BBC adds missing link following further complaint

When the BBC issued a clarification last week concerning an inaccurate portrayal of the Christian population in Israel in a BBC Radio 4 programme on December 26th we noted that:

“Unfortunately, however, despite that clarification the programme itself is currently still available online (from 07:24 here) in its original and inaccurate form and with no link provided to the clarification.”

BBC Watch submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) concerning that issue and has received the following reply:

“Thank you for your enquiry, involving the clarification concerning The World at One, broadcast on the 26th December 2018. The ECU have passed this along to our team to send you the response.
 
We would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have now added the link for the C&C site to the iPlayer page that hosts this edition of the programme:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001r86

The updated page now appears thus:

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The BBC’s response to a complaint about Christians in Israel

After second complaint, BBC clarifies inaccurate claim about Israel’s Christian population

After second complaint, BBC clarifies inaccurate claim about Israel’s Christian population

Last week we noted the unsatisfactory response we received from BBC Complaints concerning an inaccurate claim made in the December 26th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’.

Listeners to that programme were told by presenter Jonny Dymond that:

“More than 200 million Christians are at risk of persecution around the world – a number that has risen sharply over the past few decades according to the Foreign Office. In Christianity’s home – the Middle East – the numbers speak for themselves. Four fifths of Iraq’s Christians have fled or been killed. In Israel and the Palestinian territories as those following other religions have grown sharply in number, the Christian population has shrunk. Today the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into the persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.” [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

As stated BBC Watch submitted a second complaint and the reply received (also by complainant Mr Stephen Franklin) includes the following:

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us again. We are sorry to learn that you were not satisfied with our earlier response.
 
It was our intention to say that the figures within the region have been in decline over the last few decades, which is accurate, but on reflection we can see that that [sic] the way the script was worded meant listeners could have understood that we were referring to the present day state of Israel.
 
We have added a clarification to our Correction and Clarifications page to acknowledge the point: https://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications

That clarification reads as follows:

Unfortunately, however, despite that clarification the programme itself is currently still available online (from 07:24 here) in its original and inaccurate form and with no link provided to the clarification. 

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BBC Radio 4’s inaccurate claim about Israel’s Christian community

The BBC’s response to a complaint about Christians in Israel

The BBC’s response to a complaint about Christians in Israel

In late December we noted that listeners to an edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ had been told by presenter Jonny Dymond that:

“More than 200 million Christians are at risk of persecution around the world – a number that has risen sharply over the past few decades according to the Foreign Office. In Christianity’s home – the Middle East – the numbers speak for themselves. Four fifths of Iraq’s Christians have fled or been killed. In Israel and the Palestinian territories as those following other religions have grown sharply in number, the Christian population has shrunk. Today the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into the persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.” [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning Dymond’s inaccurate claim that “in Israel…the Christian population has shrunk” which, nine days later, we were informed would take more time to address. Nearly two weeks after the complaint was originally submitted we received a response from BBC Complaints which includes the following:

“We understand you feel Jonny Dymond falsely stated that the Christian population has shrunk in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The information was clearly flagged up as being Israel and the Palestinian Territories because they are and were the best comparable figures to use to make a comparison between now and pre- Second World War – there was prior to the Declaration (and War) of Independence no administrative unit known as ‘Israel’, only the combined territory of the Ottoman and Mandate units known generally as Palestine, subdivided at times, what is now bits of Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and the State of Israel.

To get as long as possible time frame on the Christian decline in the region that was the administrative unit we chose.”

BBC Watch has submitted a second complaint clarifying that the original one related solely to Dymond’s statement concerning Israel, that the time frame presented was “the past few decades” rather than “between now and pre- Second World Warand that seeing as listeners would have reasonably understood that Dymond was referring to Israel rather than “Ottoman and Mandate units” which were not mentioned at all, a correction is still in order.   

BBC Radio 4’s inaccurate claim about Israel’s Christian community

h/t JO

The December 26th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ included an item relating to the UK Foreign Secretary’s announcement of a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

Presenter Jonny Dymond introduced that item (from 07:24 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “More than 200 million Christians are at risk of persecution around the world – a number that has risen sharply over the past few decades according to the Foreign Office. In Christianity’s home – the Middle East – the numbers speak for themselves. Four fifths of Iraq’s Christians have fled or been killed. In Israel and the Palestinian territories as those following other religions have grown sharply in number, the Christian population has shrunk. Today the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into the persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.”

The item continued with a recording of Mr Hunt speaking about his announcement and a report about Christians in Pakistan.

Let’s take a closer look at Dymond’s claim that “in Israel….the Christian population has shrunk”.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, at the year’s end in 1949 there were 34,000 Christians living in Israel. A year later that number had risen to 36,000. By year’s end 1960 Israel’s Christian population numbered 49,600, by 1970 -75,500, by 1980 – 89,900, by 1990 – 114,700 and by year’s end 2000 there were 153,400 Christians living permanently in Israel (the bureau’s figures do not include foreign residents). By the end of 2017 the Christian population of Israel had grown to 171,900 people, just under 80% of whom are Arab Christians mostly living in the north of the country.

In other words, in contrast to Dymond’s claim that the Christian population of Israel has “shrunk”, throughout the first 70 years of Israel’s existence it steadily grew from 34,000 to 171,900. At the end of 2018 Israel has around 175,000 Christian citizens who make up around 2% of the total population.

Had Dymond confined himself to saying that in the Palestinian territories – the parts of Judea & Samaria governed for decades by the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip now under Hamas control for over a decade – the Christian population has shrunk, he would have been correct. However, his inclusion of Israel in that claim is inaccurate and, particularly in an item about persecution of Christian communities, materially misleading to BBC audiences. 

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Resources:

How to Complain to the BBC

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports on Archbishop of Canterbury’s ME visit

May 8th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell titled “Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders” on the BBC News website’s Middle East and UK pages.

Much of Knell’s report is devoted to coverage of Justin Welby’s itinerary, which included a very short visit to Christian institutions the Gaza Strip. Knell tells readers that:

“The archbishop has been careful to hear voices from both sides in the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a previously unannounced move, he visited Gaza – which has seen repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel in the past decade.

He also met Israelis living under threat of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in a kibbutz near the border.”

Residents of the Israeli communities located near the border with the Gaza Strip are not just “under threat” from the terrorists that Knell coyly describes as “militants”: attacks do frequently happen. However, seeing as the BBC has refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of any of the eight incidents of missile attacks that have taken place since the beginning of this year and throughout the whole of 2016 only reported one attack, readers would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

The archbishop also visited Christian institutions in Nazareth including a school and four churches. Regardless of how the people he met there choose to self-identify, Yolande Knell collectively describes them as follows: [emphasis added]

“The archbishop has visited Palestinian Christian communities in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where he prayed and ate falafel with Christian mayor, Vera Baboun.”

Referring to a story she has often promoted in the past, Knell also tells readers that:

“He [Welby] was due to meet Christian families in the Cremisan Valley, whose land is affected by the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

One item on the archbishop’s itinerary which Knell left out of her coverage was a visit to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to pay tribute to UK student Hannah Bladon who was murdered last month in a terror attack in the city.

One of the stranger features of this report is Knell’s opening of her article with the promotion of some unfounded linkage.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.

His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.

However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.”

Welby’s latest trip to the region was announced back in March while Trump’s upcoming visit was announced on May 4th and there is no indication of any link between the two visits. Although Knell tells BBC audiences that the purpose of the US president’s 26 hour visit is “to try to revive the moribund peace process”, the official announcement lays out additional (and no less newsworthy) aims.

“President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership.  The leaders will discuss a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups.  They will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to meet with him to discuss ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as efforts to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy.”

Moreover, the day before this article was published, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ aired an item about Welby’s trip (from 01:00 here) that was mostly devoted to an interview with the archbishop by Yolande Knell. The last question she asked (at 05:45) was:

Knell: “You’ve come at a very sensitive time as attempts to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians restarted. Was that your intention?”

Welby: “I would not presume that. I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage. It would be very presumptuous to go further.”

Despite that very clear answer, Knell nevertheless decided to include a totally superfluous mention of the US president’s upcoming visit and “the moribund peace process” in her BBC News website article. 

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Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

Christmas is coming and with it – if the BBC’s record over the past five years is anything to go by – the usual politicised reporting from the Middle East.

Christmas Eve of 2011, for example, saw Jon Donnison piling on the pathos in a reworking of the well-worn ‘Bethlehem shepherds’ theme on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  

“There are still shepherds in Bethlehem 2000 years on from the nativity but as our West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison reports, Jewish settlement expansion there has made the life of the shepherd increasingly limited.”knell-2011-nativity

On the same day the BBC News website published a particularly egregious example of campaigning propaganda produced by Yolande Knell under the transparent title of “Bethlehem’s modern-day nativity characters“. 

In 2012 Kevin Connolly reported on Christians in the Middle East while managing to omit any mention of the one country in which they thrive and Jon Donnison produced a politically opportunistic report from Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was also the location for a 2013 report from Yolande Knell in which she promoted inaccurate information about the anti-terrorist fence.

“In the Bethlehem Governorate there are more than twenty Pal..err…Israeli settlements and now Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. It appears as a high concrete wall around Bethlehem and the people here complain that it has strangled their economy. Israel says of course that it was built for security but the Palestinians view it as a land grab.”

A multi-platform item promoted a smear from a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.Knell Bethlehem main

Political messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence also dominated a Christmas 2014 report on the BBC News website and Yolande Knell produced an audio report and a written report from Bethlehem in which she blamed “the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land” on “Israel’s occupation”.

Reporting again from Bethlehem in 2015, Yolande Knell revisited the ‘nativity characters’ theme in a multi-media feature focusing on politicised messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence. An audio report by Knell broadcast on the BBC World Service was notable for its adherence to PLO media guidance.

Let’s hope that this year the BBC Jerusalem bureau can resist the temptation to exploit Christmas for the promotion of opportunistic politicised messaging and perhaps even come up with some original reporting about the Middle East’s beleaguered Christians. 

BBC News misrepresents a budgeting story to imply Israeli state discrimination

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 6th and 7th may have been somewhat surprised to find that a domestic Israeli story about a budget disagreement between the Ministry of Education and institutions in the private schools sector had been deemed by editors to be worthy of international amplification.

However, anyone with background knowledge of this story who read the article titled “Protesters rally over funding for Christian schools in Israel” could be left in no doubt as to the underlying editorial considerations which prompted its publication.Christian schools story

Readers are told that:

“Protesters have gathered in front of the Israeli prime minister’s office to demand greater funds for Christian schools.

Private Christian schools receive some state funding but protesters say it is lower than that given to equivalent Jewish schools.

They say their funding has been reduced in an effort to make them join the Israeli public school system.

Israel’s Christians come overwhelmingly from its Arab minority.

The country’s 47 Christian schools have been on strike since the beginning of the school year on 1 September.

Ibrahim Fakhouri, a parent from Nazareth, was at the demonstration and said he believed Christian schools were being discriminated against.

As citizens of this country, we are law obeying citizens, and we deserve equal rights,” he told AP.

Arab members of parliament were also at the demonstration.”  [emphasis added]

So the take-away message in this article is very clear: readers are given to understand in those 131 words that there is discrimination against Christian Arabs in Israel in the form of lower funding for their schools in comparison to Jewish schools. Only at the end of the article are readers provided with a second-hand fifty-word response from the Ministry of Education and in order to fully comprehend it they would have to have some prior knowledge of the system of categorisation of schools in Israel – which the BBC does not offer.

“In response to the protest the education ministry said that “Christian schools are funded in an equal manner as other recognized but unofficial schools in the State of Israel,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

It reported the ministry as saying it “is having meetings with representatives of the educational institutes”.”

This story actually began in May 2013 when the Ministry of Education announced across the board budget cuts. Some of those cuts were made to the budgets of state schools and in addition, the Ministry of Education informed approximately 250 other schools of cuts to certain clauses of funding. Those schools are not state schools: they are private institutions categorized as ‘recognised but not official’ and they include, for example, some Jewish religious schools, some Christian schools, some Muslim schools and some schools from the Anthroposophic (Waldorf) and Democratic streams. In 2014 a petition from a number of those schools was heard by the Supreme Court – details of that case can be found here (Hebrew).

Whilst one can of course debate the issue of those budget cuts to the non-state school sector, what is clear is that they were made to private schools of many differing types in accordance with their classification and not – as overwhelmingly implied in this BBC article – because of the religion or ethnicity of their pupils.

In other words, the BBC has misrepresented this story in order to promote the false impression of discrimination against Christian Arabs by the state of Israel.

In addition, under the heading “more on this story” readers of this report are offered a link to a previous BBC article by Yolande Knell which has still not been amended to correct the inaccurate claim that renewed construction of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley will “separate over 50 families from their land”.

 

Beyond the BBC narrative: Cardiff, coexistence and Israel

Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened has recently been making news – although not, at the time of writing, on the BBC News website’s Wales or south-east Wales pages.

“The exhibition – called Jewish-Arab football: diversity and co-existence through lower-league football – was due to run for a week in Cardiff’s Central Library, but was shut down on council orders after complaints from undisclosed sources were received. […]

[Israeli] Embassy spokesman Yiftah Curiel said: “It is outrageous that the council has capitulated to people who hate Israel. The purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate racial and inter-faith harmony in Israel – something that is in stark contrast to what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

“Removing an exhibition showing how football promotes friendship between people of different backgrounds in Israel turns a celebration of coexistence into an ugly politics of division.”

Coexistence and cooperation between different religious and ethnic communities in Israel is of course evident in many other spheres besides football. Our colleagues at CAMERA recently reported on a meeting of Israeli Christian, Druze and Bedouin leaders in Nazareth, documented in this video.Nazareth

“As Ayoob Karra, the former Deputy Minister of Development for the Negev and Galilee pointed out: “If you look around in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, you can find that it is not the human rights for Christians in all these states. Only in Israel they have power to say everything loudly.””

The article notes a growing new trend:

“The number of Christian Israelis in national and military service increased to 30% of all Christian high school graduates last year.

This surge in Christian enlistment in defense of Israel supplements the involvement of the Druze and Bedouin. Since 1957, at the request of their community leaders, IDF service has been mandatory for Druze men. It is not mandatory for Bedouins, but as in the case of Christians, the number of Bedouins volunteering for the army continues to increase steadily.”

Unfortunately, the daily coexistence of different religious and ethnic communities in Israel is not a subject with which BBC audiences in the UK or elsewhere are familiar because it gets next to no coverage from Britain’s leading news provider.

Were the BBC to portray Israel’s multi-cultural society as it really is rather than ignoring anything which does not fit in with its chosen narrative, perhaps those Cardiff councillors would have been better equipped to deal with politically motivated complaints from people apparently unable to stomach the sight of Jews and Arabs playing football together.

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Protest by Middle East Christians not on the BBC radar

Tough luck Syrian and Iraqi Christians: the BBC’s Yolande Knell has other priorities

BBC ME editor’s analysis of threat to Christians: IS, extreme Islam – and Israel

Jane Corbin’s BBC documentary on plight of ME Christians promotes jaded Israel-related narratives

On April 15th 2015 BBC Two’s ‘This World’ programme aired a documentary by Jane Corbin titled “Kill the Christians” which is described as follows in the synopsis:Corbin This World

“Christianity is facing the greatest threat to its existence in the very place where it was born. Jane Corbin travels across the Middle East to some of the holiest places in Christendom and finds that hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing Islamic extremists, conflict and persecution. From the Nineveh plains in Iraq to the ancient city of Maaloula in Syria, Kill the Christians reveals the story of how the religion that shaped Western culture and history is in danger of disappearing in large parts of its ancient heartland.”

Pre-broadcast promotion of the programme included an article by Corbin titled “Could Christianity be driven from Middle East?” published on the BBC News website and another article by Corbin published in the Guardian under the headline “These may be the last Christians of the Middle East – unless we help“. The sub-heading in the Guardian article reflects one of the themes appearing in the documentary itself as well as in the other written article.

“Islamic extremism has taken persecution to a new level, but the seeds were sown a decade ago in the US- and British-led Iraq invasion”.

Whilst the version of Corbin’s article appearing on the BBC News website confines itself to discussion of the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria, in the article appearing in the Guardian, readers got a taste of things to come in the documentary itself.

“Christianity remains a force only in Lebanon, where the common enemy for Muslims and Christians alike is Islamic extremism. There are other threats, however – in historic Palestine young Christians leave for jobs and a more secure life abroad. Emigration and fear are sapping the life of Christian communities even in relatively peaceful parts of the region.”Corbin written

At around 37 minutes into the programme Corbin tells viewers:

“But there’s one country where Christians are still secure – their last bastion in the Middle East: the Lebanon.”

That, of course, is not an accurate statement: Christians in Israel are both secure and thriving.  

Remarkably, around a tenth of this hour-long documentary ostensibly about “Christians…fleeing Islamic extremists, conflict and persecution” is devoted to what Corbin variously terms “historic Palestine” and “the Holy Land”.

“The Christians of the Lebanon have a good chance of holding on, but only if their children feel they have a future in the region. That’s not certain when you look at where it all began: historic Palestine. The Christian community has dramatically declined in the very place where Christ was born: in the little town of Bethlehem on the West Bank Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”

Bethlehem is of course located in Area A and has been under the full control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995.

“It’s not Islamic State that threatens Christians here but a slow process of attrition. Decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have driven many Christians to emigrate. In the 1920s Bethlehem was almost completely Christian; only one Muslim family lived here. But now only a third of the town’s inhabitants are Christian.”

Corbin refrains from informing her viewers of some critical background to Bethlehem’s demographics:

“In 1947 the population of Bethlehem was 85% Christian. In 1990 23,000 Christians lived there, as a 60% majority. After the Palestinian Authority took over control of the town in 1995 the town’s municipal boundaries were altered to include concentrations of Muslim population, turning the Christians into a minority. By 2010 the number of Christians in Bethlehem had fallen to 7,500.”

Corbin continues:

“The Church of the Nativity marks the very place where Christ was born in a manger. It’s somewhere every devout Christian in the world wants to visit. Much of Bethlehem’s economy depends on pilgrimage and tourism and that always suffers when there’s conflict in the Holy Land.” […]

“During the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation a decade ago, the Church of the Nativity itself was besieged. Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants who’d taken refuge inside. Many Christians left Bethlehem following the uprising.” […]

Corbin makes no mention of the fact that the Palestinian terrorists who violently took over the church were in possession of weapons and explosives and held some 200 hostages – civilians and clergy.

“Life is hard in Bethlehem. The town’s now partly surrounded by the wall. Israel says it built this separation barrier for its security but Christians say it restricts their movement. Violence still regularly flares up in Bethlehem between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.” […]

Once again we see the BBC’s standard “Israel says” formula at work in relation to the anti-terrorist fence. As usual, no effort is made to provide audiences with factual information on the subject of the fence’s effectiveness in preventing the terror attacks which were the cause of its construction and just as Corbin avoids any mention of Palestinian terrorism during the second Intifada, she also erases it from her euphemistic description of contemporary violence which, according to her, just “flares up”. Corbin also repeats the standard inaccurate BBC claim according to which Bethlehem is “partially surrounded by the wall”. In fact, not only is there no anti-terrorist fence to the south and east of Bethlehem, but the section which can accurately be described as a “wall” is one small specific section.

“Some Christians also complain of discrimination against them by the Muslim majority and they fear increasing Islamic extremism in the area.” […]

That one-liner is of course the real story behind the plight of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem and elsewhere but – despite the ample evidence long available – it is one which does not fit the BBC narrative and hence has not been reported comprehensively. As we see, Corbin makes no effort to present an exception to that BBC rule.

“Many Christians in Bethlehem feel cut off from the greatest place of all in the life of Christ – just five miles away. Jerusalem is where three of the greatest religions on earth come together, making this the holiest city on earth. Two of those religions are still thriving in the Holy Land. Judaism is secure in the State of Israel and prayers in Jerusalem’s great Mosques echo those across the Middle East where Islam is predominant. Only Christianity is in terminal decline. They still worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site of Jesus’ tomb. But most visitors are from far away – from places where the religion’s growing. Soon these most symbolic sites could become just museums for international pilgrims. Few Christians actually live in the place where Jesus lived and died.”

In the year following the establishment of the State of Israel – 1949 – its Christian population numbered 34,000.  In 1947 there were 28,000 Christians living in Jerusalem. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the eastern part of the city, 61% of them left, with the population reduced to 11,000 when the city was reunited in 1967. At the end of 2012, The Christian population of Israel numbered 158,400, 80% of whom are Arab Christians living exactly in “the place where Jesus lived and died”: the Galilee and Jerusalem.

“Most Christian Arabs live in the northern Israel, and the cities with the largest Christian populations are Nazareth, with 22,400; Haifa with 14,400; Jerusalem with 11,700; and Shfaram with 9,400.”

One year later – December 2013 – the number of Christians living in Israel had risen to 160,900, indicating a natural growth rate of around 1.9%. By way of comparison, the natural growth rate of the UK population in 2013 was 0.6%.

So as we see, Corbin’s claim that “…in the Holy Land…Christianity is in terminal decline” is not evidence-based at all. Rather, it clearly flows from the exact same politically motivated source as Jeremy Bowen’s recent attempt to persuade BBC audiences that Israel is just as much a threat to Middle East Christians as the religiously motivated persecution and slaughter perpetrated by Islamist extremists.

The issue of the persecution of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East is one which clearly does need to be brought to audiences worldwide. It is therefore all the more regrettable that the BBC exploits this serious subject for the promotion of inaccurate, trite political narratives about the one country in the region in which they are not in danger, whilst at the same time downplaying and even concealing the real background to the plight of Christians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. 

BBC ME editor’s analysis of threat to Christians: IS, extreme Islam – and Israel

h/t: MG, SI

The April 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme included an interview (available here for a limited period of time from 01:49:45) with Cardinal Vincent Nichols on the subject of his recent visit to displaced Christian communities in Iraq.Today 14 4

 Immediately after that interview, presenter Mishal Husain brought in Jeremy Bowen (from 01:54:35) for further analysis of the issue of the plight of Christian communities in Iraq as described by Cardinal Nichols and listeners heard an ‘interesting’ interpretation of the cause of Islamist violence against Christians in that country.

MH: “On the line is our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Jeremy, listening to Cardinal Nichols, it’s a reminder that although we may see the fight against IS and the position in the Middle East at the moment often through sectarian…in sectarian terms and through that sort of prism, this has been traditionally a religiously diverse part of the world.”

JB: “Yes. In Syria and Iraq there was a delicate mosaic – a very interesting mosaic – of different faiths which really has been shattered now. In Iraq, in the last…since 2011…since the war started there…sorry; in Syria I should say…2011…but in Iraq it’s been going on since the invasion by American-led forces in 2003 in that since then, the population of Iraqi Christians has been reduced pretty much by more than half. And there have…it’s been a catastrophe for them which started before the rise of Islamic State, which started as a consequence of the invasion. And if you talk to the Christian communities in other parts of the Middle East as I often do, a lot of them will look to that example of Iraq and say we do not want to be like Iraq and now they’ll also say of course we don’t want to be like what’s been happening in Syria too.” [emphasis added]

Following a question about the possibility of Iraqi Christians from the Nineveh Plains being able to return to their homes, Husain said:

MH: “Perhaps we’ve only just recently woken up to the reality of what’s been happening to minority communities in this part of the world because of all the headlines and the attention that’s been grabbed by Islamic State. From what you’re saying, this is a much longer phenomenon.”

JB: “Well, Christians have been leaving the Middle East for an awfully long time. There are well-established groups of émigré Middle Eastern Christians in all sorts of countries – in South America for example; one region of the world. But…ehm…what has changed; the rise of extreme Islam – which of course has resulted in the killing of many Muslims – has also resulted over the last ten years or so in a lot of Christian communities being dislocated and it’s become particularly acute since the rise of Islamic State. And it’s not just Islamic State either: Christians in Egypt feel very threatened there by different kinds of religious extremism. There is still a large community of Christians in Egypt, also in Lebanon – they’re pretty well established in Lebanon and strong but they again feel pressure. And Palestinian Christians as well feel threatened from not just of course from extreme Islam, but they also feel threatened by what the Israeli government might be doing. So all round the place when you look at it, it’s difficult.” [emphasis added]

Bowen of course provided no fact-based support for his fallacious claim that Palestinian Christian communities are “threatened” by Israel and neither did he inform listeners that the Christian community in Israel is both safe and thriving.

But no less remarkable is the fact that Bowen would clearly have listeners believe that, in terms of threats to Middle East Christian communities, “what the Israeli government might be doing” (whatever that bizarre phrase is supposed to mean) can and should be seen as being on a par with the religiously motivated persecution and slaughter of Christians (and of course other minorities) by Islamist extremists.

And that, dear readers, is from the man whose entire job was created with the stated intention of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.