BBC World Service radio adopts the PLO’s language

The October 19th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item relating to the previous day’s announcement by the US Secretary of State concerning the merging of the American embassy and consulate general in Jerusalem into a single diplomatic mission.

Programme presenter James Menendez introduced his interviewee (from 0:45:04 here) as follows: 

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “Until a few months ago America’s embassy in Israel was in Tel Aviv. Its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians was at the consulate general in Jerusalem. But in May – as you may remember – the embassy moved to Jerusalem; America recognising what Israel has always maintained: that Jerusalem is its capital. That was condemned by Palestinians as well as all the other members of the UN Security Council.”

Failing to clarify that no UN Security Council resolution was in fact passed on that topic, Menendez went on:

Menendez: “Well, now another change: the mission to the Palestinians is going to be subsumed into the new US embassy. It’ll be called the Palestinian Affairs Unit. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it’s about achieving efficiencies. Palestinians say it’s just another move to downgrade them. Well let’s talk to Martin Indyk, himself a former US ambassador to Israel, now [at] the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Welcome to the programme. How would you characterise this move?”

Indyk: “Oh I don’t think there can be any doubt that it is a downgrading of US representation to the Palestinians that is consistent with the decision to establish the embassy in Jerusalem – the US embassy to Israel – in Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And in doing so the president – President Trump – made no reference to Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and so I think this is just…just a further symbolic and management act that demonstrates that the last…the symbolic toe-hold for the Palestinians in terms of American policy – their toe-hold in Jerusalem – is now gone.”

Failing to explain that the US president’s December 2017 announcement specifically stated that “[t]he United States continues to take no position on any final status issues” and “[t]he specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders”, Menendez then came up with the following bizarre statement-cum-question:

Menendez: “Eh…I mean in a place where symbols matter hugely, I mean is it also symbolic of this one-state solutionthe Greater Israel as the government there calls it – with everybody being under one roof?”

While members of certain parties included in the current Israeli coalition government have proposed annexation of various parts of Judea & Samaria, that is not official government policy. Menendez’s implication that the Israeli government promotes “the Greater Israel” is obviously inaccurate and misleading (especially given his reference to “this one-state solution” which of course has additional meanings) as well as irrelevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion. The likely source of that misleading phrase used by Menendez will be discussed in a moment but in the meantime, the interview continued.

Indyk: “Well I don’t think it forecloses even some Palestinian position in Jerusalem in final status talks as far as the US policy is concerned. Secretary Pompeo was quick to say that. But in practical terms what it signals is this much touted and little revealed Trump peace plan. What’s in it for the Palestinians is going to be slim pickings indeed, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.”

Menendez: “I suppose someone would say, you know, practically it’s not going to make a huge amount of difference given the lack of peace talks anyway at the moment.”

Indyk: “Yes, that is true but it will make a difference in terms of representation to the Palestinians. There’s a lot more than just talking about peace involved in dealings between the United States and the Palestinian Authority. And now there will no longer be even a consul general – not an ambassador but a consul general – to deal with the Palestinian Authority. That person is going to be a more junior person under the authority of the US ambassador to Israel and that’s something that the Palestinian Authority – and certainly its leader Abu Mazen – will have great difficulty relating to and so I think that, you know, with the cut off in all aid to the Palestinians from the United States…eh…the lowering of the political level of engagement – it just means that there’s an overall downgrading of the Palestinians in Trump administration policy.”

Refraining from pointing out to listeners that the US has not “cut off…all aid” to the PA, Menendez closed the interview there.

So where did James Menendez get that phrase “the Greater Israel”? A clue can be found in the promotion of an article on the same topic which appeared on the BBC News website on October 18th.

In the report itself – titled “US to merge Jerusalem consulate general with new embassy” – BBC audiences were told that:

“Palestinians condemned the move.

Senior official Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration was working with Israelis to “impose ‘Greater Israel’ rather than a two-state solution”.”

That quote was taken from a series of Tweets put out by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department on October 18th and picked up by a BBC producer.

And so we see that a phrase attributed to the Israeli government by James Menendez in fact comes from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat.

This of course is by no means the first instance in which we have seen the BBC promoting talking points and narratives conceived by the PLO:

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

In this latest item BBC World Service audiences heard just one view of the story (which unsurprisingly happens to dovetail with that of the PLO) while the BBC presenter adopted and amplified misleading terminology promoted by the PLO for political purposes and in doing so, compromised the BBC’s objectivity.  

Related Articles:

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

 

 

 

 

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BBC News report on Gaza tunnel equivocal about its purpose

On October 30th the IDF carried out a controlled explosion on a cross-border attack tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

“The military said the tunnel had been under surveillance for an extended period of time and was under active construction at the time of the demolition.

The tunnel, which the IDF described as a “grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty,” started in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossing under the border and approaching the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim, the army said.

“The tunnel was detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence,” the military said in a statement.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel was approximately two kilometers away from the Israeli kibbutz. […]

The demolition was carried out near the fence separating Israel from Gaza.”

In the hours that followed it emerged that a number of operatives from the terror groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas had died.  

“At least seven men were killed and another 12 injured on Monday when the Israeli army blew up an attack tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said […]

“The explosion took place inside Israeli territory. The majority of the dead were activists that entered the tunnel after it was exploded and died in the Gaza Strip, and not as a result of the explosion,” said an IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee. […]

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said four of the dead were Islamic Jihad members, including two senior commanders, Arafat Abu Murshad, the Islamic Jihad’s central Gaza commander and his deputy Hassan Abu Hassanein. […]

Two Hamas members, Musbah Shabir, 30 and Mujahid Mohammed Marwan Algha, were also killed during the rescue operation, Hamas said.”

The BBC News website’s October 30th report on that story ran with a headline that gives readers the inaccurate impression that the tunnel’s destruction took place in the Gaza Strip: “Gaza: Palestinian militants killed as Israel hits tunnel“.

The original text of the article similarly failed to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that the controlled explosion took place inside Israeli territory.

“Seven Palestinian militants were killed and several others injured when Israel destroyed a tunnel running from Gaza into Israel, Palestinian officials say. […]

The Israeli military said the tunnel it destroyed on Monday ran from Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, into Israeli territory, about 2km (1.2 miles) from the town [sic] of Kissufim.”

The day after the article’s appearance the words “[t]he army said the destruction took place on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza” were added following complaints and a footnote appended to the report.

So perhaps (in addition to not knowing that Kissufim is a kibbutz rather than a “town”) the BBC was not initially aware of the fact that the operation took place inside Israel? A Tweet from a “BBC News senior producer in Israel” shows that is not the case and also casts light on the use of superfluous punctuation around the phrase terror tunnel in the report:

 “The Israeli military said the “terror tunnel” was still under construction when it was “neutralised”.”

Does the BBC really believe that there is room for doubt about the purpose of a tunnel infiltrating Israeli territory constructed by an Iranian backed terrorist organisation? Apparently it does because the article went on to unquestioningly amplify that terror group’s propaganda.

“An Islamic Jihad statement said the tunnels were “part of the policy of deterrence to defend the Palestinian people” and accused Israel of a “dangerous escalation”, according to AFP news agency.”

In addition, this report included a recycled paragraph on the topic of casualty figures during the summer 2014 conflict which the BBC attributes to “the UN”.

“The conflict left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead – including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN – and 11,231 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, and up to 1,600 injured.”

In fact – as has been shown here before – the casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios that the BBC elects to repeatedly amplify were supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel, funnelled through a partisan UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report.

Since the end of the 2014 conflict the BBC has consistently under-reported the story of cross-border attack tunnels constructed by Gaza based terror groups. Audiences have heard very little about the diversion of construction materials and funds for that purpose and nothing at all about the Israeli civilians living adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip who are under threat from such tunnels. This latest report obviously contributes little to rectifying that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Sommerville showcases PIJ rearmament but refrains from asking who supplied the weapons

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC News conceals part of a story on Hamas tunnels

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel