BBC R4’s ‘Today’ fails to give full account of Western Wall story

Back in late June the BBC News website produced an article about a dispute concerning prayer arrangements at the Western Wall which failed to provide readers with a comprehensive view of its subject matter.

On August 18th, with no reason explained or apparent, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ revisited that story (from 01:21:30 here). Listeners were told by the programme’s presenter that:

“The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest place that Jews can pray but it’s been the focus too of a very long-running controversy. Women must pray separately from men in a smaller place, barred from some religious rituals reserved for their male counterparts.”

Listeners unfamiliar with Jewish religious practices (in other words, the majority of this programme’s audience) were not informed that such arrangements are in effect at Orthodox synagogues around the world and not just at the Western Wall. The introduction continued:

“The issue came to a head earlier this year when Israel’s right-wing coalition shelved plans for an official egalitarian prayer space at the wall – a decision that’s strained relations with liberal Jewish diaspora groups, including in Britain and the US. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Clearly listeners would be likely to inaccurately conclude from that introduction that, with plans having been “shelved”, no “egalitarian prayer space” exists at the Western Wall.

Tom Bateman’s report included two interviewees, one of whom is a regular BBC contributor – although listeners were not informed of that fact.  

Bateman: “Laura Janner-Klausner – senior rabbi to Reform Judaism – is one of those who want the authorities to modernise the rules at the Kotel, as it is called in Hebrew: as site whose running has become a potent symbol for control over their faith.”

Janner-Klausner: “The place is administered by an ultra-Orthodox – strictly Orthodox – religious authority. A lot of the trigger points are around who can pray from a Torah scroll here. That’s the incendiary device: the bible as grenade.”

Later on listeners heard Bateman say:

“The ground skirmishes between progressives and the strictly Orthodox have given way to a broader battle. The Israeli government last year agreed officially to upgrade a temporary mixed-gender area by the wall; a so-called egalitarian prayer space championed by liberal Judaism. But this summer the deal fell apart, sparking outrage from many Jewish diaspora groups who felt shunned.”

Janner-Klausner: “Here you have one group – the Israeli government – who have, in order to get a very narrow win, sold out on the religious aspirations of millions of Jews internationally. This is corrosive for relationship.”

Although uninformed listeners would not know it, what Bateman describes as a “temporary […] egalitarian prayer space” has in fact existed for seventeen years and – despite the impression given in this report – it continues to be open to anyone wanting to use it.

As was explained here last time the BBC reported on this subject, the aspects of the ‘Kotel deal’ of January 2016 which were affected when it “fell apart” as Bateman puts it are plans for a communal entrance to all the various prayer areas at the Western Wall and plans for a joint committee to run the mixed gender prayer area.

This report did not inform audiences that even before the ‘Kotel deal’ fell apart, the issue had been taken to the High Court.

“Then there is the High Court petition, submitted by the Reform and Conservative Movements together with Women of the Wall, which demanded that the government either implement the compromise resolution of January 2016 or allocate them prayer space in the main plaza, splitting it into three sections – two separate areas for men and women and one for egalitarian prayer.

It is conceivable that the High Court will rule that by stymieing the compromise proposal for the southern Western Wall the government has created a situation of fundamental inequality in the ability of progressive Jews to pray at a government- mandated holy site at the Western Wall in accordance with their customs.

If it were to take this position, dividing the main plaza into three is a possible, and explosive, outcome.”

Listeners were also not informed that interviewee Laura Janner-Klausner has expressed public support for that High Court petition.

The High Court will hold a hearing on August 31st.

“The state’s position was outlined on Tuesday in its response to a petition from the progressive Jewish movements and the Women of the Wall organization, demanding that either the cabinet decision from January 2016 be implemented or that a section for progressive Jewish prayer be created at the main Western Wall site. […]

According to the state’s response to the High Court petition, the Prime Minister’s Office is investing NIS 19.2 million in upgrading and developing the current egalitarian prayer platform which will closely resemble the physical upgrades planned under the original resolution but without the shared entrance that was a key demand of the progressive Jewish movements and WoW [Women of the Wall].

The site will be managed by the state-run Company for the Development of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and a steering committee under the control of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office will provide oversight to ensure that the relevant services are being provided to visitors.

An additional NIS 2.2m. per year will be provided by the PMO to fund various facilities and services required at the site.”

Unusually, after listeners had heard an opposing opinion from the second interviewee, Janner-Klausner was brought back in to have what some may view as an antagonistic last word.

Janner-Klausner: “What is pure Judaism, what is authentic Judaism is the fact that we have evolved. We’re no longer in the desert, we no longer sacrifice and we no longer run according to high priests. People become rabbis not because of who their parents are but because of their knowledge. That is pure, authentic, evolving Judaism and that is what has kept the Jewish people surviving for thousands of years. The innovation that you cannot innovate is not Jewish.”

Listeners to Bateman’s report did not hear from anyone representing the Israeli government and once again, audiences were not provided with the full range of information essential for complete understanding of the story and what the dispute is really about. Essentially, therefore, this item is an advocacy piece featuring a regular BBC contributor who supports a petition that will be the subject of a court hearing in just a few days’ time.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Western Wall report fails to provide adequate information

BBC WS fails to inform on political NGO links of interviewee on topic of PA’s UNSC bid

BBC bias on terrorism highlighted again in reports from Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

As was noted here at the time:

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

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

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

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

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Back in April the BBC News website told audiences that the Israeli prime minister had ‘snubbed’ the German foreign minister over the latter’s insistence on meeting what the BBC described as “human rights activists”. At the Fathom Journal, Gadi Taub takes a closer look at that story.

“Gabriel, on the occasion of an official visit for Holocaust Memorial Day, announced that he would meet the representatives of two radical left-wing civil society organisations – Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. When Netanyahu said that if those meetings went ahead he would boycott the visit and refuse to meet Gabriel, many thought he was overreacting. Few, however, expected Gabriel to choose those two organisations over Israel’s prime minster (and acting foreign minister). And when he did, things began to appear in a new light. It no longer seemed that the German foreign minister made an honest mistake, not knowing how controversial these organisations were among Israelis. It appeared, instead, that he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was us, the Israeli public, who had made a mistake in our assumptions about German-Israeli relations.”

2) At the JCPA, Ambassador Alan Baker examines the issue of Palestinian refugees and UNRWA.  

“Unlike its sister organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), mandated since 1950 to coordinate the handling of all refugee communities worldwide, UNRWA was established in that same year to deal exclusively with Palestinian refugees, thereby excluding them from the protection of the UNHCR.

While the aims and operations of the UNHCR are based on international instruments – mainly the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – UNRWA was never provided with a specific statute or charter. It has operated since its inception under a general mandate, renewed every three years by the General Assembly.

The major distinction and main reason for the establishment of a separate agency to deal with Palestinian refugees, was to crystallize their sole aim – not rehabilitation and resettlement, as was the aim of UNHCR – but solely “return.” Inclusion of Palestinian refugees under the general UNHCR definition of “refugees” would have been interpreted as a waiver of their claim that “return” was the sole solution.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has a new report on a topic habitually absent from BBC coverage of the Middle East: Hamas’ indoctrination of children in summer camps.

“This year, as in previous years, summer camps were held throughout the Gaza Strip, attended by tens of thousands of Gazan children and adolescents. Most of the camps were organized by Hamas, some by other terrorist organizations and institutions. The camps provide a wide range of activities, from ordinary summer pastimes (sports, arts and crafts, computers, day trips, etc.) to military training and ideological indoctrination. Hamas attributes great importance to the summer camps, considering them an effective means for influencing the younger generation and training a cadre of operatives and supporters for its military wing and movement institutions.

An examination of some of the closing ceremonies of the 2017 summer camps shows they emphasized military topics coordinated to the age of the participants. The older the campers were, the more and varied military training they received. The adolescents, some of them who would join Hamas military wing in the near future, wore uniforms and learned how to dismantle and reassemble weapons. They also practiced simulating infiltrating Israel through tunnels, attacking IDF posts, taking control of tank positions, and capturing IDF soldiers and abducting them to the Gaza Strip. They trained with real weapons, mostly light arms and RPG launchers.”

4) At the FDD, Grant Rumley takes a look at Mahmoud Abbas’ handling of last month’s violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere following the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack on July 14th.

“The closest the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got to an actual third intifada, or uprising, happened late this past month when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas mobilized the shadowy militia elements of his party for widespread Friday protests. What the lone-wolf stabbing attacks that have plagued Israel for the past several years lacked—and what both the first and second intifadas had—was political leadership and support. In activating the Tanzim, a faction of his own party that Abbas has struggled to control, the Palestinian President was sanctioning his people’s unrest.”

An illustration of BBC under-reporting of terrorism against Israelis

As regular readers know, the vast majority of non-fatal terror attacks against Israelis do not receive any BBC coverage and in 2016 that meant that just 2.8% of the total attacks were reported.

One of those unreported attacks took place in on September 19th 2016 when two police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

“Two police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack outside Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday morning, police said, as a fresh wave of attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank persisted for a fourth straight day.

A female officer, 38, was seriously wounded in the assault. A male officer, 45, was moderately wounded, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.”

The female officer – a mother of two – was left partly paralysed by the attack.

“Border policewoman Tsippi Yacovian, who was critically wounded and partially paralyzed after her spinal cord was severed during a September terrorist attack near the Old City’s Herod’s Gate, testified this week against the man accused of repeatedly stabbing her.

Despite efforts from a team of doctors, the attack left her paralyzed below the waist and elsewhere.

“I have no feeling in my legs, back or rib cage, and my hands are very weak,” she testified. “I now can’t do basic things and will be dependent on others for most of my life.””

Yacovian is confined to a wheelchair and requires 24 hour care. After months of treatment in hospital came to an end, she was unable to go home because her house does not meet her needs. A crowd-funding campaign was launched in July to help her and her family relocate to a suitable house.

“Because of her medical condition, Yacobian’s house in Almon (also known as Anatot), north of Jerusalem, is no longer suitable. She needs complete wheelchair accessibility, specialized equipment and 24-hour assistance. She can’t live in a house with an elevator because she is not strong enough to press the button. […]

Additionally, Yacobian’s life is at risk every time she travels for a lengthy period. She needs to live in Jerusalem, near Hadassah Medical Center and Beit Halochem (Soldier’s House), where she will continue her rehabilitation.”

This week the crowd-funding campaign reached its goal of a million shekels.

While BBC audiences have seen follow-up reporting on victims and survivors of terror in other locations, this story is just one of hundreds deemed not newsworthy by the BBC.  

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

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

BBC’s double standards on terrorism highlighted again 

 

Is a BBC WS claim about Israeli politicians true?

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

Presenter Owen Bennett-Jones told worldwide listeners that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The unidentified presenter of that programme rightly tells listeners that:

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

Bernard Wasserstein is then heard saying:

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

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

The next contributor is Noah Lucas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Revisiting a BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem

On July 26th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ heard a report from Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman concerning the unrest in Jerusalem and elsewhere that followed the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack twelve days earlier.

As was noted here at the time, in that report:

“Bateman then went to visit the family of a person killed while participating in violent rioting in a district of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Children played outside as I visited the home of Susanne Abu Ghannam. Her son Mohammed was among those who died on Friday, shot – she said – by Israeli forces.”

Although listeners heard the mother claim that “the occupation forces were surrounding the hospital in order to take his body”, Bateman did not inform them that there is no indication that was the case.”

On August 12th Israel’s Channel 10 aired footage filmed inside the grounds of that hospital – the Makassed Hospital – on the same day. The video shows (at 01:20) large amounts of paving stones and breeze blocks which were stockpiled in advance in the hospital’s car park as ammunition to be thrown at the security forces during the rioting. One rioter can be seen (at 01:40) throwing a breeze block at the police from the hospital’s roof. Channel 10’s reporter explains (at 02:22) that the police activity in the hospital was aimed at locating the rioters hiding in the hospital grounds.

The likelihood that BBC audiences will hear or see that aspect of the story is of course exceedingly slim.  

BBC ignores calls for UNIFIL mandate change – in English

At the end of this month the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon – UNIFIL – will expire and its renewal is scheduled for discussion at the UN Security Council.

That mandate of course includes clauses which have not been met throughout the last eleven years:

“Assist the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an free [sic] of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area;

Assist the Government of Lebanon in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.”

However, this time round the mandate’s renewal may perhaps not be as automatic as in previous years. On August 7th the US mission to the UN put out a press release:

“On Friday, August 4, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted a letter to the Security Council recommending that the Council renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is due to expire on August 31. In the letter, the Secretary-General called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the authority of Lebanon’s government. He also noted the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons, and infrastructure inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, and his intention to look at ways in which UNIFIL could enhance its efforts against them.

“We share the Secretary-General’s strong desire to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon,” said Ambassador Haley. “These arms – which are almost entirely in the hands of Hizballah terrorists – threaten the security and stability of the region. UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations. The United States will continue to raise the threat posed by Hizballah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month.””

The UN Secretary General’s letter to the Security Council stated:

“The government of Lebanon must exercise effective authority over all Lebanese territory, prevent hostile actions from its territory, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, in addition to United Nations personnel, and also ensure the disarmament of all armed groups”.

Whether or not those demands based on UNSC resolution 1701 will finally be met is obviously questionable given the make-up of the current Lebanese government.

Nevertheless, reports concerning Ambassador Haley’s intention to seek “significant improvements” to UNIFIL’s mandate were seen on many media sites – but the story did not receive any coverage on the BBC’s English language platforms.

In contrast, editors at the BBC Arabic website did consider that story newsworthy and an AFP report on the topic was translated into Arabic for publication on that site.

Related Articles:

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701 

 

 

 

BBC News website amends a report with an inaccuracy

h/t C4T

This week marks twelve years since Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in which over 8,000 people lost their homes and livelihoods when twenty-one communities were evacuated. All Israeli military personnel were redeployed outside the Gaza Strip and even the dead were exhumed and reburied elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the BBC still refers to the Gaza Strip as being “occupied” by Israel and an amendment made recently to a BBC News website article a week after it was originally published provides some insight into that practice. 

On July 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes“, earlier versions of which informed readers that:

“Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza after weeks of friction over a Jerusalem holy site.

Violence erupted on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City and across the occupied West Bank after the end of Muslim Friday prayers.”

However, that wording raised objections from Chris Doyle of CAABU (Council for Arab-British Understanding) who wrote to the BBC stating:

“We wish to address this article about the clashes in Jerusalem. This article starts off by stating that “Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.” We consider this inaccurate and biased.

The clear international legal position is that all the territories taken in 1967 are occupied, and that this includes East Jerusalem and indeed Gaza, as well the rest of the West Bank.” 

The BBC duly obliged and seven days after its original publication the article was amended – as explained in the BBC News website’s response to Doyle:

“We have now addressed this by rewording the first and second lines so they read:

“Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in the Occupied Territories after weeks of friction over a Jerusalem holy site. Violence erupted on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City, across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip after the end of Muslim Friday prayers.” […]

Lower down, for the benefit of readers who might be less familiar with the complexities of the issues, we have included a couple of lines of context explaining Gaza’s status in light of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal:

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war. The UN also still considers Gaza part of the Occupied Territories because of the control Israel exercises over its airspace, shared borders and coast despite pulling its troops and settlers out in 2005.”” [emphasis added]

But is that last sentence an accurate representation of the UN’s position?

In January 2012, responding to a question from UN Watch, the UN’s chief spokesperson explained why the UN still refers to the Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’ even though Hamas has said it is not and Israel disengaged from the area in 2005.

Spokesperson:  “Under resolutions adopted by both the Security Council and the General Assembly on the Middle East peace process, the Gaza Strip continues to be regarded as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The United Nations will accordingly continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until such time as either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view.”

Question:  “Can I follow up on that?  It is the legal definition of occupation and why is Gaza considered occupied?”

Spokesperson:  “Well, as I have just said, there are Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that cover this.  For example, there was a Security Council resolution adopted on 8 January 2009 — 1860 — and that stressed that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967.  And as you know, Security Council resolutions do have force in international law.

Furthermore, there is a resolution from the General Assembly from 20 December 2010, and while it noted the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, it also stressed, in quotes, “the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.  So just to repeat that the United Nations will continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view on the matter.”

In other words – as clarified by Elder of Ziyon at the time:

“What the UN seems to be saying is that if part of the territory is occupied, then all of the territory is considered occupied, since there is are UN resolutions that declare the two territories are considered united.”

And:

“Note that the UN isn’t saying that Gaza is legally “occupied.” It is saying that Gaza must be referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” – it is arguing nomenclature, not law. The Hague Conventions makes it clear that occupied territory refers only to portions of territory under control of another party, not that an entire territory is either occupied or not if only part of it is. […] At no point does the UN respond to UN Watch anything about control of borders or airspace […].

In conclusion, the amendment made by the BBC News website to this article in response to a request from the lobby group CAABU inaccurately represents the reasoning behind the UN’s stance and also falls short of editorial guidelines on ‘due impartiality’ by failing to inform audiences of the existence of alternative opinions on the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Gaza disengagement retrospective promotes narrative of equivalence

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’ 

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Back in May an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Manchester following a terror attack in the city the previous day. As was noted here at the time, during a discussion about “tensions that have riven the city in the past”, listeners heard presenter Ritula Shah refer to “Jewish riots in the 1940s”.

Contrary to that claim, records show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint about that error, requesting that audiences be relieved of the inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country by means of an on-air clarification in the same programme. The response received was unsatisfactory.

“I understand you found presenter Ritula Shah made an inaccurate comments about Jewish riots in the 1940s in Manchester.

Firstly, I’m sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I know people appreciate a prompt response and unfortunately we’ve taken longer to reply than usual – please accept our apologies.

I appreciate your comments and this was a discussion about the tensions in cities across Britain that have occurred throughout recent history. Please be assured it is never our intention to mislead our listeners Ritula was trying to provide some context to this discussion and was discussing how different communities in Manchester have at one time been divided.”

A second complaint was submitted and in its reply, BBC Complaints acknowledged the error but declined to take any corrective action.

“It’s clear you remain unhappy with Ritula Shah’s reference to the riots in 1947. Ms Shah had intended to refer to anti-Jewish riots in reference to the events in Manchester and elsewhere that year. This was a live interview and we accept that she could have been clearer in making this reference.

However the general point was, that despite the earlier comments made by a contributor that Manchester is a ‘tolerant’ city, there is a history of tension towards ethnic minority communities.

We’ve noted your points but do not consider they have suggested a possible breach of the BBC’s standards to justify further investigation or a more detailed reply. Opinions can vary widely about the BBC’s output, but may not necessarily imply a breach of our standards or public service obligations.

For this reason we do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points. We realise you may be disappointed but have explained why we are not able to take your complaint further.”

BBC Watch then submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit to which we have yet to receive a reply. However, eight days later the following communication was received from BBC Complaints:

“Thanks again for raising your concerns with us about ‘The World Tonight’ as broadcast on May 23.

As part of your complaint we referred the reference to the programme’s editor. As a result of this, we’ve now published a statement on the Corrections and Clarifications page below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications

We hope this helps resolve the matter to your satisfaction. Should you have any remaining concerns, the ECU can consider these as part of any appeal you wish to pursue.”

The published statement reads as follows: 

While that statement is obviously welcome, the likelihood that the listeners who were misled by the original inaccurate claim almost three months ago will see it is of course minimal.

This should have been a very simple issue to resolve. A genuine error was made and listeners to ‘The World Tonight’ could and should have been informed of that fact shortly afterwards. Instead, it took nearly three months of repeated communication to extract a simple correction that most members of the BBC’s audience will not see.

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BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester