Weekend long read

1) Back in April the BBC News website told audiences that the Israeli prime minister had ‘snubbed’ the German foreign minister over the latter’s insistence on meeting what the BBC described as “human rights activists”. At the Fathom Journal, Gadi Taub takes a closer look at that story.

“Gabriel, on the occasion of an official visit for Holocaust Memorial Day, announced that he would meet the representatives of two radical left-wing civil society organisations – Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. When Netanyahu said that if those meetings went ahead he would boycott the visit and refuse to meet Gabriel, many thought he was overreacting. Few, however, expected Gabriel to choose those two organisations over Israel’s prime minster (and acting foreign minister). And when he did, things began to appear in a new light. It no longer seemed that the German foreign minister made an honest mistake, not knowing how controversial these organisations were among Israelis. It appeared, instead, that he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was us, the Israeli public, who had made a mistake in our assumptions about German-Israeli relations.”

2) At the JCPA, Ambassador Alan Baker examines the issue of Palestinian refugees and UNRWA.  

“Unlike its sister organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), mandated since 1950 to coordinate the handling of all refugee communities worldwide, UNRWA was established in that same year to deal exclusively with Palestinian refugees, thereby excluding them from the protection of the UNHCR.

While the aims and operations of the UNHCR are based on international instruments – mainly the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – UNRWA was never provided with a specific statute or charter. It has operated since its inception under a general mandate, renewed every three years by the General Assembly.

The major distinction and main reason for the establishment of a separate agency to deal with Palestinian refugees, was to crystallize their sole aim – not rehabilitation and resettlement, as was the aim of UNHCR – but solely “return.” Inclusion of Palestinian refugees under the general UNHCR definition of “refugees” would have been interpreted as a waiver of their claim that “return” was the sole solution.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has a new report on a topic habitually absent from BBC coverage of the Middle East: Hamas’ indoctrination of children in summer camps.

“This year, as in previous years, summer camps were held throughout the Gaza Strip, attended by tens of thousands of Gazan children and adolescents. Most of the camps were organized by Hamas, some by other terrorist organizations and institutions. The camps provide a wide range of activities, from ordinary summer pastimes (sports, arts and crafts, computers, day trips, etc.) to military training and ideological indoctrination. Hamas attributes great importance to the summer camps, considering them an effective means for influencing the younger generation and training a cadre of operatives and supporters for its military wing and movement institutions.

An examination of some of the closing ceremonies of the 2017 summer camps shows they emphasized military topics coordinated to the age of the participants. The older the campers were, the more and varied military training they received. The adolescents, some of them who would join Hamas military wing in the near future, wore uniforms and learned how to dismantle and reassemble weapons. They also practiced simulating infiltrating Israel through tunnels, attacking IDF posts, taking control of tank positions, and capturing IDF soldiers and abducting them to the Gaza Strip. They trained with real weapons, mostly light arms and RPG launchers.”

4) At the FDD, Grant Rumley takes a look at Mahmoud Abbas’ handling of last month’s violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere following the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack on July 14th.

“The closest the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got to an actual third intifada, or uprising, happened late this past month when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas mobilized the shadowy militia elements of his party for widespread Friday protests. What the lone-wolf stabbing attacks that have plagued Israel for the past several years lacked—and what both the first and second intifadas had—was political leadership and support. In activating the Tanzim, a faction of his own party that Abbas has struggled to control, the Palestinian President was sanctioning his people’s unrest.”

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BBC News portrays political NGOs as ‘human rights activists’

On April 25th an article billed “Israel PM snubs German foreign minister” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the sub-heading “Sigmar Gabriel had refused to call off talks with Israeli human rights activists”.

The report itself – headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups” – opens with a description of the NGOs concerned in the same terms.

“Israel’s prime minister has cancelled talks with Germany’s foreign minister after he refused to call off a meeting with Israeli human rights activists.

Sigmar Gabriel had been due to meet Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu had warned he would not see Mr Gabriel if he met the groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.”

The fact that the BBC chose to describe those two political NGOs as “human rights activists” should not be surprising: after all, both ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘ are among the campaigning NGOs (overwhelmingly from one end only of the political spectrum) that are routinely quoted and promoted in BBC content.

However, in breach of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality, the BBC has a longstanding policy of consistently refraining from adequately informing its audiences with regard to the foreign funding, agenda and “particular viewpoint” of the NGOs it promotes in Israel-related content – including ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘.

In this particular report readers are told that:

“Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers, gathers anonymous testimony from within the military about alleged abuses of Palestinians by the army.

Israeli authorities have accused it of making unreliable accusations.”

They are not however informed that a significant proportion of those ‘testimonies’ have been shown by persons completely independent of the “Israeli authorities” to be false, exaggerated or unverifiable.

With regard to B’tselem, the BBC’s report states:

“B’Tselem is one of Israel’s leading human rights groups and has come under similar criticism.”

Readers are not told that B’tselem was one of the sources of dubious casualty figures (also used by the BBC) during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas or that it engages in ‘lawfare‘ campaigns intended to delegitimise Israel – the one country it openly admits to wanting to see “punished” by the international community.

Both ‘B’tselem’ and ‘Breaking the Silence’ are generously foreign funded campaigning NGOs with a clear and specific political agenda. The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of those groups as ‘human rights activists’ is a barrier to audience understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

 

 

 

Selective BBC News reporting on terror arrests

On December 23rd the BBC News website published an article titled “Germany arrests two on terror charges” in which readers were informed that:terror-germany-23-12

“Two men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack on a shopping centre in Oberhausen near the Dutch border, police say. […]

It is not yet known how advanced the preparations for the attack were, or if others were involved, the statement said.”

(The two men were subsequently released)

An additional article – headlined “Melbourne Christmas Day ‘terror attack’ foiled, say Australia police” – also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day.

“Australian police have foiled a major terror attack in Melbourne on Christmas Day, officials say. […]terror-aus-23-12

The plot involved the use of explosives and other weapons, police say.

The alleged targets included high-profile locations around Melbourne, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and the main train station.

Six men and a woman were detained in Friday’s raid on suspicion of “preparing or planning a terrorist attack”, police say.

The woman and two men were later released.”

The arrest of a terror cell in an additional location had been announced the day before those two articles appeared.

“Israeli security agents busted a 20-member Hamas cell that was plotting suicide bombings and shootings against Israeli citizens in major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet disclosed on Thursday. […]

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons.”

That story, however, was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC mum on arrests of two Hamas terror cells

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

The BBC’s coverage of the vehicular terror attack in Nice on July 14th 2016 highlighted the differences in the terminology used to describe and define that attack as opposed to the language used when reporting similar attacks against Israelis.Attack Nice website Europe pge

When a vehicular attack occurred in Berlin on the evening of December 19th, the BBC News website’s initial report on the incident – oddly titled “Berlin Breitscheidplatz: Lorry kills 12 at Christmas market” – was amended less than two hours after its initial publication to include a sub-heading posing the question “Terror attack?”

“We are investigating whether it was a terror attack but do not yet know what was behind it,” a police spokesman told AFP news agency.”

A later version of the report used the sub-heading “Was it a terror attack?” and informed readers that:

“German politicians have been unwilling to call the deadly crash a terrorist attack at this stage, while many of the details remain unverified or unclear.”

All but the first two versions of the report created linkage with an attack previously defined by the BBC as terrorism, telling readers that the incident:

“…evoked memories of the lorry attack on Bastille Day crowds in the French city of Nice on 14 July, when 86 people were killed. That attack was claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS).”

Later versions added:

“Both IS and al-Qaida have urged their followers to use trucks as a means to attack crowds.”berlin-attack-art-2-main

Early on the morning following the attack, the BBC News website published a second article which soon had its headline updated to read “Berlin attack: Police say lorry crash ‘probably terror attack’“.

“German police are investigating a “probable terrorist attack” after a man ploughed a lorry into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48. […]

Politicians had avoided branding the bloodshed a terror attack in the hours immediately following, but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television, “there are many things pointing to one”.”

Readers were provided with a link billed “A year of terror in Germany”.

berlin-attack-art-2-insert

The updated article to which that link leads was originally published in July 2016 and now opens:

“After suffering a series of attacks in the summer, Germany has been in fear of further terrorist violence.

Those fears were realised on Monday, when a lorry ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.”berlin-attack-on-europe-pge-20-12

The same link was promoted as a stand alone item on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page and in an article titled “Berlin lorry attack: What we know” which informed readers:

“A lorry smashed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48, with many of them in a critical condition.

German police are treating it as a terror attack. It has already been compared with the July lorry attack in Nice, southern France, which killed 86 people. […]

Germany was shocked by four terror attacks in the summer, two of which – by asylum seekers – were claimed by IS.”

Also on December 20th, BBC television viewers were told by reporter Jenny Hill that:

“There is of course a sense of utter horror here this morning and that is compounded by the fact that the police here are now describing this as a suspected terror attack. So not only do they believe that that lorry was deliberately driven into the crowd here, they believe that this was a terror inspired attack too.”

In conclusion, BBC audiences were alerted to the probability that the incident at the Berlin Christmas market was a terror attack from the early stages of the BBC’s coverage, with use of the terms terror and terrorist made by the BBC itself, as well as in quotes from officials.

With the corporation having consistently refrained from describing vehicular attacks (and all other types of attacks) against Israelis as terrorism, the double standards so often evident in its reporting of terrorism in different locations are once again on display to BBC audiences – who of course have never seen a BBC article billed ‘A year of terror in Israel’.   

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

More mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe  

 

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahern reports that:

“The German government has for the first time admitted that the Palestinian Authority likely grants financial support to terrorists and their families, and vowed to further investigate the matter.

Following repeated queries by an opposition lawmaker, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin last week also acknowledged that funds for so-called “martyrs” and Palestinian prisoners sitting in Israeli jails for security-related offenses come not only from the Palestine Liberation Organization but partially from the PA’s own budget. […]

“If it is confirmed that parts of these described payments [to Palestinian security prisoners or their families] comes from the Palestinian Authority’s budget, the Federal Government will take the matter up with the Palestinian Authority and other partners,” the document states. “The Palestinian Authority and the PLO are called upon to take all necessary steps against the incitement of violence and to increase its efforts in the fight against terrorism.””

The article includes a recap of the history of this issue 

“In 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas — who is also the head of the PLO — closed the PA’s Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs and converted it into a commission directly subordinate to the PLO.

“The aim of this deliberately misleading move was to alleviate pressure on the PA by donor countries that do not wish their money to be channeled to support terrorism,” Yigal Carmon, the president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs in July. “However, the offices remained the same and the official in charge remained the same under a new job title. The source of the money remains the PA, which receives them from donor countries, and the overseeing body remains none other than the PA.””

In that same testimony, Yigal Carmon also gave US representatives an idea of the sums involved in the payments to convicted terrorists and ‘families of martyrs’.cash

“Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas has stressed more than once that “the prisoners are top priority.” As a result of this commitment, the PA invests significant sums in underwriting the expenses of the prisoners and their families – $137.8 million according to the PA’s 2016 budget (about 7% of which is for officials’ salaries and operating expenses).” […]

“The 2016 budget describes the PLO’s Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs as the body “responsible for ensuring a dignified life to the families of all those martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution.”

It is allocated just under $173 million ($172,534,733) for families of martyrs and the wounded within the homeland and outside it. The Institute’s operating expenses comes to about $1.5 million.”

This issue is obviously not only of interest to the government and the public in Germany, but also to tax payers in the many additional countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain.  Additionally, familiarity with this issue is key to understanding both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism of the type which the BBC has spent much of the last year reporting. Nevertheless, it is a topic which has long been ignored  and remains firmly off the agenda of the self-described “standard-setter for international journalism”. BBC audiences around the world – and not least the corporation’s funding British public – must surely be asking why.

 

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Israel headline writing style moves to Germany

h/t GS

The purpose of a headline is to give audiences an idea of the main points of the news story they are about to read or hear but as Israelis know only too well, BBC News website headlines sometimes create more confusion than clarity.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

Pigua art 26 10

Pigua 5 11 report

After news broke of a bombing attack in Ansbach, Germany, on the evening of July 24th, the BBC News website promoted its much amended report on the issue using the misleading headline “Syrian migrant dies in German blast” even though – as the sub-heading shows – at the time of writing the BBC was well aware of the fact that the “German blast” had been caused by the “Syrian migrant”.

Bavaria attack orig

That headline was later changed to read “Syrian blows himself up in Germany”. Whether or not the previous version will once again be attributed to a “mistake of a junior editor” remains to be seen.