Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Readers may recall that four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported on the death of a Palestinian man while concealing the fact that he was a member of a proscribed terror organisation and portraying him instead as a ‘charity worker’.

In his July 2014 filmed report for BBC News Donnison told audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

While Donnison did not state the name of that “children’s charity”, as was noted here at the time Abu Maria worked for the political NGO Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-P or DCI-Pal). 

However, he was also described as a “fighter commander” in an obituary published by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and as a “commander” in a poster put out by the terror group on social media.

The longstanding links between the PFLP and the ‘children’s charity’ DCI-Pal were noted in a recent article at Tablet Magazine concerning donations made to a Palestinian coalition that includes proscribed terror groups via an American non-profit organisation that supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“As publicly available resources in Arabic show, the DCIP has had several previous board members and staffers who have been involved with the PFLP. They include DCIP board member Hassan Abed Aljawad, a PFLP leader representing the terrorist organization at public events as recently as 2016; DCIP board member Mahmoud Jiddah, a former PFLP member who had been jailed for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968; DCIP board secretary and attorney Fatima Daana, who is the widow of Raed Nazzal, former commander of the PFLP’s armed wing in Qalqilya; DCIP former board member Shawan Jabarin, who was convicted of recruiting members to the PFLP in 1985 and identified in 1994 by Israel to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights as being a senior member of the PFLP; DCIP former board member Hashem Abu Maria, identified by the PFLP as one of its “deputy comrades” and a “fighting commander” in an obituary published on the PFLP website in Arabic and killed during a violent clash with IDF forces (the DCIP’s 2014 report is dedicated to Abu Maria); DCIP former board member Nassar Ibrahim, the former editor in chief of the PFLP weekly publication, El Hadaf; and DCIP former board member Dr. Majed Nassar, the deputy director of the Union of Health Work Committees, which was identified by USAID as a PFLP affiliate in 1993.”

An article also published earlier this month at the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a major American foundation that contributes to many pro-Palestinian causes, gave grants to organizations which funnel money and support to terrorist groups, and continued to do so after being told about the NGOs’ activities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The two organizations are Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, also known as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Defense for Children International-Palestine, which received grants of $60,000 and $25,000, respectively, from the RBF in March 2017. [….]

In addition to the RBF, DCI-P receives money from UNICEF as an “implementing partner” for the UN agency’s projects, even though it violates both UNICEF and UN guidelines for partners to be “neutral, impartial and independent from all parties to the conflict.””

Readers may recall that in July 2017 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur cited a UNICEF report based on information produced by DCI-Pal that he described to BBC audiences as “saying the ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system in the West Bank appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

The article continues:

“DCI-P employee Hashem Abu Maria was hailed as a leader of the PFLP, after he was killed by the IDF in a violent confrontation in Beit Umar in July 2014. DCI-P director Rifat Odeh Kassis spoke at Abu Maria’s memorial service, surrounded by PFLP flags and posters.

The PFLP wrote on its website that Abu Maria “was in the ranks of the national liberation struggle and the PFLP from an early age, arrested several times, and was a model for a steadfast struggler and advocate for the rights of our people through his work in Defense for Children International.””

Four years after its initial appearance, Jon Donnison’s 2014 filmed report – “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger” – is still available online. No effort has been made to amend it in order to clarify to BBC audiences that the man sympathetically described only as a charity worker was also a member of a terror organisation.

Given that last year the BBC pledged that “complaints about online material more than 30 days old will be dealt with appropriately”, obviously that amendment is long overdue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

 

 

 

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Israeli guest tells BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ host ‘you rewrite the history’ – part one

On the same day that Moshe Ya’alon resigned from the post of Minister of Defence in May 2016, the BBC World Service aired a radio programme with the extraordinary title “Has Israel Lost its ‘Moral Compass’?”

That BBC fixation on the ‘moral health’ of Israeli society was again in evidence when, on June 28th, Ya’alon gave an interview to the BBC World News channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘.

The interview is available in the UK on iPlayer here or alternatively here. An audio version that was broadcast on BBC World Service radio on June 30th with the following synopsis is available here.

“Moshe Ya’alon served in the Israel Defence Force for 38 years including as Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005. He then entered politics and served as Minister of Defence for three years until his resignation in May 2016. At the time warned that Israel had been taken over by “dangerous and extreme elements.” He wants to run for prime minister at Israel’s next election and he tells HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur “I found too many politicians generating hatred against someone, against the Arabs, against leftists, against the media, against the Supreme Court, which is a challenge”.”

That same theme was also amplified in a clip from the interview that was promoted separately on social media and on the BBC News website.

“Certain Israeli politicians are moving towards racism, the former defence minister Moshe Ya’alon has told BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur.

“I found too many politicians generating hatred against someone, against the Arabs, against leftists, against the media, against the Supreme Court, which is a challenge,” said Mr Ya’alon, adding he thought it could be dealt with.

“This is not the vast majority of politicians, but it is unfortunately not stopped by the prime minister and that is why I had too many disputes with him,” he said.

Mr Ya’alon resigned from the government in May 2016 and warned that Israel had been taken over by “dangerous and extreme elements”.”

The focus on that theme will of course be unsurprising to anyone familiar with the BBC’s long-standing and recurrent portrayal of Israel as ‘shifting to the right’. Host Stephen Sackur made sure that the first part of the interview was similarly devoted to the topic of Israel’s ‘moral health’ using a succession of statements-cum-questions.

“Israel has just marked and celebrated 50 years since the victory in the Six Day War but you seem to feel right now there are some very serious questions about the direction Israel is going in and about national cohesion. Why are you so worried?”

After Ya’alon had spoken about a “relatively calm” security situation, Sackur asked:

“So it’s not an existential security threat that you feel is most concerning to Israel today?”

Ya’alon then pointed out that Israel’s vibrant democracy includes independent law enforcement authorities, expressing confidence in the ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption concerning Netanyahu. Sackur continued:

“But it’s not just about Netanyahu is it? I mean you said this not long ago; it caused a real stir in Israel. You said ‘to my great sorrow extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and in particular the Likud party and are shaking the foundations of the country and threatening to hurt its residents. Those are very powerful words.”

“Extremism, you said, extremism in your own government that you loyally served for 7 years.”

After Ya’alon had pointed out that Israel’s “vibrant society” means that he is able to criticize the government, Sackur pressed him further:

“You also have a responsibility to be clear about what you mean so I want you to tell me exactly what you mean by this extremism you see from inside the Israeli government.”

Although Ya’alon expressed confidence that “we are able to deal with it” in relation to what he described as “too many politicians generating hatred against someone”, Sackur was not done.

“Isaac Herzog – formerly of the Labour party, now the Zionist Union – he coined this extraordinary word. He called it the ‘fascistisation’ of Israel under Netanyahu. Sounds like you’re almost agreeing with him.”

“You would use that phrase – fascistisation – would you?”

Ya’alon clarified that “it is not the vast majority of politicians” stating that “it is unfortunately not stopped by the prime minister and that’s why I had too many disputes with him”, to which Sackur responded:

“I am very puzzled as to how you could sit in cabinet as, I think, deputy premier for 3 or 4 years and then as defence secretary – the senior security post in the cabinet for –what – more than three years serving as a loyal ally of Binyamin Netanyahu and then you fall out with him after 7 years of service and come out saying that he’s fostering extremism and possibly fascistisation of Israel. It seems extraordinary.”

In response to Ya’alon’s statement that the issues arose around the time of the 2015 election Sackur interjected:

“What; he [Netanyahu] suddenly changed, did he?”

A significant proportion of the interview was also devoted to discussion of allegations concerning a third party not afforded the right of reply, despite that condition being stipulated in BBC editorial guidelines.

“We’ll get to the bigger strategic picture in a moment but let’s just stick to the internal politics of Netanyahu, the Likud party and the right-wing in Israel because you have become a critic now but you’ve been intimately involved for an awful long time. How can you say that you have absolutely no doubt that Binyamin Netanyahu is guilty of these allegations – all of which he absolutely adamantly denies – some of which concern his personal behaviour, some of which concern the behaviour of others – to do with a defence contract particularly involving submarines which Netanyahu himself isn’t involved with but people close to him are. You say you have no doubt that…if he is not indicted, you say, I will go on a speaking tour and tell all. What is it you know that the rest of Israel doesn’t?”

“People don’t change their spots, do they? I mean you say Netanyahu somehow flipped in 2015 around the time of the election. You’d served him by then for – what – six years. You can’t tell me that the man you knew for six years became somebody completely different after that election.”

Relating to the allegations of corruption against Netanyahu, Sackur quipped:

“Well of course he denies it.”

After Ya’alon had once again expressed confidence in the ability of the Israeli law enforcement authorities to “deal with it properly”, Sackur commented:

“Netanyahu dismisses everything you say about him with a smile and says that you are just desperate to try to launch your own political career; frankly a political career which looks right now like it’s really struggling.”

Sackur then returned to the topic of Israel’s ‘moral health’, dabbling in pseudo-psychological analysis of “the Israeli psyche”.

“Is…ahm…is this not just about Netanyahu? Do you think this is about something corrosive at the heart of the Israeli state which says something about Israeli values today?”

“It’s not just about money and corruption in politics though, is it? It’s about values connected to the very biggest of pictures. For example Israel’s continued occupation after 50 years of the West Bank and what that does to the Israeli psyche and to young Israelis in particular.”

Sackur continued with a selective presentation of Rabin’s approach to the peace process of the type that is commonly found in BBC content.

“You’re the same Moshe Ya’alon who supported Rabin, supported the two-state process, supported Oslo.”

Opting not to enhance audience understanding of the topic of the peace process by exploring further Ya’alon’s statement that his views on Oslo changed when he was “exposed to the details when I became the head of the intelligence”, Sackur insisted:

“Rabin continued to believe. Rabin – and I lived in Israel in Israel at the time and I remember it very well – Rabin repeatedly said Israel has no choice: we simply have to make peace with our enemies. There is no alternative.”

“He[Rabin] never gave up on the two-state solution.”

After Ya’alon reminded him for a second time of Rabin’s final speech in the Knesset, Sackur slightly changed his tack.

“My point is not just about the two-state solution. It’s about the idea of no alternative. Just the other day Ehud Barak – another chief of staff of the Israeli defence forces, another former prime minister – said that this government – he’s talking about the Netanyahu government – is putting the country on the path to becoming an apartheid state and it should be brought down if it fails to change course.”

Ya’alon then listed the repeated Palestinian rejections of peace offers and partition, to which Sackur responded:

“But as Israelis do you not have a duty to keep searching, to keep working for a solution? Because if not, your own people will suffer the consequences.”

After Ya’alon had noted that the Palestinians have their own parliament, government and president, audiences got some noteworthy insight into the kind of politicised sources used by Sackur as the basis for his ‘questions’ and statements.

“But, forgive me, you do rule them [the Palestinians] and I just…look, because I knew I was going to talk to you today I did a little bit of research about your post as defence minister and what happened. A series of reports crossed your desk from UNICEF in 2013 saying the ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system in the West Bank appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised. Human Rights Watch; a very detailed report how Israeli security forces use unnecessary force to arrest and detain Palestinian children as young as eleven, choking them, throwing stun grenades at them, beating them in custody. These are reports that crossed your desk as defence minister: the work of your IDF. This is what the occupation means.”

Former IDF Chief West Bank Prosecutor Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch addressed that UNICEF report quoted by Sackur in an interview given to the Jerusalem Post earlier this year.

“Hirsch said that UNICEF’s March 2013 report, which made headlines in countries and government offices on multiple continents, had an “almost zero” connection to reality in terms of the law or the applicable facts. […]
“Having started a dialogue with UNICEF, it soon became clear that we weren’t necessarily dealing with another UN organization that was just Israel-bashing… I realized that much of the report was basically plagiarized from a previous report by DCI [Defense for Children International] Palestine,” and that “the actual authors themselves didn’t necessarily understand what had been written… or have the factual background to understand the reality,” commented Hirsch. […]

“The unfortunate side of the discussions was that even though I had unequivocally shown the UNICEF members that what they had written was factually and legally flawed, they remained stubborn in their refusal to put out a clear statement that the initial report was simply erroneous.””

Sadly for the BBC’s reputation for accuracy and impartiality, Stephen Sackur’s “little bit of research” obviously did not include familiarising himself with the full background to that UNICEF report and he is clearly unperturbed by the records of political campaigning groups such as DCI Palestine and Human Rights Watch (frequently quoted and promoted in BBC content).

Sackur then came up with the grossly inaccurate claim that led Ya’alon to charge him with “rewriting the history”.

“Your government – that is the Netanyahu government which you loyally served until 2016 – decided not to negotiate with the Palestinians.”

After Ya’alon had clarified that the Palestinians were the party that in fact refused to continue the nine months of negotiations that took place in 2013/14, Sackur tried to sidestep his inaccuracy by invoking yet another political NGO popular with the BBC‘Breaking the Silence‘.  

“With respect, minister; you’re playing this tit for tat game of who was responsible for the breakdown of talks. I’m trying to dig to something deeper about the morals, the values, the cohesion of an Israeli society that has always prided itself on having the very best of humane values. And I’m putting it to you, if you listen to Israeli soldiers who have served the occupation like Yehuda Shaul of ‘Breaking the Silence’ – a group that is now opposed to the occupation of former IDF soldiers – he says this is the moral consequence of prolonged occupation of the Palestinian people; that is, the corruption of young Israelis who serve that occupation.”

The interview then took an even more bizarre turn which will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC audiences get a blinkered look into Israeli politics

BBC’s WHYS discusses Israel’s ‘moral compass’ 

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

Following the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on November 18th 2014, the BBC News website produced a profile of the organisation with which the two terrorists were affiliated.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

Two years later, that profile remains online with its inaccurate main illustrative photograph. The article’s presentation of the number of Israelis murdered in the Har Nof attack is also inaccurate: [emphasis added]

“It was also not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack in November 2014 that saw two members of the group armed with axes storm a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and kill four rabbis in the middle of their morning prayers.

A statement by the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades praised the “heroic operation” by Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, but did not specify whether the cousins had been instructed to carry out the attack.”

In fact, five people (four worshippers and a policeman) were killed during the attack and one additional victim succumbed to his wounds a year later but the BBC’s article has not been updated accordingly.

The article refrains from describing the PFLP as a terrorist organisation in the BBC’s own words, with that definition attributed to Israeli authorities in quotation marks:

“The PFLP leader was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in an Israeli prison for heading an “illegal terrorist organisation”…” 

Readers of the profile are not informed that the PFLP is defined as a proscribed terror organisation by the United States, Canada, Israel and the EU.

NGO Monitor recently produced a report concerning the financial support provided to various NGOs linked to the PFLP.

“Many European countries fund a network of organizations, some of which are directly affiliated with the PFLP, and others with a substantial presence of employees and officials linked to the PFLP. The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) include Addameer, Al-Haq, Alternative Information Center (AIC), Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committee (HWC), Stop the Wall, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). […]

Donors to the NGOs include the EU, the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Ireland, UK, Netherland, Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and the United Nations. Continued funding raises serious questions about due diligence and evaluation on the part of the governments and the UN, as well as compliance with domestic and international laws.”

Some of those NGOs have been directly or indirectly quoted and promoted by the BBC in its Middle East coverage – for example Addameer, Al Haq, Defence for Children International – Palestine and of course the PCHR, which received particularly extensive exposure during the 2014 conflict between Israel and terror organisations in the Gaza Strip and which was one of the sources behind the casualty figures amplified by the BBC at the time.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”  

BBC amplifies the unproven claims of anti-Israel political NGO

Nearly fourteen years have passed since the instigation of the second Intifada by the Palestinian Authority in the wake of failed negotiations with Israel. A major factor in whipping up fervour on the Palestinian street at the time was the Al Dura incident of September 30th 2000. Then, as in subsequent events such as the fabricated ‘Jenin massacre’ and more recently the Masharawi affair, the BBC was at the forefront of those media outlets which unquestioningly promoted and amplified the lethal narratives supplied by interested parties, with little or no regard for its general journalistic obligation to check facts and its particular commitment to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

Perhaps most disturbingly of all, in all three of the cases mentioned above (and others) there is no evidence to suggest that universally human considerations were taken into account regarding the likely effects of misleading and inaccurate media reports on the lives – literally – of persons associated with the group at which an accusatory finger was pointed by hasty journalists in a region in which the violent consequences of rumour spread like bush-fires.

On May 20th – just weeks after the latest round of failed negotiations came to its déjà vu end – the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page titled “Video ‘shows shootings of Palestinian protesters’“. Notably, the BBC’s previously promoted and extremely problematic article on an Amnesty International report was one of the ‘related stories’ offered to readers together with that article.

Beitunia on MEHP

What really happened at Beitunia on May 15th to lead to the deaths of two Palestinian youths is as yet unknown and the incident is currently under investigation. What we do know, however, is that the edited video upon which the BBC article is based took five days to appear and that it was circulated and promoted by an organisation which the BBC misrepresents in the opening sentence of this report as a “human rights group”. 

“A human rights group has released a video it says shows two teenage Palestinians being shot dead by Israeli security forces at a protest last week.”

Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI- Pal) is a radical political NGO with an agenda which includes anti-Israel campaigning and support for the anti-peace BDS movement. Its website still promotes the myth of the ‘Jenin massacre’ and a member of its board of directors, Shawan Jabarin, allegedly has ties to the PFLP terror organization.

Later on in the BBC’s report, the executive director of DCI-Pal is quoted and his classification of rioting seventeen year-olds (although some sources report them as being older) as ‘children’ is promoted.

” “The images captured on video show unlawful killings where neither child presented a direct and immediate threat to life at the time of their shooting,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine.”

Rifat Odeh Kassis in fact wears many different hats for his political campaigning.

“The director and founder of DCI-Pal is Rifat Odeh Kassis – another seasoned anti-Israel campaigner who is active in a number of organisations (some of which he founded), including OPGAI, The World Council of Churches, EAPPI, the Alternative Tourism Group, and the Alternative Information Centre (also known for links to the PFLP).  Kassis is the co-author of the notorious Kairos Document, which promotes BDS and suggests that Jewish sovereignty is an affront to God’s plan for humanity.”

What we also know about this incident is that later the same day, one of the youths killed was claimed by Hamas as one of its activists on its Al Aqsa TV station and that at their funerals, one was wrapped in a Hamas flag and the other in a Fatah flag. Hamas members featured prominently at the funerals and the subsequent protests and one of the youths was photographed beforehand wearing a Hamas flag and headband. The BBC neglects to provide audiences with that information.

Beitunia rioting Hamas flag

Beitunia funeral flags

As the BBC notes in its report: [emphasis added]

No Israeli troops can be seen in the video, which begins with a youth throwing a stone from the end of a street, beside a row of shops.”

This BBC report does not, however, bother to inform readers that Israeli troops are far from the only ones who carry guns in that area and with the BBC having repeatedly failed in past months to adequately report the rise in Palestinian terrorism in Judea & Samaria, audiences will be unaware of that factor.Beitunia art

Neither does this BBC report inform readers of the fact (significant particularly in light of the recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal) that the spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, Adnan al Damiri, told AFP that “…this prompts the [PA] leadership to seriously consider a halt to security coordination with the Israeli side”.

By the time the actual facts surrounding the deaths of the two youths in Beitunia on May 15th come to light, it will of course hardly matter. The symbiotic relationship between the media – BBC included – and political NGOs will have created and established a narrative which, like the past examples of the Al Dura case, the so-called ‘Jenin massacre’ and the Masharawi story, will remain etched in the minds of audiences (and available on the BBC News website for decades to come) regardless of what any investigation proves or disproves.

That is surely something which should be seriously considered by any responsible journalist before a report based upon so far evidence-free third-party claims and opaque edited video sequences is promoted to BBC audiences.

Related Articles:

Myths and lethal narratives on the BBC website

Another lethal narrative on the BBC website

Where’s the BBC coverage? Journalists beaten up in Beitunia