab news agency and once again failing to clarify that “Gaza health officials” are actually part of the same terror organisation that had launched some 180 missiles at Israeli civilians in the 24 hours before this update, the amended report informed readers that:

“The calm only lasted a few hours, however, before a long-range Grad rocket landed in an open area on the outskirts of the southern Israeli city of Beersheba – setting off sirens there for the first time since the last Gaza war in 2014.

Shortly afterwards, an Israeli air strike hit a multi-storey cultural building in Gaza City, reducing it to rubble and injuring 18 people, Gaza health officials said.

There was no immediate confirmation from the IDF, but Israeli media said the building was believed to have served as a Hamas headquarters.”

Nearly two hours before the BBC News website made that amendment to its report, the Times of Israel had already reported IDF statements concerning the building’s purpose.

“The Israeli Air Force on Thursday evening flattened a five-story building in the northern Gaza Strip that served as a headquarters for the Hamas terrorist group’s internal security service, the army said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the strike on the building in the northern Gaza Strip, which also served as a cultural center in the coastal enclave, was in response to “rocket fire by the Hamas terror group against the city of Beersheba earlier in the day.” […]

The building targeted by the Israeli strike in Gaza City was known as the Said al-Mishal Cultural Center. The building contained the second-largest theater in the Strip and was home to an office for Egyptians living in coastal enclave.

However, the IDF said the building was also used by Hamas’s internal security service, which “is the operational arm of the political leadership of the Hamas terror group.”

The military said the building contained offices used by the security service.

“Some of the members of the internal security unit are also operatives of Hamas’s military wing,” the IDF said.”

IDF spokespersons also Tweeted information in Hebrew and in English.  

However, according to the version of events which the BBC News website is apparently happy to have remain online as “historical records“, the building was a “cultural building” which unspecified second-hand sources claimed was “believed” to also function as “a Hamas headquarters”.

Apparently the BBC thinks that passes for the “accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards” which it is committed to providing to its funding public.

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BBC Radio 4 news bulletins mislead UK audiences on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

 

BBC Radio 4 news bulletins mislead UK audiences on Gaza rocket attacks

h/t CL

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ on August 9th included an item (from 18:09 here) concerning events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip which had begun several hours beforehand.

The BBC’s newsreader refrained from informing listeners who carried out the missile fire mentioned in his chronologically reversed portrayal of the story. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has carried out a dozen airstrikes on targets in Gaza in response to the firing of around 36 missiles into Israel. One Palestinian man was killed. The Israelis said at least three people were wounded inside Israel. Yesterday two fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, were killed by Israeli fire. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

By the time that news bulletin went on air (02:00 Israel time), over 70 projectiles had been launched from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Radio 4 news reduced the number of attacks on Israeli civilian targets by half. Notably too, the report presented a Palestinian casualty as fact (without telling listeners that he was a Hamas operative) while presenting Israeli wounded using the “Israel says” caveat. Unnecessary qualification was also evident in Yoland Knell’s report.

Knell: “Israel’s military says that its fighter jets targeted sites across Gaza that were used by Palestinian militants to build tunnels for attacks, to make rockets and for logistics. Earlier, Israeli television broadcast pictures of a house and cars said to have been damaged when two rockets hit the town of Sderot. Several other missiles were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defence system and most landed in open areas. Hamas had warned that Israel would pay for an attack one day ago which killed two of its militants. An Israeli tank fired at a Gaza watchtower after soldiers believed gunshots had been aimed at them. Palestinian and Israeli media later reported that the gunfire had actually been part of a Hamas training exercise. The latest violence follows reports that progress had been made in talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to try to achieve a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Notably, while she did use Hamas’ own terminology to describe its threats of retaliation, Yolande Knell did not clarify to BBC audiences that the terror group was attacking exclusively civilian targets.

Eight hours later, Radio 4 listeners were again given an inaccurate picture of the number of missile attacks against Israeli civilians in the station’s 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:06:11 here) read by Chris Aldridge during the August 9th edition of the ‘Today’ programme.  

Aldridge: “The Palestinian authorities say three people, including an 18 month-old girl, have been killed in a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israeli warplanes. The Israeli army said it was targeting what it called ‘terror sites’ in the Palestinian territory in response to three dozen rockets fired into Israel.”

Four hours before Aldridge read that news bulletin the number of missile attacks launched against Israeli civilians since the previous evening was already over 150. In other words, the BBC concealed over 75% of the attacks that actually took place – and 100% of the Israeli civilians injured by them – from audience view. As we see, the ministry of health run by the terror group launching those missiles was inaccurately portrayed as “the Palestinian authorities”: terminology which listeners used to hearing about ‘the Palestinian Authority’ no doubt found very confusing.

Remarkably, although that news bulletin was aired after the BBC News website had amended a problematic context-free headline, Radio 4 also chose to present the story to its audiences in reverse chronology.

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Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

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Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

On the afternoon of August 8th terrorists in the Gaza Strip shot at civilian construction vehicles working on the Israeli side of the border.

“Shots were fired from the Gaza Strip at a number of civilian construction vehicles just outside the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday afternoon […]

In response, an Israeli tank shelled a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said. […]

The engineering vehicles that were fired upon are being used to build an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip, which is meant to counter Hamas’s network of border-crossing attack tunnels.

“Terrorists shot at civilian vehicles that were being used in the effort to construct the barrier around the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. One vehicle was hit,” the Israel Defense Forces said.”

Just after 7:30 p.m. terror factions in the Gaza Strip began firing rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian communities near the border, two of which hit Sderot, causing shrapnel injuries to two residents. By 10:30 p.m. 36 projectiles had been launched, four of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. More residential buildings were hit overnight, as well as factories, in attacks claimed by Hamas and supported by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The attacks continued throughout the night and by 6 a.m. the next day, over 150 projectiles had been launched, 25 of which were intercepted, with five civilians injured – one seriously – and some 14 others treated for shock. In response, the IDF conducted air strikes on terrorist sites in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that three people had been killed – one a Hamas operative – and six injured in those strikes. At the time of writing, the attacks against Israeli civilians continue.

Over twelve hours after those missile attacks against Israeli civilians had begun, the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli air strikes ‘kill woman and toddler'” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page.

BBC News website homepage 9/8/18

Version 1

Following public objections to that context-free headline, two hours later the report’s title was changed to read “Gaza air strikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel“.

Version 2

Despite the change of headline, the report still presented the story to readers in reverse chronological order, while failing to clarify that “Gaza health ministry officials” in fact means the terror organisation launching the attacks on Israeli civilians and portraying over 150 missiles as “dozens”. [emphasis added]

“Three Palestinians are reported to have been killed in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, after militants there fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel.

Gaza health ministry officials said a pregnant woman and her daughter, aged one, were killed in the Jafarawi area.

A Hamas militant also died in the north, health officials said.”

Notably, the BBC was unable to give its audiences a similarly detailed portrayal of the injuries sustained by people on the other side of the border.

“Israeli media said several civilians were hurt by rocket fire in Sderot and other towns near the Gaza border.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the violence broke out after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in Gaza on Wednesday.”

As BBC Watch pointed out to the BBC on Twitter, that sentence alone includes three inaccuracies.

The article’s last four paragraphs were copy/pasted from a report published two days earlier on the BBC News website and once again BBC audiences saw a tightly framed portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which whitewashes its violence and downplays the role of terror factions in its organisation and execution.

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