Context-free political slogans go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The June 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 18:38 here) introduced by presenter Julian Marshall as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “There are reckoned to be just under 73,000 Americans of Palestinian descent living in the United States. They’re one of the smaller groups of Arab Americans but their profile – along with that of the millions of other Palestinians elsewhere in the world – could be raised with the opening today in Washington DC of the Museum of the Palestinian People. Its founder and director is Bshara Nassar.”

After listeners had heard Nassar explain why he decided to found the museum, Marshall continued with a question apparently inspired by the museum’s press release:

Marshall: “You’re wanting to counter what might be described as…ehm…negative stereotypes of Palestinians as…as either victims or…or terrorists so what will visitors to the museum see to reflect a more positive image of Palestinians?”

Nassar: “Well the museum will show the Palestinian culture, Palestinian arts, will celebrate everything that’s related to Palestine like culture, food, poetry so, you know, showing the story, the culture, the arts of the Palestinian people. Our first exhibit is about reimagining the future. The question is, you know, we get all the time like why are you starting with the future? Why not the past? Our answer is that as oppressed people, right, like any other oppressed people around the world, it’s really hard for us to imagine a future that’s different from what we’re living right now and that said is that reimagining a positive future, imagining Palestinians with rights, Palestinians with freedom.”

Marshall: “I mean you say that you want to counter this view of Palestinians as victims and yet you have described them to me as an oppressed people.”

Nassar: “Right, right. Well it’s what’s happening. I mean it’s…this is what’s the reality on the ground. Palestinians are living under the occupation, under Israeli occupation, lands being confiscated, there is no water. That’s what’s happening. What we want to say that we have a rich culture. We have a beautiful dance, beautiful traditions. If you go to the West Bank right now, which is where I’m from, from Bethlehem, people not necessarily sitting around talking about the occupation all day, right. There is weddings, there is celebrations, there is life. There is so much positive contributions that as Palestinians we’re bringing to the whole world.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that, like the rest of the areas in which the majority of Palestinians live, Bethlehem has been under Palestinian Authority rule for twenty-four years and failing to provide any information at all which would put Nassar’s trite political slogans into context, Marshall asked a final question about the museum’s take-away messaging.

Hence in this item promoting what is essentially the continuation of a political project, BBC World Service listeners found no trace of the impartiality which is supposedly a required component in BBC reporting.

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

In the first report – aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) – listeners heard that despite increased access to prayer services at the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, the security measures employed were “racist” and “discrimination”. Franks also failed to clarify to audiences that changes in “freedom of movement” occurred because of Palestinian terrorism. After having interviewed two Israelis both retired from public life, Franks concluded his report about the as yet unpublished US peace initiative with an interview with a Palestinian minister.

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

Franks: “Ahmed Majdalani is the Palestinian minister for social development here in Ramallah. Aren’t he and his colleagues just running out of space and leverage?”

Majdalani is also Secretary-General of a small faction called the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (which uses a logo that erases Israel) and PLO Executive Committee member.

Majdalani: “No because the Palestinian leadership until now have the veto.”

Franks: “So you’re rejecting this deal before you even know what’s in it.”

Majdalani: “Look, you can see what the American implement until now. Jerusalem as the capital for Israel started this…this deal. The United States started to implement his deal before submit his document. If the Palestinian leadership say no, there is no Arab country – [not] one Arab country – he will be partner to this deal. And after that you see the position of the international community.”

In contrast to that claim, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have said they will send delegations to the summit in Bahrain next month. Franks closed his report as follows:

Franks: “Defiance from the Palestinian minister. No-one here – how many times over the years have I said this – but no-one here is predicting a quick breakthrough. Some are even doubting whether President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will ever present his plan. But remember: when people talk about the status quo here, they don’t mean things remaining the same. Faith in a two-state solution is only diminishing.”

By the time the May 20th evening edition of ‘Newshour’ came around, Franks’ report had become the lead item (as well as longer) and it was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 00:09 here) thus:

Coomarasamy: “Can a catchy slogan breathe life into a moribund Middle East peace process? There are now not one but two slogans associated with the Trump administration’s efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back around the table. On Sunday the White House announced that its long-trailed ‘deal of the century’ would be accompanied by a peace to prosperity workshop in Bahrain next month. Today, Palestinian officials announced that they wouldn’t be attending that economic conference. In case you’re wondering, Newshour’s Tim Franks is not a no-show today. He’s in Jerusalem and he told me why the Palestinians aren’t going.”

Franks: “Well James, they’re in a blind fury about the Americans right now. I’ve had one very senior Palestinian official using words I’m not allowed to say on air about the Trump administration moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. Well that was one thing that hacked them off. Closing the PLO office in Washington, another. Cutting funding to the Palestinian refugee agency. The Palestinians just think that the US are no longer honest brokers.”

Franks made no effort to clarify to listeners that the Palestinians actually brought the closing of the PLO office in Washington upon themselves.

Franks: “So, yes, you’re right: at the moment moribund sums up the state of the peace process. But at the same time there’s a feeling the landscape may be shifting with some Arab states seeing their regional interests align with Israel’s. The Israeli prime minister talking about annexing parts of the West Bank – he did that just before the election last month – despite the rest of the world viewing the West Bank as occupied territory. So how is this all playing among Israelis and Palestinians? Let me take you first just south of where I’m speaking to you from, Jerusalem, into Bethlehem.”

Listeners then heard a repeat of Franks’ earlier report (apart from his closing comments) – including this:

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

After that repetition of Franks’ earlier report he went on (from 09:03) to bring in another Palestinian interviewee after giving a portrayal of the Palestinian economy which did not include the highly relevant issue of the PA’s prioritisation of salaries for convicted terrorists over the welfare of civilians.

Franks: “But given just how terrible the state of the Palestinian economy is at the moment, how their institutions are creaking and gasping from a lack of funds, why not just go to this US led investment conference next month in Bahrain? It’s a question I put to the spokesman based here in Jerusalem for the main Palestinian Fatah faction. He’s Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad.”

Readers may recall that last year Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad was given a platform by ‘Newshour’ to tell BBC audiences that Palestinians “arrived to this country” 300 years before the Jews – in 650 BC.

Abu Zayyad: “First of all we were not consulted at all regarding the meeting that is supposed to be held in Bahrain. And another thing is that, as we have been saying all the way, that we don’t believe any kind of economic solution for the sake of normalising actually the Israeli occupation of Palestine will bring us anywhere. We’re speaking about the conflict itself; we believe this is a political conflict that needs to be solved by giving the Palestinians the most basic rights that they’re asking for in order to move forward. Then after that, any kind of economic cooperation would come as a second step to strengthen a political solution between the two sides.”

Franks: “It’s not either/or is it? I mean why not accept economic help first and then move to trying to forge a political solution? It’s not…doesn’t exclude the possibility of then negotiating a full peace.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the interest that is coming out of this American initiated [initiative] is not actually to serve the interests of the Palestinian people which is to end the Israeli occupation of their lands. The real interest out of such a meeting or initiative is to try to normalise the relations between Israel and the Arab countries. We tried other plans before that were more about economic cooperation as to try to build bridges between the Arabs and the Israel indirectly while keeping Palestine on the side and it did not help any side of the conflict or the region itself.”

Franks: “If that’s the case, it must be pretty disheartening for you that all these Arab countries have said that they’re going to turn up at this conference.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the formal position of the Arab countries have been made clear in the last Arab summit in Tunisia where all the Arab countries stated clearly that they would not accept the deal such as the century deal that the Trump’s administration speaking about if it does not state clearly that there will be an end for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.”

Once again Franks failed to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967.

Franks: “Sure, but are you urging them to boycott this conference in Bahrain as well?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well we have our communication that is ongoing with the Arab countries and other actors and players in the region and internationally and we….”

Franks: “It’s going to be humiliating for you if you don’t turn up and they do and they say we accept the American notion that actually there could be something here in boosting the Palestinian economy.”

Abu Zayyad then brought up the topic of the February 2019 Warsaw Conference.

Abu Zayyad: “Well I want to remind you: there were other meetings. There was the Warsaw Conference just a few months ago and there was a meeting and there were discussions and there were suggestions made by the American administration but they did not change anything on the ground because here also the Arab countries and the world recognises the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people that must be [a] side of [in] any kind of negotiation or talks regarding reaching a solution for the conflict. So we don’t feel humiliated. We feel confident that we are united on this matter. We hear statements coming out of senior businessmen and leaders of the Palestinian economic sectors stating clearly that they will boycott this meeting and they will not attend it.”

Failing to inform listeners that the PLO does not include all the Palestinian factions and hence does not represent all the Palestinians, Franks closed his report there.

Remarkably, despite having dedicated two long reports to the topic of the US peace initiative, Tim Franks managed – like many of his colleagues before him also engaged in preemptive framing of that story – to completely avoid salient issues such as the divisions between the Palestinian factions, the fact that some of those factions oppose any resolution of the conflict and Palestinian terrorism.

He did however twice use part of over 21 minutes of airtime allotted to him to steer BBC audiences around the world towards the erroneous view that Israeli security measures are implemented not because of the terrorism he failed to even mention, but because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’.

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

Listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the report aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now in recent years, hopes for a resolution to the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have stagnated. Now, two separate developments suggest the landscape may be shifting. Last month, before winning the Israeli general election, the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. In other words, make them fully part of the State of Israel. And there’s wide speculation that next month President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner may at last unveil his ‘deal of the century’ to chart a new way forward for the Israelis and Palestinians. So, how’s all this playing out in Israel and the occupied territories? Newshour’s Tim Franks is there.”

Iqbal’s claim that Netanyahu “promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank” is of course based on statements made by the Israeli prime minister three days before the election. As was noted here in relation to the BBC’s coverage at the time, that was:

“…a political story taken rather more seriously by the foreign press than the Israeli public which emerged in an April 6th Channel 13 interview with Israel’s prime minister. During that interview Netanyahu was asked why, during his 2015-2019 term of office, he had not annexed Gush Etzion or applied Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim. Avoiding the word annexation, Netanyahu replied that the topic is under discussion and that he intends to apply Israeli law to Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria during his next (potential) term.”

The BBC has now turned that into a “promise”.

Franks’ report opened with the sound of shouting.

Franks: “Sometimes as you try to work out the situation in the West Bank it can seem phenomenally complex and detailed. The jigsaw there is of Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities, different areas of control, different levels of access and restrictions. But sometimes the picture that confronts you is very stark and very clear and, in this case, pretty noisy.”

In other words, what listeners were about to hear was signposted in advance as a “clear” portrayal of “the situation in the West Bank”.

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks then spoke to one of those men, who replied in Arabic.

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

The man continued to speak in Arabic and listeners heard someone else translate.

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

Franks made no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that entry into Israel from the PA controlled areas had actually been eased for Ramadan (as is usually the case) and that tens of thousands of people had attended related prayers on Temple Mount on that particular Friday and the previous one.  He failed to inform BBC audiences that most Palestinians were given free access while for security reasons – and not because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ as Franks chose to promote – some males were required to apply in advance for a travel permit.

“The admission for prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque for men under the age of 16 and over the age of 40, and women of all ages, without the requirement of a permit. Men between the ages of 30 and 40 are required to obtain an entry permit via the Palestinian Coordination Office.”

Franks then asked his unidentified interviewee:

Franks: “The last 25 years you’ve had the Palestinian Authority. What’s changed for you?”

Man: “The situation is becoming more and more worse. It’s going backwards instead of forwards. Before the Palestinian Authority we used to have freedom of movement, we used to work. But the situation is only getting worse after the PA who are ruling. Meanwhile me and you are under occupation.”

Once again Franks made no effort to inform listeners that it was the Palestinian decision to launch the five-year terror war known as the Second Intifada which actually brought an end to the level of “freedom of movement” which existed previously. Franks then brought in the first of two Israeli interviewees.

Franks: “It’s a common view among Palestinians anyway, as long as I’ve been coming here, that things are getting worse. Further north from Bethlehem, for the people in this part of the West Bank the outlook is rosier. This is the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim. Arieh Eldad has lived here for nearly 40 years. His terrace, I’m told, has one of the most commanding views of the West Bank you’ll ever see.”

After Eldad had described that view, Franks went on to repeat the Netanyahu “promise” claim made earlier by Iqbal.

Franks: “Arieh Eldad is a former member of the Knesset. He’s retired now and has long been one of the most forthright advocates of a simple solution to the problem of land in the West Bank: Israel should annex it all. Towards the end of last month’s election campaign the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he didn’t go quite that far but he did throw out a promise formally to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank. Arieh Eldad the old politician is not punching the air just yet.”

Eldad: “Netanyahu he never suffered from an overdose of ideology but his ideology wouldn’t drive him to annex Judea and Samaria. More and more voices are calling for Israel sovereignty on Judea and Samaria and he will not. He will say so again and again: nothing at the end. He is not the guy to annex it.”

Franks: “But maybe, when this long-awaited peace plan from Jared Kushner comes out, that plan will be to bury once and for all the idea of a Palestinian state. Do you not see the direction of travel in the way that you would like it to be?”

Eldad: “Yes certainly. Sometimes it seems that Trump is right to [on the Right of] Netanyahu on several issues. While I don’t remember easier international political climate for us. They are looking for plan B. They are looking for an alternative.”

Franks: “Arieh Eldad and what he says is now the American-led hunt for plan B. But another old hand sees it differently. Shabtai Shavit is the former director of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. In his Charles Eames armchair, tumbler of Scotch whisky in hand, Shabtai Shavit says that after all Donald Trump has given Binyamin Netanyahu, now could be payback.”

Shavit: “From what I hear and what I read, I conclude that Trump is going to pressure us to make concessions. He is in a good position to do it. He tell Bibi ‘listen, I move my embassy to Jerusalem – you owe me’.”

Franks: “One of the things that Jared Kushner has said is that in a sense we need to stop obsessing about two states. So what he’s talked about is security for the Israelis, economic prospects for the Palestinians. But do you think removing the idea of a formal Palestinian state is possible? I mean is it just imaginative thinking or is it fantasy?”

Shavit: “It’s fantasy. With all the respect that I have to Jared Kushner and to Jason Greenblatt, when it comes to the Middle East they are rookies – both of them.”

Franks: “So what could be the Palestinian response to all this? Here at the Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah you can hear, well not just the former Palestinian leader’s words but the whole narrative that the current Palestinian leadership wants to tell, spinning a story of a charismatic figurehead, of mass support, of heroic setbacks, of loyalty to a struggle in the forging of a nation.”

Franks then went on (21:05) to again signpost the false claims of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ heard earlier in his report as ‘the real thing’.

Franks: “But the picture beyond these polished, quiet corridors is different. We heard it through those voices in Bethlehem at the start of the report expressing frustration and disillusion. And with the Israeli and American governments uniting to put the squeeze on that leadership.”

As we will see in part two of this report, listeners then heard comments from a PA minister – but with no descriptions of his terrace, his chair or his preferred beverage from Tim Franks.

Examining the rationale behind BBC policy on Israel’s capital

Over the years we have documented numerous examples of the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital city.

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

Those wishing to understand why the BBC imperiously refuses to call even the parts of Jerusalem which were not occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 the capital of Israel can find the background to that policy decision here.

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

In other words the BBC erroneously claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – i.e. UN GA resolution 181 – has some sort of contemporary relevance or validity and on that basis dictates that all of Jerusalem “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.

Despite what the now defunct BBC Trust may have chosen to believe, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, 181 was non-binding and in fact it was no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan outright and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant.

But let’s take a closer look at the BBC’s rationale. While the corporation claims that UN GA resolution 181 “calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum” it does not acknowledge that the proposed corpus separatum actually included other places too.

In other words, if the BBC cannot describe Jerusalem as Israeli territory because the city was included in a proposal which never got off the ground, then logically it should not be describing places such as Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Abu Dis and Bethlehem as ‘Palestinian’ because they too were included in that same proposal.

But is that the case in BBC reporting? Here are a few examples: [emphasis added]

In December 2018 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard that St Nicholas Day “is still widely celebrated and nowhere more so than among the Christians of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala”.

In March 2018 Radio 4 listeners heard a drama called “The Bethlehem Murders” which they were told was “Crime fiction set in Palestine” and in which the narrator was introduced as “a teacher in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine”. Another character was portrayed as living in “Beit Jala – a Palestinian Christian town”.

In November 2015 the BBC’s Lyse Doucet reported from a location she described as “a Palestinian village…the city of Beit Jala – very close to Bethlehem”.

A May 2013 report from Abu Dis by Yolande Knell told BBC audiences of “Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem”. 

In December 2012 Kevin Conolly informed BBC audiences that “Christians are…even in a minority in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem”.

So as we see, not only is the ‘rationale’ behind the BBC editorial policy of not accurately informing its audiences where Israel’s capital is located totally misguided, it is not even applied uniformly and impartially. More double standards from the self-declared “provider of news that you can trust”.

Related Articles:

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Yolande Knell’s annual politicisation of Christmas on Radio 4

As usual during the festive season, BBC content on and around Christmas Eve included several politicised reports from Yolande Knell about Christmas celebrations in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ on December 23rd heard a report (from 10:00 here) about St Nicholas Day which, according to presenter Emily Buchanan “is still widely celebrated and nowhere more so than among the Christians of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala.”

During that report listeners were told by Yolande Knell that:

Knell: “Over the centuries some town’s people claim that St Nicholas has protected them, including in 1948 during the fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel and the violence of two Palestinian uprisings.”

Although her examples “over the centuries” were limited to events connected to Israel, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that during the Second Intifada Palestinian terrorists used Beit Jala as a position from which to repeatedly attack Israeli civilians in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighbourhood with gunfire and mortars.

In addition to Mishal Husain’s politicised report from the Gaza Strip, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on December 24th heard a report (from 35:41 here) from Yolande Knell in Bethlehem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Justin Webb: “Christian pilgrims from around the world will be attending a Christmas Eve mass at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity today, built on the site where they believe Jesus was born. Yolande Knell is our correspondent there. What kind of numbers, Yolande?”

Having stated that “thousands of people” were expected to visit, Knell went on:

Knell: “Tourism here has recovered from a big fall that really began in late 2015 after that series of stabbings and car-ramming attacks. According to the Palestinian tourism ministry this has been the busiest year on record for Bethlehem…”

Later on Webb asked:

Webb: “How easy is it for people to get to it if they want to?”

Knell: “Well on Christmas it does become much easier but of course…ehm…for the Palestinians this is one of their great problems especially when it comes to developing tourism as they’re very reliant on Israel…”

Having reported that Bethlehem’s hotels are fully booked, Knell went on:

Knell: “Things are pretty bleak politically for Palestinians. But the message from officials and from regular people alike is that after some tough years – remember last year there was a lot of unrest that marred the Christmas celebrations, led to a lot of parties being cancelled, after President Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without recognising Palestinian claims to the east of the city: the part that they want as the capital of their promised future state.”

Similar messaging from Knell was heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on December 24th (from 6:04 here) in a news bulletin.

Newsreader: “Thousands of pilgrims have joined Palestinians in Bethlehem for the start of Christmas Eve celebrations. A parade was held in Manger Square with carols sung in Arabic played through speakers. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report from Bethlehem.”

Having described that parade, Knell told listeners that:

Knell: “Tourism here is often hit by flare-ups in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last year many parties were cancelled after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without acknowledging Palestinian claims to the eastern part of the city which they want as the capital of their promised future state. This year the political outlook remains bleak but the message from Palestinian officials and locals alike is that this should be a joyful Christmas.”

As documented here last December – 2017’s non-religious festivities were cancelled on the orders of Palestinian officials.

“Church and political officials in Bethlehem and Gaza canceled all non-religious Christmas celebrations in protest over the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“We decided to limit the Christmas celebrations to the religious rituals as an expression of rejection and anger and sympathy with the victims who fell in the recent protests,” said Bethlehem’s mayor, Anton Salman. […]

Christmas celebrations were restricted to religious rituals across the Palestinian territories in protest, the official Palestine TV reported Monday.”

As ever Yolande Knell’s annual Christmas messaging obscures Palestinian actions which affect seasonal tourism in the Bethlehem area. While listeners heard of a “series of stabbings and car-rammings” in 2015 and that tourism is “often hurt by flare-ups in violence”, they were not told who instigated those events, just as they were not informed who ordered the cancellation of Christmas parties last year or of the terrorism launched from Beit Jala in the Second Intifada.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s Christmas message: Trump ruined it – part one

The BBC’s Christmas message: Trump ruined it – part two

Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

 

 

 

 

 

Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part two

In part one of this post we took a look at some examples of the glaring lack of impartiality found in a programme in a series called ‘Y Wal’ (The Wall) produced by the licence fee funded Welsh language channel S4C which is currently available on BBC iPlayer.

“Ffion Dafis visits one of the world’s most controversial boundaries – the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

Those unable to view BBC iPlayer can see that programme here. English language subtitles can be activated by clicking the subtitles icon in the lower right corner and choosing ‘Saesneg’.

In this post we will look at the accuracy of the background information provided to viewers – information which, at least in theory, is supposed to enhance their understanding of the programme’s subject matter and enable them to reach informed opinions.

Just minutes into the programme its presenter – actress Ffion Dafis – tells viewers that:

[02:20] Dafis: “The turn of the millennium saw another dark chapter in the history of the conflict – the Second Intifada, or uprising. Hundreds of lives were lost on both sides. In 2002, after dozens of suicide bombings, Israel decided to build a wall.”

As we see Dafis makes no effort to inform S4C audiences of the fact that the Second Intifada terror war was planned in advance by the Palestinian leadership and she downplays the number of Israelis murdered in those attacks. Israel of course did not decide to “build a wall” but an anti-terrorist fence, the vast majority of which is made of wire mesh and while the decision to do so was indeed taken in April 2002, the first section of that fence was only completed 15 months later. Dafis goes on:

Dafis: “When completed the 700 kilometer-long concrete wall will encircle the West Bank. It is a monstrosity. It is also deemed illegal according to international law. In 2004 the International Court of Justice concluded that the wall breached humanitarian law. Israel was told to demolish it but construction work continues.”

The claim of a 700 km-long “concrete wall” is a blatant falsehood. Neither was the anti-terrorist fence ever intended to “encircle the West Bank”. The politicised conclusions of the International Court of Justice in 2004 were of course never more than an advisory opinion and Dafis’ claim that the structure is “illegal according to international law” is unfounded. Later on Dafis tells audiences that:

[06:07] Dafis: “In the aftermath of the Second World War the UN voted to divide Palestine between Arabs and Jews. In May 1948 the State of Israel was created. The Jewish people had returned to their holy land.”

Dafis fails to clarify that the 1947 UN Partition Plan was rendered irrelevant by its rejection by Arab states and the local Arab population, who together proceeded to launch violent attacks against the Jewish residents of what was still at the time British administered Mandate Palestine. With absolutely no mention of the League of Nations ‘Mandate for Palestine’ intended to establish a national home for the Jewish people, Dafis goes on:

[06:53] Dafis: “The Jewish nation were to claim more than half of Palestine’s land even though the Jewish population was less than half the population of Palestine. After two years of civil war Israel expanded its territory further. An armistice was agreed in 1949. A tentative border was drawn between Palestine and Israel –the so-called green line.”

Dafis’ claim that a “civil war” took place of course conceals the attacks by numerous Arab countries. Not only did the 1949 Armistice Agreement specifically state that the armistice line was not a border, but it was signed by Israel and Jordan – not “Palestine” – with no claims whatsoever made on that territory at the time by the local Arab population.

With no mention of the fact that Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem had been under illegal Jordanian occupation for 19 years when Jordan chose to attack Israel in June 1967, Dafis goes on:

[07:20] Dafis: “Since then, relations between the two nations have been fraught and bloody. The roots of today’s clashes lie in the 1967 six-day war when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza. Israel maintains its military occupation of the West Bank, an area which is home to 2.5 million Palestinians. Israel claims the wall is essential to protect its people and says terrorist attacks have fallen by 90%. They’re reluctant to demolish the wall.”

Using a clear Christmas reference Dafis then turns her attention to Bethlehem.

[08:26] Dafis: “South of Jerusalem, in the little town of Bethlehem, the wall is having a devastating effect on people’s lives. It snakes through the town, separating people from schools, work, families and hospitals.”

As the B’tselem map below shows, the anti-terrorist fence (marked in red, with planned construction in purple) does not ‘snake through’ Bethlehem at all – that claim is a complete falsehood.

Nevertheless, Dafis later repeats that falsehood and adds a new one: the claim that Bethlehem is “surrounded” by “settlements”.

[22:06] Dafis: “Pilgrims flock to the holy city of Bethlehem from all over the world to visit the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem lies within Area A but the city still suffers the effects of Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Tourist numbers are down and it has the highest unemployment rate in the West Bank. Bethlehem is surrounded by Israeli settlements and the wall snakes through the centre of the city.”

Viewers are again inaccurately told that the 1949 armistice line is a “border” and hear a partisan version of ‘international law’:

[09:30] Dafis: “Only a fifth of the wall follows the green line – the internationally accepted border between Israel and the West Bank. Around 80% of the wall’s route cuts into Palestinian land. In some places it encircles Jewish settlements built by Israel on Palestinian land. For generations Jewish and Arab people had lived side-by-side in these lands. Following the Six Day war of 1967 more than a million Palestinians came under Israeli control. This was the beginning of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories which continues today. For religious Jews, their victory was a miracle from God. Their dream of returning home to the holy land had been realised. They started to build settlements on the occupied land in defiance of international law. These are a major dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Today there are over 150 settlements in the West Bank with over half a million residents. But Gush Etzion was the first to be built after Israel occupied the land in 1967.”

Viewers are not informed that Jews had purchased lands in Gush Etzion long before the Jordanian invasion and ethnic cleansing and that the “first” community “to be built” – Kfar Etzion – was actually established in 1943, depopulated in 1948 and rebuilt in 1967.

Dafis’ portrayal of the Oslo Accords – signed by the PLO rather than “Palestine” as she claims – fails to inform viewers of the reasons for the failure to reach final status negotiations.

[19:48] Dafis: “In 1993 Israel and Palestine signed an agreement to bring the conflict to an end. But Palestine paid the price. The West Bank was split into three administrative divisions. […] Area C accounts for 60% of the West Bank. It was intended as a temporary arrangement. 25 years on it’s still in place.”

At 22:35 viewers hear of a “partition” that never took place.

Dafis: “On the outskirts of Bethlehem is the Aida refugee camp. This was created after the 1948 partition. The camp is overcrowded and living conditions are appalling.”

Viewers are of course given no explanation of the political reasons behind the existence of a ‘refugee camp’ in a place which has been under full Palestinian control for well over two decades.

At 28:31 Dafis comes up with the following claim:

Dafis: “In the West Bank, there are 500 checkpoints along the wall where Israeli soldiers guard the border. Israel maintains they’re essential to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. For Palestinians they represent yet another way in which the Israeli military control their lives.”

In addition to the fact that the route of the anti-terrorist fence is not a “border” and that final status negotiations to define the route of any border between Israel and a potential Palestinian state have never taken place, it is unclear where Dafis gets the conveniently round number of 500. There are in fact 14 crossings serving vehicles and/or pedestrians.

As noted in part one of this post, throughout the whole 48-minute programme viewers hear the entire anti-terrorist fence exclusively described as a ‘wall’ even though that description is inaccurate. Viewers also hear extensive use of the politically partisan term ‘Palestine’ throughout the programme despite the fact that no such state exists at this point.

[30:35] Dafis: “The wall doesn’t only separate Israel from Palestine. It also separates Palestinians from one another.”

It is difficult to recall a more blatantly one-sided and factually inaccurate programme being aired on British television and promoted on the BBC’s On Demand Programme Services (ODPS). Obviously this publicly funded production was motivated by purely political intentions rather than the aim of informing British Welsh-speaking audiences.

Related articles: 

Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part one

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 1

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 2

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

Resources:

S4C complaints

BBC complaints

 

 

 

 

BBC R4 presenter portrays response to violent rioting as “attack”

The July 23rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 02:51:43 here) concerning an incident which had taken place the previous night. In her introduction, presenter Martha Kearney described the alleged shooting of a Palestinian youth during violent rioting that included the use of IEDs, rocks, petrol bombs and grenades as an “attack”. [emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian teenager during a raid in the West Bank. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent and Tom – tell us a bit more about this attack.”

Bateman: “Well this was the Deheishe refugee camp. It’s a big refugee camp in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military went in for a raid during the night – I mean these are things that happen frequently. They say they’re often looking for suspects or for weapons manufacturing sites.”

Readers may recall that in May the BBC failed to report the murder of an Israeli soldier during such an operation in another location. Tom Bateman did not clarify to listeners that the places he described as “occupied” – Bethlehem and the Deheishe camp – have been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades. He continued:

Bateman: “They went into the camp looking for two people. They say this triggered clashes The Israelis say that they came under fire with rocks and firebombs and grenades and say they responded using live fire. And in that incident a 15 year-old boy was shot in the chest and died. His name was Arkan Mezher. Following that there were some protests; residents of the camp marching to the local government hospital.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that the incident is under investigation or that the youth was wrapped in the flag of the PFLP terror faction at his funeral.

Martha Kearney went on:

Kearney: “And this comes at a time of increased tensions throughout the region.”

Once again the BBC avoided informing its audiences that Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “Well this is the West bank and I mean there has been, you know, increasing simmering tension on the Gaza boundary between Gaza and Israel. At the…on Friday there was yet another flare-up – really the third in a couple of months – between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There was an Israeli soldier who was shot dead near to the fence. Israel then responded with a wave of airstrikes killing four Palestinians and I mean at the time the UN envoy to the region Nickolay Mladenov was warning that Gaza was on the brink of war. Now over the weekend there seems to have been a relative calm restored but yes; I think the context is about heightened tension.”

Bateman likewise failed to clarify that at least three of those “four Palestinians” were members of Hamas’ militia or that Palestinians subsequently launched three rockets into Israeli territory.

Kearney: “Relative calm and what about ceasefires?”

Bateman: “Well a ceasefire was announced by Hamas on the early hours of Saturday morning. There has been mediation by Egyptian intelligence, by the United Nations. I mean Israel never really comments on these ceasefires but clearly there appears to be some kind of agreement that does for the time being seem to be holding.”

Bateman of course made no effort to inform listeners that Hamas’ July 20th announcement of a ceasefire came just six days after the previous one it announced – and broke.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports fatal ‘gunshot’, fails to identify perpetrator

 

 

 

 

 

How did BBC Minute illustrate a series on street art in India, Nigeria and Iran?

On June 22nd the BBC World Service’s BBC Minute announced a three-part series on street art in its “On Life” section which was described to its target ‘younger audiences’ as:

“A BBC Minute series featuring British, Nigerian and Iranian artists”

One might have assumed that such an announcement would have been illustrated using the work of the Indian, Nigerian or Iranian artists featured in the series.

However, the BBC World Service instead chose to use an image completely unrelated to any of the featured artists or the countries in which they work.

 

One to watch out for on BBC One and BBC Four

The BBC’s Easter programming will include a two-part programme titled “Painting the Holy Land” presented by Scottish artist Lachlan Goudie.

Episode one will be shown on BBC One on Friday, March 30th and on BBC Four on Sunday, April 1st.

“In the first episode, Lachlan follows Jesus’s last days on earth, travelling from the north of what is now Israel to Jerusalem. It’s a pilgrimage that millions undertake and a story of love and suffering that has inspired some of the world’s most remarkable masterpieces. […]

Along the way, in a series of surprising encounters, Lachlan meets locals who have their own take on daily life in the Holy Land. This is personal odyssey for Lachlan, exploring the places his father painted but never saw, rooted in the past but brimming with life in the present day.”

Episode two will be shown on BBC One on Sunday, April 1st and on BBC Four on Monday, April 2nd.

“Lachlan Goudie traces the story of Mary through the gospels with a personal question – why is the life of the Mother of God barely described in the Bible, but so well-represented in art?

He looks at her role in the story of the Resurrection and the subsequent events up to Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. In Nazareth he visits the well where legend states the teenage Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, and at one of seventeen Churches of the Annunciation sees the wealth of imagery that has helped secure for Mary a place in the hearts of the faithful. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, now in a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity, he watches and draws pilgrims from all over the world. […]

During this journey Lachlan discovers that Mary and her miraculous story are inspiring not just to Christians. Mary the Mother of Jesus is a major figure to Muslims, the only woman named in the Koran.”

Clips from the second programme can be seen here and here.

 

BBC R4’s Bethlehem crime fiction flunks accuracy and impartiality

A BBC Radio 4 series called ‘Foreign Bodies’ is described as follows:

“Mark Lawson examines how mystery novels reflect a country’s history and political system.”

The episode aired on March 4th (and to be rebroadcast on March 10th) is called “The Bethlehem Murders” and – despite the BBC’s style guide stating that “you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” – it is described in the synopsis as: [emphasis added]

“Crime fiction set in Palestine. Omar Yussef, schoolteacher and amateur sleuth, tries to clear the name of his former student George, falsely accused of murder in their hometown of Bethlehem. […]

In The Bethlehem Murders, Yussef tries to save the life of his former student George Saba, a Christian recently returned to his home town of Bethlehem, who has fallen foul of a Palestinian militia group. In doing so, Yussef uncovers a world of corruption, cynicism and fear which makes him regret the passing of a time when Christians and Muslims lived peacefully side by side.”

That drama – like another one scheduled for broadcast next week – is based on a novel written by a former Time Magazine correspondent from Britain who was based in Jerusalem from 2000 – 2006.

“This is the second novel of the Palestinian Quartet series by Matt Rees to be dramatised for Radio 4 by Jennifer Howarth. Matt Rees draws on his experience as Time Magazine’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief to create detective stories which give us an insight into life in Palestine in the early 2000’s.” [emphasis added]

Given that latter claim, one would expect the backdrop to the drama to be accurate and impartial. BBC editorial guidelines relating to “factually based drama” state:

“When a drama portrays real people or events, it is inevitable that the creative realisation of some dramatic elements such as characterisation, dialogue and atmosphere may be fictional.  However, the portrayal should be based on a substantial and well-sourced body of evidence whenever practicable and we should ensure it does not distort the known facts, including chronology, unduly.”

Editorial guidelines on impartiality in Drama, Entertainment and Culture state: 

“A drama where a view of ‘controversial subjects’ is central to its purpose, must be clearly signposted to our audience.  Its excellence and insights must justify the platform offered.  It may be appropriate to offer alternative views in other connected and signposted output.”

‘The Bethlehem Murders’ opens with a monologue by the main character and narrator.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Omar Yussef and I’m a teacher in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine. My family, my tribe, have been here nearly 60 years – ever since we were kicked out of our homelands at the point of a gun.” [emphasis added]

The character goes on to explain that “this story opens in 2001”.

“For nearly a year now we’ve been at war with Israel. We call it the second Intifada: the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation.”

Audiences are not told that by the time the second Intifada began, Bethlehem had been under exclusive Palestinian Authority control for almost five years.

The main character goes on to introduce a secondary character, describing him as living in “Beit Jala – a Palestinian Christian town just south of Bethlehem”.

Beit Jala is of course located to the north of Bethlehem.

The drama includes numerous additional issues of accuracy, impartiality and omission. While central figures in the story belong to what are described as “the Martyrs Brigades”, audiences are not informed that that terror group belongs to the ruling political party Fatah. Terrorists are repeatedly portrayed as “freedom fighters” while audiences are told that Israel “bulldozes the houses” of Palestinians who “won’t collaborate”. Israeli forces entering Bethlehem after a suicide bombing in Jerusalem are portrayed as “here to take revenge”.

Even the image chosen to illustrate the drama’s webpage lacks accuracy. A person presumably intended to represent the main character is shown against the background of a section of the anti-terrorist fence. The fence is not even mentioned in the story itself and the obvious explanation for that is that the drama is set in 2001 and construction of the fence did not commence until July 2003, when the first section was built many miles to the north of Bethlehem. Nevertheless, the BBC selected that anachronistic image to illustrate this programme.

Obviously the BBC’s claim that this radio drama gives audiences “an insight into life in Palestine in the early 2000’s” is unfortunately diminished by such accuracy and impartiality failures.

Related Articles:

Stone-Throwing Chic at Time Magazine   (CAMERA)

Time Magazine’s One-Sided Feature on Palestinians (CAMERA)

BBC amends style-guide breach in R4 synopsis