BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil promotes more uncorroborated Six Day War hearsay

As noted here earlier in the week, in an item about the Six Day War aired on BBC World Service radio on June 3rd, BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil mentioned that her department would be “marking this anniversary with a number of postcards [reports] from the different countries that were occupied during the 1967 war”.

“I’m here in Cairo. I’m filing a postcard with a veteran warrior.”

On June 6th that report appeared on the BBC Arabic website and apparently also on BBC Arabic TV.

The report’s synopsis repeats the claim made in Nabil’s World Service item according to which her interviewee was a prisoner of war ‘for about a year’. As noted here previously, according to the Israeli MFA, all prisoner exchanges with Egypt were completed by January 23rd 1968 and so that claim is obviously questionable.

In the report BBC Arabic’s audiences hear the following:

“I am Amin Abdul Rahman Mohammad Jumaa. I was born in the year of 1944. I am 72 years of age. I enlisted myself in the Egyptian army in 1964.

I was taken as a hostage by Israel for a year. I was released in the end of 1968.

The first day, I entered the camp and the thorns were between 6 to 10 cm.

I was walking barefoot on the thorns and the thorns went in my feet.

We were sitting in the camp, we were all Egyptians and all were starving. They give a quarter piece of toast and then he [the Israeli solider] start to beat you.

They start to investigate you and interrogate. After investigation they take the hostage and he never comes back.

An Israeli soldier then asked us ‘who is thirsty?’ One of the hostages said ‘I am’ so the Israeli solider will take him and kill him with fire [shoot him].

Then another solider comes and asks the same question. Three of us answered him, while one did not give an answer. The solider asked him ‘so you are not thirsty?’ The Egyptian solider replies ‘no’. Then the Israeli solider will take him and tell him ‘so you have dignity, then I am going to kill you’.

They used [a] bulldozer to bury the Egyptian soldiers alive. They do not have values.

I said to myself, I want to take my right but Camp David does not allow me to sue the Israeli state.” 

Obviously Sally Nabil can not have independently verified those claims and allegations before publishing this item. However, as indicated in its synopsis, her agenda in this report (as well as in her World Service item) also includes promotion of attempts by some parties to claim compensation on the basis of such unproven allegations. In the English language item broadcast on June 3rd she told listeners that her interviewee:

“…said ‘I tried to get a compensation from Israel’ but you know there is a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was signed in the late ’70s. He said that according to the Camp David peace treaty that each country should compensate its own citizens, so it was the Egyptian government that was supposed to compensate him for what happened to him but he said that the government paid him nothing. He said ‘my pension now it’s about 500 Egyptian pounds’ which is less than $50.”

The court ruling mentioned in the synopsis relates to a case that has been going on for years. While similar allegations have been made throughout more than two decades, that court case rests largely on an Israeli documentary called ‘Ruah Shaked’ from 2007 which caused a diplomatic incident at the time. The fact that the film-maker later admitted that he had made a series of mistakes that created the inaccurate impression that Israeli soldiers had killed Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967 does not interest those pursuing that case in the Egyptian courts.

Obviously it does not interest Sally Nabil either; as we see she is quite happy to promote unverified claims and to amplify allegations that have never been proven to BBC Arabic’s audience of 37 million people.

Related Articles:

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’ 

BBC News continues to ignore the story of Hamas-ISIS Sinai relations

Last month we noted here that the BBC had not produced any coverage of reported developments in the Sinai Peninsula.

“Although BBC audiences have heard nothing on the topic, analysts and media outlets in Egypt and Israel have been reporting for several weeks on increasing tensions between the ISIS affiliate in northern Sinai and local Bedouin tribes.”

As that story continues to be ignored by the BBC, analysts meanwhile report that it has taken on another interesting twist.

The JCPA notes that:

“On May 24, 2017, the Tribal Union of Sinai released a leaflet in which it accused Hamas of being an ally to ISIS in Sinai.

The leaflet strongly criticized Hamas for allowing ISIS members to enter the Gaza Strip through the Sinai tunnels and for supplying them with weapons, training, medical care, and shelter in the Gaza Strip.

The leaflet warned Hamas not to assist ISIS activists and demanded the extradition to Egypt of all ISIS operatives hiding in the Gaza Strip.”

As has been noted here in the past, the BBC has for years refrained from producing any serious coverage of the topic of cooperation between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in Sinai and has even provided amplification for Hamas PR messaging on that topic.

Avi Isacharoff at the Times of Israel notes that:

“On Sunday, a Hamas delegation led by Yahya Sinwar, Tawfik Abu Naim and others set out from Gaza for a series of meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo, after a long period in which Egyptian authorities refused to allow the terror group’s leaders to leave the Strip through the Rafah Border Crossing. Egypt’s stubborn refusal on the matter stemmed from a number of reasons, among them the ongoing ties between Hamas and IS.

While cooperation between the two sides has declined, and it is no longer the case that every injured Sinai Province operative is taken to Gaza for medical treatment from Hamas-affiliated doctors, Hebrew media reports and information coming out of Egypt have exposed claims by Hamas that it has cut ties with IS as a bluff. Time after time, senior Hamas figures promised that the terror group would take action against IS and time after time the Egyptians have been surprised to learn that in fact Hamas was keeping up its close-knit ties with the Sinai Province.

However, this time something appears to have a changed: a negative development in the relationship between Hamas and IS. […]

Still – to no one’s surprise – ties between Hamas and IS have continued, even if they are not what they once were. A small coterie of IS operatives from Sinai and Egypt continues to take refuge in the Gaza Strip, while an estimated 15-16 Gazans are currently among the ranks of IS in Sinai, most of whom were former Hamas members.”

The BBC’s funding public, however, remains entirely unaware of developments in the relations between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai: a subject which in the past has even been presented to BBC audiences as a “propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas”.

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of reported developments in Sinai

Poor BBC reporting on Hamas-ISIS Sinai collaboration highlighted again 

 

 

 

BBC’s filmed Six Day War backgrounder falls short

On June 5th a video billed “1967 Six Day War – in 60 seconds” appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and its Middle East page.

The video itself is titled “Six Day War: What happened – in 60 seconds” and its synopsis reads:

“In June 1967, Israel and Arab countries fought a war which lasted six days, but changed the face of the Middle East.”

The video’s opening frame tells viewers that they are about to learn “How the conflict unfolded”. However, the events which caused Israel to launch what the BBC rightly recognises as “a pre-emptive strike” are bizarrely erased from this account. The video continues:

“Day 1 June 5 1967

In a pre-emptive strike Israeli planes took out Egypt’s air force before it could take off

As fighting began, Israel also attacked Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi air forces, gaining air supremacy

Israeli ground forces enter the Sinai to fight the Egyptian army

Jordanian army shells West Jerusalem and other Israeli cities

Day 2 June 6 1967

Heavy combat between Israeli and Jordanian forces across Jerusalem and the West Bank

Day 3 June 7 1967

Israel captures the Old City of Jerusalem with its holy sites: Western Wall and Dome of the Rock

Day 4 June 8 1967

In the south, Israeli forces reach the Suez Canal, capturing the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt

Israel takes over the West Bank. An estimated 300,000 refugees flee to Jordan

Day 5 June 9 1967

In the north, Israeli forces push into the Syrian Golan Heights, taking most of it from Syria

Day 6 June 10 1967

Israeli forces capture more territory on the Golan Heights. Ceasefire declared ending the war.”

Completely absent from this backgrounder is any mention of the crucial events which preceded Israel’s preemptive strike on June 5th 1967: the massing of Egyptian troops in Sinai, the UN’s removal of peacekeeping forces from Sinai at Nasser’s demand, the closure of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt, the massing of troops by other Arab countries on Israel’s borders or Israel’s concerted diplomatic efforts to avoid the conflict.

Neither is any mention made of the message conveyed by the Israeli prime minister to the King of Jordan on the morning of June 5th, telling him that “we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us”. Likewise, Syrian attacks on Israeli communities both before and during the war are completely eliminated from the BBC’s account.

Once again we see that the BBC is not in the least committed to providing its audiences with the full range of accurate and impartial information that would enhance their knowledge and understanding of an event it so vigorously promotes.

Related Articles:

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’

Six Day War Anniversary resources

Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder

BBC’s Bateman erases history and context from his account of the Six Day War

 

 

 

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’

The June 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item (from 27:13 here) billed as follows in the synopsis:

“Egypt’s Naksa Day 
Next Monday is the 50th anniversary of Naksa day, or Day of the Setback. The “setback” for Egypt was their crushing defeat by Israel in the Six Day War. BBC Arabic reporter in Cairo, Sally Nabil, tells us how the day is viewed there now.”

At the start of the programme presenter David Amanor described the upcoming item as follows:

“…and a six-day war with consequences much greater. We’re finding out what young Egyptians today know about the events of June 1967.”

He introduced the segment itself thus:

Amanor: “Now most countries don’t relish their defeats and I guess Egypt is no different. Next week sees the 50th anniversary of what’s generally called the Six Day War in June 1967 but its impact remains much bigger than its short time span might suggest. It was a humiliating defeat for Egypt and its Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Israel took forces…took possession of the entire Sinai peninsula, leaving Egyptian forces to make a chaotic retreat. In Egypt the war is called the ‘naksa’. Sally Nabil of BBC Arabic tells me the story behind that name.”

What is most noticeable about this item is its complete abdication of responsibility to supply background information and context concerning a fifty year-old event that many listeners will not remember first hand and in particular, the failure to provide audiences worldwide with the facts concerning the Egyptian actions that led up to the war.  

Nabil: “It’s, you can say, an understatement of the word defeat. It’s like literally a setback so it seems that the Egyptian regime at that time did not want to recognise that the army has been defeated. So they used the word ‘naksa’ – or setback – instead of defeat to try to sugar-coat a bit or to convince the people that this is not the end of it; we lost a battle but we did not lose the war.”

Answering Amanor’s question as to whether that is the history taught in Egyptian schools, Nabil told listeners that:

Nabil: “Yeah, absolutely. I remember when I was at school we used to know it as the 1967 ‘naksa’ and they didn’t elaborate much on it, as much as they did on the 1973 war because the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people as well they glorify the 1973 when Egypt managed to take part of Sinai back from Israel and then they made a political settlement and took all of Sinai back.”

The “part of Sinai” gained by Egypt in the Yom Kippur war was of course two small areas to the east of the Suez Canal which were later joined under the terms of a cease-fire agreement that also saw Israel withdraw from areas captured west of the canal. 

Later on Amanor gave Nabil the cue for her next topic:

Amanor: “This is seen as one of the shortest yet most decisive wars in the modern era but it wasn’t just six days for a lot of the soldiers, was it? And there were a lot of casualties.”

Nabil went on to tell an unverifiable story about an unidentified former soldier.

Nabil: “I mean I met a veteran soldier who was caught by Israel. He remained in Israeli detention for about a year and he was sentenced to death but he managed to escape and he said that this year he was detained by the Israeli soldiers has haunted him for years and years to come so for him the 1967 war it’s a lifetime memory.”

According to the Israeli MFA, all prisoner exchanges with Egypt were completed by 23 January 1968 and so Nabil’s claim that the man was “in Israeli detention for about a year” is highly dubious, as are her unsupported claims that he “managed to escape” and that he “was sentenced to death”.

Nabil’s item continued with a description of the man’s dire financial situation and criticism of “the fact that the government turned a blind eye to people like him”. She then digressed to a topic outside the item’s declared subject matter, comparing the current Egyptian government to the Nasser regime, before closing by telling listeners that BBC Arabic will be “marking this anniversary with a number of postcards [reports] from the different countries that were occupied during the 1967 war”.

In conclusion, in this item BBC World Service audiences heard over seven minutes of entirely context-free reporting that included unverifiable and highly dubious hearsay. How the programme’s producers can claim that is accurate and impartial reporting which enhances audience understanding of the topic of the Six Day War is anyone’s guess.  

Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder

Fifty years ago today, the build-up of events that led to the Six Day War had already begun.

After fourteen Palestinian terror attacks had been carried out with Syrian support since April 7th, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned Syria of retaliation on May 13th 1967.    

Also on May 13th, the USSR promoted disinformation about a fictitious planned Israeli attack on Syria to the Egyptians and Syrians.

On May 14th Egyptian troops were mobilised around the Suez Canal and two days later Nasser demanded the removal of UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula: an ultimatum that was met by the UN Secretary General on May 18th.

On May 17th two Egyptian warplanes flew a reconnaissance mission over Israeli territory and on May 19th tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks massed in the Sinai.

Three days later, on May 22nd 1967, Egypt created a casus belli by blockading the Straits of Tiran.

So how are those events portrayed to the BBC’s audiences? In the past we have looked at some of the BBC produced material concerning the Six Day War that remains accessible online (see ‘related articles’ below). Another item still available is a backgrounder titled “1967 Middle East War” which is undated but appears to have been compiled about a decade ago.

The first page of that backgrounder ostensibly provides an introduction to the topic and the events that led to the conflict. Subsequent pages give day-by-day accounts of the fighting which are notable for their significant omissions, perhaps the most glaring of which is the absence of any mention of the message conveyed by the Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol via a UN official to the king of Jordan on the morning of June 5th informing him that:

“We are engaged in defensive fighting on the Egyptian sector, and we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us. Should Jordan attack Israel, we shall go against her with all our might.”

In other words, the BBC erases the fact that Jordan’s decision to attack despite that communication was the precursor to its defeat in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

The introduction is noteworthy for the fact that it promotes a theme seen in additional BBC material: a passively worded portrayal of the 1948 invasion of territories designated as part of the homeland for the Jewish people at the San Remo conference in 1920, without any clarification of the fact that the conquered areas were subsequently occupied (and in the case of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, subjected to unrecognised annexation) by the belligerents.  

Rather, BBC audiences are told that:

“The 1967 Middle East War, also known as the Six Day War, was the third conflict between Israel and neighbouring Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

The first, in 1948, left East Jerusalem and the River Jordan’s West Bank under Jordanian control and the coastal Gaza Strip under Egyptian control.”

The build up to the Six Day War as described by the BBC includes a portrayal of Arab League backed terror organisations established three years earlier as “newly-formed Palestinian militant groups”:

“Tensions continued to rise and newly-formed Palestinian militant groups began cross-border raids with Arab support. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was keen to unite the Arab world and spoke of “the destruction of Israel”, while Israel feared it could be wiped out.

In May 1967, President Nasser demanded the removal of Unef troops from the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and signed a defence pact with Jordan. Some historians question whether Nasser planned to go to war, but all three factors, and Egyptian troop deployment in the Sinai, led to a pre-emptive strike by Israel.” [emphasis added]

The BBC refrains from informing its audiences of the fact that Nasser had been warned in advance that blockade of the Straits of Tiran would bring about war.

“In a desperate attempt at de-escalation, on May 19, Israeli diplomats frantically dispatched cables to capitals around the world, declaring that as long as Egypt did not close the Straits of Tiran – its artery to the East, including access to oil from Iran – it would not initiate any hostilities. Through Paris, Washington and Moscow, Jerusalem was sending an explicit message to Cairo: A naval blockade would be considered a casus belli. At that point, tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks had already deployed in the previously demilitarized Sinai – a buffer zone filled with UN peacekeepers designed to prevent a surprise attack. Three days later, despite the Israeli warning, Egypt nonetheless announced it was closing the Tiran Straits. “The Israeli flag shall not go through the Gulf of Aqaba,” Nasser said in a speech.”

A noteworthy omission from the BBC’s account is any information concerning the part played by the USSR in stoking tensions.

“In mid-May, Soviet meddling severely escalated the brewing conflict. On May 15, Israel Independence Day, plans for a parade involving large numbers of Israeli troops in western Jerusalem drew outrage in Arab countries. Wishing to defuse the situation, Eshkol forbade bringing heavy weapons into the capital. This decision was used by the Soviets to stoke tensions; on May 15, Anwar al-Sadat, then speaker of the National Assembly, visited Moscow, where he was warned (falsely) by the Soviets that Israel was planning to invade Syria sometime between the dates of May 16 and May 22. The Soviets cited the absence of weapons in the Jerusalem parade as proof that the Israelis were preparing for war and falsely claimed that Israel was massing brigades along its norther border with Syria. Syria also quickly passed the disinformation to Egypt’s President Nasser, who on May 14 declared a state of emergency and made a show of parading his troops through Cairo on their way to Sinai. During this period, Arab leaders and the media spoke daily of eliminating Israel.”

Also noteworthy is the fact that readers are not informed of the terror attacks against Israeli civilian communities launched from Syria in the Spring of 1967 or the Arab League’s Jordan River Headwater Diversion Plan.

Like other BBC produced material on the topic of the Six Day War which is still available online, this backgrounder is deficient in providing audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the build up to the conflict.

In particular, the failure to properly explain the status of the Gaza Strip, Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem before they were belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt 19 years prior to the Six Day War hinders full audience comprehension and lays the foundations for misunderstanding of events throughout the subsequent fifty years and until this day – particularly given the BBC’s penchant for presenting history in the Middle East as having begun on June 10th 1967.  

Related Articles:

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

Yom Yerushalayim

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

Reviewing original BBC reporting on the Six Day War

 

No BBC coverage of reported developments in Sinai

Although BBC audiences have heard nothing on the topic, analysts and media outlets in Egypt and Israel have been reporting for several weeks on increasing tensions between the ISIS affiliate in northern Sinai and local Bedouin tribes.

MEMRI reports that:

“In mid-April, armed clashes erupted between members of the Tarabin tribe and ISIS operatives. It appears that hostilities broke out over ISIS’s continuing efforts to impede the tribe’s cigarette smuggling activities. ISIS members kidnapped and flogged several tribe members who were smuggling cigarettes to Gaza and burned their vehicles. They also fired an RPG at a building which belongs to the Tarabin in the village of Al-Barath, south of Rafah. In response, On April 16, 2017, Tarabin tribe members surrounded Al-Barath, combed it for ISIS members and captured three of them, one of whom was released.

On April 25, 2017, ISIS reportedly detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint set up by the Tarabin, killing four people. This prompted the tribesmen to execute one of the remaining two captives by burning him alive. […]

A supporter of ISIS-Sinai who identifies himself as Abu Sumiyyah Al-Masri tweeted that ISIS would take revenge on the Tarabin tribe and threatened that their fate will be similar to that of the Shu’aytat tribe in Syria, hundreds of whose members have been massacred by ISIS.”

Channel 10 and the JCPA have reported that the Tarabin tribe has now ‘declared war’ on Wilayat Sinai.

“According to a report in Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed of April 29, 2017, over the past three years, ISIS operatives have shot and killed 300 members of Bedouin tribes in Sinai and beheaded another 200 Bedouin for allegedly “collaborating” with the Egyptian army and police forces, in order to terrorize and frighten the Bedouins into submission.

The violent clashes between the Bedouin tribes and ISIS have created a new tension in northern Sinai, and the situation is escalating.

After ISIS members tried to kidnap a Bedouin from the Tarabin tribe on April 14, 2017, the tribe temporarily abandoned its smuggling activities and decided to focus on taking revenge on ISIS.

On April 29, 2017, the Tarabin tribe published a statement calling on all the tribes to unite in order to fight the terrorism that threatens Egypt. The statement said that the Bedouin tribes are connected by blood, religion, and homeland and that they can respond with force and strike “those who wear masks and guns, paid by external bodies who are enemies of the Egyptian state.”

Four Bedouin tribes responded to the call by the Tarabin tribe to unite against ISIS.

Ibrahim al-Raja’i, one of the leaders of the Tarabin, announced that his tribe, together with the al-Sawarakh and Ramilat tribes, agreed to clean out ISIS forces from Sinai, in coordination with the Egyptian army.

“We are determined to get rid of those who burn, kill, and rob in the name of religion,” said al-Raja’i.

In the coming days, a number of Bedouin tribes will come together under the leadership of Sheikh Abed Almagid Almaniya in order to fight ISIS and remove them from Sinai.

The greatest beneficiary of this tension between ISIS and the Bedouin in Sinai is the Egyptian army. Cooperation with the Bedouin tribes will provide Egypt with a great deal of intelligence about the activities of ISIS, which Egypt previously lacked.

Sources in the al-Sawarkah tribe told Al-Yawm al-Sab’a that a large number of tribe members were already fighting alongside the Egyptian army against ISIS. The danger to ISIS in northern Sinai will indeed increase if the Bedouin tribes cooperate with the Egyptian army in its war against the organization.”

Events in Sinai – including missile attacks on Israel and collaboration between ISIS and Hamas – have been serially under-reported by the BBC for a long time. Whether or not this latest apparent development will receive any coverage remains to be seen.

 

Reviewing original BBC reporting on the Six Day War

As the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War approaches, it is interesting to take a look at how the BBC reported that event at the time – not least in order to be able to compare those reports with content produced years after the event.

A section of the BBC News website titled “On This Day” includes archived reports mostly from the years 1950-2005.

Among the entries for May 30th is an article titled “1967: Egypt and Jordan unite against Israel“.

“The King of Jordan and President Abdel Nasser of Egypt have signed a joint defence agreement.

The news came as a surprise to Egyptians and foreigners alike since King Hussein has often been criticised for cosying up to the West. […]

Today, King Hussein was met at Almaza military airport by the president on an unannounced visit to the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Five hours later, Cairo Radio announced the two leaders had signed the deal stating that “the two countries consider any attack on either of them is an attack on both and will take measures including the use of armed forces to repulse such an attack”.

The five-year deal paves the way for the creation of a defence council and joint command. General Mohammed Fawzy, Egypt’s Chief of Staff, would command military operations in case of war. […]

Israel says the pact has greatly increased the danger of an all out-war between Israel and the Arab states.”

The article also includes background information relating to the war that broke out days later:

“Tensions in the region have been building for the last three weeks since Egypt increased its military presence in the Sinai Peninsular [sic] and ordered the United Nations Emergency Force off Egyptian territory.

On 22 May President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

Five days later he declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.””

Another report from June 5th 1967 – titled “Israel launches attack on Egypt” – records the start of the fighting. 

“Israeli forces have launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and destroyed nearly 400 Egypt-based military aircraft.

Fighting broke out on the Israel-Egypt border but then quickly spread to involve other neighbouring Arab states with ground and air troops becoming embroiled in battle. […]

Israel took decisive action today claiming the element of surprise was the only way it could stand any chance of defending itself against the increasing threat from neighbouring states.”

The article provides the following context:

“The Arab states had been preparing to go to war against Israel with Egypt, Jordan and Syria being aided by Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria.

On 27 May the President of Egypt, Abdel Nasser, declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.”

Egypt signed a pact with Jordan at the end of May declaring an attack on one was an attack on both. This was seen by Israel as a clear sign of preparation for all-out war. […]

The path for war was cleared on 16 May when President Nasser ordered the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces from the Egyptian-Israeli border.”

On the final day of the war – June 10th 1967 – the BBC produced a report titled “Israel ends six-day war“.

“Fighting in the Middle East has ended after Israel finally observed the UN ceasefire and halted her advance into Syria.

Within the last six days Israeli troops have taken territory many times larger than Israel itself and united the holy city of Jerusalem for the first time since 1948.”

The report goes on:

“Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol justified the pre-emptive strike on Egypt, and battles with Jordanian and Syrian forces by saying his country was acting in self-defence.

He told the Sunday Times newspaper: “The threat of destruction that hung over Israel since its establishment and which was about to be implemented has been removed.”

He added: “For the first time in 19 years, Jews are again free to pray at the Wailing Wall and at other shrines sacred to Judaism in Jerusalem and Hebron.””

All three articles include a side box titled “In Context” which was added much later on. Two of those inserts include the following claim:

“It [the war] also displaced some 500,000 Palestinians who fled to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.”

No reference is provided to support that claim of half a million displaced people. Other sources, however, cite lower figures: the Palestinian American Council says some 360,000 people were displaced in 1967, the PLO says 200,000 and the ADL cites an estimate of 250,000.

The anti-Israel Palestinian interest group ‘Badil‘ published a document in 2004 referring to 400,000 displaced people, half of whom had previously been displaced during the 1948 war. However, in later years ‘Badil’ apparently tweaked that figure by 100,000 and material sourced from that NGO which appeared on the UN website in 2013 claims 500,000 displaced persons in 1967.

While the source of the figure promoted by the BBC is unclear, what is obvious is that the unsupported claim has been promoted to visitors to the BBC News website for well over a decade.

Related Articles:

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?

Along with other media outlets, the Times of Israel reports that:

“The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said Wednesday it is to unveil an amended version of its 1987 founding charter next week, without detailing the change.

The terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip, said on its website that the announcement would be made on Monday in Doha by its chief Khaled Mashaal, who lives there in exile.

Hamas’s charter advocates the destruction of the Jewish state and the establishment of an independent state in all historic Palestine. […]

Observers say the pending changes could refer to a Jewish state within the borders it held prior to its 1967 capture of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Or it could drop references to its ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, its parent organization.”

As noted here last month, that upcoming event has been on the cards for some time.

Several weeks ago, Arab affairs analyst Avi Issacharoff reported on the leaked version of the new document.

“The document reportedly states that the terror group “distinguishes between the Jews, as the people of the book (i.e., the Bible), and Judaism as a religion on the one hand, and between the occupation and the Zionist project, on the other, and believes that the conflict with the Zionist project is not a conflict with the Jews because of their religion.”

While Hamas will not of course recognize the State of Israel, it does agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, while stressing that it will preserve weapons of “resistance” in order to liberate the entire land of Palestine, including Israel.

“There is no alternative to the liberation of the entirety of Palestine, from the river to the sea, no matter how long the occupation persists,” the leaked document continues, leaving no doubt as to the fact that the ultimate goal of the group, which has always included Israel’s destruction, hasn’t changed.”

Issacharoff points out that:

“The target audience for the revamped charter is not the Israeli public, a fact that should be remembered while examining it. Rather, it is intended for young Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and for the Arab public around the world, particularly in one critical country as far as Hamas is concerned — Egypt.

Let’s start at the international level: the case Hamas is making to the West is, “We are not anti-Semites, only anti-Zionists.”

Having internalized the enormous weight that the world attaches to anti-Semitic and other racist rhetoric, Hamas is trying to present a different face that would distinguish it primarily from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. The group no longer speaks using the language of “Western infidels and crusaders,” as its even more radical competitors do.

As for Egypt: a cursory reading of the updated charter reveals the miraculous disappearance of one of the most prominent sections of the original, which stated that “the Islamic resistance movement (Hamas) is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” […]

The Brotherhood has been a critical point of contention between Hamas and Egypt in light of the de facto state of war between the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo and the group, whose democratically elected president Sissi deposed in a coup in 2013. […]

This “new charter” […] will not bring about a change in relations between Gaza and Israel. Neither will it reduce the potential for military escalation in the Strip that has become an annual hallmark of the rapidly approaching summer months.

Rather, by adopting positions that seem closer to those of the Palestinian Authority, the amendment is intended primarily to show the Palestinian public that Hamas is prepared to go a long way towards national unity.”

While the question of whether this new document replaces the original Hamas charter or exists alongside it still stands, analysts agree that it does not represent a real change of policy on the terror group’s behalf.

Pinhas Inbari writes:

“…a review of the text shows that Hamas has not renounced its principles but simply “powdered” them slightly. Furthermore, angry reactions to the new text show that it is unacceptable to the movement’s power base in Gaza.

The conclusion is that this change has more to do with the West Bank than with Gaza, and serves the interests of Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Khaled Mashal and, as such, cannot be acceptable to the movement in Gaza.”

Dr Denis MacEoin concludes that:

“The truth is that the new Charter, though vaunted as a major shift for the group, is, in reality, little more than a public-relations exercise. Hamas leaders have got smart, but have not changed their spots. […]

The New Charter is mere window-dressing; even a casual reading of it should show that the new Hamas is the old Hamas wearing a different face to try to disguise the true intransigence and hatred that have always characterized it.”

For years the BBC has been (inaccurately) telling its audiences that Hamas has “agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state” and recently it promoted the claim that the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of ‘Palestinian leaders’. It will therefore be all the more interesting to see how Hamas’ new ‘botoxed’ manifesto is portrayed by the corporation to its audiences around the world.

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BBC’s context-free Strait of Tiran backgrounder appears again

A year has passed since the BBC began reporting the story of the proposed transfer of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egyptian to Saudi Arabian control.

In that time, the BBC News website has published several articles on the topic, none of which has adequately clarified to audiences that the purpose of Egypt’s occupation of the islands was to block shipping to and from the Israeli port of Eilat or that such moves led to military action in 1956 and 1967 which twice brought Tiran and Sanafir under Israeli control.

Saudi-Egyptian deal on Red Sea islands sparks anger 10/4/16

Egypt’s Sisi hits out at ‘evil conspirators’ amid islands furore 13/4/16 (discussed here)

“Mr Sisi said that Saudi Arabia had asked Egypt in 1950 to protect the two islands, situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, from Israel.”

Egypt court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudis 21/6/16 (discussed here)

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia 16/1/17 (discussed here)

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

On April 2nd 2017 the BBC News website revisited the story in an article titled “Egypt court voids ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia” that once again carried an insert of background information that includes the following context-free statement:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

Yet again, while the BBC has found fit to include Israel in its portrayal of “why the Red Sea islands matter”, it has not informed audiences of the Egyptian actions which prompted Israel to ‘capture’ the islands.

The BBC bases much of its Middle East reporting upon a version of history which begins with the Six Day War but ignores the background and build-up to that event. As the fiftieth anniversary of that war approaches (and with it the prospect of extensive BBC coverage) this story presents an opportunity for the BBC to provide its audiences with some of the background and historic context which is serially absent from its reporting.  

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

 

 

Compromised BBC backgrounder surfaces again

On January 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia“. Included in that report was an insert of background information titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”, which previously appeared in an article concerning the same story in June 2016.tiran-art-jan-17

The insert includes the following context-free information:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

As was noted here over six months ago:

“The BBC did not bother to inform readers why that was the case.

“In 1949, Egypt established itself on two small and deserted islands in the straits that had never belonged to it – Tiran and Sanafir. Later, they were leased to it by Saudi Arabia. In January 1950, Egypt assured the United States Government that the occupation of the islands was in no way intended to interfere with shipping in the waters of the gulf. But soon Egypt broke its word, fortified the entrance to the straits and blockaded Israel. Having failed to conquer the southern Negev during the War of Independence or to bring about its cession by Israel through political pressure, Egypt now tried to land-lock Eilat and block Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which meant cutting Israel’s present and future communications with Asia and East Africa. The closure of the Straits of Tiran was one of the main factors that led to the Sinai campaign of 1956. Israel’s refusal to withdraw its forces from Sharm el Sheikh unless its freedom of passage through the straits were effectively safeguarded led to the stationing there of the UN Emergency Force. The blockade was lifted and Israel could freely develop its trade with countries in Asia and East Africa, import oil from the Persian Gulf, and redeem the southern Negev from its desolation. Israel declared solemnly that any interference with its rights of navigation in the gulf would be regarded as an attack, entitling it to exercise its inherent rights of self-defence. […]

On 23 May 1967, President Nasser re-imposed the naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran in a deliberate attempt to force Israel to forfeit its internationally-acknowledged rights or else go to war. Five days earlier the UN Emergency Force was expelled by Nasser, and the units stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh were evacuated. […] The Israeli army reached Sharm el-Sheikh on 7 June 1967 and lifted the blockade. From 1967, freedom of navigation prevails in the Gulf of Aqaba, benefiting shipping bound for Israel and Jordan.”

Apparently the BBC considered it necessary to ensure that its audiences know that “Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967” – but not why.”

That observation obviously still applies.

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran