Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lapin takes a look at a story ignored by the BBC this week.

“Since the end of the 2014 conflict, enough cement has entered Gaza to build 16 Burj Khalifa skyscrapers in Dubai—the tallest building in the world. That cement has largely gone underground, feeding Hamas’s war machine.

Gaza’s soft sandstone made it possible for diggers to make rapid progress during the peak days of the tunnel project. The tunnels contained rails, electricity, ventilation, communications lines and oxygen tanks—tanks that were originally sent to Gaza for hospital use.

The tunnels are a symbol of Hamas’s priorities: The military build-up always takes precedent over investing funds in Gaza’s civilian population.”

2) Some background to another recent story which the BBC chose not to cover is provided by the FDD’s Tony Badran.

“The Treasury Department designated Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa on Tuesday, along with two Hezbollah members of parliament. Safa’s activities epitomize Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanese state institutions, illustrating that the supposed distinction between the two is fictional.

Treasury’s announcement of the sanctions identified Wafa as “the head of Hezbollah’s security apparatus” and “part of Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah’s inner circle.” It went on to say that Wafa is “responsible for Hizballah’s coordination with the international community and with Lebanese security agencies.” While true, this description greatly understates his influence.

Safa, who reportedly played a role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, is now the central figure in Lebanese politics and security. As head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Safa is Nasrallah’s troubleshooter. He manages Hezbollah’s relationship with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.”

3) The JCPA provides context to a story reported on BBC World Service radio last week – “The Truth about Jerusalem’s City of David – The Lies about Silwan”.

“Over the years, hundreds of Silwan residents took part in the archaeological digs of the Antiquities Authority funded by the NGO “Elad” (its name is an acronym for “To the City of David”). More than once the digging was done below the houses of these same Arab workers. They would have kept working there until this very day had they not been threatened with violence by emissaries of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem. These threats forced them to leave their work.

Political opponents of the archaeological excavations in the City of David, which have been conducted for almost 50 years, try every few years to impede the work of the Antiquities Authority, often resorting to legal proceedings. Once or twice they have even gotten as far as the Supreme Court, whose justices are known to be particularly sensitive to claims of the infringement of human rights. The petitioners claimed that the excavations endangered the residents of Silwan, and the Supreme Court looked into their allegations and rejected them.”

4) Israel’s public broadcaster Kann recently aired a documentary series about the work of the police force in Jerusalem. All the episodes of ‘Jerusalem District’ are now available on Youtube with English subtitles.

“Jerusalem District: A nine-episode series that provides a rare glimpse into the activities of the intelligence, detective and Border Police officers in the Jerusalem district and exposes the unrecognized sides of the work of the Jerusalem policemen who are fighting crime and do their best to maintain order in the volatile city.”

 

 

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BBC ignores another cross-border terror tunnel

On the evening of July 8th the IDF announced the discovery of yet another cross-border tunnel, this time in the Eshkol region.

photo credit: IDF. Previously discovered tunnel

“Another cross-border tunnel dug into Israeli territory was discovered in the southern part of the Gaza Strip during construction of the country’s underground barrier, the IDF announced on Monday evening.

“At this time, IDF soldiers are conducting an investigation of the passage,” the IDF said. “More information will be provided shortly.”

It is unclear if the tunnel was newly dug by terror groups in the Strip or if it was an old unused tunnel.”

As local media outlets reported:

“The cross-border tunnel is the 18th discovered since the end of the 2014 war…”

While that war (Operation Protective Edge) was still ongoing the IDF destroyed thirty-two tunnels, fourteen of which crossed into Israeli territory.

The last time the BBC produced any dedicated reporting on the subject of the tunnels constructed by terror factions in the Gaza Strip was fifteen months ago – although it avoided giving audiences a clear and accurate description in its own words of their purpose.

BBC still prevaricating on purpose of Hamas tunnels

As was noted here at the time:

“In October 2017 the BBC’s report on a tunnel constructed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad amplified that terror group’s propaganda regarding its purpose. In April 2016 the BBC employed the ‘Israel says’ formula when describing the intended purpose of a Hamas tunnel discovered in the southern part of the border region. In December 2017 the same terminology was seen again.”

Some of the tunnels discovered since August 2014 have been completely ignored by the BBC:

No BBC reporting on latest Hamas cross-border tunnel

Another Hamas cross-border tunnel ignored by the BBC

New type of Hamas tunnel not newsworthy for the BBC

On other occasions tunnels have been given a cursory mention in reports while on others they have been excluded from reporting even though they were relevant to the story.

Although BBC audiences regularly hear that “Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza”, they have not seen any serious reporting on Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels

It is hence hardly surprising to see that this latest news has to date also been ignored by the BBC’s local correspondents, who apparently are not of the opinion that audience understanding of the popular and frequently covered topic of the situation in the Gaza Strip would be enhanced by knowing that no fewer than eighteen tunnels dug solely for the purposes of terrorism have been discovered in the past five years. 

BBC chooses not to report Hamas abuse of medical permits yet again

Readers may recall that just over a month ago listeners to BBC domestic radio’s news and current affairs station, Radio 4, were told by a presenter of the ‘Today’ show (which reaches 6.8 million listeners a week) that:

“The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people…” 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has a history of ignoring stories (see ‘related articles’ below) which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. 

Last week another such story emerged when the Israel Security Agency announced the arrest of a Hamas explosives expert who had entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“Fadi Abu al-Sabah, a 35-year-old resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was arrested in Taybeh by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on May 18, 2019.

According to the Shin Bet, he was recruited to set up an explosive manufacturing laboratory in July 2018 by Ashraf Sabah, a 37-year-old Hamas activist from the Gaza Strip who had been released from prison in Israel in 2015 after serving 12 years in prison for his involvement in attacks against IDF forces along the Gaza Strip border and planning other terrorist attacks.
The agency said that he was first approached after Sabah heard that he was in the process of getting a humanitarian permit for medical treatment in the West Bank.

Fadi al-Sabah then secretly met with operatives from Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades and underwent “intensive military training” including training in how to manufacture explosives and explosive charges which he could then teach to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. […]

Al-Sabah “took advantage of the humanitarian permit he received from Israel to enter for medical treatment in Hebron, but in practice did not arrive at the hospital, but he joined forces with elements in Hebron in order to promote terrorist activities and carry out his mission,” the Shin Bet statement said.”

A truly impartial media organisation would of course make sure to report such stories in order to ensure that its audience had been given the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the subject.

Once again, however, the BBC has chosen to ignore a story about Hamas terrorists exploiting the humanitarian aid Israel provides to residents of the Gaza Strip and that not only means that audiences are not fully informed, but also that BBC employees such as Mishal Husain can continue to use their publicly funded platform to promote their chosen brand of journalistic activism unhindered by inconvenient truths.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

The top story in the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 25th was described as follows by presenter Tim Franks in his introduction to the programme: {emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “It’s eluded the Israelis, the Palestinians and countless US administrations but now this White House says it has a brand new detailed plan for Middle East peace. Today we got part one: the economic vision for the Palestinians. It’s our top story.”

The item itself (from 00:57 here) was presented thus:

Franks: “We’re used to big, bold talk from President Trump but on one thing we can probably all agree: that were his administration to be able to conjur a full peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, it would indeed be – as Mr Trump put it – the ultimate deal. Today we got the long-awaited first part of the plan, drawn up under the aegis of one of his closest – if not the closest advisor – his son-in-law Jared Kushner. At what’s been billed as an economic workshop in Bahrain, he’s laid out his proposals for fifty billion dollars’ worth of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries. Mr Kushner appealed for open minds and for patience.”

After listeners had heard two segments of recordings of Kushner speaking at the conference, Franks went on:

Franks: “The White House says this is about trying a new approach to improve the Palestinians’ prospects after many years of political stasis if not outright failure. Palestinian leaders though are boycotting the event, furious about what they say is the Trump administration’s bias against them. White House officials say they’re unmoved by that show of intransigence. They’re interested instead in appealing to ordinary Palestinians keen to improve their parlous economic prospects. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been speaking to some of those Palestinians.”

Listeners then heard a report from Yolande Knell which was similar to both a televised report billed Palestinian poverty which she produced for BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on June 20th and an article she wrote which was published on the BBC News website on June 25th under the headline “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank”.

Knell: “It’s not long after four o’clock in the morning. It’s still pitch-black but the street here is teeming with people. There’s a small, informal market place that’s popped up overnight and some are stopping to buy some breakfast, some falafel sandwiches, a cup of coffee. These are Palestinian workers heading into the Israeli checkpoint.”

Listeners heard a voiceover translation of a man saying:

“The economic situation isn’t good. That’s why we have to go to Israel to work because there are no job opportunities.”

Knell: “Rasmi, from Hebron, has nine people depending on him and earns three times more in Israel as a builder than he could at home. With the West Bank economy in dire straits, it relies heavily on the tens of thousands of labourers like him with Israeli work permits. But here at the Taybeh Brewery near Ramallah they say business could be fizzing as much as the bottles of beer on their production line if it wasn’t for the tough political situation.”

Woman: “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. We are a Palestinian company under occupation and we don’t have our own borders, we don’t have control over the water, electricity. Anything that comes in and out of the country is through Israel.”

The Taybeh Brewery is situated in Taybeh which is in Area B and has been under Palestinian Authority civil control and Israeli security control since the year the brewery was founded, 1995. Just as the representatives of the Palestinians agreed to the zoning into Areas A, B and C, they also agreed to arrangements concerning water and electricity. The Palestinians have their own Water Authority and get some of their electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation – to which the Palestinian Authority currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt.

Knell: “Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

Knell of course did not bother to mention the Palestinian terrorism which made checkpoints necessary.

Khoury: “Palestinians are very smart people. They’re very determined, they’re very hard-working and they’re very highly educated and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed and this country would be amazing.”

Knell: “But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns, after Hamas – which is widely seen as a terrorist group – took over. Hamdi has no job and lives with his six children in one room. They struggle to get by on Qatari donations of $100 a month. ‘That money isn’t enough’ he says, ‘it just goes to pay our debts’.”

Once again Knell sidestepped the crucial issue of the terrorism which brought about the situation she describes. Listeners next heard shouts of ‘go home’ but Knell did not bother to inform them that the “protests” she went on to describe were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction.

Knell: “Already there’ve been Palestinian protests against the Trump administration’s economic plan. While Israel says it’s keeping an open mind, it’s been rejected outright by Palestinian leaders. The prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, says a political solution is needed.”

Shtayyeh: “This workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and the legitimisation of occupation. The Palestinian leadership is not part of it and we think that the outcome is going to be fruitless and it is simply nonsense.”

Knell: “Back at the turnstile of the Bethlehem checkpoint, Rasmi the builder is returning home, tired at the end of a 16-hour day. He stops to buy grapes from Issam, a farmer turned fruit seller who sets up a stall here each afternoon. He tells me that there’s no work in his village.”

Issam: “Our officials can’t open new buildings or factories. They don’t have the resources.”

That of course would have been the ideal opportunity for Yolande Knell to point out that some 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget – around $330 million a year according to a BBC report from a year ago and more according to other sources – is spent on payments to terrorists and their families. Knell however refrained from providing listeners with that relevant information.

Knell: “Can President Trump fix the Palestinian economy?”

Issam: “No. From what we saw when he became the president, he has done nothing to help the Palestinian economy unfortunately.”

Knell: “With financial woes at the heart of so much suffering here, it’s easy to see why White House aides view the economy as a way to exert influence. But so far, few Palestinians are buying their argument that the ‘deal of the century’ could be their opportunity of the century.”

The rest of that nearly twelve minute-long item was given over to a conversation between Tim Franks and David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank who attended the workshop in Bahrain.  During that conversation Mr Makovsky observed that “solving the whole conflict” is “easier said than done”, noting – as a former Obama administration official – that:

“We had a president who was very engaged on the Palestinian issue and we couldn’t get even an answer from the Palestinian Authority…”

Tim Franks chose not to follow up on that statement and once again BBC audiences heard a long yet monochrome report on the Bahrain economic workshop which avoided the key issue of the Hamas-Fatah split and sidestepped the topic of Palestinian terrorism.  

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

At best, BBC portrayal of the regularly reported topic of the water supply in the Gaza Strip is superficial, with no explanation of how the chronic crisis came about. At worst, BBC portrayal of that issue leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the situation.

“There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems…”  Tom Bateman, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.” Daniel Rosney, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“…they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 17/1/19

“It’s a densely populated strip of land. A place that the United Nations has warned could be unliveable by 2020. One of the most acute problems is a shortage of clean water – something that Maher Bolbol needs not only at home but for his business. It’s a coffee stall where he makes the equivalent of just £2 a day. Gaza’s economy is at a standstill; badly affected by years of a blockade by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 16/12/18

“…you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?” Stephen Sackur, BBC World News, 26/11/18

It is nevertheless highly unlikely that any of the BBC Jerusalem bureau staff will be making the two hour journey south to report this story.

“Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.

The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system […]

There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons). […]

Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.”

Yes, the story of a country supplying water to a terrorist-run entity which repeatedly attacks its citizens is not straightforward – but it is one which a media organisation with an obligation to “provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding […] of the wider world” should be telling.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

Banal BBC News report from the Gaza Strip fails to inform

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

 

 

 

 

Another Gaza maritime smuggling story ignored by the BBC

While the BBC has been telling its audiences for years that “Israel says” that the counter-terrorism measures imposed on the Gaza Strip are for security reasons, it usually refrains from reporting stories which would clarify why such measures are necessary both on land and at sea.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Another such story emerged late last week when the Israeli army announced that – days after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had launched nearly 700 rocket attacks against Israeli civilians – it had prevented an attempt to breach the naval blockade.

“The army said four suspects were arrested last month after trying to break a maritime blockade on the coastal enclave and reach Egypt in two boats.

The incident occurred on May 11, but was only cleared for publication on Friday.

According to a statement released by the Israel Defense Forces, the four were attempting to reach the coast of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where they were to pick up 24 drums of fiberglass material.

The army said the material, which is forbidden to import into the Strip, was to be used by Hamas, the terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, to build rockets.”

Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s past record, BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of that story. They have, however, in recent months been told context-free stories about Gaza’s fishing sector.  

Related Articles:

BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 449 incidents took place: 50 in Judea & Samaria, 10 in Jerusalem and 389 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 47 attacks with petrol bombs, four attacks using pipe bombs, one stabbing attack, one shooting attack and seven arson attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 16 attacks with petrol bombs, three attacks using IEDs, two attacks using pipe bombs, one attack using an improvised grenade, one shooting attack, one sniper attack, two attacks using anti-tank missiles and 362 separate incidents of rocket launches.

Four Israeli civilians were killed in missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip on May 5th: Moshe Agadi (58), Ziad Alhamada (49), Moshe Feder (68) and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman (21).

Ten people were injured throughout the month.

Two soldiers were injured by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip on May 3rd. One civilian was wounded when a rocket hit a house in Kiryat Gat on May 4th and another civilian was wounded on the same day when a rocket hit a house in Ashkelon. On May 5th a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack on a house in Ashdod and another civilian wounded in a rocket attack on a factory in Ashkelon. Two people were injured in a rocket attack on Be’er Sheva on May 5th. Two people were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on May 31st which was not reported on the BBC News website.  

A rocket attack on May 2nd did not receive any BBC coverage. The attacks launched between May 4th and 6th were reported in four items on the BBC News website:

‘Ceasefire’ after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel – discussed here

Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza – discussed here

Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify – discussed here

Gaza conflict: ‘Ceasefire’ after days of violence

In those four reports audiences saw coverage of the rocket attacks, one of the attacks using anti-tank missiles and the sniper attack which took place on May 3rd. The four Israeli fatalities were reported but only one person was named, in a photo caption.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported 80% of the terror attacks which took place during May 2019 and all the resulting fatalities.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has reported 33% of the terror attacks which have taken place and 85% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2019

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

Throughout the month of May 2019, twenty-five written or filmed reports 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 two of which were carried over from the previous month.

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

Four reports concerned security issues:

‘Ceasefire’ after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel (6/5/19 to 8/5/19 and also 10/5/19 to 16/5/19) Replaced two previous videos at same URL which were discussed here

Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza (4/5/19 to 5/5/19) discussed here

Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify (5/5/19) discussed here

Gaza conflict: ‘Ceasefire’ after days of violence (5/5/19 to 10/5/19)

Five items related to political/diplomatic aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together Melissa Jun Rowley (30/4/19 to 6/5/19 and also 9/5/19) discussed here

Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran Paul Danahar (14/5/19 to 22/5/19) discussed here

US Israel-Palestinian peace plan ‘a surrender act’ – Palestinian FM (17/5/19 to 22/5/19) discussed here

Al Jazeera suspends journalists for Holocaust denial video (20/5/19 to 23/5/19)

Why Israel eyes the EU with distrust James Landale (21/5/19 to 30/5/19) discussed here

Of 16 reports concerning Israeli affairs, three were about internal politics:

Israel protests: Thousands rally against Netanyahu immunity (26/5/19 to 29/5/19)

Israel to hold fresh election as Netanyahu fails to form coalition (29/5/19 to 2/6/19)

Israel’s Netanyahu: Is ‘King’ Bibi’s crown slipping? Tom Bateman (30/5/19 to present)

Two reports concerned legal/criminal cases:

Sara Netanyahu: Israeli PM’s wife ‘agrees plea bargain’ (29/5/19 to 31/5/19)

Israel arrests man over Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning (13/5/19 to 16/5/19)

One report had a historical theme:

Israeli researchers brew ‘ancient beer’ with antique yeast (22/5/19 to 24/5/19)

One report was about environmental issues:

Israel probes Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning (10/5/19 to 13/5/19) discussed here and here

Two reports concerned science:

Israeli scientists ‘print 3D heart using human tissue’ (16/4/19 to 2/5/19)

Could desalination help prevent water wars in the Middle East?  Yolande Knell 10/5/19 to 18/5/19)

Two reports related to business or technology:

US states file lawsuit accusing drugs firms of inflating costs (12/5/19 to 14/5/19)

Facebook bans “inauthentic” accounts targeting Africa (17/5/19 to 20/5/19)

Four items related to the Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Tel Aviv:

Eurovision Tel Aviv 2019: Why the song contest is bigger than ever Steve Holden & Daniel Rosney (12/5/19 to 20/5/19) discussed here

Madonna Eurovision performance in doubt Mark Savage (14/5/19 to 15/5/19) discussed here

Hackers interrupt Israeli Eurovision webcast with faked explosions (15/5/19 to 17/5/19)

Clashes as ultra-orthodox Jews protest against Eurovision Tom Bateman (18/5/19 to 31/5/19)

One report can be classified as miscellaneous:

I never met my daughter’s dad – she was his dying wish Sarah McDermott (22/5/19 to 5/6/19)

While BBC audiences saw 16 reports concerning Israel, no coverage of internal Palestinian affairs appeared at all throughout the month.

Between January and May 2019 the BBC News website published sixty articles pertaining to Israeli affairs and just seven reports on internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

More simplistic BBC framing of the US peace proposal

The June 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend’ included an item billed:

“…a senior governing party politician in Israel reflects on the need to hold elections again in three months.”

The item began with a fairly unremarkable interview (from 32:57 here) with former Jerusalem mayor, Likud party member and Knesset rookie Nir Barkat concerning his party’s failure to form a coalition government and the repeat general election to be held in September.

Presenter Julian Worricker then asked for comment from his two studio guests who had been introduced at the beginning of the programme as:

“Shaista Aziz – British journalist, writer, comedian and politician for the British Labour Party and Frank Langfitt, who’s London correspondent for the US National Public Radio network.”

Listeners were not informed that Shaista Aziz’s CV also includes stints with various political NGOs including Oxfam, Islamic Relief and Save the Children as well as a position on the management council of War on Want or that she spent two weeks in Schem as an ISM volunteer during the Second Intifada. Neither were they told of her current projectspokeswoman for the ‘Stop Trump Coalition’. 

Apparently uninterested in domestic Israeli politics, Langfitt chose to take up Worricker’s second question of “what it means for this Jared Kushner initiative”, opining that the upcoming Israeli election “gives the Americans a little more time to sell a plan that they haven’t really told people what it might be” and going on:

Langfitt: “The second thing to remember is that it’s going to be met with scepticism in part, certainly the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. You know the United States at times was seen as an honest broker in the Middle East but it’s very hard for Palestinians or most Arabs to see that when you move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Later on Langfitt added:

Langfitt: “I don’t think it’s going to be an easy sell for the Americans with this administration, frankly with President Trump and the things that he’s done that have been very provocative to Arabs and Palestinians.”

Listeners heard no explanation as to why the relocation of the US embassy to an existing facility in an area of Jerusalem to which the Palestinians ostensibly make no claim should be “very provocative”.  Neither were the discussion’s participants interested in analysing Worricker’s observation that “the Palestinians have already been highly critical of what they anticipate to be in this report [sic] even though it’s not been published”.

Shaista Aziz’s contribution to the conversation began with the presentation of unevidenced and simplistic allegations as ‘fact’.

Aziz: “Well, you know, Netanyahu is widely regarded as one of the most Right-wing leaders in Israel’s history. He’s not a man known for compromise or nuance – let’s be clear about that. We know that the war drums are beating over Iran which this…this election will impact that as well I think…”

Worricker made no effort to challenge those facile claims before Aziz brought up the unrelated topic of infrastructure problems in the Gaza Strip caused by Palestinian infighting.

Aziz: “I’m very glad that the Palestinians have been named and mentioned here because, you know, Gaza – the UN is saying – is almost uninhabitable. You’ve got a sewage system that’s collapsed, a water system that’s collapsed, agricultural issues and then at the heart of this is people who’ve lost hope so you’ve got large numbers of young people in Israel and Palestine who cannot see a way out of this for them in terms of their political leadership finding a just solution and a just peace…”

Speaking on a radio station where barely a day goes by without at least one report concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, Aziz went on to claim that:

Aziz: “…an international solution will only be accepted if it’s a just solution and I think the issue of Palestine’s dropped off the radar and I do believe that these elections are going to end up being a big destruction and used by extremists on both sides.”

And so pre-emptive BBC framing of the as yet unpublished US administration initiative plods on with yet more superficial commentary that herds audiences towards the view that if the US peace proposal goes nowhere, that will be due to internal Israeli politics and because the US administration has done “provocative” things – not because the Palestinians have rejected the proposal before even seeing it.    

Related Articles:

BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

Looking beyond BBC framing of the US peace proposal

BBC News coverage of incendiary attacks in two locations

Last year we documented how it took the BBC three months to get round to producing one short report about the arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip within the framework of the ‘Great Return March’ which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of nature reserves, woodland and farm land in nearby Israeli communities.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

No additional reporting on that topic has been seen in the past eleven months even though the attacks have continued and even been ‘upgraded’ to include airborne explosive devices. The BBC of course continues to portray the activities of Gaza Strip residents along the border with Israel as “protests”.

The ITIC reports that:

“Since the ceasefire (May 6, 2019) that ended the most recent round of escalation, there has been a gradual increase in the launching of incendiary and IED balloons from the Gaza Strip. During the past two weeks it has become intensive and systematic, and caused scores of fires near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border. […]

During the long span of arson terrorism attacks (more than a year), more than 2000 fires have been set in Israel (according to data from the Israel Fire and Rescue Services in the southern district and the Jewish National Fund (JNF)), burning approximately 8700 acres (JNF). Most of the fires broke out near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, burning agricultural fields, natural forests and nature preserves. Arson terrorism also contributed to the disruption of daily life in the local Israeli communities and caused moral and psychological damage.”

Since that last round of escalation in early May BBC audiences have seen plenty of reporting concerning the Gaza Strip – including an interview with a Hamas spokesman – but no coverage of the increased arson attacks launched from that territory which have caused damage to crops.

photo credit: ITIC

However, visitors to the BBC News website on May 29th did learn about the deliberate burning of agricultural land in another location.

Titled “Syrian military ‘burning farmland in rebel-held north’”, the report informs readers that:

“Satellite images show large areas of farmland in opposition-held north-west Syria have been burnt as part of what activists allege is a campaign by the government to destroy vital food crops.

Civil defence workers say incendiary weapons have been fired repeatedly at fields in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces in the past month. […]

The Syria Civil Defence – whose rescue workers are known as the White Helmets – accuses the government and its ally Russia of seeking to “burn all aspects of life” in the last region still held by the opposition after eight years of war.

In addition to bombing residential areas, it says, the Syrian and Russian militaries have targeted farmland with rockets and shells containing incendiary chemicals, causing “large pervasive fires which have destroyed all farm crops and deprived peasant farmers of their coming harvests”.

Satellite photographs taken at the start and end of last week by Maxar Technologies showed areas of scorched earth and plumes of smoke around the town of al-Habeet, in southern Idlib province, and neighbouring Kafr Nabouda, in northern Hama province.”

So if the deliberate burning of farmland in northern Syria is newsworthy – as it of course should be – why has the BBC not produced any reporting on similar events in southern Israel in the past eleven months?

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