Inaccuracy, partial language and speculation on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

As we saw in an earlier post, viewers of ‘Newsnight’ saw the Israeli prime minister being interviewed by Evan Davis on June 7th. However, BBC World Service radio listeners heard extracts from that interview several hours before it was broadcast on BBC Two in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘.

“During his trip to the UK the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tells the BBC recent protests in the Gaza Strip were violent riots aimed at killing at Israelis.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 01:08 here) by giving an account of the purpose of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Europe which was soon shown to be inaccurate by Netanyahu himself.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “We begin though with a visit by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK. London is the last stop in a series of meetings he’s had with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal. Mr Netanyahu has always opposed the deal and was delighted when President Trump decided to pull out of it. The Israeli prime minister has made it his business to persuade the other signatories to follow suit – especially since they have all said they will continue to see if it’s possible to keep the framework of the deal intact despite Washington’s departure. Today in an interview with my colleague Evan Davis of the BBC TV programme ‘Newsnight’, Mr Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal is dead. He said he would do everything in his power to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu: “…pressure can be of various kinds and I’ve seen in the past that when Iran faced very strong pressure – yes, a credible military response too but also by primarily paralysing sanctions – they came to the…”

Davis [interrupts]: “You’re not going to get the world behind sanctions.”

Netanyahu: “It’s already happened, Evan. I didn’t come here – contrary to news reports on another network that I’m going to try to persuade the E3, the Europeans, to leave the deal. That wasn’t my discussion. I said the deal is dead. It’s done; because of the force of the economic sanctions…”

Unsurprisingly (particularly given the fact that Iqbal allowed herself to shout inaccurate claims at an Israeli MK during live coverage of the rioting on the Gaza Strip-Israel border) listeners were not told that 53 of the people killed on May 14th were claimed by terror groups. Audiences did however hear Evan Davis’ editorialising.

Iqbal: “Well Israel has of course also been recently criticised internationally after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers on one day on the border between Israel and Gaza. The shooting happened on the day the US opened its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu described that moment as a glorious day. Evan Davis asked him, given the deaths of so many Palestinians, would he still use the words it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Netanyahu: “Tragic sounds like almost some force of nature. It wasn’t a force of nature. It was a deliberate policy of Hamas to push people into the line of fire, to try to kill Israelis and to present it as though this is Martin Luther King Day. It wasn’t Martin Luther King. It wasn’t Mother Theresa. These were not peaceful protests. This was violent riots directed at killing Israelis.”

Using an obviously partial term to portray the Israeli prime minister’s description of the events of May 14th, Iqbal then brought Lyse Doucet into the discussion.

Iqbal: “Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, speaking to Evan Davis. Let’s talk now to our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. Lyse – not in the least bit surprising that Benjamin Netanyahu should be defiant about what happened on that day on the border between Gaza and Israel.”

Doucet: “No; he has said it time and again. For him, of course, and for many who watch these events unfold, who watch the years of tensions between the two sides, that Israel has a right to protect its own security. It has a right to stop people from penetrating the security fence.”

Doucet then backed up her messaging using a quote from a German media interview with a disgraced former Israeli PM trying to make a political come-back and promoted some old BBC favourites: ‘disproportionate’ and the ‘Gaza prison’ theme.  

Doucet: “But what people are questioning – and even today the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert – and I’ll tell you what he said when he was interviewed about it. He says ‘I have doubts and questions over the use of lethal weapons against protesters near the Gaza border fence’. When you have that many people including children approaching the fence, what kind of force you use and it’s the question of disproportionate force and the fact that yes, of course Hamas was part of it and yes, Hamas militants did get killed but there are also peaceful activists including so many people, so many young people who are basically imprisoned in the Gaza Strip and see no hope.”

Apparently it has not occurred to Lyse Doucet that genuinely “peaceful activists” would most likely avoid mixing with terrorists committing attacks and infiltrations at a border fence, especially in light of seven weeks of prior experience. Doucet next promoted an anecdote from an anonymous source.

Doucet: “I was recently speaking to someone who has been working for years in the Gaza Strip trying to bring about a peaceful negotiation between Israel and Hamas and he said decades ago when he would speak to the young Gazans they would all say when we grow up we want to be teachers and doctors and lawyers. Now he said they all say we want to be martyrs; suicide martyrs.”

Perhaps if Lyse Doucet had carried out a more in-depth investigation into Gaza terror groups’ indoctrination of children when she had the chance, she would be able to report to BBC audiences on how the anecdote she chose to recount is connected to over a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza.

Razia Iqbal then made the following claim:

Iqbal: “Lyse, the United Kingdom has asked Mr Netanyahu to open an independent inquiry into those deaths in Gaza. Earlier this month the British government abstained from a UN Security Council resolution which called for an inquiry into the deaths. I mean, one wonders if Mr Netanyahu would have responded in the affirmative to the prime minister Theresa May.”

According to both the UK government announcement and media reports, Theresa May did not repeat the call she made on May 15th  for an ‘ independent inquiry’ (ironically while standing next to the Turkish president) during Netanyahu’s visit.

Doucet: “I think historically Israel has investigated its own incidents. It has not wanted international involvement. It believes that…you know Israel has always been regarded as having very strong judicial institutions. Of late questions have been raised about that but it has investigated and at times has been found to be wanting and fault has been found with the way Israel has responded to incidents like this. So I think it’s very much in keeping with how Israel responds to it. It is interesting the United Nations tried to introduce a new resolution at the UN Security Council last week and the only one who voted for it was the United States.”

Iqbal then gave Doucet the obviously pre-arranged cue for promotion of some remarkable speculation:

Iqbal: “Let’s talk in the brief time that we have left about the Iran nuclear deal which the BBC also asked Benjamin Netanyahu about. When Netanyahu says that the sanctions are already going to be put in place, that the deal is dead and that that isn’t going to change, do you think that the ultimate goal here of the United States and Mr Netanyahu is regime change in Iran? To put so much pressure on the country…because there have been appeals to the Iranian people by…specifically by the Secretary of State Pompeo and Mr Trump.”

Doucet: “Israel has never hid its desire to see regime change in Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always seen Iran as an existential threat to Israel. That hasn’t been helped by some of the comments that come out of some of the more radical politicians and clerics in Iran. And what you have now in power is you have Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, you have Donald Trump in the White House, you have Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. They want to see an end to the theocracy in Iran. President Trump’s…his national security advisor now, John Bolton, has for the years he was out of power been associating with groups which are bent on regime change in Iran. There were speeches about how he wants to see regime change in Iran. That is widely seen to be the real agenda behind trying…proclaiming the nuclear deal is dead. The nuclear deal is all but dead but the European…European powers who also signed the deal – Russia, China – they are trying to save the deal but there is a real worry that without the United States and with not just US sanctions but the secondary sanctions against any other companies who do business in Iran, it will be all but impossible to save the deal.”

John Bolton does indeed have past associations with anti-regime groups but he also stated last month that regime change in Iran “is not the Trump administration’s current policy”. As for Doucet’s claim that “that is widely seen to be the real agenda”, she does not inform listeners that “widely seen” in fact means a theory bandied about by some journalists, pro-regime lobbyists and commentators including Stephen Walt of ‘Israel lobby’ infamy.

The use of partial language and editorialising together with the promotion of inaccurate claims, one-sided quotes, anonymous anecdotes and unsupported speculation clearly signpost the overt bias in this relatively long item.   

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

BBC flouts its own editorial guidelines with Iran talks interviewees

Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis

 

 

 

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Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis

The June 7th edition of BBC Two’s main news programme ‘Newsnight‘ included an interview conducted by presenter Evan Davis with the Israeli prime minister – available here in the UK or here.

Notwithstanding the fact that he spent a significant proportion of the interview interrupting his interviewee, Davis’ questions related to three topics: the JCPOA deal between the P5+1 and Iran, recent events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the ‘peace process’.

On the first topic BBC audiences heard Davis repeatedly opine that “military action” against Iran is inevitable – but ineffective. Notably, when the subject of Iran’s financing of regional terror was raised by Netanyahu, Davis quickly changed the subject. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[3:40] Davis: “Let’s move on and talk about events in Israel, around Israel and in the Middle East. May the 14th was a really interesting day for your country, It was the day the American embassy in Jerusalem opened and a lot of people were watching literally television news programmes split screens of the celebrations you were having and attending over that and at the same time shooting of protesters on the Gaza border. How many died that day?”

Netahyahu: “Sixty-two – fifty of which were Hamas terror fighters according to the Hamas….”

Three more of those killed in the pre-planned rioting were claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – as the BBC is no doubt aware – but Davis proceeded:

Davis [interrupts]: “So a dozen, a dozen, a dozen civilians.”

Netanyahu: “But they weren’t protesters. They weren’t protesters.”

Davis: “A dozen, a dozen civilians.”

Netanyahu: “Wait a minute….”

Davis: “You called it a glorious day. Do you still think that was a glorious day?

Netanyahu: “I think it’s a historic day.”

Davis [interrupts]: “You [unintelligible] glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “For the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem – of course it was; it was great.”

Davis [interrupts]: “You didn’t seem to show much concern for the dozen or so civilian deaths.”

When Netanyahu began to speak about the non-lethal means of riot control employed along the Gaza Strip-Israel border, Davis cut him short again:

Davis [interrupts] “You’ve made this point many times and I just wonder…I still wonder whether you would use the phrase it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Davis can of course get away with that latter statement because for three months the BBC has avoided providing its audiences with details of the background to the pre-planned agitprop and its instigators.

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Viewers then witnessed some classic editorialising from Davis:

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Davis next moved on to the topic of the ‘peace process’ – ignoring the fact that Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel and Fatah (in its own words) “categorically rejects the idea of a Jewish Israel”.

Davis: “Well tell me what is on offer? What is on offer to the Palestinians if they do everything that you say in terms of recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state?”

At 7:36 viewers heard the following:

Davis: “So tell me…so just…because I think the really important thing – who is the obstacle to peace. And in terms of how the world sees the division of terrain, your position is your security is paramount, your security cannot be achieved without occupying their land and anyway, by the way, they can’t even have all their land because you’re taking some of it.”

Later on Evans made the following claim:

[9:25] Davis: “The American general John Allen organised a security plan for Israel. It wasn’t dependent on what the Palestinians say: it was dependent on American troops in the Palestinian territory so they can have their country and you can have your security and you rejected that – not the Palestinians.”

As Netanyahu subsequently clarified, Davis’ presentation of who rejected the Allen plan is inaccurate. Presuming to speak for the US general, Davis however retorted with the claim that “John Allen would argue that politics got in the way”.

When Netanyahu brought up the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Davis again cut him short.

[11:46] Davis: “But do you…do you understand why there’s grievance in your region? Do you see it from the other point of view? Because you often come across as not understanding or listening to the other side.”

Prior to ‘Newsnight’ viewers being shown this interview, selected parts of it were used by the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – as we shall see in an upcoming post.

 

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ gives a stage to Galloway’s conspiracy theories

Following the publication on January 21st of the results of the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the producers of BBC Two’s flagship current affairs programme ‘Newsnight‘ apparently reached the bizarre conclusion that their mission of providing audiences with “comprehensive coverage of the day’s important national and international news stories” could best be met by bringing George Galloway into the studio.

During that interview, Galloway made the following statement:

“Look, I know Plutonium [sic] 210. I was at Yasser Arafat’s bedside in France when he died from Polonium 210, so I know how foul a murder this was.”

Despite the fact that the conspiracy theories concerning Arafat’s supposed poisoning with Polonium were laid to rest months ago, presenter Evan Davis made no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impression created by Galloway.

At one point during the conversation with Galloway, Evan Davis remarked:

“Well we can be sceptical and we can be super sceptical and then we can end up as conspiracy theorists.”

Did the ‘Newsnight’ production team’s pre-broadcast research really fail to turn up the fact that on the topic under discussion (and many others) the man they invited to contribute has long been situated in that latter category – as shown, for example, in one of his appearances (apparently from 2013) on the Iranian regime’s ‘Press TV’?

Yes; that is the caliber of populist commentator the ‘Newsnight’ production team apparently thought could contribute to meeting their remit of enhancing UK audiences’ understanding of international issues.

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BBC’s ME editor fails to deliver in ‘Newsnight’ item on Jerusalem terror attacks

h/t @SussexFriends

October 13th (a day designated in advance as one of the proverbial ‘Days of Rage’ by Hamas and other Palestinian groups) saw two major terror attacks in Jerusalem and two stabbing attacks in Ra’anana – which was inaccurately described by the BBC as being “in the north of the country” (as well as “near Tel Aviv”) in a written report on the incident which appeared on the BBC News website.

Raanana stabbing

In the later BBC News website report on the Jerusalem attacks, audiences were told that the neighbourhood of East Talpiot is a “Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem” whilst in fact the area was defined as ‘no-man’s land’ under the terms of the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Bus attack East Talpiot

BBC audiences saw the 1949 Armistice Lines bizarrely portrayed as the “pre-1967 ceasefire line” in a map inserted into the report and as ever, no effort was made to inform readers that the Armistice Agreement specifically defined the ceasefire line as not constituting a border.

bus attack East Talpiot map

On the evening of October 13th, an item concerning the day’s events was broadcast on the flagship BBC Two news programme ‘Newsnight’, with presenter Evan Davis speaking to the BBC’s Middle East editor.

As readers may recall, the rationale given for the creation of the post of ‘Middle East editor’ a decade ago is as follows:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

However, in this interview Jeremy Bowen actively hindered the provision of analysis and context which would have helped audiences comprehend the day’s events and their wider background.

Evan Davis’ introduction to the item included a presentation of the first Intifada which once again misled audiences by stating that the violence was directed exclusively at soldiers and erasing Israeli civilian casualties from the picture.  

Davis: “Well, they’re using the word Intifada again on the West Bank and in Israel. Attacks by Palestinians on Israeli Jews have increased in recent days – from the sporadic to the frequent. The first Intifada ran from 1987 to 1993 and mainly consisted of young people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails…ah…at Israeli troops. The second Intifada ran from 2000 to 2003 and involved suicide bombings and gun battles. Is the current wave of violence a third Intifada?”

Downplaying the pre-issued call for a ‘Day of Rage’ and the incitement and encouragement of violence that obviously produces, Davis went on:

“Well today was labelled a ‘Day of Rage’ by Palestinian groups. Attacks came thick and fast. This was the scene in central Jerusalem where a Palestinian ran his car into a queue at a bus stop, crushing some bystanders, attacking others with a meat cleaver. In a separate attack a sixty year-old Rabbi was killed while riding a bus. He was buried by his grieving community shortly afterwards.”

One might have thought that the BBC would at least have made an effort to report those details accurately. In fact Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky was murdered in the first attack described by Davis in Makor Baruch and not in the scantily portrayed attack on the bus in East Talpiot in which two other people were also murdered and fifteen wounded. Davis continued:

“Anger is building in Gaza and on the West Bank where parts of Bethlehem have resembled a battle ground. Ah…just before we came on air I spoke to the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and I asked him if these Palestinian attacks are just the work of individuals or if there’s something more organized going on.”

Despite Hamas having rushed to clarify its association with one of the two terrorists who carried out the attack on the bus in East Talpiot and despite information concerning the fact that the second perpetrator of that attack was affiliated with Fatah and the terrorist who attacked Rabbi Krishevsky and others was the cousin of one of the terrorists who carried out the Har Nof attacks last year already being in the public domain by the time Bowen went on air, ‘Newsnight’ viewers heard the following uninformative reply from Bowen.

“There’s obviously a lot of people talking about what’s going on. Everybody is aware of what’s happening. It doesn’t seem to be organised. Eh…and I think the seemingly random nature of it is a major reason why the Israelis are finding it hard to combat it; to come up with an answer.”

Jeremy Bowen obviously had no intention of clarifying to viewers that a declaration of a ‘Day of Rage’ is an organized call to Palestinians to commit acts of violence. Davis then asked:

“I mean, what about average opinion in the Palestinian community – communities? Do they feel they are heroes or do they feel these people are just stirring up trouble inappropriately? What is the mood?”

That question of course presented Bowen with an ideal opportunity to inform BBC audiences about the incitement and glorification of the terrorists by Hamas, Fatah, the PLO, Palestinian Authority officials and related media outlets and the effects of those factors on the mood on the Palestinian street. He could, for example, have mentioned the martyrdom posters bearing Fatah insignia and Mahmoud Abbas’ photograph. He could have reported Abbas’ statement that “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God” and his remarks about Jews’ “dirty feet”.

But the man whose job description specifically obliges him to provide BBC audiences with analysis and context side-stepped that question, instead framing of the story to focus audience attention on a politically partisan narrative which erases the religiously themed incitement fueling this latest wave of terror from audience view.

“I think there’s a lot of worry, actually, about where this is going. I think that there is…err….there’s a lot of anger and rage at the continuing occupation and the fact is that the underlying context of all the violence that really ever happens here to do with the conflict is the conflict itself and the almost fifty year occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israelis and that generates a sense of hopelessness, of hatred and – in some people as well – murderous rage. But among the Palestinians I’ve spoken to on this trip since I’ve been here, there’s a lot of worry about just where this is going.”

No less obvious framing appeared towards the end of the item when Bowen promoted the notion of equivalence between Israeli victims of terrorism murdered whilst going about their everyday business and Palestinians engaged in violent rioting.  

“The British have put out a statement today saying that…err…condemning, of course, the Palestinian attacks but also saying to the Israelis show restraint in terms of dealing with demonstrations because there have been a lot of people killed as well – including children – on the Palestinian side as the Israelis moved to…err…to err…respond to the kind of things that have been going on.”

Once again, BBC audiences have been sold short by the man whose job it is to ensure that they have the background information and context necessary for them to understand events in the Middle East.

BBC’s Evan Davis misleads on BDS, proportionality in warfare

On June 16th Israeli MK and former minister Tsipi Livni was interviewed on BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight’ and – not for the first time – presenter Evan Davis’ lack of Middle East proficiency was on show, along with some typical BBC attention to accuracy.

Photo credit: Eylon Aslan-Levy

Photo credit: Eylon Aslan-Levy

Davis introduced the interview with the following statement:

“Israel is viewed negatively in much of the world and certainly so in the UK.”

Davis of course did not reveal the source of the factual information (if there is any) which led him to that sweeping assumption but, as a poll carried out for Chatham House in August 2014 at the height of the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed (page 5), the majority of respondents did not describe themselves as viewing Israel “unfavourably”.

Davis continued:

“The international image certainly worries the country and Prime Minister Netanyahu said the campaign to delegitimise Israel must be fought. In his sights was the BDS movement – Boycott, Divest and Sanction [sic]. The last thing Israel wants is that any comparison to apartheid South Africa to catch on.”

Not only do we see that – once again – the BBC made no effort to provide audiences with the full range of information concerning the aims of the BDS campaign, but in the course of the conversation with Tsipi Livni, Evan Davis actively misrepresented its agenda.

Livni: “Basically, it’s [the BDS campaign] not for two states for two peoples – it’s basically against the State of Israel. They are not talking about two states living in peace in the Middle East but they are basically against the State of Israel.”

Davis: “I think many in the BDS movement are in favour of the two state solution – aren’t they?”

Having devoted the first part of the interview to the topic of BDS, Davis came up with a question for Livni in which he interestingly managed to get past the BBC’s professed aversion to making “value judgements”: 

 “Would you describe your parents as terrorists?”

He then went on to introduce the topic of ‘disproportionality’ but, rather than using the opportunity to relieve audiences of some of the misinformation on that topic propagated by BBC journalists during last year’s conflict and others, Davis added to it. It is embarrassingly obvious that Davis (apparently along with his editors, who surely must have vetted the questions before they were asked) either has absolutely no idea what that term really means in the framework of the Laws of Armed Combat or elected to mislead viewers on the topic.

Davis: “The UN, others, plenty, think there is disproportionate force used by the Israeli army for the threat against Israeli civilians.” […]

Davis: “What is the ratio of the families losing children?”

Livni: “We are not targeting civilians.”

Davis: “I know you’re not targeting but what is the ratio of civilian to… untargeted killed by the Israelis relative to those killed in Israel by Hamas?”

What Davis is doing here is promoting the false notion that ‘proportionate’ means equality in death or suffering. That, of course is not the definition of the term in the context of war and the fact that he makes no effort to inform his audiences what the term really means is ample indication that the simplistic take-away message audiences are intended to receive is that Israel must be in the wrong because fewer Israelis die.

When such shoddy and blatantly partial ‘journalism’ is broadcast on prime time British television it is once again patently obvious that the BBC’s lack of commitment to its legal obligation to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” is precisely one of the factors contributing to the existence of UK residents’ negative views of Israel touted by Davis in his introduction.

BBC’s Evan Davis promotes the chimera of ’67 borders

Over the years we have taken note here of numerous instances (see some examples here, here and here) in which the BBC has misled its audiences by inaccurately referring to the 1949 Armistice Lines (also known as the ‘Green Line’) as ‘the 1967 border’.

As readers are no doubt aware, the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically states that the ceasefire line – which is what the ‘Green Line’ is – is not a border.

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

  1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognized;
  2. It is also recognized that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI

  1. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Moreover, the point is made abundantly clear in the BBC’s ‘style guide’.  

“The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. It is properly referred to as the 1949 Armistice Line – the ceasefire line of 1949. […]

In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.” 

Nevertheless – and perhaps precisely because this frequent error is rarely if ever corrected – the organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues” continues to allow audiences to be misled and misinformed through the repeated use of inaccurate terminology.

The latest example of the use of the inaccurate term “’67 border” came in the May 18th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight‘ which the corporation has claimed is “routinely being watched by more than 700,000 people”.Newsnight

Whilst interviewing Shimon Peres, presenter Evan Davies asked:

“Can you imagine now any situation – anything the Palestinians could do – in which Israel would agree to go back to this newly defined ’67 border.”

And no – we have no idea what “newly defined” means in this context either.

Also notable is Davis’ promotion of the notion that “it’s warranted to say that [the first Lebanon war] created Hizballah” – with no mention of no less relevant factors such as the Iranian revolution, Iranian policy or the Lebanese civil war.

In response to Shimon Peres’ assertion that “the chances for a two state solution exist”, Davis retorts:

“It doesn’t seem like it from the Israeli government though. Netanyahu didn’t mention it in his opening statement.”

As our colleagues at Presspectiva have pointed out (in Hebrew), none of the Israeli governments during the past two decades have specifically mentioned the two state solution in their founding guidelines. The new Israeli government’s founding guidelines do, however include the following:

“The government will advance the political process and aspire to a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with all our neighbours…”

One might assume that a reasonable level of proficiency in the subject matter – including the use of accurate terminology – would be a fairly basic requirement for an interviewer on a flagship news programme. These and other questions posed by Evan Davis raise the issue of whether the purpose of this interview was in fact to inform viewers or to promote the BBC’s own ‘world view’. 

 

 

Tonight: two to watch out for on BBC 2

On Saturday October 11th BBC Two will screen ‘The Gatekeepers’ at 21:45 UK time. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:

“For the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions.

Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been unable to transform its crushing military victory into a lasting peace. Throughout that entire period, these heads of the Shin Bet stood at the centre of Israel’s decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had – and continue to have – a profound impact on Israeli policy.

The Gatekeepers offers an exclusive account of the sum of their successes and failures. In the process it sheds light on the controversy surrounding the occupation in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.”

Gatekeepers on BBC 2

Following that, at 23:20, BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ will be hosting a discussion on the topic with a group of as yet unidentified guests.

“Evan Davis presents a discussion in which a panel of guests debate the issues raised by Dror Moreh’s documentary about Israeli secret service Shin Bet, which features interviews with six of the agency’s former heads.”

As readers are no doubt aware, this is by no means a new topic for the BBC.

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BBC’s Evan Davis promotes notion that search for kidnapped teens is ‘collective punishment’

Listeners to the June 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme (available here for a limited period of time) heard the following during the news bulletin two hours into the programme.Today 16 6

“Reports from the West Bank say Israeli soldiers searching for three teenagers who haven’t been seen since Thursday, have shot dead a Palestinian man near the city of Ramallah. Palestinian medical officials say he was killed during clashes that started after soldiers conducted house to house searches in a refugee camp.”

Of course when that announcement was broadcast – around 08:00 GMT – that report had not been confirmed. 

Later on in the programme, from around 02:36:08 in the recording above, listeners heard presenter and Wikipedia fan Evan Davis introduce an item ostensibly on the subject of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers. As readers will soon see, that item rapidly became a platform for political campaigning, both by his first guest and by Davis himself, with his adoption and use of the language and narrative used by anti-Israel campaigners quickly dispelling any impression of that famed BBC ‘impartiality’.

Evan Davis: “Three Israeli teenagers are missing. The three are students at a seminary on the occupied West Bank and they were taken while hitch-hiking on Thursday night. Israel blames Hamas and in searching for the three, Israeli troops did kill a Palestinian youth overnight.”

Again, Davis repeats an unconfirmed report and gives no context regarding what the “youth” was doing at the time. He continues:

“With me in the studio is the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, but first let’s talk to Dr Mustafa Barghouti who’s an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and joins us on the phone. Good morning.”

So, in an item supposedly about three kidnapped Israeli citizens, the BBC elects to open not by providing listeners with factual information about the incident or how it is affecting the families of the missing boys or Israel as a whole, but by giving a platform to one of its favorite serial Palestinian propagandists.

Mustafa Barghouti: “Good morning.”

ED: “Do you have a suspicion as to where these teenagers are or who would have taken them?”

MB: “Well there is no…nobody has any idea about where they are but I think Mr Netanyahu’s government is jeopardizing the lives of these young people by putting them in illegal settlements inside the West Bank. And the whole situation is very explosive because of the fact that 260 Palestinian prisoners who are detained without charges by Israel for…some of them for more than two years, are now on hunger strike for over 50 days and some of them might die at any moment. Eh…if Israel did release these prisoners and had a way to solve the fact that five thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails could be released, I think we would have avoided all these problems.”

Failing to meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by neglecting to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s statement omits any mention of the terror offences of which the prisoners he promotes were convicted, Davis goes on.

ED: “Right. So listening to you, sorry, Dr Barghouti.  Listening to you I would – if I knew nothing about this case – would assume that someone on the Palestinian side had abducted these..err…youngsters as a political – an act – a political act of some kind. Because you’ve mentioned the settlements – the illegal settlements – you’ve mentioned the desire to release prisoners; that would suggest…I mean anyone thinking like you…that you’d take the teenagers, maybe as a bargaining chip or you’d take the teenagers as some kind of revenge.”

Note that Davis fails to meet BBC guidelines on impartiality by presenting audiences with the notion of “illegal settlements” without any accompanying clarification of the fact that there exist many differing views of that topic.

MB: “It could be the case that some Palestinian…it could be the case – nobody has the proof of course – but it could be the case that some Palestinians decided that the only way to release the prisoners whose life is at stake is to have Israeli prisoners as well…”

ED: “Mmm…”

MB: “…like has happened with Gilad Shalit before, after which Israel had to release the one thousand prisoners who were in jail for more than 30 years or 25 years.”

Again, Davis makes no attempt to clarify to listeners that those released under the terms of the Shalit deal were convicted terrorists.

MB: “So, but the original root of the problem is the fact that Israel is maintaining illegal occupation…”

Davis interrupts with another display of deliberate and active breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality:

ED: “Illegal settlements.”

MB: “..for 47 years and this occupation has transformed into a system of apartheid and discrimination…”

ED: “Doctor…”

MB: “….and the solution to this problem is not by conducting what Israel does now which are acts of collective punishment against the whole people including killing people as happened this morning in Ramallah.”

Not only does Davis fail to challenge Barghouti’s use of the defamatory and inaccurate ‘apartheid’ trope or his ridiculous promotion of the notion of “collective punishment” to describe an ever increasingly urgent search and rescue operation but – as readers will soon see – he adopts and promotes the latter propaganda himself.

ED: “Ah, Dr Barghouti; thank you for that and maybe wait on the line and listen to Daniel Taub the Israeli Ambassador. Good morning to you.”

Daniel Taub: “Good morning.”

ED: “And I know you weren’t willing to discuss with Dr Barghouti in this case. Has Israel any evidence that Hamas is actually the guilty party in this case?”

DT: “The answer is yes. Obviously I can’t share intelligence with you, but we can point to a number of things. The fact is, since the beginning of 2013 we’ve had tragically over 64….64 attempts to kidnap Israelis and we know that the majority of those were actually orchestrated by Hamas. We have Hamas leaders who have been calling for an increase in attempts – not just general terrorist attacks – but attempts to kidnap Israelis. And of course we have the Hamas leadership which still today is calling the people that perpetrated this atrocity as heroes.”

ED: “If you know it’s Hamas, and you appear to – in your own mind – be clear about that, why would you be arresting people or going into the West Bank and taking people, searching places, that are not related to Hamas – which is certainly the accusation the other side is making.”

DT: “What we’re doing at the moment is what I think any government in this situation would be doing. We are detaining for questioning anybody that may have any intelligence that can help us identify the whereabouts of these three teenagers.”

ED: “Including non-Hamas people?”

DT: “We are detaining the people that we think may have any intelligence.”

ED: “Right, but if you know it’s Hamas, why would you be detaining non-Hamas people?”

DT: “You know I’m not going to go into the details of intelligence gathering operations. As the British intelligence services know, those are complicated.”

ED: “Right, but…”

DT: “Our only goal is to bring these three boys home.”

ED: “What you do get into though is the notion of collective punishment for a whole community for the sins of maybe a few people within that community…”

DT: “I don’t think…it’s not a question of collective punishment but there is a question of collective responsibility. The fact is we have a leadership here in the Palestinian Authority which has engaged in a national unity government with Hamas. You know, they assured us, they assured the international community that in fact that Hamas would become more moderate, would sign up to the international principles of the Quartet, would renounce violence; that we would see Gaza becoming more like the West Bank, and tragically what we’re seeing is actually the West Bank becoming more like Gaza. And if President Abbas wants to be the president of a unity government the first thing that he has to do is ensure that he has a monopoly on the use of force; that he exercises responsibility over all parts of his government; dismantles Hamas and exercises authority over Gaza as well.

Once more breaching BBC guidelines on impartiality, Davis then also suggests to audiences that the blame for the kidnapping of the three teenagers lies with Israel.

Found in Nablus area, 16/6/14

Found in Nablus area, 16/6/14

ED: “Do you think your approach is working? Illegally settling those areas and having young people wandering around them. Is that working for Israeli security?

DT: “Ahm…the youngsters that we’re talking about were people that were born in this situation. These are not youngsters that you can blame for having moved somewhere. Obviously, the solution that we would like to see is a peaceful negotiation…”

ED: “You’re not denying though…it would generally have been regarded as Palestinian territory until the Israelis…”

DT: “I tell you I don’t accept that that has anything to do with this case because we know that Hamas makes no distinction. Think about it: since the beginning of this year we’ve had from Gaza over two hundred missiles fired on towns and villages inside Israel. Just yesterday we has two more…two more missiles found…people who are not living over the green line, but living in Ashkelon.”

Davis then takes it upon himself to act as telepathic pollster of the Palestinian people and yet again finds a way of promoting the notion that Israel is to blame for terror attacks against its citizens.pic Avi M

ED: “Hamas may not make the distinction that you draw between the occupied and the unoccupied territories, but the rest of the Palestinian community may make that distinction and the ability of Hamas to operate in the way that you say it is operating may have been enhanced by the fact that you’re occupying what would generally have been regarded as Palestinian…”

DT: “I have to say that if you look at the experience of recent years, what Dr Barghouti is advocating doesn’t make sense to most Israelis. We have today 170,000 missiles that are directed at Israel and the vast majority – almost all of those – are located in areas that Israel has pulled out of, whether it’s in South Lebanon or the Gaza Strip. The notion that pulling out of these areas without a responsible authority that is going to take control, do what any responsible government would do, is not an intelligent move. It’s unfortunately much closer to suicide.”

The item ends at that point, with Radio 4 audiences none the wiser about how the kidnappings took place, who the kidnapped boys and their families are, how the incident is being dealt with at an operative level or what is the reaction of the Israeli public. Neither, of course, are listeners told anything about the celebratory reactions on the Palestinian street and the inflammatory statements made by Hamas and Fatah officials – as has indeed been the case in all BBC coverage of this incident so far.

As three families endure a tortuous wait for news of their loved ones and an entire nation stands anxiously between hope and fear, Davis’ politically motivated attempts to place the blame for their abduction upon Israel and frame search efforts as “collective punishment” are frankly obnoxious. The BBC has no editorial guidelines concerning its presenters’ good taste and social skills, but it does have guidelines on accuracy and impartiality which Evan Davis, in his rush to amplify his own chosen political narrative, tramples just as much as he does plain old common decency. 

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