Revisiting a BBC report on Israeli ‘accusation’ concerning Iran

Back in June the BBC News website reported that Israel had ‘blamed’ Iran for supporting the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border which was then in its third month.

“Israel has accused Iran of fuelling recent violence on the Gaza border that has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed amid protests against Israel. […]

In the leaflets dropped on Gaza Israel’s military repeated its warning to Palestinians to not go near the heavily-fortified border fence.

“For your own benefit, it is better that you not participate in the violent riots at the fence, not attempt to breach it, and not permit Hamas to turn you into a tool to advance its narrow agenda,” the message said.

“Behind this agenda is Shia Iran, which has made it its mission to inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests.”

Iran is a major supporter of Hamas, which it backs financially and militarily. The two sides fell out after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the civil war in Syria, but they have since reconciled.”

As was noted here at the time BBC audiences were not provided with any substantial background concerning Iran’s backing of terror groups in the Gaza Strip in order to enhance their understanding of the Israeli statement.

“As noted here in the past, the BBC has been remarkably coy about providing its funding public with information on Iran’s terror financing activities and audiences have seen little if any serious coverage of the topic of Iran’s renewed support for Hamas and its incentive payments to Palestinian terrorists. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has elected to portray Iran’s links to the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as Israeli ‘allegations’.”

A conference was held in Tehran in late November.

“On November 24, the 32nd Islamic Unity Conference was held in Tehran with representatives of about 100 countries in attendance. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, declared during the conference’s opening speech that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that was established in the region following World War II to serve the interests of the West. He asserted that even if Israel’s existence is removed, Muslims must preserve their unity. […]

The Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, thanked Iran in a speech, broadcast via videoconference from the Gaza Strip, for standing by the Palestinians on the matter of Palestine and Jerusalem. He declared that Israel is the common enemy of the Muslim nation, and called to continue the struggle against it. He added that Gaza’s military and political victory over Israel would have great consequences for the Palestinians’ triumph in the conflict. Haniyeh stressed that Hamas will cooperate with any actor that helps it achieve the movement’s goals.”

In contrast to many other media outlets the BBC did not report on those offensive remarks from the Iranian president whom it has repeatedly promoted as a ‘moderate’, or on the widespread condemnation they received.

The ITIC also noted that:

“Hossein Sheikholeslam, an Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary General of the Islamic Unity Conference held in Tehran, confirmed to the Hamas media outlet al-Risala (November 27) that the Conference decided to adopt the families of those killed in the fence protests. He added that this decision has been forwarded to the relevant authorities for implementation, which will occur shortly.”

The Times of Israel reported Hamas’ reaction to that statement.

“The Gaza-ruling Hamas on Tuesday thanked Iran for its financial “adoption” of the families of Palestinians killed and wounded during clashes it has been encouraging along the border with Israeli troops.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his group “values” and “highly appreciates” Iran’s support, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya broadcaster reported.

Barhoum’s statement comes after an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Hamas-linked Al-Risalah that the decision to “adopt” the families was taken during the Islamic Unity Conference being held in Tehran.”

In addition the ITIC reported that:

“The organizers of the protests along the Gaza fence confirmed that Iran is financing the medical care of those injured in the protests and the compensation for the families of those killed there. Hussein Mansour, a member of the organizing committee of the protests, stated that is an important act by Iran as part of the support for the Palestinian people and the resistance. He called on the Arab world to act in the same vein and support the Palestinian people.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” has not ensured that its funding public has received this highly relevant background to the events it has been describing as “protests” for over eight months.

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BBC News amplifies terror group and political NGO in crossing report

On July 17th a report titled “Israel suspends fuel deliveries to Gaza over arson attacks” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article opened with a reasonable account of the story:

“Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons.

No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted. [emphasis added]

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was responding to “continued terror attempts” by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.”

The report also gave readers a reasonable account of the hostilities that took place on July 14th.

“On Saturday, the Israeli military carried out waves of air strikes across the coastal territory in response to some of the most intensive bombardments from Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Two Palestinians were killed and 14 others wounded in the Israeli strikes, while four Israelis were wounded when more than 200 rockets and mortars were fired towards southern Israel.

The violence subsided after Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.”

As was the case when previous restrictions were announced a week before, the BBC presented lower figures for the area of land (7,500 acres) destroyed in Palestinian arson attacks and the monetary value ($2 million) of that damage than is actually the case.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was prepared to “increase the force of our attacks” if Palestinians did not stop launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border.

The devices have sparked hundreds fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,830 hectares (7,000 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, officials say.”

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the publicity stunt – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions, as well as giving context-free amplification to the ‘right of return’ claim.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.”

The most notable aspect of this report, however, is the BBC’s decision to highlight comment on the story from two sources.

Firstly, the BBC found it appropriate to amplify parts of a statement from the spokesman of a terrorist organisation.

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, warned Israel of “dangerous consequences”. […]

A Hamas spokesman called the closure a “crime against humanity”.

“These vengeful measures reflect the degree of the oppression and the ugliness of the crime that Gaza is facing, that will have dangerous consequences for which the occupation will bear full responsibility,” Fawzi Barhoum said.”

Barhoum also stated that:

“The Israeli occupation’s closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and depriving Gaza from the most simple necessities of life is a crime against humanity that will be added to its list of crimes at the expense of the Palestinian people including those living in the Strip”

BBC audiences were not however told that in May, the terror organisation now once again claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks against the Kerem Shalom crossing, damaging the same fuel supplies which it now calls “the most simple necessities of life”. Neither were they informed of the related issue of Hamas’ cynical exploitation of fuel imported via the Rafah crossing.

“Approximately 30 million liters of diesel fuel, supposedly intended for Gaza’s power station, have been brought in since the beginning of the year. Hamas buys the diesel fuel from Egypt, but instead of using it all to fuel the station and produce more hours of electricity per day, it has been using some of the diesel fuel to make a profit.

Of the 30 million liters, 17.8 million were taken to Gaza’s power station. Another 12.2 million liters were either sold on the black market to those willing to pay the maximum price for it, or diverted for Hamas’s military purposes. Hamas makes a profit of NIS 2.5 on every liter of diesel fuel sold in Gaza.”

The second comment on the story promoted to BBC audiences came from a foreign funded political NGO – with a link to its Twitter account.

As the BBC correctly reported at the beginning of the article – there is no “closure” of the Kerem Shalom crossing and “Gaza’s main lifeline” has not been ‘shut down’. It is therefore significant that the BBC chose to amplify those inaccurate claims despite obviously knowing that they are false.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require that audiences be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors. In the case of ‘Gisha’, it would obviously be helpful to BBC audiences to know that the political NGO touting the claim of “illegal collective punishment” petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court in April, claiming that Israel’s responses to the ‘Great Return March’ violence along the Gaza border are illegal and demanding that the Court prohibit the use of live ammunition by the IDF. The court rejected that petition.

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Apparently BBC News website editors are of the opinion that the amplification of baseless propaganda slogans such as “crime against humanity” from a terror faction and “illegal collective punishment” from a political NGO which claims to represent the interests of “Gaza residents” that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves in three months of terror attacks, contributes to audience understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

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BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

BBC amplifies Hamas default accusation in PA convoy attack report

The Times of Israel and others reported on an incident in the Gaza Strip on March 13th:

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an apparent assassination attempt when a bomb went off next to his convoy as he visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding several people, officials and Palestinian media reported.

The PA said Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who was accompanying him, were unhurt. However, media reports said several bystanders were injured. Their condition was not immediately clear.”

The ToI report also notes that:

“Palestinian officials contacted Israel’s military liaison in order to coordinate Hamdallah’s exit from the Gaza Strip following the assassination attempt, The Times of Israel learned.

During the conversation, Israel offered to provide medical treatment to those injured in the attack and some of the wounded were being treated by doctors at the Israeli side of the Erez crossing.”

Although known to at least one BBC journalist, that information did not appear in the BBC News website’s account of the story – “Gaza blast targets Palestinian PM Hamdallah’s convoy“.

In contrast, that report does include the following:

“Hamas condemned what it called an “ugly crime” and said it had launched an investigation.

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it believed the attack was carried out by the same people who last year assassinated Mazen Fuqaha, a commander of Hamas’ military wing, and attempted to assassinate Maj Gen Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Gaza’s internal security forces.”

Readers may well have had difficulty understanding that somewhat cryptic portrayal of Barhoum’s press release due to the fact that the BBC did not produce any English language reporting on either the assassination of Fuqaha or the attempted assassination of Abu Naim when those incidents took place.

Seeing as Hamas executed the people it claimed had assassinated Fuqaha in May 2017, Barhoum’s quoted claim that “the same people” were responsible for the October 2017 attack on Abu Naim and this attack on Hamdallah obviously lacks logic. So what did Fawzi Barhoum actually mean?

According to the New York Times, Barhoum was in fact using Hamas’ default ‘explanation’ for just about everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, however, that Hamas had no role in the attack. He called the blast an attempt to “tamper with the security of the Gaza Strip” and to “strike any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation,” and demanded an investigation.

Mr. Barhoum instead sought to blame Israel: He suggested those responsible were “the same hands” who had gunned down Mazen Fakha, a Hamas official responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, in March 2017, and tried to kill Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza, in October.

Hamas has accused Israel of being behind the attacks on both men, who were freed from Israeli prisons in 2011 in a controversial prisoner swap for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.”

Later on in the day Hamas put out a statement claiming that the PA agreed with that version of events. However, as Khaled Abu Toameh reports:

“[Ismail] Haniyeh phoned Hamdallah after the explosion and the two agreed to “blame Israel and its collaborators” for being behind the explosion, according to a statement issued by the Hamas leader’s office.

But Yusef al Mahmoud, spokesperson for the PA government, later denied that Hamdallah had received any phone call from Haniyeh.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Does the corporation really consider that the uncritical repetition of unproven knee-jerk accusations from a terror organisation contributes to meeting that obligation?

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BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

 

BBC News ignores a story about press freedom

h/t Point of No Return

bbc-greste-protest

BBC journalists protest suppression of free speech in 2014

Given the BBC’s self-evident interest in freedom of the press and its track record of calling out intimidation of journalists and obstruction of free speech, one might have thought that a story about colleagues condemned by a terrorist organisation and pressured not to visit a certain country would have caught the corporation’s attention.

Ynet reports:

“A delegation of seven leading Moroccan journalists is currently being hosted by the Israeli foreign ministry with the aim of enabling the participants to view first-hand the situation in Israel and to shatter negative myths associated with the country’s image. […]

In a conversation with Ynet, one of the delegation members from a prominent Moroccan newspaper explained the climate of fear and propaganda which has hitherto precluded the possibility of such a visit from coming to fruition.

In 2009, she said, she received an invitation to visit Israel as part of Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum but felt pressured to decline the offer.

 “I was extremely afraid of coming. We are under pressure from the Arab media, religious people and propaganda about the Palestinian issue,” the journalist confessed.

 “People are scared to become outcasts. If you say you support Israel, or even that you don’t have a negative opinion about the country in regard to the Palestinian issue, they will single you out.”

In 2010 and 2011, the same journalist received invitations to participate in a conference on counter terrorism in Israel. “For that, of all things, I wanted to come but my manager told me that if I go there he will have the right to fire me because if someone found out that one of our radio journalists visited Israel they would attack us for normalization…This is the thing that scares us in Morocco. It is forbidden to normalize relations with the Israeli enemy and with the Israeli criminal army that robs Palestinians of their land.” “

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“In a report published on London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed’s website, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “In the shadow of the escalation of the crimes of the Israeli enemy and the actions of racist purification against our people, we condemn the visit of a team of Moroccan media persons to the Israeli entity with the goal of normalizing with it and undertaking a campaign of beautifying its image in the Arab media.

“We consider this a crime against our people, and an offense to the feelings of the Arabs and Muslims and lovers of the Palestinian cause and an encouragement of the Israeli entity in its crimes and violations,” he continued. […]

…Barhoum stressed that “urgent work is needed to stop all forms of normalization, cooperation and connection with this Israeli entity by any party and to mobilize all the energies of the [Arab] nation to support the justice of the Palestinian cause and to stand behind our people, its rights and [its] principles.””

However, that story did not receive any coverage on either the BBC News website’s Middle East page or the BBC Arabic website’s ‘Morocco‘ section – and neither did the following recent events in Rabat:

“Hundreds demonstrated in the Moroccan capital Wednesday against the Israeli flag being flown beside the colours of 195 other countries at UN climate talks in the central city of Marrakesh. […]

“The Israeli flag at COP22 means Morocco symbolically recognizing the state of Israel. It’s unacceptable,” one protester told AFP.

“Death to America, death to Israel!” demonstrators cried while burning the Israeli flag and parading anti-Israel placards.

Several pro-Palestinian associations took part in the protest after calling on authorities to take action about the flag earlier this week.”

Apparently BBC editors did not consider that these two stories would contribute to meeting their remit of building understanding of “international issues”.

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