Political messaging eclipses context in BBC WS Fourth of July report

Listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 4th heard a report from Yolande Knell in which information and context were side lined in favour of political messaging.

The introduction given by programme host Dan Damon (from 18:08 here) included the claim that there is such a thing as “international policy”.

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

Damon: “As the United States celebrates Independence Day, in Israel local officials and American diplomats are marking what they say are their closest ever ties. For the first time the US embassy to Israel has held its 4th of July party in Jerusalem; this of course after President Trump recognised that city as Israel’s capital – a controversial departure from long-time international policy. Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis have criticised recent actions by US Ambassador David Friedman in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their hoped-for future state. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Listeners heard the sound of fireworks before Knell began with an incomplete and context-free portrayal of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister. While listeners could be forgiven for assuming that Netanyahu had compared “relations with this White House” to those with previous US administrations, he did not. 

Knell: “Off with a bang. The US embassy held its first ever Independence Day party in Jerusalem this week. Watching the fireworks with their wives: the ambassador and Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He celebrated his close relations with this White House.”

Recording Netanyahu: “…and it’s wonderful to have the greatest power on earth not opposing the Jewish state but supporting the Jewish state. What a twist.”

Listeners then heard that archaeology is “an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda”, although it is doubtful that they would be aware of the background to Knell’s reference to the opening of an archaeological site seeing as the BBC has failed to produce any reporting on that story.

Knell: “And breaking past conventions, there’ve also been some unusual shows of US support for an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda. Wielding a hammer, Ambassador David Friedman smashed through an underground wall to open a controversial Jewish archaeology centre in East Jerusalem.”

Recording Friedman: “Why would an American ambassador come to this event and speak at this event? Some people – not necessarily friends of ours – are obsessing about my being here.”

Listeners heard the unexplained sound of some sort of machinery working before Knell continued:

Knell: “Above the site in Silwan, tunneling has badly damaged some Palestinian homes. And the action of the top diplomat was seen as confirmation that the US is recognising Israeli control over East Jerusalem and supports the presence of Jewish settlers here on land the Palestinians want for their own state.”

Knell’s promotion of the claim made by local activists that houses in Silwan have been “badly damaged” by the archaeological dig is not supported by an interview with a local resident which appeared in the Jerusalem Post:

“There are cracks in some walls. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Some residents have hired lawyers to ask for financial compensation to renovate their homes. I heard that some people did receive compensation.”

Knell refrained from informing audiences that the people she dubbed “Jewish settlers” reside in legally purchased properties. Interestingly, the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ is as follows:

“Settlements are residential areas built by the Israeli government in the territories occupied by Israel following the June 1967 war.” [emphasis added] 

That is not the case in Silwan, where some Israelis live in previously existing housing. However Knell steered listeners towards a narrative which characterises the purchase of property in certain areas of a city by people of a specific faith and ethnicity as “illegal” and undesirable. One of course doubts very much that the BBC would encourage its audiences to view neighbourhoods of mixed religion, ethnicity (and perhaps colour or sexual orientation) in any other city in such a light.

Knell also failed to inform listeners that Silwan was also previously known as Kfar Shiloach, that its Jewish residents were expelled by British Mandate forces after waves of Arab rioting and that, like the rest of the area conquered by Jordan in 1948, its subsequent annexation by Jordan was not recognised by the international community.

Knell next inadequately introduced her first interviewee:

Knell: “Jawad Siam lives locally.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, she did not bother to inform listeners that the professional political activist Siam (who has previously appeared in BBC content) has been campaigning against the archaeological dig for years.

Siam: “We are used that the USA supporting Israel but even it didn’t reach this level. He behaved like any other settlers in Palestine. He behaved like the Right wings in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset. He does not see Palestinians have any right neither in Jerusalem nor Palestine.”

Knell continued with a reference to another inadequately presented event.

Knell: “Nearby, a musician plays the oud as the call to prayer rings out from the Al Aqsa Mosque. This gathering was at a sensitive spot by the Western Wall – the holiest site where Jews can pray. It was hosted by a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by a US billionaire who’s also a donor to President Trump and the discussion was about Washington’s latest peace efforts.”

That “sensitive spot” is the Davidson Center and the “gathering” was the ‘Israel Hayom Forum on US-Israel Relations’. Listeners then heard an edited recording of part of a speech made by US special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at that event.

Recording Greenblatt: “We might get there if people recognise that vague terms such as ‘international law’, ‘UN resolutions’ and ‘internationally recognised parameters’ are not always clear-cut…”

Knell: “The president’s advisor, Jason Greenblatt – just back from a workshop in Bahrain.”

Greenblatt: “We might get there if people stop pretending settlements – or what I like to call neighbourhoods and cities – are the reason for the lack of peace.”

Knell then made sure that listeners did not forget the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’.

Knell: “Jewish settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israeli authorities disagree. As Left-wing Israelis worry about changes in US language and long-held policy in East Jerusalem, I meet Hagit Ofran from the NGO ‘Peace Now’.”

Listeners were told nothing of the political agenda of ‘Peace Now – not least the fact that it organised a demonstration against the opening of the ‘Pilgrimage Road’ archaeological site – again despite BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees should be clarified.

Ofran: “This is the most delicate place of our conflict – the volcanic core – a few meters from the Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif, al Aqsa mosque. You cannot come with sledgehammers and say this is Israel sovereignty. You should come with tweezers and settle this place in a way that respects everybody.”

Knell closed her report with more promotion of a specific narrative:

Knell: “Back at the embassy’s Independence Day party, most Israelis are delighted about this White House’s strong backing for their country. But there are warnings too: that by losing credibility as a peace broker with the Palestinians, it could make it harder to resolve the conflict here and that would ultimately go against Israel’s interests.”

While Knell was apparently not interested in reporting on the Second Temple era archaeological discoveries that she portrayed as “controversial”, she clearly was interested in using them to advance an overtly political and completely one-sided narrative on Jerusalem – and the Israelis living in one of its neighbourhoods.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Bowen continues to pronounce the demise of the two-state solution

BBC’s Middle East editor Tweets about ‘attitudes’

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

h/t AB

Our documentation of the BBC’s decidedly uninformative coverage of Operation Northern Shield has so far included one item aired on BBC World Service radio. On December 19th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard an additional report from the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience which was introduced by presenter Dan Damon (from 43:03 here) as follows.

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

Damon: “The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss rising tensions between Lebanon and Israel – that is later today. Israel says it’s discovered four tunnels that it claims were dug by the Lebanese militant group Hizballah and which were designed to launch attacks inside Israel. For the past two weeks Israeli troops have been working to destroy those tunnels. Our Lebanon correspondent Martin Patience has visited one of the affected areas on the border – the so-called Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since arriving in Beirut, Martin Patience has not – as far as we are aware – produced any reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and Hizballah’s recurrent violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Patience: “We’re on a hilltop and there’s an extraordinary scene in front of me. A couple of meters away is barbed wire that marks the Blue Line – the division between Lebanon and Israel. There’s a dozen or more soldiers on this side wearing blue helmets. They’re from the UN peacekeeping force. And then just beyond that barbed wire I can see an Israeli soldier and beyond the Israeli soldier there are three diggers excavating the hillside. It has started to rain and come down hard. Now what exactly they’re looking for we aren’t sure. But we know that Israel says that Hizballah – the Lebanese militia – has been digging tunnels in this part of the country, right here at the border.”

Patience should of course have been able to tell his listeners “exactly” what the Israeli forces are “looking for” because they had been making that point crystal clear for over two weeks before Patience went on air. Listeners then heard the first of two pointless conversations with anonymous ‘locals’.

Patience: “There’s quite a few young men up here who’ve come to take a look at what’s going on. We’re going to see if we can grab a word with someone. One of them tells me the situation is unpleasant but he’s just waiting to see what will happen. So too are many in Lebanon. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if Hizballah tries to disrupt the search for the tunnels it will be hit in a way that it cannot even imagine.”

Failing to tell audiences that at least one of the tunnels had been dug literally meters away from a UNIFIL position, Patience went on:

Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Tenenti: “I would say that there is a difference between rhetoric – political rhetoric – and the reality on the ground. On the ground we are doing our job with over 400 activities per day with our troops and we have the support of the parties and the commitment of the parties in implementing our mandate.”

Patience: “At least two of the tunnels violate Israeli sovereignty.”

Listeners then heard Tenenti inaccurately suggest that UN Security Council resolution 1701 is only violated by the two tunnels that UNIFIL has so far confirmed infiltrate Israeli territory.

Tenenti: “We confirmed the presence of four tunnels but we were able to verify so far with our technical team – independent technical team – two tunnels violate UN Security Council resolution 1701. So they are violations of UNIFIL’s mandate.”

Rather than clarifying that misleading statement and pointing out to listeners that any and all Hizballah presence and activity south of the Litani River is in fact a violation of that UNSC resolution, Patience went on:

Patience: “But both the UN and Lebanon say that Israeli fighter jets frequently violate Lebanese airspace. And here in Lebanon the issue of the tunnels is widely seen as an Israeli attempt to put diplomatic pressure on Hizballah.”

Failing to explain that Hizballah started the 2006 war when it conducted a cross-border raid, killed and abducted Israeli soldiers and launched missiles at Israeli civilians, Patience continued:

Patience: “The Lebanese militant organisation has been noticeably silent about recent events but in 2006 a devastating war broke out between Hizballah and Israel and that’s always at the back of people’s minds. Technically the two countries are still at a state of war.”

In fact Hizballah’s second in command has not been “silent about recent events”.

“Qassem said that Hezbollah too would not initiate war, but would respond to Israeli aggression and that such a response and counter-response could potentially lead to war.

According to Qassem, Israel’s home front, including Tel Aviv, are under threat. “There is not a place in the Zionist entity that is not within Hezbollah’s range,” he said.”

Listeners than heard more anonymous comment from a ‘man on the hill’.

Patience: “Back at the border I ask a Lebanese man whether he’s worried that the current situation could trigger a conflict. He tells me he doesn’t think so because if it was going to happen it would have happened by now. For the moment neither side appears to be spoiling for a fight. But there remains unfinished business between Israel and Hizballah and the fear always is that a small incident here on the border could trigger something far worse.”

Yet again we see that BBC reporting on this ongoing story makes no absolutely no effort to meet the corporation’s obligation to provide audiences with the information necessary for its full understanding.

Related Articles:

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part two

As documented in part one of this post, on September 17th viewers of two BBC television channels saw a narrative-driven report blighted by important omissions on the subject of the Bedouin encampment called Khan al Ahmar produced by the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

On the same day listeners to two different BBC radio stations heard an audio version of Bowen’s report and the following day it was heard yet again by listeners to BBC World Service radio. The almost identical introductions to the report gave clear signposting to BBC audiences in all three cases. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) BBC World Service, ‘Newshour‘, September 17th, presented by Tim Franks, from 45:05 here.

Franks: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted also by the backing that they’ve had from President Trump. Most of the world though regards Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation and that the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law. The consequent fear is that the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Israeli settlers which will in turn split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

2) BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, September 17th, presented by Ritula Shah, from 17:35 here.

Shah: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court there authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted too by the backing they’ve had from President Trump. But most of the world believes Israel is an occupier in the West Bank and that the Jewish settlements there are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

3) BBC World Service, ‘World Update’, September 18th, presented by Dan Damon, from 05:10 here.

Damon: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of Khan al Ahmar. It’s a village which supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories say is in the way. They applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land and they’re delighted that the backing has come from President Trump. Most of the world believes Israel’s an occupier in the West Bank and that Jewish settlements are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

As we see, all three of those introductions gave a context-free presentation of ‘occupation’ – with no explanation that Khan al Ahmar is located in Area C and hence under the terms of the Oslo Accords is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations – and a partial representation of ‘international law’. Significantly, all three also promoted the contiguity myth seen amplified in an earlier report by Bowen – despite the fact that any potential building in the area in which Khan al Ahmar is located would in no way render the two-state solution “absolutely and definitively impossible” as claimed by the BBC.

In other words, even before Bowen began his report, a politicised and partisan narrative was in evidence.

The first part of Bowen’s report had been recorded on September 14th.

Bowen: “A small group of demonstrators has surrounded an Israeli army bulldozer at the entrance to the village of Khan al Ahmar. Not very many of them but this is a symbolic and important issue for the Israelis and for the Palestinians. Khan al Ahmar is a small – very small – Bedouin village on the main road down from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Dead Sea. It’s just a settlement of tents and shacks but like so many of these small disputes about land and territory, it’s attracted a lot of international attention.”

Obviously one reason for that “international attention” is the fact that political NGOs and foreign media have – like Bowen himself – made the story a cause célèbre. Bowen then went on to give an account of events at Khan al Ahmar which – as was the case in his filmed report – contradicts accounts of other journalists at the scene.

Bowen: “What they seem to be doing is blocking alternative routes into the village so there’s only one left open and that means that when they come to demolish this place, they will be able to control everybody who goes in and everybody who goes out much more easily.”

In contrast, AP reported that the bulldozers were clearing rock barriers that had been “set up to slow demolition” by local and foreign activists. Bowen went on to pass his unprofessional judgement on the proceedings.

Bowen: “Somebody’s laying down in front of it. There’s a bit of a scuffle going on. A few demonstrators trying to stop the bulldozer and the paramilitary police try and push the demonstrators back. It’s very symbolic. Really there’s no particular need for them to do it at this particular moment – move the bulldozer – and also the demonstrators know they can’t really stop the military. But both sides play their part in what goes on here.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bowen and an unidentified man.

Man: “I can’t speak now ‘cos I am breathing. I am tired now.”

Bowen: “Yes but tell me how…”

Man: “To open the way.”

Bowen: “You want to open the way?”

Man: “Yes. Only I can speak that they are criminals. They are the thieves of our souls and spirits.”

Bowen: “They’re gonna come back though you know if you open this; they’ll bring the bulldozer back.”

Man: “If they come back we are all ready to this. Our land mean our blood. Our land mean our blood.”

Bowen of course did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that the man’s use of the word “our” is inaccurate because the Jahalin tribe does not own the land on which the Khan al Ahmar encampment was set up. Failing to inform listeners of the relocation package offered to the residents – including free building plots – and the Palestinian Authority’s use of the Bedouin as political pawns, Bowen went on to claim that they had “settled there in the 1950s” despite there being photographic evidence to contradict that claim.

Bowen: “The people of Khan al Ahmar have refused to move to another site. They settled there in the 1950s after they were expelled from the new Israel. Britain, France and Germany among others have warned that demolishing the village will make it even harder to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The UN’s warned that Israel would be committing a grave breach of international humanitarian law, which is a war crime.”

Following that repeat amplification of the contiguity myth and the notion that the relocation of squatters from an illegally constructed encampment on land to which they have no claim is a “war crime”, listeners heard the sound of singing.

Bowen: “As they talk the conflict grinds on. Hundreds of Jews at the funeral of an Israeli-American stabbed to death by a 17 year-old Palestinian boy and more Palestinians killed on Gaza’s border with Israel. Naftali Bennett is Israel’s minister of education and the leader of the nationalist right. He doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.”

Bennett: “The Palestinians’ hope to wipe out Israel: as long as that hope endures terror will continue. When they give up on the hope to eliminate Israel and realise we’re here to stay, they’re here to stay, we’ll see terror less.”

Bowen: “President Trump has made a difference. What kind of difference?”

Bennett: “He has. President Trump has brought fresh thinking to a region that’s been fairly stagnant in terms of its methodologies and ideas. What Trump is telling the Palestinians: if you think you’ll continue inciting against Jews and killing Jews and somehow time is on your side, you’re wrong. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to move. Let’s make peace. Don’t wait on the sidelines because time is not on your side.”

Listeners next heard recordings made by Bowen on September 13th.

Bowen: “President Trump believes pressure works and they’re feeling it here at the Augusta Victoria hospital in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The president has cut the $25 million the US was paying Palestinian hospitals in this part of the city. I’m in the pediatric dialysis department – children’s cancer’s just down the corridor – and I’m with Walid Nammour the CEO here at Augusta Victoria.”

Nammour: “We could not believe that sick children – children with cancer – will be used by any civil state, by an American government as an element for negotiations that were putting pressures to achieve political results or gains. It’s incredible.”

Bowen: “Well the Americans say it’s Palestinians’ fault for not taking part properly in talks and also for taking cases to the International Criminal Court.”

Nammour: “This is politics. Why would a child who has cancer pay the price? Our life has become terrible of catastrophic level since the Trump administration took over. I don’t know what heart he has this man to stop medications from this child. This is an administration that is seeking peace treaty?”

As in his filmed report, neither Bowen nor his interviewee bothered to inform BBC audiences that by September 9th – the day after the US announcement and at least four days before this interview was held – the Palestinian Authority had already announced that it would make up the deficit.

Neither did Bowen raise the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s financial priorities – including the payments to convicted terrorists – when he went to get more backing for his chosen narrative in Jericho.

Bowen: “At his office in hot and dusty Jericho the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat despairs about the impact of Donald Trump on Palestinians and Israelis.”

Erekat: “I think there is no longer a Palestinian moderate camp. There is no longer an Israeli peace camp. He succeeded in getting Palestinians and Israelis off the raft of the two-state solution. Now the kids in my neighbourhood are being taught by Trump’s policies that if you claim something, grab it. This is what he’s teaching and educating and telling in his Twitters every morning to every child in Palestine. If you’re man enough, if you’re woman enough, don’t be silly [and] wait for courts or solving problems by peaceful means or negotiations; grab it! And Trump is succeeding in making Palestinians despair and desperation will lead to desperate acts.”

With apparently nothing to say about Erekat’s barely veiled threats or the Palestinian education system which teaches glorification of terrorism and negates Israel, Bowen closed his report.

Bowen: “The row over Khan al Ahmar touches the big issues of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it’s also about families who most likely will lose their homes, children who will lose their school and a community that might be dispersed. This conflict has caused great suffering across generations and it seems that more will soon be inflicted on the people of Khan al Ahmar.”

Once again Bowen deliberately refrained from informing listeners that if the residents of Khan al Ahmar had not been exploited by the Palestinian Authority for entirely political purposes they could, like other members of their tribe, have relocated to a site nearby offering free plots of land, utilities and a school, with no need whatsoever for the community to ‘suffer’. Those facts, however, do not help advance the political narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and so in these three radio items – just as in his previous filmed and audio reports – they were erased from the one-sided and politicised picture he presented.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part one

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

MEDIA EMBRACE E1 FALSEHOODS  (CAMERA)

 

Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

As noted here previously, the lead item in the July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update‘ concerned legislation passed hours beforehand by the Israeli Knesset.

The programme’s webpage uses the title “Israel: An Exclusively Jewish State”. Presenter Dan Damon introduced the item (from 0:00:15 here) using the same term. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Damon: “We begin though with the news from Israel. In the parliament there – the Knesset – a vote on the future of that country’s self-determination: a controversial bill defining the country as an exclusively Jewish state. The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest. Israel [sic] Arab politicians have denounced this new law as racist.”

Obviously the claim that the law defines Israel as “an exclusively Jewish state” is inaccurate.

The same inaccurate claim appeared in the first two versions of an article that appeared on the BBC News website on July 19th.

Following a complaint from Mr Stephen Franklin in which he pointed out that the text of the law does not define Israel in that manner and that Israel’s minorities already have equal rights under the law and will continue to do so under this new legislation, the BBC Complaints department responded, citing an amendment made to the report some eight hours after its initial publication.

“I understand you feel it is inaccurate to state that the bill passed characterises Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.

BBC News always aims for the highest standards – to be fair, accurate and impartial. It is worth noting that the article now reads “‘Israel’s parliament has passed a controversial law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state”.”

BBC Watch has written to request a similar correction to this radio programme and its webpage.

In that item listeners heard from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem who correctly pointed out that the law “isn’t going to change things overnight. It’s simply not that kind of a piece of legislation” and that “many of the things it talks about are actually pre-existing in other laws”.

However, as was also the case in the BBC News website report, Bateman for reasons unclear found it appropriate to mention a clause which was not included in the final draft of the legislation.

Bateman: “…the law says that Jewish settlement is a national value that should be promoted by the state. Now that’s actually a watered-down version of the draft clause which critics of the law had felt might lead to Jewish-only communities and local authorities really having the power to create de facto and in law Jewish-only communities.”

Like the website article, Bateman did not clarify that the dropped clause actually allowed the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community” and did not bother to inform his audiences that many communities composed of people belonging to religious and ethnic groups such as Bedouin, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims already exist in Israel.

Bateman closed his report by telling listeners that one Arab-Israeli MK had “described it…as a hate crime and an apartheid law”.

Listeners then heard from two MKs – Yehuda Glick of the Likud and Ahmad Tibi of the Joint Arab List. They did not however hear any challenge from Dan Damon when Tibi raised the false claim promoted by the political NGO Adalah of “more than 60 laws differentiating and discriminating between Jews and Arabs”. Neither did they hear any questioning of numerous inaccurate claims from Tibi including that the new law affords rights “both political and housing, lands allocation etc…only for Jews”.

Related Articles:

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.

Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]

In a news bulletin broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ (from 02:04:51 here) listeners were told by newsreader Diana Speed that:

“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.

In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:

“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):

“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

But is that actually what the legislation says?

In the original Hebrew the relevant clause is titled התיישבות יהודית” – ‘Jewish settlement’, not settlements – and when translated into English it says that:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.

That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.

As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:

“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””

Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification. 

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The BBC, an Ultra-Orthodox paper and the censorship of images

The August 18th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ included an item about a photograph published in an American weekly newspaper which, with its circulation of some 20,000, reaches only a tiny fraction of the US population.  

In addition to being included in the broadcast, that item was promoted separately on social media under the headline “Hillary Clinton Photo Breaks Ultra-Orthodox Taboo“.World Update 18 8

“An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish New York newspaper, Yated Ne’eman, has made history by publishing a photo of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Ultra Orthodox press has a tradition of not publishing images of women. The photo of her is largely obscured. Ari Goldman, professor of journalism at Columbia University tells Dan Damon what the photo looks like.”

After having asked his interviewee Ari Goldman to explain the Ultra-Orthodox press’ approach to the publication of photographs of women, presenter Dan Damon asked:

“And do Ultra-Orthodox women accept that in this day and age?”

One cannot but note the irony of that question, coming as it does from an employee of a Western media organisation which until not too long ago instructed its staff that:

“The Prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form.”

Following public debate, that editorial guideline was revised. It now reads:

“Due care and consideration must be made regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence. Images of the Prophet Muhammad are a sensitive issue, and many Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as highly offensive. We must have strong editorial justification for publishing any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Any proposal to include a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in our content must be referred to a senior editorial figure, who should normally consult Editorial Policy.

There also should be an awareness of religious sensitivities about smoking, drinking and certain foods.”

The BBC also adopted a policy of issuing ‘health warnings’ in the rare articles which do include “sensitive” images.

health warning image

As we see, the BBC’s own approach to self-censorship of images it thinks its audiences might consider inappropriate is not so vastly different from that of Yated Ne’eman. Interestingly though, while a niche newspaper’s policy is considered newsworthy, its own is rarely brought to the attention of its audiences. 

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Why was a photo-shopped image ‘top story’ on the BBC News website ME page?

 

 

 

BBC WS’s Dan Damon turns domestic Palestinian story into anti-Israel propaganda fest

The news that Mahmoud Abbas had unilaterally decided to dissolve the one year-old ‘Palestinian Unity Government’ was reported on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in an article titled “Palestinian unity government ‘to resign over Gaza row’” which originally appeared on June 16th.

Excepting the very coy description of Hamas’ violent seizure of power and the lack of any mention of the fact that the results of the 2006 PLC elections no longer hold any relevance (“…Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007…”), the report is reasonable and correctly notes that:

“Israel has insisted it will not deal with a government backed by Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.”

As readers will of course recall, it was Abbas’ decision to form that unity government with Hamas which was the final nail in the coffin of the last round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014.PUG Daily Commute

However, listeners to the June 17th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’ – available for a limited period of time here, from 3:04 – heard a decidedly different take on the story. Whilst the first part of the five-minute item is indeed devoted to discussion of the subject matter between host Dan Damon and guest Ghassan Khatib, from around 5:27 the focus changes. Damon – apparently ignorant of the fact that the last round of negotiations collapsed because Abbas chose to embrace and legitimize the terror organization which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist – poses the following misleading question.

Damon: “There isn’t much of a peace process anyway in relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis but does this make it more unlikely that there’ll be any kind of valuable negotiation?

Khatib: “I don’t think there is any great deal of interaction between forming or not forming a new Palestinian government on one hand and the Palestinian-Israeli relations on the other hand because chances are almost zero about the peace process, especially after the last Israeli election and the election of that far Right-wing government that has no interest in discussing the possibilities of Israel giving up its illegal control over the Palestinian occupied territories.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that any current Israeli control over territory occupied by Jordan in 1948 is the result of agreements willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people over two decades ago and therefore cannot be accurately termed “illegal”, Damon asks:

“Was this an opportunity missed, do you believe, to improve the lives of some desperately poor people in that part of the world?”

Khatib: “Yes, I think that much of the needs of people can be better fulfilled on a practical level, on humanitarian level, on services level, between the bodies in charge of the West Bank and those in the Gaza Strip. However, much of this is also related to the Israeli restrictions. Israel is supposed to be more forthcoming in easing the blockade against Gaza and easing the restrictions and the settlement expansion and the settlers violent [sic] against Palestinians in West Bank, especially East Jerusalem.”

Damon’s next question-cum-political statement provides plenty of insight into the motives behind his failure to challenge that blatant propaganda.

Damon: “And if you follow that analysis through, this gives the hardliners on the Israeli side exactly what they want. They can say ‘look – no negotiating partner so we’ll continue with our policy of creating facts on the ground’.”

Khatib: “Actually, this is like mixing the cause with the effect. It’s actually the victory of those Right-wingers in Israel and their continued settlement expansion is the reason why there is no sound negotiations. Palestinian side is ready for negotiations – that was announced again and again, including last week by President Abbas in a conference in South Africa. He said that he’s ready to go back to negotiations. But is Israel ready to negotiate the future of the Palestinian territories? That’s the main question. Is Israel ready for the two state solution? Even the closest friend of Israel, President Obama, said on an interview last week with Israeli Channel 2 that there’s little hope that this government Israel is ready for a two state solution.”

The item ends there, with listeners deprived of any chance to hear the Israeli point of view or response to the propagandist allegations touted by Khatib.

This was supposed to be a report informing audiences about the dissolution of the PA unity government and of course there was no need to introduce Israel into the story at all. Instead, Dan Damon turned it into an exercise in Israel bashing and the one-sided promotion of falsehoods and propaganda intended to further the Palestinian Authority’s PR campaign. So much for accurate and impartial journalism.

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BBC WS presenter: filmed evidence of Hamas’ misuse of hospitals is ‘rumours on the internet’

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BBC WS presenter: filmed evidence of Hamas’ misuse of hospitals is ‘rumours on the internet’

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is – as readers are most likely aware – an organisation which since the early days of the second Intifada has been providing financial, logistic and PR support to terrorist organisations which attack Israeli civilians.

One of the ISM’s activists currently located in the Gaza Strip is American Joe Catron who has been very busy in the past three weeks giving interviews to the Iranian regime-run Press TV, putting out propaganda material and acting as a voluntary human shield. Catron’s “standpoint” can be discerned very easily from his use of social media.

Tweet Catron

 

As readers also know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines oblige it to inform audiences of an interviewee’s “standpoint” so that his or her contribution can be understood in its correct context. However, when the BBC World Service’s Dam Damon interviewed Joe Catron for the July 31st edition of ‘World Update’ (available here for a limited period of time from around 43:21, or here as a separately promoted podcast), he failed to inform listeners that Catron is a member of the Hamas-supporting ISM and made no attempt whatsoever to “summarise” his “standpoint” with the result being that listeners were subjected to over three and a half minutes of undiluted Hamas propaganda, supposedly from a ‘neutral’ source.World Update Catron

Catron was introduced by Damon thus:

“Nine foreigners are in Gaza’s main hospital al Shifa. They are volunteering as human shields. They take turns sitting in the wards on 12 hour shifts. They think that their presence will help deter military attacks by Israeli forces. Other hospitals have human shields – so called human shields – as well. I’ve been speaking to one of these at al Shifa. He’s Joe Catron – 33 years old. The line wasn’t great. I think you’ll be able to hear though everything that is in Joe’s mind. Here’s what he told me.”

Catron: “In terms of aerial assaults they’ve gotten very close. Ahm…the other night I was here for the overnight shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and there were repeated airstrikes all around the building. I stepped outside. I could see flares as well as smoke coming from a short distance away. In terms of the ground invasion they haven’t pushed that close.”

Damon: “And has the hospital been hit at all?”

Catron: “The hospital has been hit peripherally. Ah…one wall was damaged by a shell the other day. I think there were a couple of injuries from that but it has not been targeted per se.”

Damon: “Because you will know that there have been all kinds of rumours on the internet about hospitals being used to hide men and indeed weapons. Any evidence?”

Catron: “Oh yes; I’ve heard all these…all kinds of these rumours. I’ve seen numerous claims that al Wafa hospital where I stayed for a week in Shuja’iya was the centre of a Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant command centre. Now every journalist that came into the hospital from every major news agency had full run of the place. They could go anywhere in it they liked. How none of them ever noticed this command centre…. Shifa as well is thick with reporters at the moment and I’ve seen no reports of anything like that from any of them.”

Damon: “Are you making a difference being there as a human shield?”

Catron: “You know, that’s difficult to say. Obviously the operational logic is that Israel is much more reluctant to target foreigners than it is Palestinians. Now it’s difficult to say. Ahm… I had a number of expectations at the beginning of this escalation about how far the Israelis were willing to go and what they were willing to do. They’ve already proven a number of those expectations wrong. So how safe we are here and how much of a deterrent we offer, I can’t offer a firm answer to that. All we can do is sit and hope.”

Damon: “Do you have any understanding of Israel’s position that the rockets are flying from Gaza, err…those rockets are intended to kill civilians, they’re entitled to respond?”

Catron: “Well I think it’s very clear looking at the outcomes who intends to kill civilians. Israel has now killed over a thousand of them while Hamas has targeted its attacks on Israeli soldiers and it’s been doing fairly well on that front considering the circumstances.”

Damon: “I guess you don’t mean to deny that the rockets fired by Hamas are targeting civilian areas inside Israel?”

Catron: “Well, Israel places many of its military assets in civilian neighbourhoods. The headquarters of the Israeli military is located in a large civilian block of buildings in Tel Aviv. Ahm…but Hamas has always made it clear that its rockets are aimed at these military assets. [unintelligible] also knowledge is that they’re unfortunately imprecise.”

Damon: “What about the people back home, Joe? Don’t they think that you’re being foolhardy?”

Catron: “I’m sure some of them do and they may have a point. [Damon laughs] Ahm…they’re a mix of course. America has a broad range of opinions.”

Damon: “What about your family?”

Catron: “Ahm…they’re a political mix when it comes to the situation. You would hear various perspectives from them.”

Damon closes the item by saying:

“That’s Joe Catron; described as a human shield at the al Shifa hospital in Gaza.”

So what did World Service radio audiences learn here and did anything in this interview contribute to fulfilling the BBC’s obligation according to its constitutional document to “build a global understanding of international issues”?

Well, they discovered that the BBC considers filmed and photographed evidence of the discovery of weapons, missiles, explosives and tunnel entrances in at least one hospital in the Gaza Strip to be “rumours on the internet”.

They got to hear the BBC provide a platform for Joe Catron’s obviously dishonest claim that Wafa hospital was not used by Hamas for military purposes and his promotion of the notion that the hospital in which he is currently located – Shifa – is not used by Hamas either. That of course is especially ridiculous in light of the fact that the BBC has interviewed at least one member of Hamas at that location.

Audiences also discovered – for the second time in two days – that not only has the BBC no intention of informing them about what really went on at Wafa hospital in Shuja’iya, but that it will actively hinder that information from coming to light, along with any other documentation of the use of civilians in Gaza as human shields.

They were also misled by Catron’s assertion that the foreign media in Gaza is able to report freely and that there cannot be any Hamas abuses of hospitals because the foreign media has not reported them. Increasingly, evidence coming out of the Gaza Strip shows that claim to be patently untrue. 

Listeners were exposed to Catron’s unchallenged and inaccurate assertion that over one thousand civilians have been killed in the Gaza Strip.

They were misled with regard to the civilian targets of Hamas missiles as Catron spouted propaganda straight from the Hamas handbook claiming that it targets military installations.

Clearly, the broadcasting of this interview with a Hamas supporter fails to contribute anything to the fulfilment of the BBC’s public purposes and the fact that his “standpoint” and affiliations were not declared to listeners breaches editorial guidelines.

No less worrying for the BBC should be the fact that it has rendered itself utterly indistinguishable from the Iranian regime’s media mouthpiece which Joe Catron usually frequents.

 

 

BBC World Service gives inaccurate report on the ceasefire that wasn’t

As readers are no doubt already aware, the ‘ceasefire’ of July 15th lasted a mere six hours due to the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip did not cease their fire of missiles into Israel.

However, a BBC World Service radio programme – BBC World Update: Daily Commute – which was broadcast at 05:30 US Eastern time (12:30 Israel time) on July 15th – i.e. three and a half hours after the ceasefire supposedly came into effect, – gives some interesting indications regarding the BBC’s already emerging framing of the topic of the ceasefire.WS Daily Commute

The programme (available here as a podcast for a limited period of time) is presented by Dan Damon who opens by saying: [all emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in original]

“Coming up: the Israeli security cabinet has accepted a ceasefire proposal by Egypt but the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza rejects that. Where does that leave the current strife?”

A newsreader then tells listeners:

“The Israeli security cabinet has approved an Egyptian proposal for a truce in its week-long conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the latest conflict, many of them civilians.”

The news bulletin then moves on to an interview with James Reynolds in Tel Aviv, after which the newsreader introduces Yolande Knell.

Knell: “The military wing of Hamas has said that the terms being offered by the Egyptians would amount to a surrender and is continuing to insist on its own conditions which include the release of Hamas activists from Israeli jails and also an opening of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt. That said, we have to say on the ground here, what we have seen over the past few hours is certainly a much lower intensity of fighting.”

The programme then returns to Dan Damon.

“…this morning some glimmers that an end to the violence that has claimed almost 200 Palestinian lives in the past week might be at an end. The Israeli security cabinet this morning agreed an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. Let’s talk to Kevin Connolly, our correspondent in Jerusalem. It’s reported, Kevin, that Hamas rejected that proposal and I think there’s been further development.”

Kevin Connolly: “Well what we have here at the moment is half a ceasefire in the sense that Israel has accepted it. Hamas for the time being has not and the military wing of Hamas in Gaza has really been talking down the proposal from Egypt which is on the table. Now that’s not to say that Hamas won’t eventually be talked round by the Egyptians but for the moment, as I say, we have half a ceasefire.”

DD: “And it’s difficult, I guess, to understand completely what the mood is inside the Palestinian territories where you are but surely after nearly 200 deaths on one side and…eh…some injuries on the Israeli side, the people inside Gaza must be desperate for some kind of a ceasefire.”

KC: “I haven’t the slightest doubt that Palestinian civilians in Gaza – we talk to our people there every day, of course – are desperate for an end to the suffering and destruction. Hospitals there are struggling to treat the injured, many people are homeless, people are – you know – living in terrifying circumstances. Nothing is more terrifying than being bombed from the air. But politically of course, Hamas also has an agenda here. Having embarked on this round of hostilities, I think it is going to feel that it can’t emerge from them without some kind of political victory to show its people, so something is going to have to be found to allow Hamas an elegant way out, if you like, of the fighting.”

DD: “And what would be called a victory? What would be a victory from Hamas’ point of view?”

KC: “Well it’s given us quite a long list of demands. One of the things it would like – which is unlikely, I think – is to see Israel releasing Hamas prisoners, some of whom have been rounded up over the last couple of weeks. But a more important strategic goal for Hamas and one which would help its standing with the Palestinian people in Gaza is some kind of easing of the economic restrictions which are jointly imposed on the enclave by Israel and by Egypt. The new Egyptian government in particular has been very tough with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood – so it’s closed the smuggling tunnels which were a kind of economic lifeline both for Hamas and for the people of Gaza. That is one area where there’s a bit of scope for Egypt to offer Hamas something in return at least for coming to the table. I think what the Egyptians tried to do is sequence all of this so that you begin with a cessation of hostilities then you start to talk about things like prisoner releases or an easing of economic conditions. So, talking is going on we think between Egypt and Hamas. The Egyptians do have cards to play there, so the situation as it stands where Israel has accepted and Hamas has rejected – that could change. There has been a bit of rocket fire today from Hamas – or from the Gaza militants anyway – towards Israel at a relatively low level of intensity and no response yet from Israel so, it feels as though a diplomatic game is underway and success is not guaranteed.”

Let’s look at that last part first. After having spent the entire item telling listeners about “half a ceasefire” but failing to clarify what that really means in practical terms, Connolly in his last sentence finally informs them of “a bit of rocket fire …towards Israel” (not at it) at a “relatively low intensity”.

In fact, between 09:00 and 12:30 local time (when this programme was broadcast) over 22 missiles had already been fired at the Eshkol region, Ashkelon, Sderot, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Netivot, Rehovot and Nes Ziona. One of those missiles landed in the yard of a house in Ashdod and one person was injured in Sderot. Three minutes after this programme went on air, missiles were also fired at Haifa, Daliyat al Carmel and the Carmel and Zichron Ya’akov areas. All in all, between 09:00 and 15:00 local time, fifty missiles were fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. By no possible interpretation of the word is that a “bit” of rocket fire.

Notable too is of course Knell’s description of convicted terrorists – including those freed in prisoner release deals – as “Hamas activists”, the fact that at no point in this broadcast are listeners reminded that Hamas is an internationally designated terrorist organization, Connolly’s bizarre reference to Hamas being “seen” as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Damon’s description of Kevin Connolly’s location as “the Palestinian territories” even though he was in Jerusalem.

Likewise, it is remarkable that both Knell and Connolly chose to highlight the same two issues from Hamas’ pre-existing list of demands – ignoring no less significant other ones such as the demand for the Palestinian Authority to transfer money to pay Hamas employees and the demand that parties unnamed “stop interfering in the new unity government”. Whilst Knell and Connolly focus on what he terms “economic restrictions”, neither of them bother to clarify to listeners that Egypt’s actions against the smuggling tunnels came as part of its crackdown on Jihadist terror in northern Sinai and that Israel’s measures are aimed at preventing the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip will obviously be just as relevant in the future as this round of conflict has proved they were in the past.

Most significant, however, is the fact that by the time this programme began at 12:30 local time, the ceasefire had been rejected by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took responsibility for some of the missile fire during the supposed ceasefire.  Most importantly, Hamas – not just its “military wing” as claimed several times in this programme – had already rejected the ceasefire via its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“In an early-morning meeting, Israel’s security cabinet approved the cease-fire, which calls for a de-escalation of fighting by both sides starting at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday, with hostilities ending within 12 hours.

At a news conference at a hospital in Gaza City, a Hamas official said his group wouldn’t observe the cease-fire terms proposed by the Egyptian government because no one had conferred with them.

“We don’t like the policy pushing us into a corner,” said spokesman Samy Abu Zohry. Hamas was fighting for Palestinians, not a cease-fire, he said.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on additional BBC reporting on the topic of the ceasefire-that-wasn’t in order to note if it is reported in a similarly inaccurate and misleading fashion, downplaying both Hamas rejection of the opportunity for a halt to hostilities and missile attacks on Israeli civilians.