BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

The last few weeks have seen some interesting developments in the world of Palestinian politics, although those getting their news from the BBC will of course be unaware of that because – as often noted on these pages – the corporation largely avoids that subject.

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

In the second half of July listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard Yolande Knell make the following unexplained statement:

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt.” 

The day after that programme was broadcast, one of those mysterious “exiled figures” – Mohammad Dahlan – gave an interview to AP in which he claimed that his talks with Hamas and Egypt will, among other things, bring about the opening of the Rafah crossing. On the same day, BBC Arabic produced a report concerning that topic, but without any mention of Dahlan.

Four days later, on July 27th, an unusual event took place in Gaza.

“Rival Palestinian lawmakers came together for the first time in a decade on Thursday in Gaza’s parliament, the latest sign that an emerging Gaza power-sharing deal between the territory’s Hamas rulers and a former Gaza strongman is moving forward.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and Hamas rival, praised the new partnership, addressing the gathering by video conference from his exile in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza’s heroic people,” Dahlan told the lawmakers.

The gathering included dozens of legislators from Hamas, several Dahlan backers from the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independents.

Fatah legislators loyal to Abbas stayed away from the meeting, underscoring the deepening rift in the movement. Dahlan fell out with Abbas in 2010.

The legislature has been idled since Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces, then under Dahlan’s command, and took over Gaza in 2007.

Over the past decade, only Hamas lawmakers met in parliament to pass resolutions concerning Gaza.”

On August 1st local media reported that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was making his own overtures to Hamas which included a meeting with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah.

“Earlier this year, the PA cut its payments for Israeli-supplied electricity the Strip by 35%, and slashed salaries for government personnel in Gaza.

The feud between the two Palestinian factions — Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza — also brought about a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the enclave, a rights watchdog said in June, describing a worsening humanitarian situation.

A deal to truck in fuel from Egypt to keep a power plant running was brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman, seen as a top rival to Abbas. […]

The new framework reportedly being discussed between the two sides would enable the PA to restore electricity supplies and allow Gazan banks to trade in foreign currency again, according to the daily.

But in return, Hamas must publicly renege on its agreement with Dahlan, and dismantle its governing structures in Gaza, which, according to the PA, contravene previous agreements between the group and the PA.”

Days later, Abbas reportedly voiced his intention to keep up the financial pressure on Hamas.

“”While there is a severe electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas provides light for its underground tunnels and the homes of its officials around the clock,” Abbas told a group of prominent visitors from East Jerusalem at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank began earlier this year to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza. Such cuts have exacerbated blackouts. […]

Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.””

Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning yet another attempt at Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ apparently continue.

How this saga will play out and whether either Abbas or Dahlan will end up doing a deal with Hamas is still unclear. Nevertheless, what is obvious is that whatever the outcome – and its possible consequences – BBC audiences are already very badly placed to understand its background and context due to the corporation’s serial avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) On July 13th the BBC and CBS News announced a new partnership.

“BBC News and CBS News announced today a new editorial and newsgathering relationship that will significantly enhance the global reporting capabilities of both organisations. The announcement was made by BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding and CBS News President David Rhodes.

This new deal allows both organisations to share video, editorial content, and additional newsgathering resources in New York, London, Washington and around the world. The relationship between BBC News and CBS News will also allow for efficient planning of newsgathering resources to increase the content of each broadcaster’s coverage of world events.

James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, says: “There’s never been a more important time for smart, courageous coverage of what’s happening in the world.

“This new partnership between the BBC and CBS News is designed to bring our audiences – wherever you live, whatever your point of view – news that is reliable, original and illuminating. Our ambition is to deliver the best in international reporting on television. We’re really looking forward to working together.” […]

Sharing of content between BBC News and CBS News will begin immediately. Additional newsgathering components will be rolled out in the coming months.”

Information on CBS News reporting is available at CAMERA.

2) MEMRI brings an interesting clip from an interview with a Lebanese politician talking about a topic serially avoided in BBC reporting.

“Today, nobody dares to open his mouth. Thirty ministers in the government, and none of them dares to say to Nasrallah: ‘What gives you the right to say what you say?’ The president keeps his mouth shut. The army commander keeps his mouth shut. The defense and foreign ministers keep their mouths shut. Nobody even mentions U.N. Resolutions 1701 and 1559. Nobody talks about Lebanon’s international obligations. Nobody says that there can be no military force in Lebanon other than the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces.”

3) Another topic that has to date received no BBC coverage is the subject of an article by Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel.

“There have been numerous reports in the Arab and Palestinian media recently about meetings being held in Egypt between Abbas’s political rival, Mohammad Dahlan, and the leaders of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. These allegedly took place in Cairo under the close supervision of the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Khaled Fawzy.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas will likely demand explanations from Sissi as to the nature of these contacts, and Egypt’s support of them.

The PA chief and his allies have been flooded with rumors about a deal being concocted behind the back of the Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These talks are seen by Abbas as insulting, even a spit in the face. Abbas will want to know whether Fawzy’s reported actions were authorized by Sissi.”

4) At the FDD, Tony Badran writes about a development connected to yet another story ignored by the BBC last year.

“Congress passed the first round of Hezbollah sanctions in late 2015. Known as the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA), the bill targeted banks used by the group and its members. After HIFPA became law, there were rumors in the Lebanese press that some jittery banks were closing the accounts of Hezbollah members. One Hezbollah MP did have his bank account closed.

Lebanese institutions then intervened. The Central Bank of Lebanon reversed the decision of the private bank that closed the Hezbollah MP’s account. Meanwhile, according to Arabic media reports, the Ministry of Finance started paying Hezbollah MPs and ministers’ salaries in cash to avoid banks, though the accuracy of these stories is unclear. Eventually, Hezbollah placed a bomb behind a branch of Blom Bank in June 2016, and everyone got the message: be careful about being “overzealous” in complying with U.S. law.

Reports that Congress is working on an updated and tightened HIFPA have caused much consternation in Lebanon, and this time, state institutions are not waiting until after it passes to undermine it. […]

Last month, the Lebanese Parliament passed a new electoral law to govern the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for May of next year. The law includes a little-noticed amendment aimed at preempting future U.S. sanctions.”

5) The Algemeiner brings us a summary of an address by Judea Pearl concerning the morality of the BDS campaign.

“BDS is not a new phenomenon; it is a brainchild of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who in April 1936 started the Arab Rejectionist movement (under the auspices of the Arab Higher Committee), and the first thing he did was to launch a boycott of Jewish agricultural products and a general strike against Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine from war-bound Europe.

The 1936 manifesto of the rejectionist movement was very similar to what BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti presented here at UCLA on January 15, 2014. It was brutal in its simplicity: Jews are not entitled to any form of self-determination in any part of Palestine, not even the size of a postage stamp — end of discussion!

Here is where BDS earns its distinct immoral character: denying one people rights to a homeland, rights that are granted to all others. This amounts to discrimination based on national identity, which in standard English vocabulary would be labeled “bigotry,” if not “racism.””

 

 

 

BBC WS history programme dumbs down the story of a border dispute

The June 29th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ was titled “The Disputed Resort of Taba” and it was presented as follows in the synopsis.

“A dispute between Israel and Egypt over a tiny strip of beach on the Red Sea soured relations between the two countries for years. Israel captured Taba on the Sinai Peninsula during the Six Day War, but refused to return it until 1989 when the Egyptians bought the luxury hotel and beach-hut village that Israeli developers had built on it. Louise Hidalgo talks to former US judge Abraham Sofaer who helped negotiate the deal.”

Somewhat bizarrely given its focus on a political/geographical dispute, presenter Louise Hidalgo introduced the programme as “part of our series looking at the history of tourism” before explaining the story.

“It was 1985 and Judge Abraham Sofaer’s first experience of trying to mediate an agreement in a part of the world known for some of the most intractable disagreements on earth. This one was over a small spit of beach 750 yards long called Taba, in the top-most corner of the Sinai Peninsula and in the southern-most tip of Israel. The Egyptians said Taba was part of Sinai and theirs. The Israelis disagreed.”

Later on listeners were told that:

“Egypt and Israel had signed their historic peace treaty in 1979 and under the Camp David Accord Egypt recognised Israel in return for Israel handing back the Sinai Peninsula which it had captured during the 1967 Six Day War. The Israelis kept their promise and three years later withdrew from all of Sinai except for Taba. And in the years that followed the tiny enclave on the Israeli border had become a running sore in the peace between these two adversaries.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified recording – presumably from the BBC’s archive.

“The Israelis built their frontier post just north of the hotel. The Egyptians put up their post just to the south. And in between sits the hotel; run by the Israelis, lusted after by the Egyptians. To the Israelis it’s a matter of simple economics: Taba is a great draw for tourists. For the Egyptians it’s a matter of principle.”

All well and good, but then the programme got to the subject of the Sinai Peninsula’s old boundary, with Hidalgo saying to Sofaer:

“And something else that you found out during those negotiations was that the formidable Israeli politician and soldier the late Ariel Sharon who’d played a big part in capturing the Sinai Peninsula in 1967, after the war Sharon had had these pillars or posts marking the border around Taba moved, hadn’t he? This was the border that had been set decades earlier by the…by the British. What happened?”

Sofaer: “It was a feeling on Sharon’s part that the British had been deliberately unfair in determining the border and the border where the pillars were was not an advantageous border for Israel. And then he essentially ordered his people after the ’67 war to knock down the border pillars […] and the Egyptians said we’re sure they knocked down the border pillars deliberately. And the Israelis would tell me ‘yes; I was there’ said this general. ‘I was there and I saw him order that the pillars be knocked down’. So there was this sense among the Egyptians that the Israelis were just being willful.”

Whether or not that story is accurate is unclear but certainly BBC audiences are not given the full background to the story. No attempt is made to explain why or on what authority the British – who at the time had occupied Egypt since 1882 without any legal basis – set that boundary in 1906. In his book “The Boundaries of Modern Palestine 1840-1947”, Professor Gideon Biger explains:

In other words, the pillars that may or may not have been “knocked down” did not necessarily reflect the boundary defined in the agreement between the British and the Ottomans.

As the New York Times reported at the time of the dispute:

“The Israeli claim is based on the fact that when the Egyptians and the Turks marked the Sinai border, they said each border pillar could be seen from the one before it.

Israel contends that the border runs either through the ”granite knob” overlooking Nelson Village or through the cluster of palm trees at the end of the public beach – both of which afford a clear view of the previous pillar, even though today there are no border pillars at either place.

The Egyptians assert that the border is a few hundreds to the east of the Sonesta Hotel, where one can find atop a hill the remains of a supposed border pillar.

The only problem is that from the Egyptian spot it is impossible to see the penultimate pillar, which means no inter-visibility as the history books said.”

Towards the end of the programme Hidalgo told listeners that:

“An international panel was set up to arbitrate on the border, eventually ruling in favour of Egypt.”

The details of that panel’s deliberations and conclusions – including a copy of the original Anglo-Ottoman agreement and Professor Ruth Lapidoth’s dissenting opinion – can be found here.

Sadly for audiences, that complex story with its British colonial roots has been dumbed down by the BBC into a tale of an Israeli moving some posts. 

 

 

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

Although the BBC was not among them, numerous media outlets reported last week that Hamas is building a new buffer zone along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

“The Hamas interior ministry has begun to prepare a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt. Websites associated with the Hamas posted on Wednesday photographs of bulldozers clearing ground dozens of meters in width along the border.

The ministry stated that the works were intended to bolster security and strengthen the organization’s control along the border. It also said a 12-kilometer patrol road with guard posts, lighting and cameras along it will be paved along the border.

Gaza security forces chief Tawfiq Abu Naim said the project was agreed upon during the last visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt. The buffer zone will be 100 meters wide (approx. 320 feet), stretching into the Palestinian side of the border, he said. It will be a closed military zone and will help monitor the border and prevent infiltration and smuggling.

“The message to the Egyptian side is a calming one: Egyptian national security is part of Palestinian national security, and we will not let the peace along the southern border be disturbed,” Abu Naim said.

Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that the works will force a lot of families out of their homes. Hamas will have to either pay these families compensation or find them alternative housing.”

That recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt also appears to have germinated collaboration between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, as Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Last month, Hamas leaders traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and representatives of Dahlan, on ways of ending the “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. It was the first meeting of its kind between Dahlan’s men and Hamas leaders.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, disclosed that the two sides reached “understandings” over a number of issues, including the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and allowing entry of medicine and fuel for the power plants in the Gaza Strip. […]

The unexpected rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas has already resulted in the return of some of Dahlan’s loyalists to the Gaza Strip. Now, everyone is waiting to see if and when Dahlan himself will be permitted to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip believe that the countdown for Dahlan’s return has begun. The sources also believe that he may be entrusted with serving as “prime minister” of a new government, while Hamas remains in charge of overall security in the Gaza Strip.”

If that is indeed the case, then Mahmoud Abbas’ recent steps designed to pressure Hamas would appear to have backfired, as Ha’aretz points out:

“Dahlan’s associates have leaked information to the Arabic-language media regarding much bigger plans. Dahlan, it is said, is about to be appointed the new prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with Hamas’ consent. […]

But Israeli defense officials were skeptical about the media report. It appears that things haven’t been finalized. Dahlan is due to meet with Hamas officials shortly. […]

The Gaza initiative of Dahlan, who has deep ties with Egyptian intelligence, indicates that he, like Hamas and Egypt, also sees that Abbas is in a position of weakness. Abbas’ recent meetings with envoys for Donald Trump ended in disappointment. The extent of the U.S. president’s determination to jump-start the peace process remains to be seen, and the PA has been suffering worsening economic problems of its own amid dwindling contributions from the Gulf states.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the topic of internal Palestinian politics in general is one that has long been under-reported by the BBC and the simmering rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan has been serially ignored. As this story develops – and despite the fact that the BBC is one of the few media organisations to have a bureau in Gaza – audiences once again lack the background information that would enable its understanding.

Related Articles:

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

 

 

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.