Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray discusses “The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy“.

“According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ – according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office – since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course. […]

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.”

2) The ITIC has updated its report on a study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks.

“An examination of the new textbooks issued by the PA shows they continue expressing, and in some instances by radicalizing, the same basic principles that appeared in previous textbooks: the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run school, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

3) The ITIC has also published a report on a ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip and expected to arrive in the area next week.

“Three small boats of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip set sail on July 21 and 22, 2018, and are expected to arrive around the end of July. Before they left for the Gaza Strip they conducted a series of propaganda visits to various European ports. The flotilla’s objective is to help the Palestinian propaganda campaign that accompanies the “return marches” by raising awareness to the demand to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. That is supposed lead to international solidarity with the Gazans while defaming Israel.

On July 16, 2018, four boats anchored in the port of Palermo, Sicily, and from there three of them set sail together for the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. The most prominent figure in organizing the flotilla is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian anti-Israeli activist living in Britain, affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Birawi has many years of experience in organizing flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. His official title is “coordinator of the international committee for breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.””

Readers may recall that Birawi is also linked to ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel since late March. The ITIC has also published an update to that report with details of the identities of the flotilla’s participants, one of whom is the founder of ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) who has in the past been interviewed by the BBC.

4) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran discusses “Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights“.

“Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.”

 

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) With the BBC World Service having recently failed to disclose the anti-Israel activism of the sole interviewee in a history show, an article by Prof Gerald Steinberg titled “The Lancet: How an Anti-Israel Propaganda Platform was Turned Around” makes for timely reading.

“The Lancet‘s central role in anti-Israel demonization began in parallel to the wider political war launched in late 2000, at a time of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.  […]

It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995 and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas. In this context, Horton joined the Palestinian cause, reinforced through close association with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I). Under Horton’s direction, The Lancet and MAP co-sponsored The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA), generating a steady flow of pseudo-scientific papers, and, in turn, providing Horton with political support and visibility. […]

Dr. Swee Ang Chai, co-founder of MAP, was another central figure in The Lancet campaign and a frequent contributor to anti-Israel demonization, and the introduction from her book From Beirut to Jerusalem was posted on The Lancet’s “Global Health Network” website. The article, which included no citations and advanced no medical claims, was removed 28 days later following widespread criticism of “factual inaccuracies.” Another piece by Swee Ang cited testimonies of unnamed “eyewitnesses” to make war crimes allegations related to the 2009 Gaza conflict. In addition, she participated in an internet group that promoted David Duke’s racism and anti-Semitism, including promoting a video titled “CNN, Goldman Sachs, and the Zio Matrix” in which Duke accuses Jewish banking, media and political figures of conspiring to create “an unholy tribal alliance.””

2) The ITIC has translated an interview given to a Hamas newspaper by UK-based anti-Israel activist Zaher Birawi.

“Birawi added that despite the difficulties, the main objective of dispatching ships to the Gaza Strip is for their propaganda value, to keep the issues of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and breaking the “siege” alive in public discourse, and to continue to defame Israel (the “occupying entity,” according to Birawi). He claimed that the true test of the success of the flotillas is not whether or not they reach the Gaza Strip, but the coverage of the political and media campaigns accompanying them.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He also said other NGOs, working in solidarity for the Palestinians, that participated in the Freedom flotilla coalition, were also examining the possibility of sending their own ships.”

3) Readers may recall that in 2015 the BBC rejected a complaint from a member of the public based on information – inter alia – from the group ‘Kairos’. At the Boston Globe, Robert Leikind has more on that organisation.

“Over the last decade, a number of mainline Protestant Churches, including some with a significant presence in New England, have adopted resolutions harshly critical of Israel. During the summer two more were passed by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. These measures share three core elements: Each assigns Israel near total culpability for the conflict with the Palestinians; each overlooks decades of Palestinian activity that has undermined prospects for peace with Israel; and each justifies its claims by referring to a document called Kairos Palestine.”

4) The FDD has published a detailed paper on the subject of Hizballah’s finances.

“Hezbollah – a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon – is under financial strain, but is likely to stay buoyed by external support from Iran and by its vast network of illicit businesses around the world. The group makes roughly a billion dollars annually through support from Iran (which provides the bulk of its funding), donations from elements within the Lebanese diaspora, and smuggling and drug trafficking networks worldwide. Several countries in South America give the group’s trafficking networks safe harbor. Hezbollah leverages segments of the Lebanese diaspora for donations and “taxation,” and supporters have laundered money and run front companies on six continents. Hezbollah predominantly spends its revenues on providing social services in southern Lebanon, operating as a “state within a state,” and on funding its fighting forces in Lebanon and Syria.” 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC website’s flotilla article still misleads on ‘humanitarian aid’

Readers no doubt recall that the BBC’s report on the interception of the recent ‘flotilla’ publicity stunt included the following paragraph:

“The activists said the vessel was carrying humanitarian aid, including medicine and solar panels.”

As was pointed out here at the time:

“….the use of the plural term “panels” in that sentence is – according to a spokesperson for the flotilla organisers interviewed by Ma’an news agency – apparently superfluous.

“On board, the Marianne is carrying one solar panel to al-Shifa hospital and medical equipment for Wafa hospital, both in Gaza City. If everything goes as planned, activists will also leave the fishing trawler for Palestinian fishermen to use.”

On July 1st Washington Post correspondent William Booth published details of the ‘humanitarian aid’ aboard the Marianne.

“The Gaza activitists said the larger cardboard box contains a solar panel, donated by a Swedish magazine, ETC, which also runs an “environmentally-friendly electricity company.” The panel was bound for Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Ighe said the Swedish Association of Midwives also donated a nebulizer, a machine used to inhale medicines, often used to calm asthma attacks. That is the small cardboard box.”

flotilla cargo

In other words, the BBC’s promotion of the notion that the boat was carrying medicine is inaccurate and the “solar panels” turned out to be one single panel. Nevertheless, that misleading information still stands in the amended version of the BBC News website’s report.  

 

BBC’s English and Arabic flotilla reports promote inaccurate information

The news that Israeli naval forces had intercepted – without incident – the lead boat in the latest Gaza Strip bound flotilla was apparently deemed so important that on June 29th a report on that story was promoted on the BBC News website’s homepage, on its World page and on its Middle East page.

flotilla on HP

flotilla on World pge

flotilla on ME pge

Unfortunately, the accuracy of some of the information included in that report – titled “Israel intercepts Gaza-bound boat” – was clearly less important.

Readers are told that:

“The Israeli Navy has intercepted a Gaza-bound vessel sailed by pro-Palestinian activists and diverted it to an Israeli port, the military says.

It says it acted in international waters to prevent the “intended breach of the maritime blockade” imposed since 2007 against the Hamas-run territory.”

However, as has been pointed out on these pages on numerous prior occasions, the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip was announced in January 2009 – not in 2007 as stated in this report and certainly not in 2006 – as claimed in another BBC report on the same topic posted on the BBC Arabic website.

flotilla BBC Arabic 2006

The Turkel Commission report includes a detailed background of the circumstances leading up to the declaration of the naval blockade (from page 32 here) and states:flotilla BBC Arabic

“In these circumstances, on January 3, 2009, during the operation Cast Lead, the Minister of Defense ordered a naval blockade off the coastline of the Gaza Strip up to a distance of 20 nautical miles from the coast. The significance of imposing a naval blockade according to the rules of international law is that it allows a party to an armed conflict to prevent entry into the prohibited area of any vessel that attempts to breach the blockade (even without it being established that the vessel is assisting terrorist activity). Consequently, a NOTMAR was published in the following terms: ‘All mariners are advised that as of 03 January 2009, 1700 UTC, Gaza maritime area is closed to all maritime traffic and is under blockade imposed by Israeli Navy until further notice. Maritime Gaza area is enclosed by the following coordinates […].”

In 2010 Professor Ruth Lapidoth noted that:

“In the treatment of the flotilla heading for Gaza, Israel has acted in compliance with international law because it has fulfilled all the conditions for a lawful blockade. In January 2009 Israel notified the relevant authorities of its blockade of Gaza – a lawful means of naval war. The existence of an armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was well known and did not need a special declaration to that effect.”

The report of the UN SG’s Panel of Inquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident also notes on page 39 that:

“…the naval blockade was imposed more than a year later, in January 2009.”

Interestingly, at no point in these two BBC reports are readers informed that the UN panel found (page 44) the naval blockade to be legal and the relevant context of past cases of arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip by sea was not provided to readers, who were however told in the English version that:

“The activists said they wanted to draw attention to the blockade, which Israel says is a necessary security measure.” [emphasis added]

Another inaccuracy in this report (and in the Arabic version) is seen in the following statement:

“They said the vessel was carrying humanitarian aid, including medicine and solar panels.”

In fact, as blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out over two weeks ago, the use of the plural term “panels” in that sentence is – according to a spokesperson for the flotilla organisers interviewed by Ma’an news agency – apparently superfluous.

“On board, the Marianne is carrying one solar panel to al-Shifa hospital and medical equipment for Wafa hospital, both in Gaza City. If everything goes as planned, activists will also leave the fishing trawler for Palestinian fishermen to use.

“The people in Gaza never have electricity all day long. Solar panels could be a sustainable solution for the power shortage,” Ighe said.” [emphasis added]

And, as our colleagues at Presspectiva have pointed out, Shifa hospital already has a working solar power system.

It would obviously have been helpful to readers of both the English language and Arabic language articles had they clarified the fact that there are no restrictions on the import of solar panels, medicines or any other kind of “humanitarian aid” into the Gaza Strip.

This of course is not the first time that audiences have been misled by BBC content with regard to the date of the implementation of the naval blockade or that the all-important context behind it has been omitted. 

Flotilla ahoy! A refresher on the background to another anti-Israel publicity stunt

As readers may be aware, flotilla season is apparently again upon us and on May 10th the self-styled ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’ announced that a trawler had set sail from Sweden.Marianne

The Times of Israel reports:

“The trawler Marianne of Gothenburg will be carrying a “limited cargo of, among other things, solar cell panels and medical equipment” for use in Gaza, according to a statement by the Ship to Gaza campaign. […]

Along the way it will pick up eight other crew members, according to Israel Radio. Two other vessels are expected to join the flotilla later on.”

One of the various vessels’ passengers will apparently be Moncef Marzouki who has collaborated in the past with Hamas-linked groups in Europe and their associated personalities involved in the organization of previous flotillas.

Moncef Marzouki (3rd from left front row) with Zaher Birawi (1st on left front row) and Dror Feiler (3rd from right front row) Tunis, 30 March 2015

Moncef Marzouki (3rd from left front row) with Zaher Birawi (1st on left front row) and Dror Feiler (3rd from right front row) Tunis, 30 March 2015

According to the Jerusalem Post, passengers on the ‘Marianne’ include:

“Israeli-born Swedish citizen Dror Feiler, a musician and spokesperson of  Ship to Gaza; Henry Ascher, a professor of Public Health and pediatrician; Lennart Berggren, a filmmaker; Maria Svensson, spokesperson of the Feministiskt initiative; and Mikael Karlsson, chairperson of Ship to Gaza Sweden.”

Readers can refresh their memories regarding ‘peace activist’ Dror Feiler here and find archive background material on the organisers of previous such publicity stunts here.

The coordinator of the ‘International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza’ – which partners the ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’ (along with ‘Miles of Smiles’ and the IHH) – is Hamas-linked UK-based activist Zaher Birawi who was also involved in the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ in 2012. 

 

 

The BBC’s temple of Alice Walker

For those of us with years of familiarity with the BBC under our belts, it is perhaps difficult to envisage any other scenario than the one in which the persona which is Alice Walker is revered by members of that organisation as an almost divine font of unchallengeable sound bite wisdoms.

Indeed, one only has to look at the frequency of Walker’s various BBC appearances to appreciate how many ‘right on’ boxes she ticks for so-called ‘progressives’.

 Lyse Doucet’s March 2013 World Service radio interview with Walker was conducted in reverential tones under the banner of ‘truth’, even when her guest came out with stereotypical racist and sexist remarks about white European women which – had they been uttered by Betty Walker from Bolton in relation to a supposed unsuitability of  African or Asian women for leadership due to some centuries-old collective trauma – would rightly have resulted in wall-to-wall raised eyebrows at the BBC.

In the May 24th 2013 edition of Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ Alice Walker selected former BBC presenter and conspiracy theorist David Icke’s off-the-wall tome as her book of choice, with presenter Kirsty Young unable to bat an eyelid and Walker predictably unchallenged by anything which could be called journalism. 

On July 7th 2013 BBC Four aired a one hour film about Walker –  under the title of ‘Beauty in Truth’ – made by MercuryMedia and directed by Pratibha Parmar.

 The programme is available on iPlayer here and for those outside the UK, in the video below.

BBC 4 Alice Walker

Having spent fifty-three puffery-saturated minutes idealising and idolising Walker, her work and her activism,  the pseudo-documentary then turns to the subject of her anti-Israel campaigning – although of course it is not presented in that way.

At 53:23 in the video above, she is asked by a ‘Democracy Now’ presenter:  Walker film 3

“You go in the book from Rwanda to Eastern Congo, to Palestine, Israel. It was your first trip?”

Walker answers: “To Palestine? Yes.” After which the film cuts to images of Walker in the Gaza Strip, with her saying in the voice-over:

“It’s easy to make the connection between the Freedom Rides of fifty years ago to the South that helped to bring down apartheid USA and what is happening there in Palestine with the wall and with the abuse of the Palestinian people. It’s very similar. I mean it’s more intense in Palestine.”

The film then cuts to footage of Walker’s participation in the 2011 flotilla, with her saying:  Walker film 5

“My name is Alice Walker and I am with the US boat to Gaza.”

And:

“This is a fine tradition of going to people who need us, wherever they exist on the planet. This is our responsibility.”

Despite the fact that the BBC’s editorial guidelines – including of course those on accuracy and impartiality – apply to commissioned programmes as well as to BBC-produced content, absolutely no attempt is made in this film to balance Walker’s vicious fictions concerning “Palestine” with facts or to make audiences aware of the significance of the practical consequences of the  ideologies to which she subscribes, such as the boycotting of a language or the Walker film 1collaboration with Hamas and its supporters in the flotilla stunt.

Instead, in this programme as in others, the untouchable Alice Walker is yet again permitted to spout her often offensive opinions as though they were fact, with editorial standards apparently an optional extra for patron deities of the BBC Parthenon. 

BBC website still claims ‘Estelle’ carrying aid

On Saturday, October 20th 2012, the Israeli Navy prevented the latest attempt by anti-Israel activists – including Dror Feiler – to break the naval blockade on Gaza aboard a Finnish-flagged boat. 

Upon the boat’s arrival in Ashdod port around 9 pm Israeli time (7 pm GMT/ 8 pm BST) on October 20th,it was quickly established – and widely reported – that it was carrying no humanitarian aid whatsoever. 

However, the BBC’s report on the incident – even after having been updated almost six hours later at 00:58 GMT on October 21st – still states that: 

“The Estelle, which activists say is carrying cement, basketballs, musical instruments, and 30 doves, is the latest vessel to try and break the Gaza blockade.”

One trusts that a correction will be speedily made.

The BBC report also presents a form of severely ‘dumbed-down’ commentary on the subject of the naval blockade itself.

“Palestinians say Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment to residents of the densely populated strip of land along the Mediterranean coast.

Israel says the blockade aims to stop the supply of arms or other items for military use, and to put pressure on the Hamas administration.”

In fairness, if the reader bothers to click on one of the links below the headline of the article on the ‘Estelle’, he or she will arrive at an old article from June 2012 in which a link does exist to the UN-commissioned Palmer Report of September 2011 which confirmed the legality and legitimacy of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. 

However, in the current article itself no reference is made to the Palmer Report and in the ‘More on This Story’ section below the article, the only reference to the blockade comes under ‘Guides’ in the form of an article which pre-dates the UN report by over a year. 

The fact that over a year ago the UN established the legality and legitimacy of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip should surely be an integral part of a story concerning a boat trying to break it. At the very least, an easily visible link to the Palmer report with a short explanation should be provided below the article – especially if the article’s editor wishes to adhere to the BBC Editors’ claim that: 

“… our strategy is to supplement our news coverage by providing detailed background on BBC News Online. It has the space to carry more information than broadcast news programmes, helping readers to understand the political, historical or economic background to an event.”

UPDATE: We recently came across the following Tweet by IDF Spokesperson Avital Liebovitch regarding the contents on board the Estelle.

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.