Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – December 2019

Throughout the month of December 2019, sixteen written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were carried over from the previous month and some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned external security issues:

Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes Jonathan Marcus (20/11/19 to 26/11/19 and 28/11/19 to 1/12/19)

One item related to political/legal issues:

ICC wants to open ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

One item concerned archaeology:

Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory (17/12/19 to 20/12/19)

Four reports related to religion/Christmas/Palestinians:

Jesus manger: Relic returns to Bethlehem in time for Christmas  (30/11/19 to 5/12/19)

Saint Barbara: A celebration for Arab Christians Barbara Plett Usher (17/12/19 to 31/12/19) discussed here

Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely (25/12 /19 to present) discussed here

Of nine items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, three concerned politics:

Israel will hold unprecedented third election in a year (12/12/19 to 17/12/19) discussed here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in party leadership challenge (26/12/19) discussed here and here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably wins party leadership challenge (27/12/19 to 30/12/19) discussed here

Four reports concerned legal/criminal cases, of which two related to a case in Cyprus in which Israelis had been released without charge in July, yet the BBC continued to publish reports on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page:

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’  (21/11/19 to 4/12/19 and 6/12/19 to 9/12/19)

Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned (25/11/19 to 2/12/19) discussed here

Ayia Napa Briton found guilty over false rape claim (30/12/19 to 31/12/19)

Ayia Napa: Foreign Office ‘concerned’ over Briton found guilty over rape claim (31/12/19 to present)

Two reports concerned social issues:

How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 1/1/20) discussed here

Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel? Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 26/12/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs. All of the December reporting concerning Palestinians came within the framework of one-sided Christmas coverage.

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

More BBC multi-platform exploitation of Christmas

The December 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – titled “The Meaning of Home” – included another example of the BBC’s decidedly desperate exploitation of Christmas for the promotion of politicised reporting. The item is described in the synopsis as follows:

“The story of the nativity often inspires people to show compassion to the homeless around Christmas. Pregnant women and new mothers are particularly vulnerable. But the challenges of new life don’t end with finding a safe place to stay. On the occupied West Bank, Jeremy Bristow recently travelled with a group of female medics to visit the minority Arab Bedouin population.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 22:23 here) thus:

Adie: “Far from home, vulnerable and nowhere to stay, the Christmas story reflects what is still a worldwide problem and acts as a reminder to us all to help. But the challenges of a new life don’t end with finding a safe haven. On the occupied West Bank Jeremy Bristow recently travelled with a group of medics to visit a community from the minority Arab Bedouin population.”

Quite what the BBC imagines is the connection of Bedouin tribes from the Arabian Peninsula, who took over parts of the Judean Desert during the period of Ottoman rule, to the nativity story is unclear. 

The story told by Jeremy Bristow to Radio 4 listeners is almost identical to that appearing in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Stories’ pages on December 25th under the headline “The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely”.

“Jeremy Bristow discovers that an ancient Christian order is providing maternity services for some of the poorest people in the Bethlehem area – the sheep-raising Bedouin.”

Both the written and audio accounts begin with the promotion of artificial linkage between the Christmas story and the topic of Bristow’s report – a Bedouin tribe located a 25 kilometre drive away from Bethlehem.

“We drove through Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem. “Beit” in Arabic means ”house”, and “sahour” means “night watch”. As tradition has it, this is close to the place where an angel once appeared before three star-struck shepherds and announced the imminent birth of a saviour. But today’s shepherds, the Bedouin, live further out of town.”

Ignoring the fact that sheep rearing is by no means confined to the Bedouin sector, Bristow goes on to tick the BBC’s boxes with an entirely unrelated reference to ‘settlements’.

“The rock-strewn desert landscape is occasionally overlooked by glistening white Israeli settlements straddling the high ground above.”

BBC audiences are told that:

“All the women and children seeking treatment from the mobile medical team on this occasion were Bedouin from the al-Rashaydah tribe, whose members are scattered across a dozen countries from Tunisia to Oman. They gave their name to this village when they were moved here by the Israeli authorities, in their third resettlement since they were forced to leave historic grazing grounds near the Dead Sea in the early 1970s. […]

Al-Rashaydah, like many villages in the occupied West Bank, is surrounded by land controlled by Israel. The Bedouin are forbidden to graze their livestock there.”

Bristow does not bother to inform his audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the village of Al-Rashaydah is under Palestinian Authority control or that the proximate area to the east is a nature reserve established under the same agreement. He does not explain how the claim that they are “forbidden to graze their livestock” squares with his previous description of the Al-Rashaydah Bedouin as “today’s shepherds”. In fact a Palestinian website’s description of a nature reserve to the west of the village states that it used for grazing sheep and goats (as well as tourism) and mentions Al-Rashayda by name.

BBC audiences are told that:

“In both Israel and the West Bank the once self-sufficient Bedouin have become increasingly dependent on outside support. They see themselves as second-class citizens. Unemployment is high, educational achievement is low and there are high rates of infant mortality, premature births, anaemia, and stunted growth in children…”

However no information is provided concerning the cultural aspects of such phenomena – for example:

“…Bedouins largely remain a traditional society organized into tribes in which men are responsible for decision-making. There are high rates of consanguinity (60%), often between first cousins, and polygamy (25%). Women are often undereducated and do not work outside of the home. In some families, women are restricted from leaving the home without a male chaperone, which may interfere with timely utilization of health services. Many Bedouin women suffer from nutritional deficiencies, putting them at risk for delivering prematurely and for certain congenital malformations. In addition, Bedouin children suffer from nutritional deficiencies, especially anemia, which together with crowded living conditions is a risk factor for contracting infectious diseases. Bedouins have a high fertility rate and nearly half of the births in the Negev are in this population despite comprising 30% of the population. Women tend to give birth frequently and the interpregnancy interval is short, which can lead to preterm delivery, low birth weight, an increased risk for congenital malformations, and infant mortality.”

A sub-heading in the written report poses the question “Were ancient shepherds male or female?” and is accompanied by an image of the nativity scene.

Readers once again find the suggestion that the Bedouin are somehow connected to the nativity story. [emphasis added]

“The gospel of Luke says: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them.”

It wasn’t only nomadic Bedouin who kept sheep in ancient times, villagers did too, says Joan Taylor, professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London. The shepherds could be male or female, “and often in antiquity, as today, they were children”.

The Greek word used by Luke to refer to the shepherds is “gender-inclusive”, she adds.”

At the bottom of the written article readers are offered a link to a highly problematic article first published in 2014.

“A Palestinian Christian family that preaches non-violence from a farm in the West Bank is battling to hold on to land it has owned for a century. Now surrounded by Israeli settlements, the family is a living example of the idea of peaceful resistance.”

As we see, the BBC’s brazen multi-platform exploitation of Christmas for the promotion of one-sided political narratives continues apace.

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Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

 

 

The BBC’s biased Bethlehem binge continues

Yesterday we documented an overtly politicised Christmas report by Barbara Plett Usher which was aired on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ on Christmas Eve.

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

An extended version of that audio report was also broadcast on three additional BBC radio programmes on December 24th with the following introductions:

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

1) BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ (from 46:37 here)

Mishal Husain: “Now, Bethlehem relies on tourists at this time of year and this Christmas looks like being the best for some years after a time of relative peace. It is a Palestinian city in the West Bank which is feeling the economic effect of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Barbara Plett Usher reports from there.”

2) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ afternoon edition (from 45:04 here)

Tim Franks: “Bethlehem is preparing for what it hopes will be the best Christmas in years as the city now boasts a fragment of wood believed by some to have formed part of Jesus’ manger. The relic’s been returned from the Vatican where it’s been since the 7th century. But even with that boost, the biblical town revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ remains fragile. The once thriving local Christian community is dwindling – partly because of the economic effect of the Israeli occupation with restrictions on freedom of movement which Israel argues are for security reasons, which Palestinians say damage not only their economy but their dignity as well. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight this Christmas.”

3) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ evening edition (from 36:59 here)

Julian Marshall: “Pilgrims from around the world are preparing to begin Christmas celebrations with midnight mass in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Modern Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Its holy sites are administered by the Greek Orthodox and Latin patriarchies. But the once thriving Palestinian Christian community has dwindled. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Palestinians say these measures significantly harm their freedom and their economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight at Christmas.”

Once again we see BBC journalists using the term “Israeli occupied” without any mention of the fact that Bethlehem came under complete Palestinian Authority control twenty-four years ago in December 1995.

Yet again listeners were not informed that no “restrictions on freedom of movement” existed until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada in the year 2000 and they heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism that murdered and wounded thousands of Israeli civilians and which brought security measures such as checkpoints and the anti-terrorist fence into existence.

The BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation under the terms of an agreement signed by the Palestinians as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence, as was promotion of the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

And yet again BBC audiences were not provided with the context which would enhance their understanding of why the Palestinian Christian community is ‘dwindling’ – including the issue of Palestinian Authority persecution and discrimination – or any significant information concerning Bethlehem’s economy beyond the trite politicised slogans blaming Israel.

The extended version of Barbara Plett Usher’s report (a filmed version of which was also aired on BBC television on Christmas Eve) includes an interview with a man dressed up as Santa in Manger Square during which listeners heard that “Bethlehem is a city of peace” despite the fact that it has been the source of many terror attacks and plots. The part of Plett Usher’s report describing St Catherine’s church and an Airbnb in Deheishe are expanded and we discover that she badgered more than one American tourist in order to promote her own political agenda.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist 1: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist 1: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist 1: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist 1: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then. That so it’s about the future as well.”

Tourist 2: “We’re from the US, yes.”

Plett Usher: “And what do you think of Bethlehem?”

Tourist 2: “Ah, it’s beautiful.”

Plett Usher: “What about the politics? Do you know…”

Tourist 2: “I don’t know much about it. All I know is my saviour Jesus Christ. That’s all I know. That’s all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. Yeah, and my eyes are open now that I’m here.”

Plett Usher: “What have you seen now that your eyes are open?”

Tourist 2: “Oh well, it’s as if I was coming to life, so yes.”

There is of course nothing novel about a BBC journalist exploiting the ‘season of goodwill’ to promote her own political agenda which includes misinformation about a structure built to protect Israeli civilians of all faiths and ethnicities from Palestinian terrorism. Many BBC employees have done the exact same over the years while studiously avoiding any serious reporting on the topic of the beleaguered Christians living under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule.

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BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

The December 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included yet another example (from 13:00 here) of the BBC’s politicisation of Christmas.

Presenter Alex Ritson introduced the report by Barbara Plett Usher.  

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

Ritson: “Bethlehem – regarded as the birthplace of Jesus – typically sees a tourism boom at Christmas and this year looks like it could be one of the busiest in recent memory. But as a Palestinian town in the West Bank, Bethlehem is also feeling the economic effects of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Barbara Plett Usher reports from the holy city.”

Bethlehem of course came under complete Palestinian Authority control exactly twenty-four years before this item was aired, in December 1995. Listeners heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism which made security measures necessary but the BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence.

Plett Usher: “There’s an enormous Christmas tree in Manger Square, sparkling with many, many, many lights and the place is packed with people coming for the opening of the Christmas fair. Lots of kind of anticipation, excitement, Christmas cheer. This is really when Bethlehem comes into its own. This is really Bethlehem’s time of the year. There’s plenty of good cheer. Tourism is a bright spot despite dark times for the Palestinian economy.”

Plett Usher avoided informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes are largely self-inflicted and that they are the result of its insistence on paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

Plett Usher: “Across the square in the Church of St Catharine’s [sic] a procession of priests in a cloud of incense is descending to the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born. This happens every day but this Christmas is special because they have a piece of the manger – a gift from the Vatican. It’s a tiny splinter but a big boost for Bethlehem’s Christians, decimated by waves of emigration.”

Plett Usher made no effort to enhance her audience’s understanding of the context to those “waves of emigration”.

Obviously unable to distinguish between concrete and cement, Plett Usher went on to promote the false notion of Bethlehem being ‘squeezed’ by security measures for which she once again failed to provide any context.

Plett Usher: “Tourists vastly outnumber the Palestinian Christians. They roll into the little town of Bethlehem past what Israel calls its security barrier – the towering cement wall, as residents call it – as part of a system of controls that’s squeezing Bethlehem into an ever-shrinking space. That doesn’t stop the tide of visitors but many know more about the past than the present.”

Listeners then heard Plett Usher badgering a tourist in order to promote her own political activism while advancing the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then that so it’s about the future as well.”

photo credit: Adam Levick

Refraining from informing listeners that it is located on land purchased by Jews before 1948, Plett Usher then visited a ‘conflict tourism industry’ site in the Deheishe refugee camp. Listeners were of course not informed why ‘refugee camps’ still exist in an area under Palestinian control for nearly a quarter of a century.  

Plett Usher: “Not everyone can avoid the politics or wants to. So this is Deheishe refugee camp. Ahmed has come to take me to his Airbnb. Ahmed Fararja is renting a room near Bethlehem to a young Slovenian student, Clara Suroneg [phonetic]. She’s the latest adventure tourist to respond to his advertisement offering an alternative kind of holiday.”

Clara: “The refugee camp is actually like a…they’re all connected between each other, you know, all the people know each other and in the end of the day you see that you really think in the same ways but you come from two different places in the world.”

Plett Usher: “It’s that connection to the world that Ahmed is looking for.”

Ahmed: “You know the people here are not…most of them are not allowed to go outside and especially to the outside world and they see the outside world in your eyes.”

No effort was made to counter that propaganda by informing listeners that thousands of Palestinians “go outside” every day. Plett Usher closed her report with another politicised portrayal of Bethlehem’s economy.

Plett Usher: “There’s a children’s choir now in Manger Square. Business is really booming here this year. But you never know; next year could be a bust. When you can’t control your own space, things are very fragile. The one constant is faith. The faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen.”

Once again we see the BBC indulging its own political activism by exploiting Christmas to produce blatantly partial reporting which hinders audience understanding of the topic.

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BBC Radio 4 religious show airs anodyne report on Palestinian Christians

h/t MD

The December 22nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 religious affairs programme ‘Sunday’ included a report from the BBC world affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan whose highly problematic video purporting to explain Judaism to BBC journalists still remains on the BBC Academy website.

Presenter Edward Stourton opened the item (from 14:34 here) with a reference to the Banksy agitprop unveiled hours earlier. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Stourton: “Well Christian Christmas has been marked in Bethlehem by a new Banksy installation framing the manger scene with Israel’s separation wall. This time last year Israel allowed some 700 Palestinians living in Gaza to travel to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem over the Christmas period. Earlier this month the Israeli authorities announced they won’t be doing the same this year. They say many Gazans who are allowed to visit the West Bank outstay their permits. The episode illustrates the kind of pressures faced by the Christian minority in Gaza and the West Bank. My colleague Emily Buchanan was in Bethlehem not long before the recent announcement.”

That initial announcement was actually amended on the same day as this programme was aired but that fact is not reflected on its web page.

If listeners thought that they were about to hear some in-depth reporting on why Christians from the Gaza Strip “outstay their permits” (none of whom have been interviewed by the BBC in the past year) and what exactly the “pressures faced by the Christian minority in Gaza and the West Bank” are, they would have been disappointed. Emily Buchanan began by describing the scene at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and then spoke to a priest.

Buchanan: “And how is it now? How difficult is it? I mean you’re in charge of the Church of the Nativity which is the big church, the church over the site where Jesus Christ was born. What are the changes that you’re seeing in the Christian community here?”

Priest: “Actually we are having the big problems that the people emigrated from Bethlehem to go around over around the world and the problem is lack of money, the problem lack of freedom. That’s why we are losing people, not gaining more people, getting more.”

The priest went on to state that the Christian Orthodox community in Bethlehem amounts to about three thousand people and commented “but day by day I see less people”.

Buchanan then went to visit a souvenir shop.

Buchanan: “Outside the church is bustling Manger Square with its shops selling olive wood nativity scenes, mother of pearl crosses and colourful ceramics. Tourism is vital to these Christian businesses and a major part of Bethlehem’s economy. One business is run by a couple called, appropriately, Joseph and Mary. Joseph Jacaman is a carpenter and I went to visit him in his workshop.”

After a discussion with the carpenter about his carvings, Buchanan told listeners that:

Buchanan: “Business fluctuates with every outbreak of violence in the region and many Christians have opted to emigrate.”

Listeners were not of course told who is responsible for those ‘outbreaks’ of violence before Buchanan went on to speak with the shop owner’s son.

Buchanan: “I asked him what pressures they’re facing.”

Jacaman: “Palestinian are suffering always in the holy land. Either Christians or Muslims, they are suffering the same way. I mean political situation is not good. Don’t have long-term plans. The war would start in this region any time. Intifada will start any minute. Business goes up and down. Things keep changing and it’s the holy land. You want to live in the holy land? You have to get used to this. It was never peace here. Go with the history, hundred years ago, it’s the same always.”

Buchanan: “How do you live day to day here when it’s so hard to plan ahead and to know what’s going to happen?”

Jacaman: “You have two options. Option one is to do like many people; just keep saying situation are not good, situation is not good, we can’t invest, we can’t do anything and you stay where you are. At the end you will just leave this country and go live abroad and I don’t know what kind of life you can have. I’m sure 10% of the people who went outside they lived good life. But 90% are still poor because they couldn’t do anything in their country they can do it outside.”

Buchanan: “What sort of message would you like to send to the audience who might be listening to this programme in England?”

Jacaman: “What we have been asking for years and years: just pray for peace. Pray for peace in the holy land, even now in the Middle East.”

The item ended there and while one cannot blame either of Buchanan’s interviewees for skirting the real issues or promoting the notion that both “Christians or Muslims, they are suffering in the same way”, it is abundantly clear that Emily Buchanan – like so many BBC journalists before her – had no interest in producing a report which provided BBC audiences with the full range of information which would genuinely enhance their understanding of the “pressures” faced by Palestinian Christians.

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BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

In addition to the BBC News website’s written puff piece relating to the latest agitprop in Bethlehem from Banksy, the corporation also promoted the same story on television and radio.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 22nd heard an item (from 33:52 here) which not only gave uncritical amplification to what is clearly no more than an exercise in delegitimisation of Israel but also gravely misled BBC audiences.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item.

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

Menendez: “The British street artist Banksy has made a big name for himself with his witty, provocative and usually political graffiti. His most famous images have been widely reproduced. Perhaps less well-known is his campaigning against Israel’s separation barrier: the high wall dividing Israel and the West Bank and in places cutting deeper into Palestinian territory. The UN’s highest court has advised that it contravenes international law.”

Menendez made no effort to inform listeners either at that point or any other in the four and a quarter minute item that – despite his description of a “high wall” – over 95% of the anti-terrorist fence is made of wire mesh.

His claim that in places the fence cuts ‘deeper into Palestinian territory’ fits in with the BBC narrative according to which areas that the Palestinians agreed under the terms of the Oslo Accords would have their final status determined through negotiations with Israel (in this case locations in Area C) are described using the pre-emptive phrase “Palestinian territory”, which is of course unhelpful and even misleading to audiences.

Predictably Menendez made no effort to inform listeners that the cited ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation before continuing with a coy description of ownership as “an interest”:

Menendez: “Well it turns out Banksy has an interest in a small hotel in Bethlehem called the Walled Off Hotel – that’s walled off, not Waldorf – and has just produced a new work to sit inside the lobby. It is a Christmas manger scene called ‘the scar of Bethlehem’ and it shows the manger by Israel’s separation barrier which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star. Well the hotel manager Wissam Salsaa has been telling me more.”

Salsaa: “The holy family is just a classical holy family but the background of the holy family is a replica of the separation wall that Israel built round the Palestinian cities and of course there’s a big part of it around the town of Bethlehem. And on the middle there is a kind of shell hole carved the wall as a scar. So this nativity scene…I mean it looks like the star of Bethlehem but Banksy called it the scar of Bethlehem.”

Menendez refrained from telling listeners that Israel did not build a “wall” – or a fence – “round the Palestinian cities” at all – including Bethlehem. Indeed, the BBC presenter proceeded with the false claim that “the wall runs through Bethlehem”:

Menendez: “And the background that people should understand as well is that – as you say – that the separation barrier, the wall, runs through Bethlehem but specifically runs right round the back of your hotel. I mean I think all the rooms overlook the barrier; is that right?”

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

Salsaa: “Yes, the Walled Off hotel – a hotel that was created by Banksy in 2017 – located about 4 meters away from the separation wall. It is known as the hotel with the worst view in the world. Usually our room sells according to the view: the worse the view is, the more expensive the room becomes.”

Menendez made no effort to clarify that the location of the propaganda exercise that is the hotel was selected precisely because of its proximity to the small section of the anti-terrorist fence made of concrete at that location.

Menendez: “But how has this work gone down in Bethlehem? What’s been the response to it?”

Salsaa: “Yeah I mean I heard some of the responses. I think people so appreciative to this contribution by Banksy to Bethlehem because Christmas started in Bethlehem but unfortunately we in Bethlehem we don’t live normal Christmas because of our situation. So it’s putting the spotlight on our pain.”

Menendez then came up with the falsehood that no terror attacks have taken place “for…three years now”. Since the beginning of this year alone 218 attacks have taken place in Jerusalem and on the Israeli side of the ‘green line’ – some of which were perpetrated by residents of PA controlled areas in Judea & Samaria.  

Menendez: “Israel of course says the barrier is necessary to prevent terror attacks and there hasn’t been one for, what, three years now. I mean have they got a point do you think?”

Salsaa: “Building the wall?”

Menendez: “Yeah, building the wall, yeah.”

Salsaa: “Actually I mean if you come over here and you could see in your eyes that there are thousands of Palestinians – Palestinian labourers – sneak into Israel every day to go and work. They use ladders and grappling hooks to climb the wall. So I don’t think that the wall could prevent terrorism or violence. I completely disagree with that.”

The Palestinians who illegally enter Israeli territory do so – according to Israel’s former Chief of Staff – in places where the anti-terrorist fence has yet to be constructed rather than in locations where a ‘wall’ has to be climbed. Salsaa went on – unchallenged by Menendez – to promote more baseless propaganda.

Salsaa: “Beside that, the wall is not built on a border. So like if you look at the map of the wall you would see that the wall is strangling for example Bethlehem; is converting Bethlehem into an open-air prison. So the wall is not the border. You cannot talk about the border between two countries. You are talking about a different set-up, OK, and this is the problem. Of course I mean security is important for everyone. We talk about peace; peace should be for everyone. So walls cannot be an answer for the circumstances of the conflict that we are living in.”

Menendez: “And given the way things have been going, do you have any optimism that the wall will come down any time soon?”

Salsaa: “Well honestly I mean…yeah I mean the political situation are not so much encouraging but of course as human beings we should have some hope and the hope that I have is a big support by Banksy and through art we try to speak out and raise our voice. The set up of the Walled Off Hotel and the activities have been mainly led by Banksy in our part of the world are so essential in promoting creativity and positive way of resistance instead of violence. So today we Palestinians can raise our voice in a very positive way.”

Menendez closed the item at that point, with BBC audiences having been exposed to over four minutes of totally unchallenged and entirely one-sided propaganda concerning the anti-terrorist fence, without even one mention of the hundreds of Israeli civilians murdered in the attacks which were the reason for its construction.

Related Articles:

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BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

For years the BBC has uncritically promoted the recurrent anti-Israel propaganda produced by the anonymous English political activist known as Banksy.

It hence came as no surprise to see that the lead report on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of December 22nd did not concern the tens of thousands of people forced to flee Idlib province in Syria after over 400 airstrikes by Syrian and Russian forces but instead promoted yet another piece of the graffiti artist’s agitprop.

In addition to the report headlined “Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel” audiences were offered links both on the ‘Middle East’ page and in the body of the article to two previous examples from the same BBC genre:

Multiplatform BBC amplification for anti-Israel ‘political statement’ PR campaign

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

The report recycles messaging which has previously appeared in related BBC content.

“A manger scene by British artist Banksy has appeared at a hotel in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Dubbed the “Scar of Bethlehem”, the work shows Jesus’s manger by Israel’s separation barrier, which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star.

On Instagram, the artist said the work was a “modified Nativity”.

Israel says the barrier is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land.

The International Court of Justice has called it illegal.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content relating to the anti-terrorist fence, audiences are not informed that 95% of the structure is made of wire mesh or that the paraphrased ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation.  While the article  includes the standard employment of the qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to portray the structure’s purpose, the view presented to BBC audiences excludes any mention of the murders of hundreds of Israeli men, women and children by Palestinian terrorists that preceded the fence’s construction.

Readers are later informed that:

“All the rooms in the Walled Off hotel overlook a concrete section of the controversial West Bank barrier.”

Apparently the BBC is quite happy to employ the word “controversial” in relation to the anti-terrorist fence which has dramatically reduced Palestinian acts of violence but does not find it necessary to use the same terminology to describe the hundreds of terror attacks against civilians which brought about its construction.

Readers also find the following:

“Hotel manager Wissam Salsaa said Banksy had used the Christmas story to show how Palestinians in the West Bank were living.

“It is a great way to bring up the story of Bethlehem, the Christmas story, in a different way – to make people think more,” he said. […]

“Banksy is trying to be a voice for those that cannot speak,” Mr Salsaa added.”

There is of course nothing at all “different” about this latest exploitation of the nativity story for political ends – as the BBC obviously knows full well seeing as two years ago it collaborated with precisely such an initiative. And clearly the notion that the Palestinian people “cannot speak” is ridiculous given the amount of airtime and column space devoted to their views by the Western media- including the BBC.

This latest Christmas exploiting self-conscription to a long-running PR campaign promoting anonymous agitprop intended solely to delegitimise Israel continues to further erode the BBC’s claim of ‘impartiality’.

 

BBC amends ‘Newsround’ Christmas feature which breached style guide

Earlier this week we noted that a December 5th BBC ‘Newsround’ photo feature aimed at children aged 6 to 12 presented a photograph of a Christmas tree in Ramallah as having been taken “in Palestine”.

As we observed, the use of that terminology breaches the BBC Academy’s guide for journalists reporting on ‘Israel and the Palestinians’ and a complaint was submitted by BBC Watch on December 14th.

BBC’s ‘Newsround’ breaches BBC Academy style guide

On December 17th we received an email from BBC Complaints claiming that they were “unable to reply”.

“Thank you for contacting us about the BBC News website.

We regret that at present we’re unable to reply, unless we receive the URL to the article mentioned in your complaint.

Please contact us as you did before and include the above case reference number so we can pick up where we’ve left off.”

The relevant URL was in fact included in our complaint, as shown in the screenshot below:

However by the time that superfluous email from BBC Complaints was sent, the photo feature concerned had been amended and it now carries the date stamp December 16th.

Instead of the original seven photographs – three (42.8%) of which portrayed Christmas trees in areas ruled by either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas – the feature now carries eleven images: the original seven as well as additions from Belarus, Manchester, Moscow and El Salvador.

The caption to the photograph from Ramallah has been changed, with the word “Palestine” replaced by “the Middle East”.

However no footnote has been added to advise BBC audiences of the amendment.

BBC’s ‘Newsround’ breaches BBC Academy style guide

On December 5th the BBC’s ‘Newsround’ website – which is aimed at children aged 6 to 12 – published a photo feature titled “Christmas trees from around the world”:

“It’s December so that means it’s almost Christmas! And of course it also means festive firs are being put up all over the world. Here are some of the best ones from 2019 so far.”

The item features seven captioned photographs taken in various locations: Lithuania, New York, Gaza, Prague, Ramallah, California and Bethlehem. In other words, three out of the seven images (42.8%) portray Christmas trees in areas ruled by either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

Moreover, the caption to the fifth image reads:

“Another great display in Palestine! Fireworks lit up the sky as Ramallah switched on the lights for their giant Christmas tree.”

That wording obviously suggests to readers that both Gaza (referring to a previous photo) and Ramallah are located in a country called Palestine.

The BBC Academy’s guide for journalists reporting on ‘Israel and the Palestinians’ states:

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

BBC Watch has submitted a complaint concerning that use of terminology which misleads the BBC’s younger audiences.

Related Articles:

Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

The BBC can only find Christmas trees in ‘Palestine’  David Collier 

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