BBC report on ECJ Hamas terror ruling recycles old themes

Just over two and a half years ago the BBC News website published a report with the misleading title “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list”.

That report was noteworthy for its incomplete portrayal of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation in countries worldwide, for its promotion of Hamas spin, for its whitewashing of the violent Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007 and for its amplification of the notion that the terror group might be seen as a “legitimate resistance movement”.

In September of last year the website published another article about the same story headlined “EU advised to drop Hamas and Tamil Tigers from terror list“.

That article similarly amplified the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’, provided incomplete information concerning the countries that proscribe Hamas as a terror organisation and downplayed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip while failing to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

On July 26th the news that the Court of Justice of the European Union had ruled that Hamas should stay on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations was reported on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages in an article titled “EU top court keeps Hamas on terror blacklist“.

After an explanation of the court’s ruling and the background to the story, the article went on to repeat the themes seen in the previous reports.

1) ‘Resistance’:

“Hamas has always argued it is a resistance movement rather than a terrorist organisation, although under its charter it is committed to Israel’s destruction.”

2) Designation:

“It is seen as a terrorist group by the EU, US, Canada and Japan.”

Israel of course also designates Hamas in its entirety. In addition, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

3) 2007 coup:

“After winning parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas ousted its Fatah rivals from Gaza the following year and has since fought several conflicts with Israel.”

The report told readers that the ECJ:

“…said its verdict reaffirmed that the EU “may maintain a person or an entity on the list if it concludes that there is an ongoing risk of that person or entity being involved in the terrorist activities which justified their initial listing”.”

However, it once again failed to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians or its current activities such as digging cross-border attack tunnels and manufacturing missiles – despite their obvious relevance to the article’s subject matter.

Related Articles:

BBC News presentation of EU court’s Hamas terror designation decision

BBC report on EU Hamas terror designation gives incomplete picture 

 

 

 

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Revisiting the BBC’s 2013 PA funding audit story

In December 2013 the BBC News website reported the conclusions of EU auditors in relation to funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Audiences were told that:

“European auditors say the EU should stop paying the salaries of thousands of Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip who are not going to work.

The auditors examined about 1bn euros (£840m; $1.3bn) of EU spending in Gaza between 2008 and 2012.

They called for a major review, saying money spent on civil servants there should go to the West Bank instead. […]

The EU pays about one-fifth of the salaries of the PA’s 170,000 civil servants, both in the West Bank and Gaza, under a programme known as Pegase.

Hans Gustaf Wessberg of the European Court of Auditors said overall EU funding had played an important role in supporting vulnerable families, and maintaining health and education services in Palestinian areas.

But he pointed out that “the payment of civil servants who do not work does not meet one of [the EU’s] main objectives to provide public services to the Palestinian people”.

When Hamas took control of Gaza, President Abbas decided to keep paying the salaries of the estimated 61,000 civil servants and members of the security forces who stopped reporting for the jobs, so long as they stayed home and did not work for the rival administration.”

Since the EU auditors’ report was published over three years ago there has been no follow-up reporting on that story from the BBC and audiences were not informed whether or not the recommendations were implemented. 

Last week – apparently in light of a recent EU announcement that, for the first time, its 2017 contributions would not include funding for PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip and an earlier UK announcement to the same effect – the Palestinian Authority decided to make some changes.

“The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday it was slashing by nearly one third the salaries of tens of thousands of government employees in the Gaza Strip who have been sitting idly since the rival Hamas militant group took over the coastal territory a decade ago. […]

In the West Bank, government spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud said a reduction in foreign aid had forced the Palestinian Authority to cut Gaza salaries by 30 percent. “Without this step, the government cannot pay the salaries of its employees,” he said.

Affected workers expressed shock, anger and frustration as they gathered outside Gaza banks. In Gaza City, nearly 200 people joined a protest outside a Bank of Palestine branch. “The salary is our children’s right,” said one of the banners.”

On Saturday, a demonstration was held in Gaza City.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza City on Saturday against recent salary cuts announced by the Palestinian Authority.

The decision on Wednesday by the West Bank-based PA to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip has sparked anger among government employees affected. Demonstrators at Saturday’s protest, the largest since the 30 percent cut was announced, called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to sack his government. […]

On Friday, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah defended the salary cuts, saying they were necessary in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds,” […]

Hamdallah also blamed Hamas for the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, while also calling on the terror group to return to control of Gaza to the PA, “the only representative of the Palestinian people.”

Hamas “keeps its income for himself, while the PA has spent more than 17 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip during the last 10 years,” he said. […]

Hamas condemned the PA salary reductions as “abusive and irresponsible,” while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group said they were “illegal and unacceptable,” according to Ma’an.

On Friday, the Islamic Jihad terror group held a rally in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis protesting the pay cuts, which demonstrators said were mean [sic] to “drown” the residents of Gaza…”

Although tax payers in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain – would no doubt welcome some objective, in-depth, fact-based reporting on the subject of the perennial PA budget deficit and the related issues of prioritisation of payments to civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have not worked for nearly a decade, payments to families of terrorists and salaries for imprisoned terrorists, those topics remain firmly off the BBC agenda.  

Related Articles:

BBC report on EU audit of PA – starring Israel

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

Updates on a Hamas story under-reported by the BBC

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder which underwent extensive editing during the ten days following its original publication and is currently available online under the headline “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?“.backgrounder

As was noted here at the time, the backgrounder failed to provide BBC audiences with a comprehensive view of its purported subject matter.

“The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.” 

Moreover, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism on official social media accounts belonging to Fatah was downplayed in another section of the backgrounder: [emphasis added]

“The stabbing attacks seem to be spontaneous and although they have been praised by militant groups and supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on social media, Mr Abbas has said Palestinians are not interested in a further escalation.”

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. The first article opened with the following interestingly punctuated statement:FB art technology

“Government ministers in Israel have accused Facebook of failing to tackle “inciteful” posts against the country on the social network.”

In the second of those reports the BBC found it appropriate to amplify a statement from Hamas:

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it [Facebook] into a spy tool against Palestinians. […]

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”

Despite quoting a report by the Quartet which “identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue” (an aspect of the report downplayed in previous BBC reporting), the second article nevertheless used the frequently seen qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to describe the links between incitement on social media and acts of violence.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement on social media has fuelled a wave of attacks since October, which have killed 35 Israelis and four people of other nationalities.

In October 2016, listeners to a programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

To date – notwithstanding recognition of the issue by the Quartet and Facebook – the BBC has yet to provide its audiences with information which would broaden their understanding of the connection between official and unofficial Palestinian incitement and terrorism.

In contrast, on December 6th 2016 BBC Technology produced an article titled “EU criticises tech firms for slow action on hate speech“.eu-social-media

“Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are falling short of a commitment to tackle hate speech quickly, research suggests.

The European Commission looked into whether the tech giants were meeting a pledge to remove hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported. […]

The pledge was made in May when the firms signed up to a “code of conduct” brokered by the Commission.”

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to amplify statements made by those posting online hate speech and incitement in Europe suggesting that the monitoring and removal of such posts amounts to “a spy tool”.

In the link directing readers to the EU’s press release concerning the “code of conduct”, BBC audiences find the following:

“Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said, “The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. […]

Following the EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in October 2015 on ‘Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating Antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe’, the Commission initiated a dialogue with IT companies, in cooperation with Member States and civil society, to see how best to tackle illegal online hate speech which spreads violence and hate.

The recent terror attacks and the use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people have given more urgency to tackling this issue.”

Ms Jourova is also quoted twice in the body of the article itself:

‘”The last weeks and months have shown that social media companies need to live up to their important role and take up their share of responsibility when it comes to phenomena like online radicalisation, illegal hate speech or fake news,” said Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova in a statement. […]

“It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online,” said Ms Jourova. “While IT Companies are moving in the right direction, the first results show that the IT companies will need to do more to make it a success.”‘

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to qualify the EU’s statements describing such social media posts as incitement or to question the EU’s linkage between online hate speech and violence. Indeed, the caption to the image illustrating the article informs readers that:

“Terror attacks in Europe led the Commission to seek support from tech firms in tackling hate speech”

Neither did this report find it appropriate to portray racist posts on social media as “narrative” or to suggest to audiences that hate speech might be seen as “telling the truth”.

While Israel and the EU are both trying to tackle the problem of online hate speech and incitement to violence in similar ways, we see that the BBC’s approach to the story differs according to geography. 

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s ‘explanation’ of the current wave of terror

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC still portraying incitement as an ‘Israel says’ story

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

BBC report on EU Hamas terror designation gives incomplete picture

Back in December 2014 the BBC News website produced a report which was misleadingly headlined “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list”. The following month the Council of the European Union decided to appeal the court decision that was the subject of that article but the BBC News website did not cover that chapter of the story.

An article appearing on the website’s Europe page (though not on its Middle East page) on September 22nd under the title “EU advised to drop Hamas and Tamil Tigers from terror list” opened with a summary of the story so far.hamas-eu-art  

“The EU may have to remove Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and the Sri Lankan separatist Tamil Tigers from its list of terrorist organisations, a top European Court adviser has said.

The Court ruled in 2014 they should be taken off the list on technical grounds, not as a reassessment of their classification as a terrorist group.

The Council of the EU, which represents all 28 governments, launched an appeal.

Now the European Court adviser has recommended the appeal be rejected.

The opinion of the adviser, known as the Advocate General, is not final but is generally followed when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivers its judgement.”

As was the case in the December 2014 report, the article goes on to amplify the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’ and to provide incomplete information concerning the countries which proscribe Hamas as a terror organisation.

“Hamas has always argued it is a resistance movement rather than a terrorist organisation, although under its charter it is committed to Israel’s destruction. It is seen as a terrorist group by the EU, US, Canada and Japan.”

As the BBC’s own profile of Hamas states, Israel also designates Hamas. In addition, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  

Like the December 2014 report, this one too gives a whitewashed account of Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip.

“After winning parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas ousted its Fatah rivals from Gaza the following year and has since fought three conflicts with Israel.”

The caption to the image illustrating the report similarly states:

“Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 and has since been involved in three conflicts with Israel”.

Remarkably, in an article all about Hamas’ terror designation in the EU, the BBC did not find it necessary to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians, including the thousands of missile attacks which brought about those tepidly portrayed “three conflicts”.  

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

 

 

 

 

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

On July 20th the BBC News website’s UK page published an article titled “Record number of EU terror attacks recorded in 2015“.EU terror attacks

“A record number of terrorist attacks were planned, foiled or carried out in European Union countries last year, with the UK reporting the highest number of attacks.

EU law enforcement agency Europol said there were 211 attacks in 2015, the highest since records began in 2006.”

However, later on readers are told that the number 211 also includes “planned” and “foiled” attacks:

“A spokeswoman for Europol said it did not have a breakdown of the number of terror attacks that had actually been carried out in the EU.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s 458 word article makes use of the word ‘terror’ four times (including in its headline). The words ‘terrorism’ is used six times – including twice in quotes – and the word ‘terrorist’ is used seven times, including four times in quotes.

In other words, the BBC rightly had no problem telling readers in its own words that citizens of EU countries were subjected to actual, planned and attempted terror attacks during 2015.

In contrast, as has been documented here on numerous occasions, the BBC does not tell its audiences in its own words that terrorism – on a significantly larger scale – exists in Israel (unless the perpetrators belong to a particular ethno-religious group) and it has an editorial policy of using the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ only in direct quotes; usually from Israeli officials. For example:

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

What word is missing from BBC report on sentencing of Hamas terrorists?

BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

BBC News revisits a 30 year-old terror attack – avoiding the term terror

The BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning “Language when Reporting Terrorism” state:

“There is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.

As such, we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves.”

In this report the BBC clearly did not find it necessary to comply with that guideline, having used the words terror, terrorist and terrorism itself eleven times and on six additional occasions in quotes. And – despite the guideline’s claim of the absence of a consensus on terrorism – the article’s writer was apparently able to accept the definition of terrorism used in the Europol report which is its subject matter.

“The definition of the term ‘terrorist offences’ is indicated in Article 1 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (2002/475/JHA)1 , which all EU Member States have implemented in their national legislation. This Framework Decision specifies that terrorist offences are intentional acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation when committed with the aim of:

  • seriously intimidating a population, or
  • unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, or
  • seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.”

In other words, when it comes to terrorism in Europe the BBC apparently has no problem with “value judgements”.

What this article shows us yet again is that those editorial guidelines on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” are not worth the virtual paper upon which they are written. When the BBC wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it purports to avoid.

Absurdly, the corporation would still have its funding public believe that its coverage of terrorism is consistent, accurate and impartial.

Related Articles:

Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

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

 

 

 

 

 

BBC ignores Abbas’ antisemitic libel in EU parliament speech

On June 23rd the Palestinian Authority president addressed the EU parliament and among his remarks was one in particular which – as is to be expected – made headlines at international media outlets.

 The New York Times reported:

“Echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority accused rabbis in Israel of calling on their government to poison the water used by Palestinians.

He made the unsubstantiated allegation during a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday.”

Reuters wrote:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, in what appeared to be an invocation of a widely debunked media report that recalled a medieval anti-Semitic libel.

Abbas’s remarks, in a speech to the European parliament, did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.”

AFP reported:

“Israel accused the Palestinian president of libelling the Jewish people after he charged Thursday that rabbis had called for Palestinian wells to be poisoned.[…]

During a speech to the European Parliament, Abbas said, in apparently unscripted Arabic remarks, that recently “a number of rabbis in Israel made a clear declaration and asked their government to poison water to kill the Palestinians”.

He cited the accusation, without giving any source, as part of an attack against what he said was Israeli incitement against the Palestinians.”

The Washington Post ran the headline “Palestinian president uses anti-Semitic trope against Israel in E.U. speech“.

Abbas’ libel was based on a story invented by the PLO (which he of course also heads) that prompted false accusations days earlier from one of his government’s offices and was promoted on official PA TV.

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry revived the well-worn blood libel of Jews poisoning wells this week.

The PA’s Foreign Ministry released a statement on Sunday citing a supposed ruling by a “Rabbi Mlmad” authorizing Israelis to poison Palestinian wells.

The official PA website called the supposed ruling a crime against humanity, and said Israel is fully responsible for it and should arrest the rabbi for incitement.”

Two days after the Brussels speech, Abbas walked back his preposterous libel.

To date there has been no stand-alone BBC reporting on Abbas’ public promotion of that antisemitic blood libel or of his refusal to meet the Israeli president who was also in Brussels at the same time. The BBC News website’s ‘Parliaments‘ page includes an item headlined “Rivlin and Abbas address MEPs” but the page to which it links includes no mention of Abbas’ racist canard.

Abbas speech on Parliaments page

Related Articles:

BBC News amplification for Abbas’ lies and incitement about ‘dead’ terrorist

 

Differences in BBC coverage of migrants in Europe and in Israel

The August 21st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (from 34:00 here) in which, prompted by an article from Al Jazeera, participants discussed whether the people from the Middle East and Africa arriving in Europe should be called migrants or refugees.

Among those taking part in the discussion was the BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, and from 40:00 listeners heard his view on the issue.WHYS migrants

“Well first of all, Ben, I think it’s a really important discussion to have and the language is really sensitive and it’s important to get it right. We’ve seen […] huge numbers of people moving; 40,000 through the Macedonia border for example this month alone, we think. The language that we use is…we’re perhaps not in the same place as Al Jazeera on this, though I think we are in the same sort of debate as they’ve been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong actually with using the word migrant and the word refugee. The vast majority of people that we’re seeing coming through those borders – whether on land or by sea – are both migrants and refugees. The issue […] is more about dehumanisation of people in the way we cover it, which isn’t just a language issue. When you’re seeing 40,000 people coming through over a period – a relatively short period of a number of weeks – what we’re hearing on our radios and seeing on our screens are images and sounds that portray the volume of people. And the way to dehumanise them is just to do that and the way to keep them human beings – and this is a much more important point it seems to me than the vocabulary – is to talk to them, to hear their stories as individuals, as human beings as opposed to as part of a trend. […] And it’s that humanity which is, you know, actually more important than vocabulary boundaries that some broadcasters might choose to put in place. We’re not in the game of saying certain words aren’t appropriate as long as they’re accurate and they reflect the story. The more important thing for us is to keep the human beings at the heart of it.”

Unfortunately, those sentiments and intentions have not always applied to the other side of the story – the people affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of migrants – in the BBC’s reporting on African migrants in Israel. Not only have BBC audiences never heard the points of view of the residents of places such as south Tel Aviv or Eilat but the BBC has used the subject matter of African migrants to actively promote the notion of Israel as a racist society.

“It’s a confluence of being non-Jewish and non-white which causes the vociferous hatred.”

In January 2014 Kevin Connolly told BBC audiences that:

“There’s a special factor, I think, in all of this in Israel which doesn’t really apply in other countries and that’s the fact that the government looks at non-Jewish immigration – legal or illegal – as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state. Israel was created specifically to be a Jewish state in the eyes of the Netanyahu government and anything which carries some sort of demographic threat to that identity in the long term, like the influx of non-Jewish African migrants, is seen as a threat to that special status. So Israel doesn’t just look at illegal immigration like this through the same prism as other countries like the countries of Western Europe or the United States; it also looks at it through that very particular prism and sees a very particular threat to its own nature.” 

No comparable ‘analysis’ was proffered to BBC audiences when, twenty months later, EU member state Slovakia said it would only take in Christian refugees from Syria. Whilst reporting on attacks on centres for asylum seekers in Germany, the BBC made sure to clarify that “[t]he attacks and protests horrify most Germans” and “most Germans have been welcoming to asylum seekers, but a small minority has been vocal in its opposition”.

Also in January 2014, BBC audiences were encouraged by Richard Galpin to view Israeli policies concerning migrants as going against international norms.

“So this is why we’re seeing these demonstrations now – the people are really concerned about what’s going to happen and feel now is the time that the international community needs to act so that the laws which the Israeli authorities are applying to people here, stopping them getting asylum effectively and trying to get them to leave Israel, that those laws are changed.”

No such suggestion appeared in BBC coverage of proposals by the UK government to imprison illegal workers and oblige landlords to evict tenants who are illegal immigrants and “the language that the politicians are using” does not appear to be an issue for the BBC when politicians are British.

Particularly interesting is a BBC report from July on changes in the approaches of the Danish, Norwegian and British governments to Eritrean migrants. Readers of that report were told that:

“A Danish Immigration Service report, from November 2014, suggested that Eritrea’s policy towards returnees had become more lenient. It was based on a fact-finding mission, but did not name its sources. […]

The report was criticised by Danish media and Human Rights Watch, which described it as “more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation”.”

Interestingly, in September 2014 when Human Rights Watch produced a report concerning Eritreans in Israel, the BBC did not make do with a one-sentence quote but published an entire article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” – the bulk of which was a rehashed version of HRW’s press release.

The subject of migrants and refugees is a very sensitive one wherever the story happens to take place and Jonathan Munro’s points are obviously relevant. So too, however, are the issues of consistency in BBC reporting, the avoidance of double standards dependent upon geography and the elimination of any underlying political agenda of the type all too often apparent in the BBC’s reporting on Israel’s attempts to deal with an issue now also affecting Europe.

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A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

As readers know only too well, the BBC’s considerable efforts to promote the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict recently reached something of a climax with a series of reports by Lyse Doucet.  Those already discussed here (and there are more still to come) include a radio report broadcast on the BBC World Service, a filmed report for BBC television and another filmed report for television news programmes which, like its predecessor, also appeared on the BBC News website.Doucet Gaza twitter 2

In the third of those posts we concluded that:

“So far we have looked at three reports from Shuja’iya put out by Lyse Doucet in the last few days. All of those reports were lacking in detailed, factual information which would help BBC audiences to understand why reconstruction in Gaza is happening so slowly or to appreciate what has been done so far. All three reports placed the focus on emotive, generalized, over-dramatic, context-free descriptions more suited to a telethon appeal than to contributing to viewers’ or listeners’ fact-based knowledge and one report was replete with Hamas propaganda. The bottom line of all these reports is that Doucet avoided adequately explaining to BBC audiences that the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip has been hampered primarily by the Palestinians themselves.”

On March 8th Ha’aretz carried an interesting report ($) related to the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

“The five largest European Union members – Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain – protested to the Palestinian Authority last week that it was not doing enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip, according to European diplomats and senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

Envoys from the five nations met last Thursday with Alon Ushpiz, a senior diplomat in the Foreign Ministry, for talks focused mainly on the situation in Gaza. […]

The Europeans complimented Israel’s cooperation with the reconstruction apparatus that the United Nations is operating, Israel’s doubling of the water supply to Gaza and the ease on export restrictions from the Gaza Strip to Israel, the West Bank and abroad. The European representatives also requested to increase the scale and pace of transferring goods from Israel to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 1

According to a senior official in the Foreign Ministry, the European diplomats remarked the consuls general of their nations held a meeting with senior PA officials several days earlier, in which they conveyed a sharp protest to the PA leadership over the lack of sufficient cooperation in everything regarding reconstruction in Gaza.

A European diplomat familiar with the details of the meetings confirmed that such protest was conveyed. He spoke on condition of anonymity. “They conveyed an unequivocal message that the PA can do more to promote reconstruction in the Strip, and that continued internal political squabbling between Fatah and Hamas are adversely affecting the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the pace and scope of reconstruction,” the European diplomat said. […]

The European diplomat said that in a meeting between representatives of the five EU states and senior officials from the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo, the Europeans expressed concern that Egypt is not assisting the reconstruction process in Gaza and is continuing to close the Rafah crossing for extended periods of time. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 2

Likewise, diplomats from the five EU powers held talks with a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, to complain that those countries have yet to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars pledged for Gaza reconstruction, further delaying resolution to the crisis.

“There is positive movement on the Israeli side in everything regarding Gaza,” the EU diplomat said. “While you always need more, the Israelis are removing hurdles and assisting reconstruction. At the same time, reconstruction is still stuck because of the internal fights on the Palestinian side, Egyptian behavior and failure to deliver funds pledged by the Arab states. We fear that if nothing will move on Gaza reconstruction, we will find ourselves facing another round of violence in Gaza.”” [emphasis added]

Despite the fact that Haaretz is the Israeli newspaper most frequently quoted by the BBC, we can’t seem to find a report on this topic on the corporation’s website.