BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

For years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Nevertheless, one might have expected that in two reports specifically relating to the issue of support for the BDS campaign from student unions in British universities, the corporation would have made an effort to get the facts right.

On April 27th BBC Two’s current affairs programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included a report by Jon Ironmonger (available here or here) about a Charity Commission investigation into 17 student unions that have endorsed the BDS campaign.

Having told audiences that Israel is “one subject” that “bitterly divides” students, Ironmonger went on to inform them that:

“The Jewish state of Israel is deeply controversial; accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and provoking anger around the world.”

He of course provided no evidence for that “human rights abuses” smear.

Audiences were later told that: [emphasis added]

“Students’ unions in increasing numbers have been voting to adopt strict anti-Israel policies under the banner of a global movement called BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. […]

BDS pressures Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands by calling for the boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.”

Obviously the use of such partisan terminology to describe disputed territory is not consistent with supposed BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

That report included two appearances by Sai Eglert who was described on screen as a “student teacher” and portrayed by Ironmonger as “a member of the Palestine Society at SOAS”. Viewers were not told that Eglert – who has appeared in BBC content before – is a BDS supporter and anti-Israel campaigner.

While interviewing a Jewish student about his experiences, Ironmonger appeared to question the existence of antisemitism at some UK universities.

“What’s fueling this antisemitism – if you like – on campus?” [emphasis added]

In addition to the filmed report, Ironmonger also produced a written article which was published on the BBC News website’s UK page on April 27th under the headline “Concerns raised over students’ unions’ anti-Israel stance“.

The portrayal of the BDS campaign in that article was no better. 

“Seventeen student bodies have endorsed the BDS movement – which calls for an international boycott of Israel over the way it treats Palestinians. […]

The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”

Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.

The subject matter of Jon Ironmonger’s two reports is important and serious. It is therefore all the more regrettable that BBC audiences were not provided with the full range of information critical for proper understanding of this story. 

 

 

BBC News portrays political NGOs as ‘human rights activists’

On April 25th an article billed “Israel PM snubs German foreign minister” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the sub-heading “Sigmar Gabriel had refused to call off talks with Israeli human rights activists”.

The report itself – headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups” – opens with a description of the NGOs concerned in the same terms.

“Israel’s prime minister has cancelled talks with Germany’s foreign minister after he refused to call off a meeting with Israeli human rights activists.

Sigmar Gabriel had been due to meet Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu had warned he would not see Mr Gabriel if he met the groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.”

The fact that the BBC chose to describe those two political NGOs as “human rights activists” should not be surprising: after all, both ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘ are among the campaigning NGOs (overwhelmingly from one end only of the political spectrum) that are routinely quoted and promoted in BBC content.

However, in breach of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality, the BBC has a longstanding policy of consistently refraining from adequately informing its audiences with regard to the foreign funding, agenda and “particular viewpoint” of the NGOs it promotes in Israel-related content – including ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘.

In this particular report readers are told that:

“Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers, gathers anonymous testimony from within the military about alleged abuses of Palestinians by the army.

Israeli authorities have accused it of making unreliable accusations.”

They are not however informed that a significant proportion of those ‘testimonies’ have been shown by persons completely independent of the “Israeli authorities” to be false, exaggerated or unverifiable.

With regard to B’tselem, the BBC’s report states:

“B’Tselem is one of Israel’s leading human rights groups and has come under similar criticism.”

Readers are not told that B’tselem was one of the sources of dubious casualty figures (also used by the BBC) during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas or that it engages in ‘lawfare‘ campaigns intended to delegitimise Israel – the one country it openly admits to wanting to see “punished” by the international community.

Both ‘B’tselem’ and ‘Breaking the Silence’ are generously foreign funded campaigning NGOs with a clear and specific political agenda. The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of those groups as ‘human rights activists’ is a barrier to audience understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

 

 

 

BBC News website passes off anti-Israel hate fest as ‘academic conference’

Tucked away on the ‘Hampshire & Isle of Wight’ regional page in the ‘England’ section of the BBC News website’s UK page is an article published on March 31st 2017 under the headline “‘Chilling repression’ leads to Southampton conference move“.

The BBC website’s visitors are told that:

“An academic conference which raises legal questions about the state of Israel has got under way at the third attempt.

The three-day meeting opened in Cork, Republic of Ireland, after two failed efforts to hold it in Southampton.

The organisers, two professors from the University of Southampton, accused their employer of blocking the event in 2015 and 2016.”

Later on, readers find the following:

“Ahead of the cancelled 2015 conference, the pro-Israel The Zionist Federation UK garnered more than 6,700 signatures opposing its staging, while a counter-petition signed by more than 800 academics urged the university to resist the pressure.

The university said it withdrew permission for the event because “the safety of staff, students and visitors could not be guaranteed”.

A second conference due to be held in 2016 was cancelled when the university imposed conditions including a £25,000 fee to cover policing and security costs.

In April 2016, professors Oren Ben-Dor and Suleiman Sharkh lost a High Court case in which they had argued that the cancellations put “academic freedom” at stake.””

Readers are also provided with quotes from one of the organisers and a link to a nine year-old BBC article by Jeremy Bowen is promoted:

“Prof Sharkh said on Friday there were no demonstrators outside the conference in Cork.

He said the move from Southampton reflected a “chilling repression of academic freedom when it comes to critique of Israeli state policy”.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Prof Richard Falk, has previously said Israel’s actions in the Palestinian Occupied Territories possessed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

BBC audiences were not however informed of Richard Falk’s antisemitism, his long record of anti-Israel campaigning, his promotion of conspiracy theories, his support for Hamas and more.

Neither were they told that one of only two pro-Israel speakers at the event (out of around 40) withdrew his participation. 

“Founder and senior editor of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), Professor Alan Johnson, said that he will not be attending the “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility” conference in Cork, Ireland later this month due to controversial author Richard Falk’s participation. […]

“The organizers have issued an invitation to Richard Falk to give a keynote speech… by inviting a speaker who espouses antisemitic conspiracy theories the conference is now objectively an attempt to normalize antisemitism and I cannot attend such an event,” he added.”

So what exactly went on at the event the BBC would have its audiences believe was an “academic conference”?

“The claim that Zionism is based only on “blood and might” and seeks to do away with the “meek” Jew came from the first speaker, Dr. Hatem Bazian, professor of Near Eastern studies at University of California Berkeley. Bazian accused Zionists of adopting “a racist, genocidal and exclusive world view” and claimed they had “embarked on a national project of settler colonialism.” […]

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, a prominent researcher on the Palestinian right of return, told a hugely supportive audience that the only barrier to such a move was what he described as Israeli “apartheid.” […]

Displaying maps and graphics of population densities in Israel, the civil engineer accused the state of perpetrating “the most comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation in history.”  […]

On the opening day of the conference, Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and former UN special rapporteur, described the foundation of the state as “the most successful terror campaign in history.” […]

Meanwhile Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky from the London University School of Oriental and African studies provoked major controversy when she used the Nazi term “untermensch,” meaning sub-human in English, when outlining what she alleged were Israel’s “crimes against humanity.””

One of the people who attended the event noted that:

“The words of the Passover Seder were scrolled out on screen to show how the Zionist paranoia and desire to be hated is deeply connected to the Jewish need to have an enemy to sustain its identity.”

And:

“We were told (in a particularly poor “academic paper” even by the standards of this conference) that the end of times were here environmentally and our days were numbered unless we stopped Israel in its tracks. Why you might ask? WARFARE (threatening the whole Middle East – Iraq, Syria) was shouted, followed by “9/11″. This passed without remark. Indeed in the question period, John McGuire, Professor Emeritus from UCC continued the theme of Israel’s involvement in all things nefarious by connecting Shannon Airport, US troops passing through and CIA torture. This opened the floor for Joel Kovel to take the floor again to expand on his 9/11 theories. Did we know that when the towers were burning there were 5 mysterious “painters” cheering in the shadows? Arrested at the time but soon “disappeared off the face of the earth”? “Mossad” was shouted by audience members and “academic ecosocialist” speaker alike. “

Also present at the event was David Collier – see his reports here, here and here.

The three days of defamation and delegitimisation of Israel seen in Cork should come as a surprise to no-one: the event’s activist organisers had made it clear well in advance that their intent was to question the very existence of Israel and their motive political rather than academic.

“This conference will be the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine. It is unique because, while most attention today is directed at Israel’s actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference seeks to expand the debate surrounding the nature of the State of Israel and the legal and political reality within it.

The conference will raise questions that link the suffering in historic Palestine to the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature. It aims to generate a debate on legitimacy, exceptionalism and responsibility under international law as provoked by the nature of the Israeli state. It will also examine how international law could be deployed, expanded, and even re-imagined, in order to achieve peace and reconciliation based on justice.”

Nevertheless, the BBC News website elected to inaccurately pass off a patently political event as an “academic conference”, to portray delegitimisation and defamation of Israel and Jews as “critique of Israeli state policy”, to depict Richard Falk as a benign academic and to steer audiences towards the view that the event’s organisers suffer “chilling repression”.  

How all that got past the supposed BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality is anyone’s guess.

Related Articles:

BBC News erases identity of authors of UN ‘apartheid’ report

Frequent BBC favourite Falk in the news

Hidden Agenda at Southampton University?  (UK Media Watch) 

Event touted by BBC as ‘non-political’ bans UK participant on political grounds

Four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison (who was based in the region at the time) promoted a marathon run in the PA controlled territories as a ‘non-political’ event – despite very clear evidence to the contrary.

“The Israelis should look at this purely as a sporting event. It has nothing to do with politics,” says Samia al-Wazir, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian Olympic Committee.” [emphasis added]

This year that marathon is taking place on March 31st and British comedian (and marathon runner) Eddie Izzard had planned to take part.

The event’s organisers had other ideas:

A BDS campaign linked website that received promotion from BBC Music just last month put out a press release:

“British comedian Eddie Izzard cannot run for freedom this Friday if he entertains in Tel Aviv on Thursday, say Palestine Marathon organisers.

“We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard’s whitewashing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid” Palestinian campaigners commented.

Eddie Izzard, who ran 27 marathons in tribute to Mandela in 2016, and who is a UNICEF ambassador, should be consistent and stand against Israeli Apartheid, say Artists for Palestine UK. […]

The Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel [PACBI – Ed], commented:  “Eddie Izzard is not welcomed in the Palestine marathon after he has crossed our boycott picket line. Today, performing in Tel Aviv is equivalent to performing in Sun City during the time of apartheid, and there is no balancing act that can justify violating the Palestinian boycott call. We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard’s whitewashing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid.””

Jon Donnison’s 2013 article is still available online. In light of the stance taken by the marathon’s organisers and BDS supporters, the BBC clearly needs to rethink its promotion of the event as having “nothing to do with politics”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Donnison promotes Bethlehem Marathon as non-political event

Bethlehem Marathon: the bit the BBC did not report

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

Opportunistic recycling of anti-Israel ‘apartheid’ slur on multiple BBC platforms

The death of South African anti-apartheid campaigner Ahmed Kathrada on March 28th was covered on a range of BBC platforms, including World Service radio programmes, television news and the BBC News website.

The BBC also saw fit to recycle its 2014 ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Kathrada on multiple platforms. The audio version of that programme was rebroadcast in full on World Service radio on March 29th and on the same day the filmed version of the interview was re-shown on BBC World News and the BBC News Channel and re-promoted on BBC iPlayer.

The BBC News website promoted clips from that 2014 ‘Hardtalk’ interview on March 28th, including one titled “Kathrada: I can never be anti-Jewish” which is described as follows in the synopsis:

“But he has never stopped campaigning for the ideals of freedom on which the anti-apartheid movement was based.

Speaking to Hardtalk in 2014 he gave his whole-hearted support to the Palestinians but made clear he was critical of Israel but not anti-Jewish.”

As was noted here when it was first aired almost three years ago, in that interview Kathrada expressed unequivocal support for the practice of indiscriminate killing of Israeli Jews by Palestinian terror groups. He also promoted the false notion of ‘apartheid’ in Israel.

Ahmed Kathrada: “My own view is I keep on supporting the Palestinian struggle once they have decided on the…Palestinian leaders have decided….this is the road we’ll take, I support them.”

Sarah Montague: “Even if that route involves violence?”

AK: “But I’m not going to prescribe to them what they should…”

SM: “Is their use…is their use of violence justified?”

AK: “If, under the circ…that’s not for me to say. But if they, in their wisdom, resort to violence as the only method, I’ll support them. I’ve been to Palestine. I have seen what is like. Is the only colony in the world today; a colony of Israel. We have seen – I have seen in Palestine what didn’t exist under apartheid in the worst days of apartheid.”

SM: “So your support is unconditional?”

AK: “My support is whole-hearted. I take my cue from what they do. I don’t prescribe to them. So far there is no reason for me to criticize the Palestinian leadership.”

SM: “But the South African Zionist Federation says [Marwan] Barghouti is not a political prisoner but a terrorist guilty of multiple crimes against humanity.”

AK: “I’m not surprised at them. And they have tried to turn…let me take it as an individual because I have been outspoken on Palestine. They’ve been trying to misinterpret us as being anti-Jewish; antisemitic. We’re not.  We are critical of Israel. That does not make us anti-Jewish.”

Interviewer Sarah Montague failed at the time to challenge BDS supporter Kathrada’s mendacious use of the ‘apartheid’ smear or his absurd claim that his support for the indiscriminate targeting and murder of Israeli Jews in acts of terror is not antisemitic, but mere ‘criticism’ of Israel.

Now, with Kathrada’s death, the BBC has chosen to opportunistically and widely re-amplify those falsehoods.

 

 

 

BBC amplified NGO promotes another Israel delegitimisation campaign

Last October we noted Yolande Knell’s amplification of anti-Israel agitprop set up by the campaigning group Avaaz – and the glaring fact that audiences were at no point informed of the identity of the organisers, let alone given any information concerning their political agenda.

Our colleagues at Presspectiva recently reported on another Israel related campaign run by Avaaz.

“The activist network is now promoting a petition that went viral, calling for action against the destruction of a Palestinian community. The petition has the catchy headline: “They’re asking us for a miracle.”

At the time of writing, some 860,000 people have signed the petition aimed against the Israeli government. Every few seconds another person adds their name to this campaign.

The text informs its readers that:

‘Near the hilltops of the village of Bethany, 2000 years ago, it is said that Jesus Christ brought Lazarus back to life.Today those hilltops are home to an indigenous community who are about to be bulldozed into the ground. Their homes, land, and way of life completely wiped out.

But these brave families refuse to fade silently into the darkness. Instead, they are taking a huge risk, rising up against the bulldozers by nonviolently “sitting-in” their homes. They’re betting on a miracle: that their act of courage will inspire people around the world to help stop the bulldozers before they crush them.…’ […]

No matter how many times you reread the text, the lack of factual information stands out. While the petition is filled with pathos and a heart wrenching description of families facing eviction while waiting for a miracle to save them, it is devoid of any specifics explaining why the community is facing this tragedy. The context of where the community is situated or why it is facing such a brutal eviction is mysteriously left out. […]

The petition provides the reader with no concrete facts. Instead it relies on the emotive use of language. Bulldozers, destruction, miracle, inspiration — these are empty slogans and rallying cries. The people who sign the petition are voicing an amorphous objection to a vague and unspecified “destruction” of a Palestinian community of which they know nothing about.

Trying to give the story a Christian element — the mention of Lazarus and the use of the English name “Pope’s Mountain” as opposed to the common Arabic name — are cynical attempts to give the story a religious aspect that it simply does not have.”

The full article is available in English here or in Hebrew here.

As has been noted here before, as time goes by the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs flourishes and expands, with more and more ‘news’ being sourced from agenda-driven organisations. But when political agendas and reporting meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability.

The very least the BBC should be doing is adhering to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by customarily and rigorously clarifying to audiences the political motivations of NGOs and campaigning groups in any content that promotes or amplifies their agenda.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

 

BBC News report on PSC and BDS fails to explain either

On March 13th an article headlined “UK pro-Palestinian activist deported from Israel” appeared on the BBC News website’s UK and Middle East pages.

The first two paragraphs of the later version of the report summarise the story as follows:

“A UK activist has been blocked from entering Israel because of his support for a movement urging a boycott of the country, Israeli officials say.

Hugh Lanning, chairman of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, was deported after arriving on Sunday.”

Readers are next told that:

“It comes days after Israel passed a law barring entry to foreign backers of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The PSC says the law violates basic “freedoms essential to democracy”.”

Rather than referring merely to “backers” of the BDS campaign as the BBC claims, the amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel Act’ which was passed on March 6th in fact states: (translation BBC Watch)

“A visa or residence permit of any sort will not be granted to a person who is not an Israeli citizen or holder of a permanent residence permit in Israel, if s/he, or the organisation or body on behalf of which s/he acts, knowingly issued a public call to boycott the State of Israel as defined in the Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Caused by Boycotts Act of 2011, or pledged to take part in any such boycott.”

However, having amplified the PSC’s opinion on the subject of legislation in a foreign country, the BBC report then goes on to state that the amendment concerned is not connected to the story.

“Israel’s Immigration Authority said Mr Lanning was not stopped due to the new law, but instead on the discretion of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan.

It also released an image showing Mr Lanning in a meeting with the then-leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, in 2012.”

Nevertheless, later on in the report readers find further amplification of the PSC’s politicised messaging and repetition of the notion that Lanning was denied entry to Israel under the new legislation.

“Ben Jamal, director of the PSC, said Mr Lanning was “the first victim” of the new law and that he believes he is now “permanently barred” from the country.

He added: “If Israel believes that by introducing these draconian undemocratic laws it will intimidate its critics into silence it is mistaken.”

Mr Jamal called on the UK government to condemn the ban of a British citizen “whose only crime is to advocate for human rights”.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, when reporting on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences what that campaign aims to achieve and in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such background information “not our role“. It is therefore unsurprising to see that this report similarly fails to provide readers with the context – obviously relevant to the story’s subject matter – of what lies behind the anti-Israel BDS campaign that the PSC promotes.

As regular readers are aware, members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign sometimes appear in BBC content (most recently on BBC One just a few weeks ago) and in 2014 the PSC was the foreign NGO that received the most promotion in BBC Israel-related content – in part because of the BBC’s generous but selective coverage of anti-Israel demonstrations organised by the group that summer.

In 2011, while reporting on the banning of an Israeli from the UK on the grounds that his presence in that country was “not conducive to the public good”, the BBC was able to describe one of the opponents to the Home Secretary’s decision as follows:

“Sheikh Salah’s supporters in Britain include the radical Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which has promoted an annual march attended by supporters of the Iranian Hezbollah group and Hamas and which has also given a platform to the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir group.” [emphasis added]

London, January 2014. Right to Left: Hugh Lanning PSC, Mohammad Sawalha, Mohammad Kozbar, Zaher Birawi (see last two ‘related articles’ below)

In this latest report, however, the BBC avoids informing audiences in its own words of the PSC’s activities, despite there being plenty of information available in the public domain concerning the group’s links to Hamas and its supporters, its perennial delegitimisation of Israel and its promotion of the BDS campaign.

Instead, this report provides readers with a ‘he said/she said’ account of the PSC’s raison d’être – and directs them to the PSC website via a link.

“His [Lanning’s] organisation, the PSC, says it campaigns for “justice and equality for Palestinians”. However Israel says its true aim is to delegitimise the Jewish state.

A statement from the Embassy of Israel in London said PSC “leads the campaign in the UK to demonise and boycott Israel”.

It added: “Lanning is associated with the leaders of Hamas, which is designated as a terror group across the European Union; a group whose anti-Semitic charter calls for killing all Jews.”

Clearly this report does not provide BBC audiences with the range of information necessary for their complete understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC Breakfast’s Jenny Hill enables PSC antisemitism washing

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

Hugging Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. Welcome to the PSC! (David Collier – Harry’s Place)

BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify the agenda of the BDS campaign and the PSC

CiF Watch Special Report: Extremists & terror supporters organizing ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ (UK Media Watch)

CiF Watch Special Report on extremists behind ‘Global March to Jerusalem’: Pt 2, Europe Chapter  (UK Media Watch) 

 

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

On March 3rd BBC audiences found reports on multiple platforms promoting what is repeatedly and openly defined by a BBC reporter as “a political statement”.

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Banksy decorates West Bank hotel with views of Israel’s wall” in which they were told that: [emphasis in bold added]banksy-hotel-written

“A hotel which prides itself on the “worst view in the world” is set to attract international attention – because it is a collaboration with the famous street artist Banksy.

The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem looks out on the concrete slabs of the controversial barrier Israel has built in and around the occupied West Bank.

Israel says it is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land and the International Court of Justice has called it illegal.

The rooms of the hotel are also filled with the anonymous artist’s work, much of which is about the conflict.

The owners say it will be a real, functioning hotel, opening on 20 March.

But the hotel is also part art gallery and part political statement.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content relating to the anti-terrorist fence, readers are not informed that 95% of the structure as a whole is made of wire mesh or that the highlighted ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation.  And of course while the article (together with the other reports on the same theme) 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 prompted the fence’s construction.banksy-hotel-written-last-pic 

The caption to the final image illustrating the article reads “The hotel will accept bookings from 11 March, nine days before its opening” and immediately below that readers are again informed that “The Walled Off Hotel opens on 20 March”. BBC editorial guidelines concerning advertising and “product prominence” state:

“…we must avoid any undue prominence which gives the impression that we are promoting or endorsing products, organisations or services”. 

In addition to that written report, visitors to the BBC News website found a filmed report also shown on BBC television programmes. Titled “Banksy hotel, The Walled Off, opens in Bethlehem“, the report is billed:banksy-hotel-filmed

“The hotel has the “worst view of any hotel in the world”, the street artist says, as it is next to Israel’s controversial wall.”

That report was produced by Alex Forsyth – a political correspondent for BBC News who has recently been based in Beirut and who apparently just happened to be 245 kilometers away in Bethlehem on the day that the PR media campaign for this “political statement” was launched. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Forsyth: “This is Banksy’s latest creation. It’s a hotel in Bethlehem. It’s called the Walled Off – which is a play on the famous Waldorf – and the reason for that is it’s situated just feet away from the barrier which separates the West Bank from Israel. More than just a business, this is a political statement by Banksy – a comment on what he sees as the plight of Palestinians. It’s come as a surprise to people living here. Nobody knew he was behind it until today and we can take a first glimpse at what he created so let’s take a little look inside.

This is the reception; it leads through to the lounge area. Everything in here was designed by Banksy. It’s taken some 14 months to create. He fully funded the project although he won’t say how much it’s cost. He describes it as the hotel with the worst view in the world and that is because if you look through the windows you can see the wall which is so nearby. Now that was built by the Israelis and they say it’s essential for their security and to prevent terror attacks. Many Palestinians feel that it encroaches on their freedom and if you look round this hotel you can see on the walls there are symbols of Banksy’s view on the situation here: his political comment. It’s not the first time he’s been to this area. He has painted on the wall itself in the past. Some have criticized him for that, saying he is normalising the wall and that shouldn’t be the case. His argument is that he’s raising awareness and the team behind this hotel are keen to stress that it employs local staff – some 45 people – and is run by a local Palestinian. There are 9 rooms, the prices start at $30 a night but they say this is not a money-making operation; instead this is about raising awareness.”

Even listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 3rd were not spared amplification of this latest agitprop stunt. Newsreader Corrie Corfield told audiences (from 26:46 here):banksy-hotel-r4-news

Corfield: “The British graffiti artist Banksy is opening a guest house on the occupied West Bank which he claims will be the hotel with the worst view in the world. The building in Bethlehem is a few feet from part of a wall that was built by the Israelis. Our correspondent Alex Forsyth paid it a visit.”

Forsyth: “From the self-playing grand piano to the Chesterfield sofas, the hotel’s lounge mirrors an English gentleman’s club. But the walls are adorned with images depicting Banksy’s view of the Palestinian plight: a collection of mock security cameras, images of angels wearing gas masks and Israeli soldiers pillow fighting with Palestinians. Entirely designed and funded by Bansky, this is a functioning and permanent guest house – not a temporary installation. Staffed by local Palestinians, prices range from £25 a night for a bunk bed in a bleak dormitory to hundreds for a stay in the plush presidential suite. From almost every room there’s a view of the wall: part of the West Bank barrier built by Israel, which says it’s essential for security. Deliberately situated just feet away, the Walled Off hotel is as much a political statement as a new business.”

Forsyth’s claim that the project is not a “temporary installation” is not supported by the hotel’s website.

banksy-hotel-website

The hotel’s website provides further insight into what the project is “raising awareness” about:

“Britain got its hands on Palestine in 1917 and the piano bar is themed as a colonial outpost from those heady days. It is equipped with languid ceiling fans, leather bound couches and an air of undeserved authority.”

As CNN reported, the press release which accompanied the PR campaign that the BBC elected to generously amplify also included a reference to contemporary British politics.

‘”It’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture – with chaotic results,” said Banksy in a press release handed out at the hotel’s opening.

“I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences,” the statement read, referencing in one line Balfour and Brexit.’

The BBC, however, chose to focus audience attentions away from those UK related areas of “political comment”, preferring instead to promote the facile slogan “plight of the Palestinians”.

This is of course not the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC has taken the editorial decision to promote and amplify what apparently passes as “political comment” on the Arab-Israeli conflict from a person not even prepared to identify himself to the general public.

It is also far from the first time that the BBC has promoted simplistic politicised commentary on the anti-terrorist fence while erasing its proven efficiency – and the hundreds of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists before its construction – from audience view.

This latest unquestioning self-conscription to a PR campaign promoting anonymous agitprop designed to delegitimise Israel of course further erodes the BBC’s claim of ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

In which BBC Radio 4 insists on describing a fence as a wall

 

 

BBC silent as UNESCO resolutions come home to roost

Back in October 2016 the BBC produced three reports relating to two resolutions passed by UNESCO.unesco-art

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here

As was noted here at the time:

“And yet again, the context of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel was erased from audience view. Readers were not informed that both the PA’s ruling party Fatah and Hamas lauded the UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.”  

Fast forward to late January 2017 and a speech made by the new UN Secretary General in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his address, Mr Guterres said:

“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis.  On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism.
 
Imperial Rome not only destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, but also made Jews pariahs in many ways.  The attacks and abuse grew worse through the triumph of Christianity and the propagation of the idea that the Jewish community should be punished for the death of Jesus – an absurdity that helped to trigger massacres and other tremendous crimes against Jews around the world for centuries to come.” [emphasis added]

Those five highlighted words and a radio interview in which Mr Guterres also mentioned the ancient Jewish Temple garnered some furious reactions – including invocation of the UNESCO resolutions passed in October.  

““[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.”

And:

““[Gueterres] ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aksa Mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” Adnan al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs minister, told Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet, clarifying that the UN secretary-general “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs, overstepped his role as secretary general, and…must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.” […]

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, said that the statements “undermine the trustworthiness of the UN as a body that should support occupied peoples.”

“It appears that the secretary general of the United Nations lacks culture and knowledge in his own specialization,” Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Xinhua, calling on the UN secretary-general to clarify his position “that gives a green light to the occupation to undertake more measures against Jerusalem.””

Similar reactions were seen in the PA’s official daily newspaper:

“Antonio Guterres clearly and explicitly sinned against peace and the Palestinian-Israeli political agreement when he claimed yesterday [Jan. 29, 2017] in an interview with the Hebrew-language Voice of Israel [radio] that he ‘believes in the connection between Jerusalem and the Jews.’ In contradiction to the UNESCO resolutions, history, and facts, the secretary-general claimed that it is as clear as day – in his opinion which is far from the truth and the facts – that ‘The Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans was a Jewish Temple’…
Mr. Antonio, if you care about history and if it is important to you, [you should know that] Jerusalem and all of Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea – are the land of the Palestinian people, and their history is its history.”

Unsurprisingly, the self-styled ‘standard-setter for international journalism’ which at the time ignored Palestinian praise of the resolutions for erasing Jewish history – preferring instead to promote Saeb Erekat’s claim that ‘the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”’ – has not reported this story.

Related Articles:

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

The BBC and the ‘apartheid’ smear

BBC audiences are no strangers to unchallenged multi-platform amplification of the ‘apartheid’ smear against Israel.mcdonalds-pic

For example, in November 2012, listeners to BBC Radio 4 were told that:

“The ..emm…country [Israel] is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other.”

In April 2014 visitors to the BBC News website were told by the former BBC Middle East bureau chief that use of the word ‘apartheid’ made (and later walked back) by the US Secretary of State “adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank”.

In May 2014 viewers of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ and visitors to the BBC News website heard a South African anti-Israel activist say:

“We have seen – I have seen – in Palestine what didn’t exist under apartheid in the worst days of apartheid.”

In January 2015 the BBC News website managed to shoehorn a ‘he said-she said’ version of the ‘apartheid’ trope into a news story:

“Harsh critics of Israel level the charge of apartheid – the system of state-sanctioned racial discrimination once practised by South Africa – against the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and Israeli-Arab minority. Israel says the accusation is baseless and a part of efforts to demonise it.”

In March 2015 listeners to the BBC World Service were told that:

“…practically he [the Israeli prime minister] officially declared Israel as an apartheid state – a segregation state”

And:

“…this would be a long journey and a struggle against the system of apartheid that Netanyahu has created. And that means that we need not only Palestinian popular resistance on the ground but also boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in the very same manner that was used against the system of apartheid in South Africa at one point in time.”

And that:

“…as Israel moves further into the open as an apartheid state, that clash with US values will become more apparent.”

In August 2015 the BBC World Service initiated a ‘discussion’ based on the ‘apartheid’ trope.

In September 2015 listeners to BBC Radio Wales were told that in relation to Israel they should:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

In January 2016 visitors to a local page on the BBC News website found amplification of the claim from an anti-Israel group that “its campaign was similar to international boycotts of South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, when anti-apartheid activists tried to bring down white minority rule.”

In February 2016 visitors to another local page on the BBC News website found the following unqualified information:

“According to its website, Israel Apartheid Week takes place across 150 universities and cities and “aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”.”

In April 2016 a BBC News website backgrounder on antisemitism informed audiences that:

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign says it opposes all racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the “the [sic] apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state”…”

And in September 2016 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the unchallenged claim of:

“…an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid much worse that what prevailed in South Africa.”

Despite all that amplification (and more), not once in those four years has BBC Watch been able to document an explanation having been provided to BBC audiences as to why the ‘apartheid’ trope is false, why used by anti-Israel activists and what is the aim of that tactic.

As has been noted here before:

“As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year [2012], the makers of those demands [the BDS campaign] have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.”

But in addition to failing to provide its audiences with the context which would enable their understanding of why the false ‘apartheid’ smear is used, the BBC has for the most part also ignored the views of people who really did experience apartheid. A publication produced by ‘Africans for Peace’ provides some interesting insights from four South Africans who have visited Israel.

“In South Africa, I had frequently heard the description of Israel as an “apartheid state.” As a black man coming from South Africa, where we actually experienced apartheid, I realized that this was not apartheid. This was not the same situation.”

How does it make you feel that the BDS movement compares the situation of the Palestinian people with the plight of black people under apartheid?

It upsets me a lot! A lot! Because it’s misleading! The situation cannot be compared to apartheid because it’s not apartheid. Those people involved with the BDS movement need to go to Israel and the West Bank to see the situation for themselves.”

“Please – don’t steal the word “apartheid!” For black South Africans, apartheid was more than just systematic discrimination against our people. It was a project that aimed to rob a specific race of its history, culture, dignity, and humanity. Those who apply the term “apartheid” to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of perpetuating that same theft, by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced, and which we have overcome with much blood and tears. While the challenges that face Israel and her neighbor Palestine may result in one group feeling discriminated against by the other, it is very different from the legally-blessed racism, based on the discredited idea of white supremacy, that once reigned in my country.”

“The reality is that the two situations are very different. I came to understand that the analogy of apartheid in Israel was an abuse of the memory of apartheid, just as it is possible to abuse the memory of the Holocaust or slavery in a similar manner.”

It is high time for the BBC to meet its public purpose remit and its commitment to ‘due impartiality’ by ensuring that its audiences are provided with fact-based information concerning the redundancy of the ‘apartheid’ trope the true aims of those who promote that tactical smear.