Readers based in or currently visiting Israel may be interested in attending a talk by Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel which is to be held in Netanya on Monday, November 11th.
Readers based in or currently visiting Israel may be interested in attending a talk by Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel which is to be held in Netanya on Monday, November 11th.
On the afternoon of November 5th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘Middle East’ page which was presented to audiences with a ‘halo effect’ reference to a “rights activist”.
The report itself (tagged, inter alia, ‘human rights’) is headlined “Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal” and the caption under the photograph at the top of the article reads:
“Omar Shakir said he had not called for a boycott of Israel during his time at Human Rights Watch”
Obviously the BBC did not fact-check that claim from the person it had already flagged up as a “rights activist” (i.e. good) before amplifying it.
Had it done so, it would know that analysis of Tweets sent from Shakir’s personal Twitter account between June 2018 and February 2019 by NGO Monitor shows that 16% of those Tweets focused on BDS campaigns against Booking.com and TripAdvisor and additional Tweets supported a UN “blacklist” of businesses operating in Judea & Samaria.
45% of the BBC article’s word count is devoted to uncritical amplification of talking points from Omar Shakir (including a link to a Tweet) and his employer ‘Human Rights Watch’, including the following claim:
“The group [HRW] insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”
That claim was also seen in a May 2018 BBC report on the same case and as we noted at the time:
“Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:
“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.””
32% of the BBC report’s word count describes the position of Israel’s interior ministry. As usual the BBC abstains from providing its audiences with an explanation of the BDS campaign in its own words.
“The interior ministry argued that Mr Shakir was an “activist” for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.
Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. In 2017, it passed a law refusing entry to people with links to BDS.”
The body of the report includes links to three items of additional reading:
The first of those items promotes the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The second is remarkable for its lack of fact checking and the third (from 2015) uncritically amplifies falsehoods promoted by a professional BDS campaigner, including about the campaign’s origins.
Readers also find the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.
“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
The report’s final paragraph is devoted to amplification of the support of third parties for Shakir, including unnamed organisations portrayed as “human rights groups” which actually include political NGOs such as ‘Breaking the Silence’.
“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on Israel not to deport him.”
Remarkably though, the BBC’s report makes no attempt to provide readers with details of the Supreme Court decision. As NGO Monitor documents:
“The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.”
For years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel and yet that organisation’s political agenda has never been adequately clarified to audiences as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. Since Omar Shakir’s work permit was not renewed in May 2018 BBC audiences have seen only superficial coverage which, like this latest report, clearly demonstrates that the BBC has no interest whatsoever in providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story and its wider BDS campaign related background.
1) At the BESA Center, Professor Efraim Karsh addresses ‘Distorting Ben-Gurion’.
“By ignoring millions of declassified documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-48) and Israel’s early days that show the claim of premeditated dispossession of the Palestinian Arabs to be completely unfounded, “revisionist” journalist Tom Segev’s rewrites David Ben-Gurion’s personal story, and, by extension, the story of Israel’s creation, in an image of his own making in which aggressors are transformed into hapless victims and vice versa.”
“Contemporary antisemitism has the ability to graft itself onto a variety of causes and movements. But the social and information environment in the US and Europe is strongly conditioned by virtue-signaling among elites and increasingly among portions of the middle class. Antisemitism, in part through BDS-fueled antipathy toward Israel, is becoming a signal of middle class respectability. At the same time, though left-wing Western elites remain strongly anti-national, the working classes and other parts of the middle class are becoming renationalized. These and other class conflicts will shape antisemitism in the next decades.”
3) Michael Walzer discusses ‘Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism’ at the Fathom Journal.
“Anti-Zionism is a flourishing politics today on many university campuses and on parts of the left, and the standard response from many Jewish organisations and from most of the Jews I know is to call it the newest version of anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionism is a subject in itself; it comes in many varieties, and which ones are anti-Semitic — that’s the question I want to address here. I take ‘Zionism’ to mean a belief in the rightful existence of a Jewish state, nothing more. Anti-Zionism denies the rightfulness. My concern here is with left-wing anti-Zionism in the United States and Europe.”
4) David Collier has been examining a Middle East history textbook used in British schools.
“From the opening sentences, when the book called Jewish people 3300 years ago ‘settlers’ until the final chapters – it is almost impossible for the untrained eye to pick apart fantasy from fiction.
The book spends three pages explaining the Oslo Peace process – and then asks the students to explain the failure of the process – but never once mentioned the exploding buses in Israel’s streets – and only mentioned a single terror attack during this period. How can a student possibly explain the failure of Oslo if you don’t mention the 100s of Israelis slain in Israeli streets?
The book doesn’t avoid violence. Whilst the book drums Jewish violence into the heads of students – through repetitive use of keywords such as ‘Irgun’, Lehi’, ‘the King David Hotel’ and ‘Deir Yassin’ – The Mufti of Jerusalem – a man responsible for much of the violence in the 1920-1939 Mandate – is not mentioned anywhere in the book.”
1) Writing at Tablet Magazine, Howard Jacobson asserts that “the reaction to a rescinded European literary award exposes the hypocrisy of cultural boycotts”.
“Whatever BDS means to achieve it is not subtle in its grasp of the rights and wrongs, the causes and the consequences, of Israel’s conflict with its neighbors. Not subtle in its penetration of how things stand for all parties. Not at pains to be evenhanded where evenhandedness might prove fruitful. And not far-seeing in securing the political well-being of actual Palestinians. But these are practical, and some would say desperate, considerations and as such might just be permitted to slip past the vigilance of moral rectitude and intellectual rigor.”
2) Reuel Marc Gerecht of the FDD discusses “The Israeli–Palestinian Struggle, Continued”.
“There is no chance of a “peace party” returning to Jerusalem unless Israelis see that Palestinians have unequivocally denounced the past, that the celebrations of those who’ve died killing Israelis are rejected. That is impossible to envision in the near-term: neither Fatah, nor Hamas, nor the Israelis, nor Washington want the Palestinian people voting. All fear the worst—the wrong side winning. Perhaps most perversely, the Israelis are invested in a security status quo with Fatah that likely negates the chance of any Palestinian change, and surely makes Hamas more popular on the West Bank than its tyranny in Gaza has earned. But it’s possible that if there were a free vote among Palestinians the hostility towards Israelis—the fundamental rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state—could be the common denominator among Palestinians who otherwise loathe Fatah’s and Hamas’ dictatorships. Palestinians again voting could lead to intense violence, among Palestinians and against Israelis. Nonetheless, Palestinian popular sovereignty is likely the only way out of this cul-de-sac.”
3) Also at the FDD, David Adesnik and Andrew Gabel report on the opening of a border crossing between Syria and Iraq.
“Syria and Iraq on Monday formally opened a key border crossing that lies along the principal route of Iran’s emerging land bridge to the Mediterranean via Baghdad and Damascus. The opening threatens to increase the volume of weapons and materiel that Iran can move across the bridge as part of its effort to establish a dominant position in the Levant. […]
The al-Qaim-Albu Kamal border crossing has unique strategic value for Iran, since the other two official crossings between Iraq and Syria are under the control of U.S. or U.S.-aligned forces. To the southwest, U.S. troops and local partners have secured al-Tanf, while Ya’rubiyah to the northeast is in the hands of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies.”
4) At the BESA Center, Dr. Doron Itzchakov takes a look at the Iraqi militias.
“The recent assaults on the militia bases of al-Hashd al-Sha’abi raise questions about Iraq’s future. Despite the Iraqi PM’s ultimatum demanding that the militias, which operate under the Iranian umbrella, integrate into the Iraqi military apparatus, a number of them are not complying, which could have implications for Iraqi sovereignty.”
“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”
Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.
Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”
In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.
Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:
Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”
Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.
Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.
Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”
Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:
Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”
Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.
Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”
Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.
Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”
Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.
Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.
Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ are promised “in depth reporting, intelligent analysis and breaking news from a global perspective”. Here is what those listeners heard (from 03:39 here) in the news bulletin which opened the programme’s August 15th edition. [emphasis in bold added]
Newsreader: “Israel has banned two US Democrat Congresswomen from entering the country because they’ve been critical of its policies towards the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar had been expected to begin a tour of the Palestinian territories later this week. Ms Omar has accused the Israelis of implementing President Trump’s ban on Muslims. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “The Congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the US, and Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent – have both supported the movement to boycott Israel. They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week in a trip that had become the focus of controversy. Israel passed a law two years ago allowing it to ban entry to supporters of the boycott movement. Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Israel would show weakness to allow them in, calling them a disgrace and accusing them of antisemitism. Israel’s interior ministry later said it would not allow them entry. The not-for-profit group that was organising the visit called the move an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision makers from around the world.”
That sixty-six second item prompts several observations:
1) Tlaib and Omar were not denied entry “because they’ve been critical” of Israel’s – unspecified – “policies towards the Palestinians”. They were refused entry to Israel because they openly support a political campaign which negates Jewish self-determination but as ever BBC audiences heard absolutely nothing about the obviously relevant topic of the BDS campaign’s aims in this bulletin.
“A record number of visitors from Muslim countries came to Israel last year, including nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.
According to figures provided by the Population and Immigration Authority on Monday, 72,109 citizens of Egypt and Jordan (the only Arab countries with which Israel has full diplomatic ties), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018.”
3) Once again BBC audiences heard nothing about the political NGO ‘Miftah’ – opaquely described by Bateman as a “not-for-profit group” without any mention of its agenda and record. Neither were they told that earlier this month Palestinian leaders met with no fewer than 72 Democrat and Republican “decision makers” from the US Congress.
Given the failure by Tom Bateman to provide any relevant background information on the BDS campaign or the political NGO ‘Miftah’, given that listeners were misled with the claim that Tlaib and Omar were not permitted to enter Israel because “they’ve been critical” and given this item’s unquestioning and uncritical amplification of falsehoods from Omar and ‘Miftah’, readers can decide for themselves whether Radio 4 audiences got the “in depth reporting” and “intelligent analysis” touted on this programme’s webpage.
On August 15th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel bars Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The opening paragraph similarly told readers that:
“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”
The following lines however indicated that the BBC is well aware of the fact that the two Congresswomen had no interest in visiting Israel as a whole.
“Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.”
Readers were told that:
“Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.”
“Israeli law blocks entrance visas to any foreigner who calls for any type of boycott that targets Israel – either economic, cultural or academic.
The law attempts to suppress the “boycott, divest, sanction” movement, which has drawn growing support across Europe and the US.” [emphasis added]
Not only is that representation of the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel’ law inaccurate (the amendment gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions) but as usual the BBC did not clarify to its audiences that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.
The report also told readers that:
“Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib have both been criticised for their stance on Israel – but have denied charges of being anti-Semitic.”
“Ms Omar described Israel’s move as “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation”.”
Regarding the Congresswomen’s proposed itinerary, readers were told that:
“According to US media, their trip was meant to begin on Sunday, and would include a stop at one of the most sensitive sites in the region – a hilltop plateau in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
They also planned to visit Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.” [emphasis added]
According to that itinerary, what the BBC presents as “peace activists” are in fact political NGOs such as ‘Mercy Corps’, Amnesty International, Al Haq, B’tselem, DCI-Palestine and ‘Breaking the Silence’.
Readers were told that:
“The trip to the West Bank was planned by Miftah, an organisation headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.”
The following day – August 16th – that article was replaced by another headlined “Rashida Tlaib rejects Israel’s offer of ‘humanitarian’ visit” which included much of the same content but also informed readers that:
“…in a series of tweets on Friday, Ms Omar hit back at claims that she and Ms Tlaib hadn’t asked to meet with Israel’s government or opposition officials.
The Minnesota congresswoman said that, during their visit, they had planned to meet Jewish and Arab members of Israel’s parliament, along with Israeli security officials.
Among other plans, they had also intended to tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Israeli military veterans, she said.”
Readers were not told that those “Israeli military veterans” were in fact members of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ or that the itinerary shows no evidence of planned meetings with Israeli Knesset members or officials.
Readers also found another euphemistic portrayal of the anti-Israel BDS campaign.
“Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign – which aims to put economic pressure on the Israeli government – because of their opposition to Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Obviously if – in line with the BBC’s public purposes obligations – audiences were to understand Israel’s decision not to permit this visit by two members of the US Congress, they needed to be accurately informed what the campaign supported by the women is really about.
However rather than provide that essential information, in these two reports the BBC once again chose to continue its long-standing policy of avoiding telling its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.
1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Maurice Hirsch examines “The UK-PA partnership to reward terrorists”.
“Despite having positive knowledge that the PA used a considerable amount of its financial resources to implement its terrorism-rewarding policy, the DFID, via the World Bank, provided the PA, over a seven-year period, with over £430 million to be used as the PA saw fit. While DFID has adamantly claimed no UK funds were used to fund “pay for slay”, it did so relying on narrow audit reports that cannot and do not support its assertion.
Created in 2008, the World Bank’s Palestinian Recovery and Development Program – Multi-Donor Trust Fund (PRDP-MDTF) pooled the funds of multiple donor countries, including the UK, and provided steady and reliable quarterly cash flow to the PA. As the PRDP-MDTF clearly states, the donor funds were provided to the PA “untied and unearmarked.””
For more information on that topic see this post from UKLFI.
2) At the JCPA Nadav Shragai explains “The Unique Status of the Jerusalem Suburb
of Wadi Hummus” – information which was lacking in BBC reporting on that story last month.
“In the area of Sur Baher, the state planned to locate the security fence on the route of the jurisdictional boundary. But vigorous lobbying activity, including an appeal to the Supreme Court by residents who opposed detaching Wadi Hummus from Sur Baher, brought about a change in the decision. The result was that Wadi Hummus was included within the route of the fence even though it is not part of Jerusalem.
Some of the Wadi Hummus residents are originally from Sur Baher and hold Israeli residency cards. Others are from the West Bank and are not Israeli residents. The result is a legal and bureaucratic imbroglio in which Wadi Hummus, a tract of only a few hundred dunams, is surrounded by the Israeli fence, is not an official part of Jerusalem, and includes areas of three kinds: A, B, and C. In Area A, security and civilian control belong to the Palestinian Authority; in Area B, security control belongs to Israel and civilian control to the Palestinian Authority; in Area C, official security and civilian control belong to Israel.”
3) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz takes a look at “The Long History of Politically Motivated Travel Bans”.
“American law […] goes on at length regarding the various categories of people who may be barred from entering the United States, including those with communicable diseases, those convicted of certain crimes, and—drumroll, please—anyone who “seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in… any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means.”
Israel has similar laws. Its argument that avid supporters of a movement, BDS, whose overtly stated goal is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state represent a threat to the country may not be politically savvy, but nor is it unprecedented or indefensible.”
4) As the BBC continues to promote the notion that the Palestinian Authority aspires to a two-state solution to the conflict, at the Washington Institute David Pollock analyses a recent Palestinian public opinion poll.
“…when asked about ending the conflict with Israel permanently, only a minority would approve a two-state solution: 30 percent of West Bankers, and 42 percent of Gazans. Instead, the narrow majority in both territories–56 percent in the West Bank, and 54 percent in Gaza, say “the conflict should not end, and resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated.” This marks a hardening of West Bank views compared to previous polls. And under half of the Palestinian public say “we should recognize that we will never defeat Israel, and that fighting just makes things worse”: 40 percent of West Bankers, and 49 percent of Gazans.”
Last month we documented the unexplained removal of a video from the BBC News website and other locations on the internet.
“On July 9th the BBC News website published a filmed report on its ‘Middle East’ page titled “Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex”. […]
That filmed report giving BBC audiences a rare glimpse of Palestinian society remained on the BBC News website’s Middle East page for three days and then disappeared, with no explanation given. […]
The video has also been removed from syndicated content…”
Over three weeks later, on August 6th, an edited version of the same video reappeared in the ‘Latest Updates’ section at the bottom of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Shattering sex taboos in the Palestinian territories”. Its synopsis reads:
“A survey carried by the Arab Barometer for BBC News Arabic in 2018 and 2019 suggests that, across the Middle East and North Africa, people feel their right to freedom of expression is being squeezed.
It indicates that people feel 20% less free to express themselves today than when they were surveyed in 2013.
That also has an impact on sex education. But organisations like Muntada al-Jensaneya are breaking through the silence and finding safe spaces for people to learn about sexuality, helping to transform society’s attitude towards sexual rights and health.
Note: This is an updated version of the original published report.”
“3.3.28 We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately. Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness. An effective way of correcting a serious factual error is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right.
Mistakes in on-demand and online content
Where mistakes in our on-demand content, which is available online after broadcast, are unlikely to be a serious breach of editorial standards, a correction should be published on that platform, so that it is visible before the output is played. Such on-demand content does not then normally need to be changed or revoked.
Where mistakes to our on-demand content are likely to be considered a serious breach of editorial standards, the content must be corrected and the mistake acknowledged, or in exceptional cases removed. We need to be transparent about any changes made, unless there are editorial or legal reasons not to do so.
In online text content, any mistake that alters the editorial meaning should normally be corrected and we should be transparent about what was wrong.” [emphasis added]
Informing audiences that “[t]his is an updated version of the original published report” without clarifying why it was updated, why that took so long and what it was about the original film that “was wrong” obviously does not meet standards of transparency and does not help those who watched the original report during the time it was online.
Although BBC audiences were told that “HRW insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel”, as was noted here at the time:
Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials…”
Petra Marquardt-Bigman has documented what has happened since that BBC report was published.
“…HRW sued to block Shakir’s deportation and appealed the decision not to renew his permit. In mid-April of this year, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the appeal and ordered Shakir to leave by May 1st, citing his ongoing support of boycotts of Israel. However, HRW once again appealed the decision, which is now before Israel’s Supreme Court…”
On July 25th Israel’s High Court will be hearing Shakir’s appeal. Seeing as ‘Human Rights Watch’ is currently trying to create media ‘buzz’ around the case (apparently including a press conference on that day) and given that it is one of the political NGOs most frequently – and uncritically – quoted and promoted by the BBC, it is quite likely that BBC audiences will see coverage of that story.
NGO Monitor has compiled a useful resource on the background to the case which – if the BBC’s previous article is anything to go by – is likely to be under-reported in its potential coverage.