Anti-peace BDS campaigner on judging panel of BBC Arabic competition

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page in recent days may have noticed that its ‘Features & Analysis’ section currently includes promotion of a film festival organised by BBC Arabic in partnership with the British Council.

Film fest on hp

 

Film fest main

 

According to the information provided:

“Aan Korb is a new film and documentary festival in London, presented by BBC Arabic in partnership with the British Council.

The festival will screen the very best work across feature and short films, documentaries and investigative and citizen journalism, that has been created about the Arab world since the start of the uprisings in December 2010.

Taking place in the fantastic surroundings of the iconic Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House, the festival will be packed for four days with screenings, talks, debates and workshops.”

There is of course nothing novel about collaboration between the BBC and the British Council. In fact, we recently noted here some of the joint projects carried out in the Middle East by those two organisations (both of which receive part of their funding from the UK taxpayer via the government) and the disturbing fact some of the partnership groups with which they work are associated directly or indirectly with the anti-peace movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

One of the British Council-supported projects which openly promotes the anti-peace BDS movement is the ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest as it is better known. Writing about the 2012 PalFest in the Guardian, Alison Flood noted that:

“Supported by organisations including Arts Council England and the British Council, with patrons including Chinua Achebe, Seamus Heaney and Philip Pullman, it endorses the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and states as its mission the reinvigoration of “cultural ties between Arab countries, ties that have been eroded for too long”. [Ahdaf] Soueif is its founding chair.” [emphasis added]

Readers can find out more about the birth of ‘PalFest’ and its “founding chair” and Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron Ahdaf Soueif here. Ms Soueif is also named as one of the judges for this latest BBC Arabic/British Council film festival.

Soueif film fest

The British Council has claimed to oppose the BDS movement’s efforts to delegitimize and isolate Israel.  

 “The British Council is firmly opposed to an academic boycott of Israeli universities. Academic boycotts are bad in principle, and would be bad in this specific case… dialogue is unlikely to be sustained without exchange between academics and academic institutions…”   

Past and present British governments have repeatedly claimed that they do not support the anti-two state solution BDS movement – for example in 2009:

 “The British government is opposed to any kind of boycott of Israel.”

In 2014:

“…the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “

And just this month, British PM David Cameron stated:

“And to those who do not share my ambition who want to boycott Israel I have a clear message. Britain opposes boycotts. Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians.”

Such analgesic rhetoric however takes on the sinister complexion of doublespeak when UK government-funded bodies such as BBC Arabic and the British Council engage the services of a prominent anti-peace BDS campaigner such as Ahdaf Soueif. 

 

 

 

 

The BBC, the British Council and BDS: what Simon Cox didn’t report

The February 13th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – was titled “Come to Sunny Gaza!”.

FOOC 13 2

The programme can be heard here (with the relevant section beginning at about 22:48) or here. A written version of the same report by Simon Cox also appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Discovering Gazans’ resilient side“. Simon Cox art

Listeners to the audio version may well have been quite bowled over by the fact that presenter Kate Adie actually mentioned the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year in her introduction to the item and also by the fact that Cox does not stick entirely to the ‘Gaza doom and gloom’ route so well-trodden by herds of BBC correspondents before him.

All the same, he offers no context or explanation for statements such as:

“I had come prepared for trouble, with a flak jacket and helmet, driven from the border with Israel in an armour-plated car past a plethora of grey breeze block structures, unfinished due to a lack of cement.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“Rawan, my young translator, explained how the electricity was only on for eight hours a day so work, shopping, everything had to be crammed into this brief window.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“You need this kind of ingenuity when half the population is unemployed.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the PCBS cites an unemployment rate of 31.0% – not 50% as Cox claims – during the first quarter of 2013 and of course that is influenced by the fact that only 17.1% of women participate in the labour force.

But the less obvious (and much more interesting) aspect of this report – which Simon Cox does not seem too keen to expand upon – is the one reflected in this paragraph:

“I was not here to report, but to train a group of journalists from Alwan radio for a weekly programme they had been making with other stations in the West Bank as part of a wider BBC and British Council project.”

BBC audiences might at this point have been interested in some context regarding the media scene in the Gaza Strip post the 2007 violent coup carried out by Hamas. The fact that media outlets associated with political and terrorist groups other than Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were quickly forced to close down, revise their content or relocate is, after all, a relevant factor – particularly perhaps for audience members who fund both the BBC and the registered charity the British Council via Foreign Office grant-in aid funding.

“The majority of media outlets in Palestine are based in the Gaza Strip. Since June 2007, Hamas loyalists have either shut down or assumed control of these outlets. As of August 2007, only two TV stations are currently available: Hamas’s Al Aqsa and the Islamic Jihad’s Sawt Al Aqsa, and two radio stations: Al Qur-an Al-Kareem which is run by Hamas’ Religious Affairs ministry, and Radio Alwan which is considered a pro-Hamas station.” [emphasis added]

In other words, only media organisations run or tolerated by Hamas can operate.

“Today [Ed. – August 2007] there are seven radio stations broadcasting from the Gaza Strip, most of them affiliated with Hamas and Islamists: Hamas’ Radio Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Radio Al-Quds, four independent stations (Sawt al-Iman (The Voice of Faith), Radio al-Manar, Radio ‘Alwan and the entertainment station, FM-Gaza). They all broadcast, as does Radio al-Qur’an al-Karim, which belongs to the Palestinian ministry of Islamic endowments.” [emphasis added]

Radio Alwan does not however confine itself to being on the receiving end of training projects provided by benevolent foreign organisations. Recently it ran a training project of its own in collaboration with an organisation called iPal

iPal fb Alwan

And what is iPal’s raison d’etre? Well we can learn more about that via the Anna Lindh Foundation website where, in among the jargon and buzz words and in addition to “collaboration with Alwan Radio” and “collaboration” with the Hamas supporting organisation Islamic Relief which Israel designated in 2006, we find the following among iPal’s stated activities:

“BDS Movement: building workshops about the BDS as an introduction for the youth in Gaza to let them know more about this campaign and the importance of it and how it plays an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for Justice and also to get them a part in some BDS activities in Gaza.”

iPal’s “coordinator in Gaza” Abeer Abu Shawish also works for the Arab Centre for Agricultural Development (ACAD) and in November 2013 she was to be found organizing on its behalf “a conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid, colonization and occupation” at which “Zaid Shuabi, outreach officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), gave a report by Skype from the West Bank.”.

However, Radio Alwan is far from being the sole organization with British Council and BBC links which directly or indirectly supports and promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which aims to delegitimize Israel into extinction

As we noted here only recently, the British Council has a “partnership” with the BDS supporting ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest. Among the British Council’s partners in Israel is the Mossawa Centre and among its partners in the Palestinian controlled territories are the Maan Development Centre, Miftah and Palestinian Vision which employs a media spokesman who is a veteran of the BDS campaign and in its 2010 annual report (scroll down for English) noted inter alia that its activities include the organization of quiz nights with the theme “Judaizing of names in the city” [Jerusalem] and included the illustration below. Palestinian Vision 2010 report

In addition to Miftah and ‘Palestinian Vision’, the British Council’s partners in its ‘Tajaawob‘ project include Oxfam and the BBC’s own charity ‘BBC Media Action’ which gets over 40% of its funding from departments of the British government.

The same British government claims that it does not support the BDS movement.

“In correspondence with NGO Monitor, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “

However, the same government department which wrote those words funds both the British Council and departments of the BBC which do partner organisations that directly or indirectly oppose a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and work towards the elimination of the Jewish state. 

Isn’t it odd that the BBC’s “investigative journalist” Simon Cox should have missed all that? After all, UK-based members of the BBC’s audience might like to be enlightened as to what lies behind some of the projects and organisations which their taxes and obligatory payments are actually funding.

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BBC promotes Gaza film company which uses antisemitic imagery