Weekend long read

1) The IDC has a podcast in which Dr Amichai Magen holds a fascinating conversation with Dr Jonathan Spyer about the background to his book ‘Days of the Fall: A Reporter’s Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars’. 

2) At the Algemeiner, Zvi Mazel discusses the significance of a story the BBC has so far ignored – the signing of a major gas deal between Israeli and Egyptian companies.

“A deal just concluded between Nobel Energy from Texas and Israeli Delek group on one side — and Egyptian private company Dolphinus on the other — to provide Egypt with 64 billion cubic meters of gas for a total of $15 billion over a period of 10 years may turn out to be the first sign that the Mediterranean is about to become a world hub of gas trade.

According to United States Geological Survey estimates, huge reserves of gas can be found in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: some 325 trillion cubic feet, or 9.2 trillion cubic meters — more than all known US reserves.

Regional disputes, however, are likely to hinder exploration and exploitation of these areas.”

3) The FDD has produced a useful profile some of the Iranian-backed militias operating in the Middle East.

“Iran has built a network of Shiite militias, now fighting across the Middle East, whose fighters number in the tens of thousands. These militias include battle-hardened fighters as well as poorly trained recruits. They hail from countries across the Muslim world and have varying motivations and interests, but they have one thing in common: they project the Islamic Republic’s power and promote its revolutionary ideology. Iran’s Shiite foreign legion has played an indispensable role in preserving the Assad regime in Syria, but all the groups have expressed a readiness to wage war against all enemies of the Islamic Republic.

One of the earliest militias, whose success spawned others, is Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah is now a household name because of the terror attacks it has carried out against American and Israeli targets, from Lebanon to Argentina. The next generation of Shiite militias is less well known.”

4) On J-TV, Baroness Ruth Deech discusses the anti-Israel boycott campaign.


Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

As has often been noted here, for years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

So did BBC audiences see any improvement in 2017?

In February BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious” debate programme ‘The Big Questions’ aired a discussion billed “should we trade with Israel now settlements are recognised?” which included contributors from controversial organisations that support the BDS anti-Israel campaign – without audiences being informed of that fact.

In March the BBC News website reported a story about a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign denied entry to Israel but – despite the obvious relevance to the story – failed to inform audiences what the BDS campaign aspires to achieve.

In April BBC Two audiences were given an airbrushed account of the aim of the BDS campaign and visitors to the BBC News website were told that it is “a human rights organisation”.

In May the BBC News website recycled the myth that BDS is a “human rights” campaign and later the same month failed to mention the role of a BDS group in bringing about the banning of a film in Lebanon .

In June listeners to BBC World Service radio also heard gross misrepresentation of the BDS campaign’s aims:

“…the end goal is always hopefully to get a peaceful resolution where Israelis and Palestinians and all Arab countries are living in peace; are living in justice.”

In October the BBC News website recycled two reports from 2015 – both featuring a prominent BDS campaigner – as ‘explanatory’ items.

In November listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the Palestinian representative in the UK bemoaning the fact that the British government does not support BDS as part of the corporation’s Balfour Declaration centenary programming and in December BBC World Service radio audiences heard Mustafa Barghouti promoting the BDS campaign.  

BDS campaigners and supporters showcased by the BBC in 2017 without audiences being told of their links to that campaign and without explanation of its political agenda include Ahdaf Soueif, the UJFP, Diana Buttu, Omar Baddar, Stephen Kinnock and Saree Makdisi. 

One story in particular received generous coverage from the BBC throughout much of 2017. In February visitors to both the BBC Music website and the BBC News website were told of “Controversy over Radiohead gig in Israel” in a report that promoted a fictional “industry boycott” and mythical “industry rules” while providing a link to a (misspelled) website which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In July readers of the BBC News website saw another article about the Radiohead show in Tel Aviv that failed to clarify the BDS campaign’s aims and BBC World Service radio audiences also heard a report on the same subject. In September BBC Radio 5 live returned to the story, once again without clarification of what the BDS campaign aspires to achieve.

On no occasion throughout 2017 were audiences told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism. That obviously hinders the ability of audiences to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its appropriate context and affects their view of criticism of the campaign from other sources.

In contrast, as we see above, the BBC continues to provide a generous platform for supporters of the BDS campaign – identified as such or not – to promote their messaging.




Weekend long read

1) At the Forward, Petra Marquardt-Bigman takes a look at the roots of the BDS campaign.

“Recall that the BDS movement emerged in the wake of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in early September 2001. Unfortunately, the conference was hijacked by non-governmental organizations which sought to revive the notorious UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, a clearly anti-Semitic resolution seeing as the vast majority of Jews identify as Zionists and would thus be defined as racists. These NGOs issued a call for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state,” including “the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.””

2) Former MK Einat Wilf discusses “Anti-Feminism and Anti-Zionism” at the Tablet.

“Feminism and Zionism are cut from the same cloth. Both movements emerged from the same intellectual and political origins, they both exhibited similar growth trajectories, becoming two of the most successful revolutions to sweep and survive through the 20th century, both continue to face ferocious backlash, and both remain vibrant and necessary in the 21st century.

Feminism and Zionism are daughters of the enlightenment. They were born of that intellectual revolution against the inevitability of the human condition as one subject to a hierarchical, divinely ordained order, underpinned by a religious system and elaborate theology. Feminism and Zionism are rebellions against that order. They are both part of the modern overthrowing of a pre-modern order in which each living creature, born into a station and role in the superstructure of society, remains in that role, carries it out dutifully and does not challenge it. Feminism and Zionism are infused with resistance against the pre-Enlightenment idea that how you are born should determine how you die.”

3) Potkin Azarmehr writes about “Iran Analysts and Their False Narratives“.

“In 2009, millions of Iranians spilled out onto the streets and protested against the rigged results of the presidential elections. The protests were brutally repressed, and the regime’s savagery was captured by the camera-phones of thousands of citizen journalists. These images were then disseminated across social media by a young tech-savvy population, who showed the world the true nature of the Islamic Republic.

As expected, many so-called experts and academics, who had their information and material fed to them by regime lobbyists, were taken aback, and provided a reading of events that was grossly inadequate. Somehow, they had to come up with a narrative that still supported their notion of “this is a popular and relatively democratic regime” fighting against the unjust imperialist West – a narrative that would validate their own lack of support for the protesters.”

4) Palestinian Media Watch has produced a report documenting Palestinian Authority and Fatah reactions to recent US administration announcements.  

“Jerusalem is only ours, only ours. They [the Americans] know it. It is a strange thing that a state that is only a little older than 200 years takes a stand toward a city that is 5,000 years old. Where was America when Jerusalem was built, that it should decide whose capital it is? And where was Israel when Jerusalem was built? Jerusalem was here before America and before Israel and before Europe and before this entire world. We were in Jerusalem more than 5,000 years ago, and we have not left it… America, which – as they say – was born yesterday, wants to decide the fate of a city whose age is greater than history.” [Official PA TV, Dec. 22, 2017]



BBC World Service amends inaccurate photo caption

As noted here yesterday, the caption to a photograph used to illustrate the webpage of the January 7th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ included an inaccurate claim.

“In addition, the photograph illustrating the programme’s webpage is inaccurately captioned as follows:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products coming from Jewish settlements.”

BBC Watch asked a professional to translate the Arabic script on that sign. It makes no reference to a selective boycott of “products coming from Jewish settlements” but rather urges: “boycott your occupation…support your country’s produce” and it is credited to “the national campaign for boycott of the occupation and its goods”.”

Along with a reader, BBC Watch contacted the BBC World Service and received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch and the ‘alert’.

The caption is indeed – as you point out – inaccurate.  It was provided by the same agency which provided the image – Getty Images. We have now changed the caption on our website (…it might take a bit of time to upload) and have referred the error to the agency as well.   

Once again, thank you with apologies for the error.”

The amended caption now reads:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products.”

BBC Watch commends the swift action taken to correct that misleading inaccuracy.

Related Articles:

BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service


BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service

For years we have been documenting on these pages how the BBC has serially failed to provide its audiences with an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR.

The lead story (from 00:51 here) in the January 7th late edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was titled “Israel publishes BDS blacklist”.

“Israel lists 20 organisations whose activists will be barred from entering the country on account of their support for the boycotting of Israel. We hear from an Israeli deputy minister, and a representative of one of the banned groups.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item, providing listeners with an inaccurate description of the BDS campaign’s roots and aims in its opening seconds.

Coomarasamy: “First though, the Israeli government says it has shifted from defence to offence in its attempts to counter the international movement which supports the boycott of the country. It’s drawn up a list of 20 mainly European and American organisations which support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – or BDS – movement and whose activists will now be prevented from entering Israel. Well BDS was launched just over a decade ago with the stated goal of applying non-violent pressure on Israel to comply with international law in its dealings with the Palestinians. So why has Israel taken this decision now?”. [emphasis added]

The BDS campaign’s roots are of course found in the infamous ‘Durban’ conference of 2001 and its goals are not concerned with compliance with “international law”.

Coomarasamy then introduced his first interviewee – Israeli deputy minister and MK Michael Oren – who pointed out that while other countries face security threats: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Oren: “…we are totally unique – indeed the only country in the world that faces threats to its very existence. There could be organisations that seek to change Israeli policies, oppose Israeli policies but we’re dealing with organisations here that actively seek Israel’s destruction and Israel has a right to defend itself against these threats; certainly against existential threats.”

Coomarasamy: “Right but these specifically are groups that are calling for boycotting Israel.”

Oren: “They’re calling for boycotting Israel – not to change Israel’s policies. That’s the difference. When you boycott Israel you’re going to bring Israel down. These are organisations that realise that attempts to destroy Israel by conventional means – the Arab-Israeli wars, which basically ended in 1973, terror against Israel, which continues today but is much less than it was in previous years – those efforts failed. The new effort to destroy Israel is legal and economic and it’s very serious indeed. It is the 21st century version of warfare and it is every bit as dangerous. We take it every bit as seriously as we took previous efforts to destroy us.”

After Oren had clarified why Coomarasamy’s description of the BDS campaign as “propaganda efforts” is not accurate and explained the rationale behind Israel’s compilation of a registry of BDS supporting organisations and ban on entry into Israel for foreign members of those groups who take ongoing, consistent and significant action to promote the BDS campaign, Coomarasamy moved on to his next interviewee.

Coomarasamy: “Well one of the blacklisted groups is Jewish Voice for Peace which supports the BDS campaign. Rebecca Vilkomerson is their executive director based in New York. What does she make of Michael Oren’s assertion that the BDS campaign is intent on the destruction of the State of Israel?”

Vilkomerson: “I would absolutely dispute that. I mean I think of course the tool of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one that’s been used historically across many, many different movements in many, many different times as a tool of citizens to push governments to take action when they are unwilling or unable to. And of course if you think about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the goal of the movement was not to destroy the country. The goal of the movement was to transform the country. Of course there is pressure as part of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions but the aim is to transform the country into one that brings all citizens to full equality and dignity and freedom and that’s of course also the goal with the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s dismal record on reporting on the BDS campaign may have been surprised to learn at that point that at least one the corporation’s journalists apparently is aware of its ‘end game’.

Coomarasamy: “Although there are some supporters of the BDS movement who would specifically say that they want the State of Israel to dissolve itself, to be dissolved.”

However, Vilkomerson was then allowed to downplay the fact that leaders and prominent activists in the BDS campaign openly speak of bringing an end to Jewish self-determination with no challenge whatsoever from Coomarasamy.  

Vilkomerson: “Ahm…cert…you know the BDS movement is a very, very broad movement in the way that anyone can say that they’re a supporter [laughs] certainly. So you can’t say…you know you can’t really give too much credence to that. But I think the purpose of the BDS movement as is articulated by its leadership – the broad…the broadest array of civil rights…civil society within Palestine – is three conditions that the BDS calls…specifically calls for which is the end of the occupation, the dismantling of the wall, full equality for Palestinian citizens and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. And if those three conditions are met, the BDS call will be called off.”

Vilkomerson’s claim that the BDS campaign’s leadership is found in “civil society within Palestine” is of course inaccurate (as has been admitted even by one of its prominent supporters) but Coomarasamy made no effort to challenge that deliberate falsehood. Neither did he bother to clarify to listeners that the BDS campaign’s demand for the so-called ‘right of return’ to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees would – as its supporters know full well – bring an end to Jewish self-determination in the sole Jewish state and it is precisely that ‘condition’ which would “dissolve” the State of Israel.

The conversation continued with Vilkomerson claiming that the Israeli move is “an indicator of the growing power of the BDS movement”. When she stated that the goal of her own organisation is “to change US policy” Coomarasamy refrained from asking her exactly what that entails and so listeners did not hear, for example, that JVP has hosted and lobbied for Palestinians convicted of terrorism or that last year it launched a campaign that aims to “end police exchange programs between the US and Israel”.

Although this item dealt specifically with the subject of the BDS campaign, once again we see that the BBC did not provide audiences with the clear picture of its aims that they have lacked for years. Rather, in addition to providing an inaccurate definition of the campaign’s goals himself, James Coomarasamy allowed his second interviewee to muddy the waters even further by failing to challenge her inaccurate statements and claims.  

In addition, the photograph illustrating the programme’s webpage is inaccurately captioned as follows:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products coming from Jewish settlements.”

BBC Watch asked a professional to translate the Arabic script on that sign. It makes no reference to a selective boycott of “products coming from Jewish settlements” but rather urges:“boycott your occupation…support your country’s produce” and it is credited to “the national campaign for boycott of the occupation and its goods”. 

Related Articles:

‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ Repeats anti-Israel Clichés; Post Provides a Platform (CAMERA)


Weekend long read

1) Denmark and Norway recently announced cuts in funding to Palestinian NGOs supporting BDS and/or with links to the PFLP terror group. In an interview at the Gatestone Institute, Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor – which has conducted contributing research on the topic – explains.

“NGO funding – under the banner of “development” and “civil society” — has been a major part of Western European foreign policy for the past two or three decades. In addition, many of the countries give money to NGO networks because they see that other countries are doing so. They figure that if others are doing it, it must be good for Europe. Moreover, much of the system is faith-based, in the sense that all a group has to say to garner the support of many European politicians is that its mission is to promote human rights. The words have a “halo effect,” a term used in psychology to describe the tendency to favorably judge people, companies, groups, products, and so forth, based on the image of morality or some other positive factor. In the context of NGOs, groups that claim to promote values seen as universally good – such as peace, human rights, justice and coexistence – are automatically perceived as credible and above criticism or investigation.”

2) Also at the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on a story involving the Palestinian Authority of the type that BBC audiences never hear.

“Mohammed Al-Dayeh has been under interrogation on suspicion of establishing and managing two Facebook pages – “Sons of the Martyrs” and “No to Corruption.” The Palestinian Authority claims that both accounts were used to wage a smear campaign against top Palestinian officials and accuse them of financial and administrative corruption.

There is only one small problem regarding the charges against Al-Dayeh: The man cannot read or write, and as such there is no way he could have posted the offensive remarks on Facebook.”

3) Just days before the protests in Iran began Raz Zimmt of the INSS published an article that provides background to that story.

“Since his reelection, Iranian President Rouhani has pursued a policy that to a great extent disregards the demands of the reformists who supported him during the elections and reflects a shift toward the conservative camp. This trend is evident in the President’s political appointments, his reneging on promises of civil reforms, and the reduced tension, at least in public, vis-à-vis the Revolutionary Guards. Disappointment with the President is evident among the reformists, although the prevailing opinion is that they should continue supporting him and not risk letting the hardliners gain an upper hand. The President’s conduct reflects his identity as a fundamentally conservative politician, his priorities, the limits of his power versus the conservative establishment, and his long range political aspirations. His recognition of the limits of his power and his focus on improving the economic situation may indicate political insight, but his failure to respond to the public’s demands is liable over time to exacerbate the Iranians’ despair and pose a growing challenge to his regime.”

4) Writing at the Atlantic, Jonathan Schanzer of the FDD reports on a trial relating to Iranian sanctions evasion.

“Yesterday, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty in a Manhattan courtroom for a range of financial crimes. His dramatic trial revealed that tens of billions in dollars and gold moved from Turkey to Iran through a complex network of businesses, banks, and front companies. […]

A dual Iranian-Turkish national, [Reza] Zarrab was the swashbuckling gold trader who had helped Iran evade sanctions with the help of Turkish banks in 2013 and 2014, yielding Iran an estimated $13 billion at the height of the efforts to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. A leaked report by prosecutors in Istanbul in March 2014 suggested that Zarrab spearheaded a second sanctions-busting scheme involving fake invoices for billions more in fictitious humanitarian shipments to Iran that were processed through Turkish banks.”


Radio 5 live item promotes apartheid analogy, breaches style guide

As regular readers will be aware, the editorial approach taken by the BBC when reporting stories relating to the BDS campaign against Israel is to avoid informing audiences exactly what that campaign is really all about and in particular, that it seeks to bring about an end to Jewish self-determination by means of delegitimisation. In the past the BBC has claimed that, notwithstanding its frequent amplification of the campaign, it is not its job to provide audiences with that information and has taken to bizarrely describing that campaign to eradicate the Jewish state as a “human rights group”.

It therefore did not come as much of a surprise to see that an item broadcast on January 1st on BBC Radio 5 live adopted the same editorial approach. However, the item – aired on a show called ‘Phil Williams’ – also included additional issues.

In a slot (from 01:37:17 here) relating to the “top arts, entertainment and culture stories of the week”, presenter Adrian Goldberg discussed the cancellation of a concert in Tel Aviv by the New Zealand singer Lorde following pressure from anti-Israel activists – and one reaction to her decision in particular – with guests Emma Bullimore and entertainment journalist Alex James.

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

Goldberg: “…we’re going to talk about Lorde tonight as well because she’s become the subject of a full-page advert in the Washington Post. A celebrity rabbi in the United States has taken her to task for cancelling a gig in Israel and called her a bigot. And there’s been quite a lot of pressure on artists who’ve chosen to play gigs in Israel over the last few years to pull out of them. Some have given way to pressure like Lorde has. Others have refused to give way.”

Alex James then told listeners that the twenty-one year-old singer – whom he described as “such a young artist” – “has admitted at this point to not making the right call”. He went on:

James: “…the decision was made just a week after it [the concert] was announced that the right decision was to cancel the show. She said ‘I’m not too proud to admit that I didn’t make the right call on this one’.”

In other words, listeners were told three times in a matter of minutes that the “right” decision was not to appear in Israel.

The conversation then turned to the topic of musicians who have not given in to pressure from the BDS campaign such as Radiohead and Nick Cave before Emma Bullimore again raised the subject of the “right” decision.

Bullimore: “and I think it’s really interesting that she has decided to say, you know, I made the incorrect call. You know she could very easily let her managers deal with it, let her promoters deal with it but she obviously wants to say ‘no – this was the wrong thing and I’m backing away’.”

Goldberg: “And when we said the wrong decision, as in the wrong decision she accepts or she believes was to have accepted the gig in the first place.”

Bullimore: “Exactly”.

Goldberg then went on to promote an apartheid analogy of the kind regularly used by the BDS campaign.

Goldberg: “Yeah. But so this…this ad now in the Washington Post. There’s a guy called Shmuley Boteach. I confess I’ve never heard of him before but he’s called her a bigot for pulling out and he said that she’s joined what he describes as a global antisemitic boycott of Israel. Now…eh…older listeners will remember that there was a cultural boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era and the South African government and its supporters didn’t really come out and defend the country in the way that supporters of Israel have done and will do and that’s the other side of this – isn’t there? – is that people who chose to boycott Israel in this way are accused of being antisemitic.”

With listeners having received no information whatsoever concerning the aims and ideologies of the BDS campaign (and not least the fact that it seeks to eradicate self-determination for Jews alone) they would of course be unable to judge for themselves whether or not there is reason to describe it as antisemitic.

After Alex James had noted that the advert under discussion pointed out that the singer had agreed to appear in Russia (but without clarifying that it mentioned human rights abuses in Russia and in Syria), listeners heard from Emma Bullimore.

Bullimore: “Well also we’re saying…also we’re saying that this celebrity rabbi has done this before – not a musician but Barak Obama’s security advisor. So he likes to take out full-page ads. That seems to be his way of, you know, having a pop back and he’s quite notorious. He’s often…his views are often talked about on this issue in America. So, you know, he hasn’t just come out of nowhere. This is someone who likes…who likes to make a big deal out of things, shall we say.”

While one can of course agree or disagree with Boteach’s methods, it is notable that his was the sole response to Lorde’s decision to cancel her show that was presented to Radio 5 live listeners. Goldberg than went on:

Goldberg: “Yeah. Lorde’s…I mean she’s 21. I accept that’s pretty young but she’s quite a conscious artist though, isn’t she? You know it’s hard that [sic] she would have been unaware of the controversy around playing in Israel before this. Whether or not people agree with it will be down to their personal view of the State of Israel and its occupation of Palestine. But you know it’s not something that she could have been completely oblivious to I don’t think.”

As pointed out here only recently, the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” – published on the recommendation of the BBC Governors’ independent panel report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2006 – instructs the corporation’s staff not to use the term Palestine except in very specific circumstances.

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”. […]

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.” [emphasis added]

As we see, in addition to that breach of both the style guide and BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, listeners to this item also heard a gratuitous and baseless comparison of Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa and were repeatedly told that the singer concerned had made the “right” call by giving in to pressure from supporters of a campaign that neither Goldberg nor his guests made any effort whatsoever to explain properly.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.  

Related Articles:

One-sided BBC background recycles BDS falsehoods

More mainstreaming of BDS on BBC Radio 5 live

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ picks up the baton of BDS campaign amplification





Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part two

In part one of this post we discussed an edition of ‘Newsday’ broadcast on BBC World Service radio on the morning of December 6th in which Mustafa Barghouti was given free rein to promote lies and distortions concerning Israel that went completely unchallenged by the programme’s presenter.

A later edition of the same programme – again presented by Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach – also included items relating to the then anticipated announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel. At the start of the show listeners heard from American human rights lawyer Brooke Goldstein and later on (from 26:57 here) a BDS supporting one-stater UCLA professor of English literature was brought in to give ‘the Palestinian view’. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Peach: “This morning the US president is expected later to make an announcement recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hugely controversial this as Israelis and Palestinians consider the city their capital. East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since 1967. The status is one of the most sensitive disputes in the conflict, further complicated by the presence in the city of holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

Pollard: “Well in the last couple of weeks [sic] a number of world leaders – Europeans, Arabs, allies of America – have been warning President Trump against taking this step, with some expressing concerns that it might threaten future peace talks and even trigger violence. We’ve been getting opinions from Israel, from America: now for a Palestinian view of the implications. We’ve been speaking to Professor Saree Makdisi. He’s based in California. He’s the author of ‘Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation’. So, Professor Makdisi, how significant is this move?”

Makdisi: “I think it’s going to destabilise the entire region and I think it’s gonna throw a lot of fuel on many different fires that are already burning. I also think it makes some things clearer, so it’s not all bad news in that sense. I think the most important thing – the first thing that needs to be said – is that it’s a major blow of course to Palestinian aspirations and Palestinian rights. It’s very problematic in that it represents the kind of acknowledgement of sort of giving American blessing to the acquisition of territory by force. But we have to remember after all that the reason why nobody recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is that Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is extremely questionable. The 1947 UN partition of Palestine  didn’t give Jerusalem to the putative Jewish state and the eastern part of the city was taken in the war of 1967 so that’s why the international community doesn’t recognise Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital and what the…what Trump basically will be doing is saying we’re giving our blessing to the acquisition of territory by force which is contravention of international law and giving our blessing to the colonisation of Arab land by the Israeli state.”

Pollard refrained from clarifying to listeners around the world that the 1947 Partition Plan never got off the ground because the Arabs refused to accept it and that it also did not give any part of Jerusalem to a Palestinian state. He also had nothing to add to Makdisi’s remarks concerning the “acquisition of territory by force” in terms of the very relevant context of the belligerent Jordanian invasion of parts of Jerusalem in 1948. Even Makdisi’s spurious reference to the “colonisation of Arab land” went completely unquestioned.

Pollard: “You said benefit might come out of it as well – a kind of clarification – what do you mean?”

Makdisi: “Yeah a clarification because you know for the twenty plus years of the so-called peace process, which has really done nothing in particular to accomplish anything like a just peace, there’s been this…I mean part of what’s stained the whole process has been this image of the United States as what’s called an honest broker. It has been anything but honest and really hasn’t even been much of a broker but certainly it’s been incredibly dishonest for all these years because of course the US is a partisan…an ally of the Israeli state. I mean it gives Israel billions of dollars in aid every year. It gives it pretty much unlimited support in the United Nations Security Council. It lets it get away with gross and grotesque violations of international humanitarian law.”

Pollard: “Is the move important enough in your opinion and weighty enough and symbolic enough to actually stop people talking about the peace process? To put a nail in the two-state solution? I mean does this, for example, preclude a Palestinian Authority capital of some kind in East Jerusalem? Because plenty in America say it doesn’t.”

Makdisi: “Let’s put it this way: there are no current negotiations as far as anybody knows. I mean there’s talk about it and there’s been talk on and off for more than 20 years about, you know, a two-state solution. During the process of talking on and on in all those years, what’s happened is Israel has consolidated its hold over East Jerusalem. It’s consolidated its hold over the West Bank by building more and more settlements and transferring more and more of its own population into these occupied territories.”

Pollard made no effort to clarify to listeners that – as the BBC knows – Israel has not built ‘settlements’ in the past twenty years and has not ‘transferred’ (and of course Makdisi used that particular word deliberately) any of its population to Judea & Samaria.

Had listeners been informed in the introduction – as required under BBC editorial guidelines – that Makdisi is a proponent of a bi-national state – and the resulting elimination of the Jewish state – and a supporter of the BDS campaign, they would have been able to put his next set of claims in context.

Makdisi: “And so what this does is it just makes it clear that that whole set of discourse is fictional basically and so what it does is it puts the onus on everybody to come up with a different set of solutions and that’s why there is something of a silver lining here because it’s giving the lie to a tired and worn-out set of really abstract actions and fictions. And we’re seeing the increasing isolation of Israel in terms of boycotts and sanctions which are really beginning to bite in all kinds of ways – culturally and in terms of sports and other things. And I think that will intensify, especially with the official demise of the two-state solution. It’s incredible.”

Lawrence Pollard did not even find it necessary to challenge Makdisi’s subsequent justification of terrorism or his allegations regarding a person unable to exercise the right of reply.

Makdisi: “And the other thing, you know, which one could have said – it seems kind of obvious – is that, you know, next time something awful happens and people say why do they hate us – well – now, I wonder why they hate us. It’s almost the self-fulfilling prophecy which is…and it doesn’t seem to have any benefit for anybody except…except that faction of the Israeli Right that really wants to have unlimited carte blanche and it’s getting what it wants, you know, and that’s…that’s Kushner’s role, no doubt.”

As we see, Lawrence Pollard yet again made no effort whatsoever to challenge the multiple inaccuracies and falsehoods promoted by the inadequately introduced Makdisi, meaning that BBC audiences once again went away with misinformation and misleading impressions that distorted their view of the story.

In the subsequent December 6th edition of ‘Newshour’ listeners once again heard (from 00:25 here) an edited version of Mustafa Barghouti’s earlier comments that included unchallenged repetition of his dubious interpretations of international law, two repetitions of the ‘apartheid’ smear, lies about Palestinian ‘non-violence’ and a distorted account of events in Jerusalem last July that began with a terror attack near Temple Mount that Barghouti erased from his account.  

It is glaringly obvious that both Mustafa Barghouti and Saree Makdisi were given unfettered platforms from which to promote inaccurate claims and blatant falsehoods without any hindrance whatsoever from ‘Newday’ presenters. Moreover, Barghouti’s slurs and inaccuracies were subsequently recycled both in the programme itself and in a clip promoted on social media.

While those softball interviews clearly contributed to the advancement of a specific political narrative, they certainly did not enhance audience understanding of the specific story under discussion or the wider topic.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part one

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story



Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part one

Even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel on December 6th, the BBC was already setting the scene.

As documented here previously, the BBC News website published several pre-emptive reports that framed the story according to a very particular narrative and thus shaped audience views of it even before anyone knew what the US president was actually going to say. Some BBC radio stations adopted the same strategy, with listeners hearing no small amount of speculative commentary prior to the actual event.

On the morning of December 6th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ devoted much of the airtime in its various editions to the topic of the anticipated announcement. The commentary included contributions from several people selected to present ‘the Palestinian view’ that were remarkable for gross inaccuracies and distortions.  

Did the programme’s presenters challenge those inaccuracies or did BBC audiences go away with misinformation and misleading impressions that would colour their view of the story in advance?

The early edition of ‘Newsday’ opened (from 00:34 here) with an introduction by presenters Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach that was immediately followed by a statement from Fatah official Nabil Shaath. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Pollard: “Now let’s begin in the Middle East and…err…history and symbols hugely important there and there must be no more powerful symbolic expression than the city of Jerusalem.”

Peach: “Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as their capital. Israel, which controls the city, claims it entirely as theirs. In circumstances such as these it’s not surprising that most other countries have kept well out of it until now and maintain their embassies in the Israeli financial capital of Tel Aviv, in the process withholding recognition of the Israeli claim to the entire city of Jerusalem.”

Pollard: “But now American president Donald Trump is preparing to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy from Tel Aviv. America’s allies in Europe and the Arab world have been warning against the plan: a plan which President Trump promised on the campaign trail.”

Peach: “Lots of reaction coming for you, including this from Nabil Shaath – who’s a senior advisor to the Palestinian president – who says Mr Trump is throwing away his credibility.”

Shaath: “That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker. That takes away honest, takes away broker, takes away chaperone of peace, takes away the deal of the century and makes them behind us – gone into the files of history.”

Listeners then heard commentary from Ha’aretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer. Later on (from 26:55 here) the programme returned to the same topic.

Peach: “First, later today the US president Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Pollard: “He’s not likely to immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, partly because it will take several years, it’s said, to build a new embassy.”

Peach: “We’re told the US president has already telephoned several Middle East leaders to inform them of these plans. His regional allies were strongly against it all, warning of dangerous consequences.”

Pollard: “We’ve heard from Israel. Let’s get the opinion now of a member of the Palestinian parliament. Dr Mustafa Barghouti joins us once again on the programme. Dr Barghouti – welcome back. This has been a possible move for decades; now it’s coming. What’s its significance in your opinion?”

Pollard’s presentation of Barghouti as “a member of the Palestinian parliament” is of course misleading because not only has the Palestinian Legislative Council not functioned for over a decade since the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, but – like the rest of the PLC members – Barghouti’s term of office ended years ago.

Barghouti opened with a spurious reference to ‘international law’ that went completely unquestioned and went on – likewise unchallenged – to promote the ‘apartheid’ smear.

Barghouti: “It’s very significant but it’s very reckless – from a president who seems to be risk reckless on many issues. And it means the United States is officially participating in violating international law. And it is showing such a level of bias to Israel that it is killing any future role of the United States in any future peace process. As a matter of fact Mr Trump is aborting his own peace initiative before it is born. And the worst thing is that he’s making a dangerous move that will definitely destabilise the region and will consolidate, or help consolidate, a system of apartheid that Palestinians suffer from.”

Pollard: “Sorry. Let me just ask you about immediately what you think the consequences will be. First off, in the street – do you think that there is a risk of a violent response to this in terms of demonstrations and attacks?”

Barghouti: “No. From the Palestinian perspective we don’t want violence. We have opted for non-violent resistance but for mass popular non-violent resistance which was very successful last July in Jerusalem and we managed to defeat Netanyahu and force him to remove all obstacles he put in front of the people in Al Aqsa Mosque.”

Pollard failed to challenge Barghouti’s false claims of ‘non-violent resistance’ or to inform listeners of the incitement to violence from Hamas, the PA and Fatah even before the US announcement had been made. He also failed to clarify to listeners that his interviewee’s mention of “last July in Jerusalem” in fact refers to events triggered by a violent terror attack near Temple Mount or that those so-called “obstacles” were metal detectors and security cameras.

Pollard: “OK, so no violence in the street. OK, that’s an important point. What about…”

Barghouti: “I cannot guarantee it. I cannot guarantee that there will be no violence…”

Pollard: “Of course.”

Barghouti: “…in other places because this action is provoking the feelings of 1.6 billion Muslims, 2.2 billion Christians and 360 million Arabs.”

Pollard: “And politically, what difference does it make? You mentioned that in a sense – if I can put words into your mouth – it’s kind of destroyed the idea of America as the honest broker. Who else moves into that vacuum therefore? There is no-one else, is there?”

Barghouti used that question as a cue to promote the PA agenda of internationalisation of the conflict but listeners were not informed of the existence of that policy and so were unable to put his comments into context.

Barghouti: “There can be no one single country but I think we have…we moving in this world from unipolar system to multipolar system and if there would be a serious peace process it has to be an international conference with participation of many countries like China, Russia, European Union for sure. France tried to lead the road and it was obstructed by the United States and by Israel.”

Pollard: “But do you think that in any international arena…we have seen time and again an American veto used. Do you not think that simply any appeal or any hope that you’re now raising of an international effort to do it will simply be blocked or vetoed by the super-power; by the United States?”

Barghouti: “More than that. Any peace initiative will be blocked by Israel because Israel does not want peace, which is giving us a message. We the Palestinians have waited 25 years for the peace process to work. Now we receive the message it’s dead. Fine; we will choose an alternative path. We have to concentrate on changing the balance of power first. And that can happen only through popular resistance and a very wide large enhancement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel like the apartheid system was treated in South Africa. We are fighting for our freedom in every possible way.”

Listeners were not reminded of the second Intifada terror war instigated by the Palestinians in 2000 or of the repeated Palestinian refusals of peace offers. Pollard failed yet again to challenge Barghouti’s promotion of the ‘apartheid’ smear as well as his promotion of the BDS campaign.

Pollard: “If America has gone against the opinion of many of its allies  – European allies as well as Arab allies as well – do you think that this means that they have made themselves so close to the Israeli position that other groups such as for example the Europeans will be freer to have a more independent line?”

Barghouti: “Absolutely. But the Europeans need to be courageous. And they need to move forward and they need to move forward fast and quick. The problem they face is that they don’t have unity inside Europe. And that’s why I don’t think it should be a full European Union initiative.”

Pollard: “Right.”

Barghouti: “It should be an initiative by several countries like France, Germany and others.”

Pollard: “Now can you just clarify one thing because we’ve heard conflicting comments on the programme so far. This is a sort of technical point. In your opinion, by recognising the entirety of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, does that de facto preclude East Jerusalem being a potential capital of a Palestinian authority?”

Barghouti: “It will…it will…of course. It means that it is considering East Jerusalem as part of Jerusalem because for Israel, Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel. Jerusalem is unified and that means that the annexation – the illegal annexation – of East Jerusalem which was occupied in ’67 and which is not accepted by anybody in the world, is considered part of the Israeli capital. That’s why unless the president says very clearly that East Jerusalem…I recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, he’s practically participating in the crime.”

Refraining from providing listeners with any of the crucial historical context diligently erased by Barghouti, Pollard closed the conversation.

Pollard: “Right. Thank you for that.”

As we see, not only was Mustafa Barghouti not challenged on any of his falsehoods but he was allowed to promote his distorted narrative completely unquestioned. If that were not enough, the BBC World Service chose to further amplify some of Barghouti’s spurious claims in an edited clip from the interview promoted on Twitter.

There were, however, additional editions of ‘Newsday’ to come and they will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story



An overview of BBC coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary

On October 24th 2017 the PLO’s negotiations affairs department put out a document titled “A Century of Injustice: Q and A on Palestine and the Balfour Declaration”. As well as the theme of ‘injustice’ promoted in its title, the document promotes additional messaging aimed at advancing the PLO’s narrative by portraying the Balfour Declaration as:

  • a ‘colonialist’ act that brought about the ‘colonisation’ of Palestine.
  • a ‘promise’ Britain had no right to make and for which it has not assumed responsibility.
  • ignoring the existence of an Arab majority in Palestine at the time and violating their right to self-determination.
  • having caused the Palestinian refugee issue termed the ‘Nakba’.
  • having brought about a situation in which there is allegedly one state (Israel) with two separate systems and no equal rights for non-Jews.
  • a document Britain is wrong to celebrate and for which it must atone by recognising a Palestinian state and taking a stand against ‘settlements’.

There is of course nothing new about those talking points; as PMW director Itamar Marcus has explained, they have been promoted by the Palestinian Authority for years.

“For the PA, the Balfour Declaration is a necessary component of the Palestinian narrative. The two foundations of Palestinian ideology, both fictitious, are that a Palestinian nation existed for thousands of years and that there never had been a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. But this left one problem: The PA needed to explain to its people why millions of Jews had immigrated from Europe and all over the world, if they had no connection to the land.

The PA’s answer is colonialism, and Balfour is the “proof.”

According to the PA’s adjusted narrative, Balfour and Britain’s support were not one step in the growing Zionist movement, but the beginning of all Jewish history in the land. […]

Defining Israel as a European colony is a fundamental and essential component of PA myth-building, and has been part of the PA narrative since the early years of the PA. […]

In honor of the 100th anniversary of this important document, the PA decided to make the Balfour Declaration and denial of Israel’s right to exist its primary messaging this year.

Mahmoud Abbas is taking the lead with public statements such as: “It must be emphasized that the historical injustice that was caused to our people, and which continues to accumulate, began in fact with the ominous Balfour Promise. Therefore, we call on the government of Britain to bear its historical and moral responsibility and not mark and celebrate the 100th anniversary of this invalid promise. Instead, it must submit an apology to our Palestinian people…””

Between October 1st and November 2nd 2017 the BBC broadcast and published remarkably generous coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary on its various platforms that included the following:

1) October 1st, BBC Radio 4, ‘Sunday’:

Politicising the Balfour Declaration on BBC Radio 4 – part one

Politicising the Balfour Declaration on BBC Radio 4 – part two

2) October 8th, BBC Radio Wales, ‘All Things Considered’:

BBC Radio Wales on the Balfour Declaration – part one

BBC Radio Wales on the Balfour Declaration – part two

3) October 28th, BBC Radio 4, ‘The Week in Westminster’:

MEMO Balfour event participant hosts BBC Radio 4 discussion on Balfour Declaration

4) October 31st, BBC Two, “The Balfour Declaration: The Promise to the Holy Land”, Jane Corbin:

BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part one

BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part two

5) October 31st, BBC News website, “The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history“, Jane Corbin:

BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part one

BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part two

6) November 1st, BBC News website, “Balfour Declaration: Banksy holds ‘apology’ party for Palestinians”:

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

7) November 1st, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

8) November 2nd, BBC News website, “Balfour Declaration: The divisive legacy of 67 words“, Yolande Knell:

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

9) November 2nd, BBC News website and BBC television, “‘Er… Sorry’: Banksy’s new West Bank work”:

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

10) November 2nd, BBC News website and BBC television, “Palestinians call for Balfour Declaration apology”, Tom Bateman:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

11) November 2nd, BBC News website and BBC television, “Balfour Declaration: 100 years of conflict”, Yolande Knell:

BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

12) November 2nd, BBC News website, “Balfour Declaration: Theresa May hosts Israeli PM for centenary“:

BBC report on UK Balfour dinner follows standard formula

13) November 2nd, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part three

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part four

14) November 2nd, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

Most of that BBC content adopted and amplified PLO framing of the Balfour Declaration as an ‘injustice’ and advanced the notion that Britain should apologise for the century-old document.

Only five items out of the fourteen accurately informed BBC audiences that the Balfour Declaration’s ‘second part’ – which was for the most part presented as being ‘incomplete’ and ‘unfinished business’ – specifically refers to the “civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities” rather than, as was inaccurately claimed in the rest of the content, rights in general.

With the exception of two of the items, the fact that the vast majority of the Palestinians living in Judea & Samaria and the Gaza Strip do so under Palestinian rule and hence have political rights under that system was erased from audience view.

The narrative of the Balfour Declaration as ‘colonialism’ and an act that Britain had no right to carry out was repeatedly advanced in many of these items, as was the claim that the British government should take a stand against ‘settlements’. The anti-Israel BDS campaign was promoted in two of the items.

The notion that Palestinians were ‘dispossessed’ of ‘their land’ by the Balfour Declaration and that the document was the cause of the ‘Nakba’ was repeatedly promoted in many of these reports. In four of the items BBC audiences were given inaccurate portrayals of the McMahon correspondence and the false notion that the land assigned to creation of a homeland for the Jewish people had already been promised to the Arabs by the British was promoted.

In only one item did BBC audiences hear a reference (not from a BBC journalist) to the significance of Jordan as a location in which the political rights of Arab communities in the area known as Palestine at the time were fulfilled. The part of the Balfour Declaration safeguarding “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country” was erased from BBC coverage, along with the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands.

Sadly for the BBC’s reputation as an ‘impartial’ media organisation, it is all too obvious that the editorial approach adopted throughout the corporation’s remarkably generous coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary bears an uncanny resemblance to the PLO’s political narrative concerning that topic.