Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Throughout the month of March 2019, thirty items relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which had originally been published the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Eight reports related to security issues:

Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv (15/3/19 to 19/3/19) discussed here

Israeli soldier and rabbi killed in West Bank attack (18/3/19 to 20/3/19) discussed here

Two Palestinians killed in clashes in Nablus (20/3/19 to 22/3/19) discussed here

Gaza rocket destroys Israeli home (25/3/19 to 3/4/19)

Seven injured as Gaza rocket hits home in central Israel (25/3/19) discussed here

Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house (25/3/19 to 28/3/19) discussed here

Gaza protests: Thousands mark ‘Great Return’ anniversary (30/3/19 to 31/3/19) discussed here

Gaza violence: Crossings reopen after negotiated ‘calm’ (31/3/19 to 4/4/19)

Three items related to additional aspects of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop:

Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN (28/2/19 to 2/3/19) discussed here

UN rights chief Bachelet warns of threat from ‘gross inequality’ (6/3/19 to 7/3/19) discussed here

Gaza’s disability crisis Tom Bateman (29/3/19 to present) discussed here

Six reports concerned Middle East related US foreign policy:

US consulate general in Jerusalem merges with embassy (4/3/19 to 6/3/19) discussed here

Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory (21/3/19 to 22/3/19) discussed here and here

Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks (22/3/19 to 25/3/19) discussed here and here

Pompeo says God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran (22/3/19 to 25/3/19)

Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli (25/3/19 to 27/3/19)

Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means Barbara Plett Usher (25/3/19 to 2/4/19) discussed here and here

One item related to internal Palestinian affairs:

Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule Yolande Knell (18/3/19 to 26/3/19) discussed here

Of six reports concerning Israeli affairs, two related to legal cases:

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges (28/2/19 to 1/3/19) discussed here

Netanyahu charges: Is Israel PM in more trouble now than ever before? Yolande Knell (1/3/19 to 15/3/19) discussed here

Three concerned Israeli politics and the upcoming election:

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs (11/3/19 to 13/3/19) discussed here

Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari (17/3/19 to 20/3/19) discussed here

Israel elections: ‘Fascism’ perfume ad sparks online debate (19/3/19 to 21/3/19)

One related to religious affairs:

Western Wall: Jewish women clash over prayer rights (8/3/19 to 10/3/19) discussed here and here

Four reports had a historical theme:

A 2,000-year-old biblical treasure BBC Travel (4/3/19 to 5/3/19 and previously 25/2/19 to 27/2/19)

Einstein manuscripts: More than 110 new documents released (6/3/19 to 8/3/19)

Rafi Eitan: Mossad spy who captured Adolf Eichmann dies (23/3/19 to 25/3/19)

Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies (27/3/19 to 28/3/19) discussed here

One report was about geography:

‘World’s longest salt cave’ discovered in Israel (28/3/19 to 1/4/19)

One item related to culture & art:

Startling images of the Middle East Fiona Macdonald BBC Culture (8/3/19 to 9/3/19) discussed here

Throughout the first quarter of 2019 and as has been the case in previous years (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC News website continued to cover Israeli affairs far more extensively than it did internal Palestinian affairs with the ratio currently standing at over 4:1.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part two

 

 

 

 

BBC Culture joins the drip feed of narrative

Readers of reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 8th were also offered a feature titled “Startling images of the Middle East”.

That item by Fiona Macdonald of BBC Culture in fact relates to very specific areas of “the Middle East” and showcases a book first published in 2015 by photographer Tanya Habjouqa. The ten-page feature includes images and videos of the photographer talking about her work.

“Tanya Habjouqa’s Occupied Pleasures project reveals moments of black humour in Gaza and the West Bank. She describes finding a unique entry point into a hyper-narrated place.”

“Habjouqa started on the project Occupied Pleasures in 2009. Her images reveal the lives of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank in a nuanced way, offering glimpses of everyday resilience.”

That ‘nuance’ however does not include any background information whatsoever and so the images and narrative are presented to BBC audiences in an entirely context-free manner.

On the second page audiences find a video in which Habjouqa states:

“…Palestine was home. And I was the one sitting at checkpoints and experiencing this Kafkaesque reality…”

In the video appearing on the fifth page Habjouqa tells the story behind some of her photographs concerning a story from 2013.  

“There had been a wedding and I’d missed it. There was a woman who had come in, in a wedding dress and had the wedding party because she hadn’t been given permission to access Gaza because of the blockade. […] And then he paused and he said the most sobering sombre thing, he said ‘you know no matter what they do to us, we will always find a way to live, to love, to laugh.”

BBC audiences are not told that the Egyptian girl had been denied entry to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian authorities or of the Palestinian terrorism that made the blockade necessary.

On page nine audiences find a video in which an image of “Furniture makers in the West Bank, with Israel’s separation barrier behind them” with no explanation of why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built.

The narrative advanced in this feature is glaringly obvious: Habjouqa states in the last video that her work relates to people who “refuse to let suffering be the definition of their existence”.

How that suffering is related to their leaders’ choices and how those choices brought about the “checkpoints”, “blockade” and “separation barrier” of course goes completely unexplained in this latest chapter in the BBC’s drip fed narrative of Palestinian victims completely devoid of agency and responsibility.  

 

 

How a BBC WS News bulletin misled on Jerusalem Day

Those who happened to be listening to the BBC World Service at 2 a.m. GMT on May 18th will have heard the following item in the news bulletin (from 03:40, available for a limited period of time only) read by Fiona MacDonald.World Service

“Israeli police have clashed with Palestinians protesting against a march by Jewish nationalists to mark Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians threw stones as Israelis bearing flags marched through the predominantly Muslim old walled city. A Palestinian activist, Ahmad SubLaban, said the march was a provocation.

[voiceover] During the march the Old City gets closed and its residents are forbidden from entering or leaving. They say that day for them feels like a prison, keeping them inside their houses. They’re forbidden to go in and out of the Old City. They’re also attacked; some of their properties are destroyed. The shopkeepers are forced to close their stores.”

The Israeli prime minister said Jerusalem would always be the capital for the Jewish people alone.”

MacDonald is of course describing Jerusalem Day or Yom Yerushalayim – the national holiday marking the reunification of the city after nineteen years of division due to the occupation by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. That context is glaringly absent from her distorted description of the purpose of the event.

Among the numerous events taking place on May 17th to mark the occasion was the traditional march to the Western Wall, which for geographical reasons obviously has to pass through what MacDonald bizarrely finds necessary to describe as “the predominantly Muslim old walled city”.

Not unrelated to the content and style of this news item is the fact that this year, two political NGOs unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court in an attempt to prevent the march (now in its thirtieth year) from passing through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. One of the political NGOs which filed the rejected petition was the foreign funded Ir Amim.

One of Ir Amim’s employees is Ahmad SubLaban – apparently the same inadequately introduced man given a platform by the BBC World Service from which to promote political propaganda.

BBC Watch enquired about SubLaban’s claims that “residents are forbidden from entering or leaving” the area and that “shopkeepers are forced to close their stores” and was not informed of any restrictions imposed on movement or commerce, although according to the Israeli police force, some shopkeepers do chose to close earlier than usual on that day. We were also informed that there were no reports of damage to shops or properties and that two police officers were lightly injured by participants in an illegal protest at Damascus gate in which stones and bottles were thrown.

And what of MacDonald’s claim that “the Israeli prime minister said Jerusalem would always be the capital for the Jewish people alone”? According to the Times of Israel, what Netanyahu actually said in his Jerusalem Day address was:

“Jerusalem was only ever the capital of the Jewish people, not of any other people,” […] “Here our path as a nation began, this is our home and here we shall stay.”

Interestingly, a strikingly similar interpretation of those words to the one presented by the BBC is to be found in the headline of an article appearing in Ha’aretz which reads “Netanyahu: Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people alone”. Whilst the Ha’aretz article supplies context to that misleading headline, the BBC World Service appears to have further garnished it in such a way that listeners would inevitably misunderstand the meaning and intention of the words spoken. 

Were the BBC to expand its news gathering beyond one Israeli newspaper of a specific political stripe and beyond inadequately introduced representatives of political NGOs of a particular genre, the accuracy and impartiality of its reports on events in Israel would of course be vastly improved. However, as this example of a supposedly factual item in a news bulletin once more indicates, the BBC’s reliance upon sources promoting a distinct political view defines, restricts and shapes the objectivity and accuracy of information passed on to audiences worldwide.