BBC News ignores events that challenge its chosen ‘peace process’ narrative

As we recently observed, the BBC’s coverage of the launch of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposals once again provided no shortage of examples of the corporation’s one-dimensional portrayal of supposed Palestinian aspirations.

Does BBCsplaining of Palestinian aspirations stand up to scrutiny?

While BBC audiences are no doubt able to recite by heart the narrative according to which “the Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem”, they do not see any serious reporting on the topic of Palestinians who are opposed to the two-state solution.

This past week two stories emerged which did not – and will not – receive any BBC coverage because they contradict the chosen editorial line. The first of those stories concerns a meeting held in Tel Aviv.

“Palestinian factions have condemned the participation of Palestinian figures in a meeting organized by The Israeli Peace Parliament, a public unaffiliated forum whose members are former representatives of a variety of political parties and movements, including former ministers and members of the Knesset.

Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv was held under the banner “Yes to Peace,” “No to Annexation” and “Two States for Two People.”

Twenty Palestinians participated in the meeting. Among them: former Palestinian Authority economy minister Bassem Khoury; former PA health ministers Fathi Abu Mughlieh and Sameeh al-Abed; former PA local governance minister Hussein al-A’raj; and former PA prisoners affairs minister Ashraf al-Ajrami. […]

Denouncing the gathering, Hamas said it was a “blow to all Palestinian positions rejecting US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the meeting was also a form of “normalization” with Israel that is rejected by all Palestinians. “These meetings encourage some parties in the region to normalize their relations with the Zionist entity,” Qassem said. “They also weaken the movement of solidarity with our Palestinian people.” […]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Ahmed al-Mudalal strongly condemned the meeting in Tel Aviv. “How can we convince the world to reject normalization [with Israel] when some of us are promoting it and involved in it?” he asked. “These meetings are intended to support Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’”

The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) denounced the meeting as a “stabbing of the Palestinian people.””

The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh also reported that: 

“Anti-Israel groups, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, have also joined the “anti-normalization” drive.
After Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv, several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused the Palestinian participants of engaging in normalization with Israel. Palestinian Facebook users published “black lists” of some of the participants and accused them of betraying the Palestinian people and cause by talking to Israelis.
A woman who attended the Israeli Peace Parliament gathering in Tel Aviv told the Post she has since received scores of hate messages from Palestinians who hurled abuse at her and called her a traitor. […]

The smear campaign on social-media platforms forced one of the Palestinian participants, Hamdallah Al-Hamdallah, mayor of the West Bank town of Anabta, to announce his resignation on his Facebook page. […]

On Monday, Bir Zeit University published a statement distancing itself from Bassem Khoury, a member of the university’s board of trustees who participated in the Tel Aviv meeting. The statement came after students protested against his participation in the “normalization meeting” with Israelis.
“The university affirms its clear policy of rejecting any form of normalization with the occupation,” the statement said.”

Opposition to ‘normalisation’ has of course long been a tenet of the anti-Israel BDS campaign but the BBC’s enduring record of superficial reporting on that campaign has avoided that topic.

The second story concerns the Palestinian Authority’s invitation of a group of Israeli journalists to briefings in Ramallah on February 16th.

“The attacks on Palestinian “normalizers” escalated on Sunday after Palestinians learned that Israeli journalists had been invited to Ramallah for meetings with PA officials.
Many Palestinians posted on social media a video of some of the journalists near Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah. The Palestinians claimed the Israeli journalists were “Jewish settlers who had invaded Ramallah.”
As photos of the meetings between the journalists and the PA officials surfaced, dozens of Palestinians launched an online campaign denouncing normalization with Israel as “criminal and treachery.” […]

On Monday morning, unknown assailants hurled Molotov cocktails at a restaurant where senior PA official Mahmoud al-Habbash met with Israeli journalists on Sunday. Nobody was hurt and no damage was reported. The attack, however, served as yet another warning to Madani and other Palestinians engaged in all forms of dialogue with Israelis.”

As one of the participating Israeli journalists noted, the meeting was also condemned by senior PLO members Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi.

The fact that BBC audiences have heard nothing of these two stories comes as no surprise. The editorial policy which underlies the BBC’s frequent and ample coverage of ‘the peace process’ allows no room for the reporting of events which challenge its chosen narrative concerning Palestinian aspirations and its misleading portrayal of one unified and representative Palestinian voice that aspires to peace by means of a two-state solution. That means that the BBC is deliberately avoiding its obligation to provide audiences with information which would enhance their ability to understand and engage with the issue.  

More tendentious BBC reporting on UNHRC blacklist

Last week we looked at the BBC News website’s simplistic reporting of the publication of a blacklist of companies by the UN Human Rights Council.

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

Among the issues arising from that BBC report was the fact that at no point were readers informed that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories, as explained in this article by Orde Kittire:

“The blacklist also lacks a basis in international law. Indeed, international law does not prohibit business in disputed territories. Nor is doing such business inconsistent with the principles of corporate social responsibility (which are non-binding). That is the official view of the United Nations, expressed in its Global Compact document titled “Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: A Resource for Companies and Investors.”

The same serious omission was found in a news bulletin aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on February 12th (from 18:04 here).

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

Newsreader: “The UN Human Rights Council has released a list of more then a hundred companies it believes are operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Publication of the names is being seen as the first substantial step against settlements by the international community in years. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Listeners were not told by whom the UNHRC’s publication “is being seen” in that manner or what is the political agenda of organisations or individuals supposedly expressing such a view and hence were not able to judge that glib statement for themselves.

Bateman: “The list names 112 firms considered to help the development of Israeli settlements. The UN looked at companies who supplied building or surveillance equipment as well as banking, transport and travel services. Most of the firms named by the Human Rights Council are Israeli but others are large international companies including Airbnb, Booking.com and Motorola Solutions. The list also names the British construction company JCB and the travel booking firm Opodo. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. Its government has been deeply concerned about the release of the so-called blacklist, fearing it would be used to justify boycotts of its private sector. Tonight it called the publication a shameful surrender to those who want to hurt Israel, while the Palestinian Authority said it was a good day for peace and a rules-based order.”

Once again we see that BBC audiences were told nothing about the dubious composition and long-standing anti-Israel bias of the UNHRC or the fact that it has not complied similar lists of companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world. Likewise listeners were not informed of the role played by BDS supporting political NGOs in the compilation of the blacklist.

Most notably, however, while Tom Bateman specifically named several companies in his report – including two British ones – he did not bother to clarify that there is nothing illegal about their business activities before he immediately went on to recite the BBC’s standard partisan mantra concerning ‘international law’.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

BBC News report on Airbnb backtrack follows usual recipe

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

On the evening of February 12th the BBC News website published a report headlined “UN lists 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements” which, for reasons unknown, it chose to tag “Trump peace plan”.

The main image illustrating the report appears to show an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem near the anti-terrorist fence but is captioned “The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this”.

That partial but standard BBC mantra is of course repeated in the body of the article.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

The report promotes a version of a partisan map produced by the political NGOB’tselem’ which has appeared in countless previous BBC News website reports. The map marks the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City as a “settlement” and fails to inform audiences that what are described as areas under “Palestinian civil control” and areas under “Israeli military and civil control” are in fact Areas A and B and Area C as designated under the Oslo Accords, to which the PLO was party.

Readers are told that:

“The UN human rights office has issued a long-awaited report on companies linked to Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in activities related to settlements.

They include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions.”

The BBC does not clarify that the UNHRC’s blacklist also includes the Rami Levy supermarket chain (which is known as a model of co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians) and numerous companies providing services such as transport, water and telecommunications to both Israelis and Palestinians.  

Later on readers are told that:

“In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to produce a database of companies involved in specific activities relating to settlements. […]

Following what it said was a thorough review and assessment of all information available, the OHCHR presented a report on Wednesday identifying 112 business entities that it said, there were reasonable grounds to conclude, had been involved in one or more of those activities.”

BBC audiences are not informed that members of the UNHRC at the time that the resolution (3136) requesting the compilation of that database was passed included human rights ‘beacons’ such as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, Qatar and Venezuela. Neither were they given any background information concerning the UNHRC’s infamous and long-standing bias against Israel.

The BBC’s report avoids all mention of the BDS supporting NGOs involved in the compilation of the blacklist. NGO Monitor notes that:

“The list was based on input from BDS groups, including Human Rights Watch. Many of the groups centrally involved receive significant funding from the EU and European governments. […]

Given that 85 of the 112 companies included on the blacklist are also found in the BDS NGO Who Profits’ database, and based on documentation seen by NGO Monitor,  it is clear that the UN relied on this and other BDS actors as its sources of information.”

In light of that serious omission, the BBC’s decision to include part of a quote from Human Rights Watch in its report is particularly notable.

“Human Rights Watch said the list “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.””

Although the BBC’s report claims that “There were no immediate comments from the companies named on the list”, one such comment is available here.

The BBC report amplifies comments made by a PA official:

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said: “The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law.”

He also called on the Human Rights Council member states to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements”.”

However at no point in the article did the BBC bother to inform readers in its own words that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories.

Neither does the report make any effort to inform audiences of the fact that the UNHRC has taken no such action against companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world.  

Given the BBC’s dismal record on informing audiences on the topic of UNHRC bias against Israel, its long-existing editorial policy of promoting a specific politically motivated narrative concerning ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and its promotion of the BDS campaign agenda, the serious omissions in this report come as no surprise whatsoever.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to obstruct audience understanding of UN bias

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

Weekend long read

1) At the FDD David May provides ‘A History of Anti-Israel Boycotts, From the Arab League to BDS’.

“The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, or BDS, is the most recent iteration of a century-old effort to attack the legitimacy and economic viability of the Jewish state and its precursors. Arabs initiated boycotts of Jewish businesses in the Holy Land in the early 20th century, with the goal of preventing the establishment of a Jewish state. The Arab League declared a comprehensive boycott in 1945, first to reinforce these efforts, then to reverse the outcome of Israel’s War of Independence. In other words, these countries sought the annihilation of the Jewish state. […]

American anti-boycott measures and inconsistent enforcement by Arab League member states convinced many companies to reject the boycott. The Arab League boycott lost further steam during the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in the 1990s, which saw the Palestinian Authority officially accept economic relations with Israel. When the peace process unraveled, however, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) revived the boycott.

Western activists and NGOs helped develop the campaign’s infrastructure, including the July 2005 “Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Against Israel,” from which the campaign takes its name.”

2) At the ITIC Dr Raz Zimmt discusses the ‘Implications of the Appointment of Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi as the Deputy Commander of the Qods Force’.

“On January 20, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) appointed Seyyed Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi to the position of the deputy commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force. Hejazi replaced Esmail Qa’ani, who was appointed as the commander of the Qods Force following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Hejazi is considered one of the most prominent officers in the IRGC as a whole and the Qods Force in particular. His appointment provides another sign of continuity, since Hejazi is a highly experienced operative deeply familiar with the Qods Force and its activities. Hejazi’s involvement in the Lebanese arena in recent years, and particularly the project to increase the precision of Hezbollah’s missiles, may assist Qa’ani in implementing the Qods Force’s missions on Iran’s western front, which are focused on Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and the efforts to bolster Hezbollah’s capabilities. His role is particularly crucial given the fact that most of Qa’ani’s activities as the deputy commander of the Qods Force centered on Iran’s eastern front (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and not the Syrian and Lebanese front.”

3) Tim Michetti examines the ‘The Aramco Case’ at the Washington Institute.

“In late December, U.S. officials presented the UN Security Council with preliminary findings from their investigation into the September 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais. According to Reuters, the report contained images of weapon debris from the attack, revealing components that were identical to those in known Iranian weapon systems. […]

Such findings raise questions about what Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council days earlier. On December 10, he said the UN was “unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in [the Aramco] attacks are of Iranian origin”—a conclusion reached after the UN sent a team of investigators to Saudi Arabia to inspect the weapon debris. While the full details of the UN’s investigation will remain unclear until its final report is published, previous UN reports have found Iran complicit in the proliferation of military materiel in the region based on some of the same components recovered from the Aramco attacks.”

4) At the Long War Journal Joe Truzman documents the resurgence of attacks from the Gaza Strip using incendiary and explosive balloons.

“Since the beginning of last week, various militant groups in the Gaza Strip have resumed the launch of incendiary and explosive-laden balloons towards Israeli communities near the Gaza border. […]

The use of incendiary and explosive-laden balloons became a popular and low-tech method of conflict against IDF soldiers and Israeli communities near the Gaza border during most of 2018. Militants attach an incendiary device or IED at the end of a string which is tied to several helium-filled balloons. They repeat this with dozens of balloons and release them near the border with the intention they will fall on the Israeli side of the fence causing damage or casualties.”

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2019

Regular readers will be aware of BBC Watch’s long-standing documentation of the BBC’s problematic portrayal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). For years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to audiences in its own words 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“.

In 2019 we saw that even when covering stories directly related to individual supporters of the BDS campaign, the BBC continued to avoid the obviously central issue of what the campaign they promote is actually about.

Such was the case for example in the generous BBC amplification of the story of Omar Shakir of ‘Human Rights Watch’. Descriptions of the BDS campaign were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” and suggested reading twice included a link to a previous BBC report promoting the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel.

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

Listeners to BBC World Service radio were inaccurately informed that the BDS campaign is “Palestinian led” and given a false portrayal of its aims.

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

The same editorial policy was also seen in BBC coverage of stories relating to two BDS supporting US Congresswomen. Although the topic of the agenda of the BDS campaign was obviously relevant to the story, audiences were not provided with a proper explanation.

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

In one report BBC audiences were told that the “aim” of the BDS campaign is “to put economic pressure on the Israeli government”. In others, no effort whatsoever was made to inform audiences what the two Congresswomen actually support.

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

BBC audiences saw amplification of a specific boycott campaign, inadequate portrayal of the BDS campaign which did not allow readers to put a quote into context and quotes from BDS supporters who were not identified as such.

But by far the most intense campaign conducted by the BBC throughout 2019 related to the Eurovision Song Contest. Having rejected the calls of BDS supporters to boycott the event in Tel Aviv, the BBC then spent four months amplifying such campaigns, with an epilogue two months later.

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

BBC gives multi-platform amplification to antisemitism

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Some of those reports included descriptions of the BDS campaign which were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” while others included inaccurate portrayals of the campaign as a “Palestinian led movement” which “calls on artists to avoid performing in Israel”.  None of that content clarified to audiences 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.

The adoption of that partisan editorial policy – especially while providing self-conscripted amplification for the BDS campaign – clearly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public but does seriously compromise the BBC’s claim to be ‘impartial’.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

 

BBC WS radio misrepresents the IHRA definition of antisemitism

h/t SG

The December 22nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Boston Calling’ – titled “The allegiance edition” – included an item (from 08:56 here) described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also, we look into President Trump’s latest executive order, which relies on a controversial definition of anti-Semitism…” [emphasis added]

The working definition of antisemitism which the BBC World Service found fit to portray as “controversial” is that produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which has been adopted by governments and bodies around the world.

Presenter Carol Hills (of PRI) chose to introduce the item with an unexplained reference to ‘allegiance’ which might well be considered inappropriate given the subject matter of antisemitism.

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

Hills: “In these divided times there are still some things we agree on. Few people, for example, would not agree that antisemitism is bad and that we should do something about it. But the agreement ends there because as soon as you start asking people what is antisemitism, who is guilty of it and what to do about it, that’s when you run into disagreements and in some cases allegiance comes into question. This became clear after President Trump signed his latest executive order. Our own Rupa Shenoy has more.”

Rupa Shenoy – also of PRI – began with a superficial description of the executive order signed on December 11th which is ostensibly the subject matter of her report.

Shenoy: “Hanukkah came early at the White House as President Trump recounted what he’d done for the Jewish people and said he was adding to that legacy by signing a powerful executive order.”

Recording Trump: “This action makes clear that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits the federal funding of universities and other institutions that engage in discrimination applies to institutions that traffic in antisemitic hate.”

Shenoy: “He noted that Congress and the previous administration had tried to do something similar but those efforts stalled.”

Recording Trump: “But this year there’s no roadblock because I’m doing it myself. It’s much easier.”

Shenoy: “And Trump made the intent of his order clear.”

Recording Trump: “This is our message to universities: if you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject antisemitism. It’s very simple.”

Shenoy: “The order recommends that universities define antisemitism with this specific language as -quote – a certain perception of Jews which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews including – quote – rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism. Ken Stern helped craft that definition originally for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”

Ken Stern did not ‘help craft’ the IHRA definition. He did help write – along with some eight others – its predecessor for a now defunct EU agency called The European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. Seeing as Stern has repeatedly voiced his opinion that the IHRC is not suitable for use on campuses because he regards them as a special ‘free speech’ environment, the views he expresses in this report do not come as much of a surprise.

Stern: “It was never intended as something to police speech on campus.”

Shenoy: “Because he says there’s no similar definition of racism for example. And Stern says the Department of Education has made clear that Title VI already covers Jewish students.”

Stern: “Jewish students are being targeted regardless if they’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, simply because they’re Jewish. That’s something that’s actionable and a concern. But the use of this definition is part of a long-standing pattern to try to curtail political speech about Israel.”

Shenoy then brought in a second voice supporting the same view – but failed to meet BBC editorial guideline requirements to inform audiences of the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of her contributor and the organisation she currently represents.  

Shenoy: “Others have come to the same conclusion about Trump’s executive order. Lara Friedman is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.”

Friedman: “What it says is when it comes to criticising Israel, Jews equal Israel, Israel equals Jews. If you are on campus and you only talk about Israel and you’re criticising Israel, you are by definition antisemitic. Under the definition offered here the Palestinian historic and lived narrative becomes antisemitism.”

Shenoy: “She says the order’s goal is to send a message to university administrators and organisers.”

Friedman: “We are watching you and we will make your life miserable; cost you time, there’ll be reputational costs, all of that. You could lose your federal funding if you dare cross the line so don’t even go near the line.”

Shenoy: “Friedman says Trump’s executive order is aimed at campus protests across the country that Trump sees as connected to a larger worldwide movement to boycott Israel called BDS. That’s short for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content, audiences did not receive any sort of explanation concerning the BDS campaign – including the particularly relevant fact that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.

Recording Trump: “And as president I want to be very clear. My administration vigorously condemns the BDS campaign against Israel.”

Shenoy: “This is Trump earlier this week [actually December 8th] at the Israeli-American Council’s national summit in Florida.”

Recording Trump: “But sadly BDS has also made disturbing headway on American college campuses – you know that, don’t you? Here with us today is Adela Cojab, a recent graduate of New York University who courageously stood for Israel in the face of hostility and bigotry…”

Shenoy: “Adela Cojab got on stage and told the audience she was suing NYU because it failed to protect Jewish students from harassment. Now she tells me she feels validated by the presidential order.”

Cojab: “By signing this order he just expanded the definition of protected groups and it includes Jewish students of course. And that tells Jewish students everywhere that what they’re going through isn’t normal, it’s not OK. And it just clarifies that they can stand up.”

Shenoy: “And Cojab pushes back against the argument that the executive order will stifle free speech.”

Cojab: “I think that the process can very much not be antisemitic. I criticise Israel openly because I have thoughts but there’s a difference between criticising Israel and Israeli policy and Israeli administration and criticising Israel’s right to exist. Because when you say that you’re anti-Zionist you’re saying that you’re against Israel’s right to exist, which is destroying Israel.”

Having apparently brought in Cojab to balance the two voices already heard, Shenoy then promoted a third view opposing the executive order. She did not however bother to clarify to listeners that her interviewee is a member of ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ (SJP) which is one of the main proponents of BDS on US campuses.

Shenoy: “And creating a hostile environment for students, she says. For their part many campus activists for Palestinian rights say they’re not backing down. Nick Galloway is a graduate student at the University of Maryland who’s participated in demonstrations for years.”

Galloway: “They can’t stop us from getting together and fighting for justice and fighting for BDS.”

Shenoy: “He says Trump’s executive order might intimidate some Palestinian or Muslim students on campus from protesting. But Galloway adds that it also might invite a backlash.”

Galloway: “It’s going to strengthen the resolve of student organisers to [unintelligible] that.”

Shenoy: “But the divisions over Israel, Zionism, Palestinian rights and free speech aren’t going away any time soon. Trump’s executive order will have to play out on college campuses and likely court rooms across the country.”

To sum up, BBC audiences heard three voices opposing the US president’s executive order and just one in favour. In breach of BBC editorial guidelines they were not informed of the agendas of the organisations with which two of those voices are associated and neither were they given any relevant background information concerning the BDS campaign which they support.

Most egregiously, listeners were told that the IHRA working definition of antisemitism is “controversial” and that its adoption means that people who “talk about Israel” and criticise Israel “are by definition antisemitic”. That of course is completely false. As Dave Rich of the CST has pointed out, the IHRA definition does not “repress” freedom of speech at all.

“The IHRA definition does no such thing, stating plainly that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’ This leaves room for the full range of rational, evidence-based opposition to Israeli laws, policies and actions. It doesn’t allow for the kind of obsessive, irrational hatred that depicts Israel as a Nazi state of unparalleled cruelty that needs to be wiped off the map, or that sees “Zionist” conspiracies behind everything from 9/11 to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and for good reason: because, as the IHRA definition recognises, antisemitism sometimes includes ‘the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.’”

If the BBC’s partners at PRI are not capable of portraying the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in a manner that meets BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that content should obviously not be rebroadcast on ‘Boston Calling’.

Related Articles:

Guardian op-ed: presidential order on antisemitism only supported by right-wing Jews (UK Media Watch) 

 

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a long item (from 14:05 here) that was aired on the November 25th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ and which related to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ employee Omar Shakir whose work visa was not renewed by the Israeli authorities in May 2018 and who – following several court cases – left the country on that day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal continued, providing the cue for another HRW talking point.

Iqbal: “There is a suggestion that the case against Omar Shakir was initially based on statements that he had made in support of a boycott before he took on his role with Human Rights Watch. Is that true?”

Roth: “The Israeli government really kind of resurrected these statements that he had made when he was a university student years ago. But even the government made clear that the anti-BDS law is supposed to be preventative – it’s supposed to look to the future. It’s not supposed to be punitive. So in fact, you know, whatever Omar Shakir said back in his university days is irrelevant. Everything he has done since joining Human Rights Watch – as any Human Rights Watch employee – strictly adheres to Human Rights Watch policy which is not to endorse BDS, it is not to call for boycott. So this is, you know, not about BDS. This is about trying to shut down mainstream human rights advocacy.”

Iqbal made no effort to challenge that spin or to inform listeners that while Shakir was indeed involved in BDS advocacy before joining HRW, that activity has continued, as detailed here, including the FIFA campaign, the Airbnb campaign, the UN BDS data base and the targeting of Israeli banks.

Iqbal: “You have Mr Shakir with you in the car. I’m assuming that you will not be replacing him in his role to cover this particular region.”

Roth: “The Israeli government wanted to get rid of Omar Shakir by deporting him so we are deliberately not playing along with that. Omar will continue his direction of Human Rights Watch’s work on Israel and Palestine. He will do it, as we do in many closed countries, from a neighbouring country so he will set up in one of our offices in the region. We have offices in countries that don’t censor us. Initially he’s going to be operating out of our office in Amman.”

Iqbal: “This Israeli decision has been criticised by the UN and the European Union. The United States sees this just [sic] an issue of freedom of expression. Are you going to appeal against this decision or or is that not possible now?”

Iqbal did not provide a source for her claim of how the US “sees this” but an identical claim appears in an AFP report in which it is also unsourced. Listeners then heard Ken Roth egregiously assert that the ruling given by Israel’s Supreme Court was based on politics rather than legal scholarship, with no challenge whatsoever from Iqbal.

Roth: “We brought this government’s decision to the Israeli Supreme Court. Ahm…the panel we received was a rather Right-wing panel which ruled against us so that they’ve allowed the deportation to go forward. Human Rights Watch has [unintelligible] a full panel which will be more reflective of a more centrist or moderate view of the law should require in light of free speech and human rights principles. That petition is currently pending before the chief justice of the court.”

Listeners did not hear that HRW petitioned – unsuccessfully – for Shakir to be allowed to stay in Israel in the meantime.

Iqbal then asked to speak to Omar Shakir himself.

Shakir: “I am on route to Ben Gurion airport to leave Israel Palestine after two and a half years documenting human rights abuses by all parties as Israel and Palestine director at the organisation. It’s difficult on a personal level to leave but at the same time our work will continue. We will continue to work on the same issues with the same intensity and the same methodologies and I will continue to direct that work and I’m confident I’ll be back one day; one day in which human rights abuses are no longer systematic, in which discrimination is not as deeply entrenched as it is today and until that day comes, I’ll continue to work as hard as I have for the last few years.”

Iqbal: “Are you disappointed that you are not getting perhaps the kind of robust support from the United States – of which you are a citizen – as you are from the United Nations and the European Union?”

Shakir: “It’s been fantastic just seeing the outpouring of support across the world. The world sees through the Israeli government’s narrative. This is about muzzling human rights advocacy. It’s been clear that this Trump administration has moved from failing to use its leverage to safeguard rights to full-fledged green-lighting at serious rights abuse but that position has been rejected whether it be with regard to the illegality of settlements, the status of Palestinian refugees or attacks on human rights defenders. The United States’ position has only highlighted its isolation from the global consensus.”

Iqbal: “And just one final comment on…on what you are being accused of doing by the Israelis – that you have been engaged in advocating boycotting and divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

Shakir: “Look, neither Human Rights Watch nor I as its representative ever called for a boycott of Israel. This is but the latest in a series of allegations used to muzzle Human Rights Watch’s work. The reality here is that Human Rights Watch uses the same methodology we use in a hundred countries around the world. One of our important focuses is business and human rights and we’ve done the exact same work. We’re not going to create a special rule for Israel. We’re going to use the same standards that we use everywhere else and we’ll continue that work.”

Iqbal closed the pre-recorded interviews there, failing to point out to listeners that Shakir’s claim of ‘using the same standards’ in Israel as it does “everywhere else” is patently untrue and that – for example – it did not campaign for Airbnb to de-list holiday rentals in other disputed territories such as northern Cyprus.

Listeners then heard an ‘explanation’ of why ‘Newshour’ completely failed to provide its listeners with any other perspective.

Iqbal: “Our correspondent in Jerusalem has attempted to get reaction from the authorities in Israel but they have rejected requests for interviews. We have also been trying here in London.”

That of course does not excuse the entirely one-sided nature of this long item in which listeners repeatedly heard HRW’s long-standing spin on the story go unquestioned and unchallenged but were told nothing at all about the court’s findings.

Once again we see that when reporting on ‘Human Rights Watch’ – which is one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel –  the BBC tosses its editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality aside, opting for journalistic activism over providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story.

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BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

The November 25th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a long item (from 14:05 here) relating to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ employee Omar Shakir whose work visa was not renewed by the Israeli authorities in May 2018 and who – following several court cases – left the country on that day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that eight minute and thirty-nine second item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now, a controversial fight [sic] between Israel and one of its most vociferous human rights critics. The outcome is the expulsion of the director of Human Rights Watch based in Israel, Omar Shakir, who is a US citizen but was accused by the Israelis of advocating BDS – a Palestinian-led campaign calling for the boycotting, disinvestment and sanctioning of Israel until it meets what it des…what is described as Israel’s obligations under international law.”

Anyone familiar with the long years of BBC refusal to inform its audiences of the BDS campaign’s aims would not be surprised by Iqbal’s blatant whitewashing of that subject. The BDS campaign – which is not “Palestinian-led” as claimed by Iqbal – does not aspire to have Israel ‘meet international law’. Rather it seeks to end the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and promotes a right of “Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties”: goals which undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

Yet as we see, Iqbal refrained from providing listeners with that obviously relevant background information before she went on to introduce her two sole interviewees – both from ‘Human Rights Watch’. She did however promote one of HRW’s long-standing talking points while referring to “a 2017 law” (actually an amendment to existing legislation) which she failed to explain.  

Iqbal: “The Israelis say that Mr Shakir is in violation of a 2017 law. Human Rights Watch say Mr Shakir’s expulsion places Israel in the same camp as Venezuela, Iran and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers. I’ve been speaking to Ken Roth. He’s the head of Human Rights Watch.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on “contributors’ affiliations”, listeners were not given “appropriate information” about HRW’s “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” and beyond the short description of Ken Roth’s title, they heard nothing of his record – a serious omission which obviously compromised the ability of audiences to put his assorted claims and allegations into context.

Roth: “I’m actually driving in the taxi at this moment toward the airport with Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, and I will accompany him out of Israel later today in compliance with the deportation order that the Israeli government has issued for him. The Israeli government wants him out of the country in essence because of his reporting on Israel’s illegal settlements and in particular the advocacy that he has done asking businesses to avoid complicity in that illegality. This kind of advocacy is similar to what Human Rights Watch does around the world, whether it’s child labour in gold and diamond mining or avoiding forced labour in cotton picking in Uzbekistan or the internet companies avoiding censorship in China. But Israel objected to this advocacy with respect to the illegal settlements and it’s retaliating against Omar by ordering his deportation.”

The claim that HRW’s work in Israel is no different to what it does in the rest of the world has long been one of the political NGO’s talking points but as NGO Monitor points out:

“HRW lobbies for boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses and companies doing business in Israel, including in the UN (“BDS blacklist”), FIFA, and Congress. Even if HRW can point to a handful of isolated calls for businesses to cease their operations in other places due to human rights concerns, there is no parallel in terms of the zeal, intensity, language, and continuous campaigns regarding Israel. […]

HRW misleadingly portrays its support for BDS against Israel as “calling on businesses to uphold their human rights’ responsibilities by cutting settlement ties.” First, there is no such obligation under international law, and every national court that has looked at these issues has rejected attempts to bar or criminalize such activity (for example, France, the UK, Canada, the US, and Israel). Second, HRW does not limit itself to BDS against settlements, seeking to have Israel sanctioned by FIFA and targeting Israeli banks, among other campaigns.

Finally, this claim is irrelevant. At the end of the day, HRW and Shakir are calling for boycotts in a way that expressly and directly meets the criteria in the Israeli law.”

Iqbal failed to challenge Roth on that point – or on his portrayal of Israeli communities as “illegal” – but did presume to present “Israel’s view”, once again without explaining the “law of 2017”.

Iqbal: “Israel’s view is that Mr Shakir is advocating the policies of the BDS movement – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – which is contrary to an Israeli law of 2017. Are you saying that he is not doing that?”

Roth: “That’s correct. I mean the Israeli pretext is the BDS law but in fact, you know, Human Rights Watch has never endorsed BDS. We have not called for a boycott. We don’t appeal to consumers. This was just kind of a concocted pretext to get rid of Omar Shakir. All this is to avoid complicity in human rights violations which is what we do around the world. This is nothing exceptional and frankly that’s what makes the Israeli government’s move so dangerous because this is not an action against some extremist position. This is an action against completely mainstream run-of-the-mill human rights advocacy. And if they can penalise Human Rights Watch for this completely ordinary position, they can go after anybody.”

Iqbal failed to challenge that spin from Ken Roth. As NGO Monitor explains:

“There are over 350 NGOs in the field of human rights listed with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, and an additional 400+ Palestinian and international groups that are active in the West Bank. Many of these strenuously and stridently oppose Israeli policy, with some deploying BDS and antisemitism in their campaigns. They get significant media coverage in Israel and internationally, as well as platforms in the UN and national parliaments. None of this will change, regardless of the court’s decision on Shakir.

In addition, the visa law is only relevant to non-Israelis and non-Palestinians, and as previously decided by the Israeli Supreme Court, is only applicable to active leaders of BDS. HRW, which has other employees in the region and is not in danger of disappearing, could replace Shakir with an Israeli or a Palestinian. If they hire an international staffer, they can select an individual who is not a long-time leader of demonization and BDS.”

Pursuing the same line of questioning but failing to specifically mention HRW’s failed campaign against Airbnb last year, Iqbal handed Roth yet another cue to repeat his talking points.

Iqbal: “Mr Shakir is a US citizen and it is the case, is it not, that Human Rights Watch does urge businesses to stop operating in the settlements and a broad interpretation of that 2017 laws [sic] would suggest that Human Rights Watch and in this case Mr Shakir are breaking that law.”

Roth: “If you want to interpret a call on businesses to live up to their global responsibilities to avoid complicity in human rights violations as a boycott then you get to the Israelis’ extreme position. But in fact it’s not a boycott. We don’t appeal to consumers. We’re not in any sense, you know, urging any boycott of Israel. We’re focusing simply on the illegalities of the settlements and that’s why I say this is such a mainstream position. It’s such an uncontroversial position within the human rights movement that if Israel’s gonna get away with trying to censor this kind of position, then no human rights advocacy is safe in Israel.”

Iqbal could have challenged Roth’s false claim that “we’re not in any sense, you know, urging any boycott of Israel” by reminding audiences that, together with other BDS supporting NGOs, HRW tried – unsuccessfully – to get Israel thrown out of the international football federation FIFA but she did not.

The rest of this item will be discussed in part two of this post.

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A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

On the afternoon of November 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned”.

With not much having happened since the BBC published its previous article on that story twenty days earlier (except for the Supreme Court’s rejection last week of another petition from HRW), it came as no surprise to see that a significant proportion of this latest report was identical to the earlier one – including the links to additional reading.

As was noted here the last time those links were promoted: 

“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.”

This latest report yet again made no effort to give BBC audiences an accurate picture of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the corporation’s own words.

“Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism – something the movement denies.”

It did however once again uncritically amplify HRW’s talking points concerning the case.

“HRW rejected the Israeli government’s portrayal of Mr Shakir, saying he neither supported nor opposed BDS.

It stressed that as its representative he had called on companies to stop working in or with Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and had not called for a consumer boycott of those companies.”

Remarkably, no effort was made to inform readers of the court findings which refute those talking points.  

Readers of course found the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.

 “The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Twenty-one percent of the report’s word count was devoted to uncritical amplification of the latest statements from the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’.

“Human Rights Watch has accused the Israeli authorities of an “intensifying assault on human rights” following the deportation of one of its activists. […]

“Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, who accompanied Mr Shakir as he flew out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Monday.

“This decision shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. A government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure.””

An additional paragraph was given over to amplification of similar comments from another political NGO which engages in lawfare against Israel, ‘B’tselem’ and yet another paragraph (also seen in the previous report) told readers that:

“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal against the deportation order at the Supreme Court, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on the Israeli authorities not to deport him.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that among those expressing support for Omar Shakir and ‘Human Rights Watch’ was Hamas.

While the caption to the main image illustrating the article told BBC audiences that “Omar Shakir vowed to continue investigating and reporting human rights abuses”, both a Tweet from Shakir embedded into the article and a Tweet from the head of HRW make it very clear that the NGO’s interest in human rights is far from universal.

This is the third BBC News website report on this topic (see earlier ones here and here) and all three have extensively and unquestioningly amplified the talking points of HRW and other political NGOs while failing to inform BBC audiences of the obviously relevant issue of the aims of the BDS campaign.

Clearly 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 related background but that editorial policy is more comprehensible when one appreciates that while for years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel, that organisation’s political agenda and funding has never been adequately clarified to audiences as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.   

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