BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

The December 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included yet another example (from 13:00 here) of the BBC’s politicisation of Christmas.

Presenter Alex Ritson introduced the report by Barbara Plett Usher.  

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

Ritson: “Bethlehem – regarded as the birthplace of Jesus – typically sees a tourism boom at Christmas and this year looks like it could be one of the busiest in recent memory. But as a Palestinian town in the West Bank, Bethlehem is also feeling the economic effects of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Barbara Plett Usher reports from the holy city.”

Bethlehem of course came under complete Palestinian Authority control exactly twenty-four years before this item was aired, in December 1995. Listeners heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism which made security measures necessary but the BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence.

Plett Usher: “There’s an enormous Christmas tree in Manger Square, sparkling with many, many, many lights and the place is packed with people coming for the opening of the Christmas fair. Lots of kind of anticipation, excitement, Christmas cheer. This is really when Bethlehem comes into its own. This is really Bethlehem’s time of the year. There’s plenty of good cheer. Tourism is a bright spot despite dark times for the Palestinian economy.”

Plett Usher avoided informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes are largely self-inflicted and that they are the result of its insistence on paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

Plett Usher: “Across the square in the Church of St Catharine’s [sic] a procession of priests in a cloud of incense is descending to the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born. This happens every day but this Christmas is special because they have a piece of the manger – a gift from the Vatican. It’s a tiny splinter but a big boost for Bethlehem’s Christians, decimated by waves of emigration.”

Plett Usher made no effort to enhance her audience’s understanding of the context to those “waves of emigration”.

Obviously unable to distinguish between concrete and cement, Plett Usher went on to promote the false notion of Bethlehem being ‘squeezed’ by security measures for which she once again failed to provide any context.

Plett Usher: “Tourists vastly outnumber the Palestinian Christians. They roll into the little town of Bethlehem past what Israel calls its security barrier – the towering cement wall, as residents call it – as part of a system of controls that’s squeezing Bethlehem into an ever-shrinking space. That doesn’t stop the tide of visitors but many know more about the past than the present.”

Listeners then heard Plett Usher badgering a tourist in order to promote her own political activism while advancing the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then that so it’s about the future as well.”

photo credit: Adam Levick

Refraining from informing listeners that it is located on land purchased by Jews before 1948, Plett Usher then visited a ‘conflict tourism industry’ site in the Deheishe refugee camp. Listeners were of course not informed why ‘refugee camps’ still exist in an area under Palestinian control for nearly a quarter of a century.  

Plett Usher: “Not everyone can avoid the politics or wants to. So this is Deheishe refugee camp. Ahmed has come to take me to his Airbnb. Ahmed Fararja is renting a room near Bethlehem to a young Slovenian student, Clara Suroneg [phonetic]. She’s the latest adventure tourist to respond to his advertisement offering an alternative kind of holiday.”

Clara: “The refugee camp is actually like a…they’re all connected between each other, you know, all the people know each other and in the end of the day you see that you really think in the same ways but you come from two different places in the world.”

Plett Usher: “It’s that connection to the world that Ahmed is looking for.”

Ahmed: “You know the people here are not…most of them are not allowed to go outside and especially to the outside world and they see the outside world in your eyes.”

No effort was made to counter that propaganda by informing listeners that thousands of Palestinians “go outside” every day. Plett Usher closed her report with another politicised portrayal of Bethlehem’s economy.

Plett Usher: “There’s a children’s choir now in Manger Square. Business is really booming here this year. But you never know; next year could be a bust. When you can’t control your own space, things are very fragile. The one constant is faith. The faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen.”

Once again we see the BBC indulging its own political activism by exploiting Christmas to produce blatantly partial reporting which hinders audience understanding of the topic.

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BBC WS breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality with Gaza report

h/t JP

The November 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included an item (from 20:10 here) which was introduced by the presenter as follows:

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

Presenter: “Earlier this month there was further fierce fighting over Gaza triggered when Israel assassinated a senior militant leader from the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. These rounds of violence have become almost routine, as have accounts of humanitarian suffering blamed largely on Israel’s blockade of the territory.”

Notably absent from that portrayal is of course any mention of the Palestinian terrorism which is the reason for “Israel’s blockade of the territory” as well as the last round of escalation during which about 560 rockets and mortars – conveniently whitewashed from this introduction – were fired at Israeli civilians.

The introduction continued:

Presenter: “But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news. They are Issam Adwan, Asmaa Tayeh and Ahmed Elqattawi. On a recent trip to Gaza our correspondent Barbara Plett Usher spoke with them about the recent violence. Ahmed begins the conversation.”

Listeners then heard nearly five minutes of unchallenged one-sided monologues.

Ahmed: “I want to live. I want to live like any other human being in the world. This is my right. I want to be respected. I want to have it and I want to see it like happened in the Gaza Strip. This is my…my city. I should feel safe in my city. Why would I walk in the street without feeling safe? I mean even like the horrific fear I witness. I mean during these three days was [unintelligible] for me. I have been like a victim to the sound of bombing and shelling. I couldn’t take it anymore, really. I was just…I was scared. I mean I’m 24 years old but I was really scared. Yeah.”

Issam: “But trust me this is not like the worst thing that could happen to the one who is living in Gaza, who lived through three wars and, you know, partially fourth one. The worst thing that could happen to you is that you’re not feeling fear anymore. Not because of being brave but because of, like, you have suffered so much. There are so many levels of being empty. Some people here in Gaza Strip they just want to die because they are suffering so much. At my point I’m…I’m fearless not because of being brave but I’ve seen so much. For them they are fearless because they have suffered so much. They just want to end it. I believe a lot of people exceeded what they can handle.”

Asmaa: “My sister-in-law two days ago was saying if they bomb us they should kill us all because we don’t want anyone to stay and live and keep crying on the others. I told her no. You all die and I want to live. Because I really didn’t live. I’m still twenty – twenty-three – and I didn’t live. I really need to live more so I can maybe find some sense of safety or joy or anything. It also makes me laugh when I see some Israelis comment on our posts on social media saying ‘you’re killing our children, you’re terrifying us, you’re doing this and that’. And they don’t get the fact that we’re trying to defend ourselves. They don’t get the fact that they every time start this. And when we do the same, or at least done the same because we don’t have the same equipment, they cry about it. And they tell us that we are violating their human rights. They were violating the international law. But they don’t think about themselves. They are doing the same or worse.”

Listeners heard no challenge from Barbara Plett Usher to those falsehoods and were not provided with any background which would help them put the propaganda into context. Instead, in the first of just two brief interventions throughout the whole item, Plett Usher chose to question the definition of the actions of Hamas and the PIJ as terrorism.

Plett Usher: “Do you think that Palestinian leadership bears any responsibility? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they have this doctrine of resistance, for example, that Israel and the international community call terrorism.”

Asmaa: “Well for me I don’t support anyone. I think we’re all Palestinians. But let me ask you: what do we really have as a choice? What can we do? Do we have equipment? Do we have anything that we didn’t try before? Tell me what we can do? What options do we have?”

Issam: “Such a response is just a representation of – fine representation – of what Gaza is not having, which is life. Also I would condemn Hamas and the PLO for such division which kill the Palestinians in the first place, especially the people in Gaza Strip. We are responding, we are shooting, we are, like, protesting at the Great March of Freedom because we don’t have hope. Israel is a great part of that. The PLO is also part of that. Hamas like makes the ideology of terminating others’ existence; they are responsible for that. I’m also blaming the lack of vision, the lack of – let’s say – a position that can lead us to move forward with the Palestinian case. They are responsible for that, not the occupation. I know that the occupation is imposing a lot of pressures and blows but they are responsible on that in the first place. They have responsibility. They cannot do with…these just [unintelligible] to step back and let other people to lead.”

Plett Usher: “What about you? How do you feel about the future, Ahmed?”

Ahmed: “Well I remember like a report was issued by the UN and they said that Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020. So 2020 is coming in January so I’m trying to just receive the shock when it comes.”

Asmaa “But for me, to be honest, I don’t think this is gonna be the last Israeli attack. So you will never feel safe. So I don’t have hope. No, I’m sorry, I don’t [laughing].”

Presenter: “Asmaa Tayeh ending that report from Barbara Plett Usher in Gaza and we also heard from Issam Adwan and Ahmed Elqattawi.”

It of course comes as no big surprise to hear such a blatantly one-sided report from Barbara Plett Usher: a report which does nothing to advance audience understanding of the topic it purports to address. But below the surface of this five minutes of unchallenged propaganda is another layer which once again highlights the issue of the BBC’s supposed impartiality.

Listeners were told in the introduction to this item that the three interviewees had set up a website:

“But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news.”

In fact, all three interviewees are involved with a website – called ‘We Are Not Numbers – that was set up in early 2015 by a political NGO called EuroMed Rights which is funded by a variety of foreign donors and has as members organisations engaged in lawfare against Israel. The website itself is funded by a US registered organisation called ‘Nonviolence International’ which was founded by Mubarak Awad who was deported by Israel due to his role in the first Intifada.

Issam Adwan is listed as the website’s ‘special projects coordinator’ and described as having joined it in May 2018. Asmaa Tayeh is listed as its ‘social media coordinator’ and Ahmed Elqattawi features in a 2015 report by anti-Israel activist Joe Catron for the infamous ‘MintPress News’. The website has also been promoted on the notoriously anti-Israel ‘Mondoweiss’ site by its founder Pam Bailey who is a contributor to that site as well as others includingMiddle East Eye’ and Al Jazeera.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate that:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

Not only did Barbara Plett Usher’s report fail to inform listeners of the name of the website it inaccurately claimed was “started” by her three interviewees but BBC audiences were given no “appropriate information” about the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of the real founders and funders of that website and their very relevant political agenda. 

BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

Those who followed recent reports from the BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman on various BBC radio programmes may have noticed some interesting framing of the activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Ata who was killed by Israeli forces in the early hours of November 12th. [emphasis in italics in the original]

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, November 12th 2019 from 2:26:06 here:

Bateman: “Well Abu al Ata was a commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the north and east of the Gaza Strip – significant areas where there has been over the last 18 months or so much tension between militants in the Strip and Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, November 12th 2019, from 00:29 here:

Bateman: “He [Abu al Ata] has really come to prominence within Gaza only within the last year, commanding a brigade of fighters in the north of the Gaza Strip for Islamic Jihad. […] he was seen as somebody who was […] taking it upon himself to order rocket fire into Israel after these very tense events on Fridays in which many Palestinians protest at the perimeter fence and there are violent confrontations and Israeli troops shoot at – using live fire – at the Palestinians. I mean ten days ago there were dozens of injuries and al Ata it seems had ordered rocket fire into Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, Global News podcast, November 12th 2019, from 01:00 here:

Bateman: “He had become increasingly significant over the last year. He was spoken about more and more within the Gaza Strip because he was the commander of an Al Quds brigade – that is the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad – and he was in charge of several hundred fighters in the north and the eastern Gaza Strip. Now that area was significant because of the rising tensions over the last 18 months or so at the perimeter fence with protests and escalations between Israel and militants in Gaza. […] around ten days ago, after dozens of Palestinians did [sic] when they were shot by Israeli soldiers, there was a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel which Israel responded to with airstrikes.”

As readers may recall, the BBC completely ignored those November 1st rocket attacks which Bateman alleged in these reports were prompted by events earlier in the day (that also got no BBC coverage) at the so-called ‘Great Return March’.

The ITIC’s report on the events of November 1st includes the following: [emphasis added]

“According to Israeli security sources quoted by the media, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was responsible for the rocket attacks. The Palestinian media also reported that the PIJ fired the rockets. At this point the reason for the attacks is unclear. During the return march of November 1, 2019, no exceptional events were recorded, so the PIJ had no immediate excuse to fire rockets. […]

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the return march was held in the Gaza Strip with the theme, “May the Balfour Declaration be thwarted,” to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Declaration. Before the march the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March held a press conference declaring it would be a “very powerful mass march.” The Authority also prepared a program to encourage the Palestinian public to participate in the march, part of which included announcing the march in all the mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip.

On the ground, however, the march was similar to those held in previous weeks. About 6,500 Palestinians participated, and the level of violence was similar to that of recent weeks. There were a number of attempts to sabotage the security fence, and IEDs, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at IDF forces. Senior figures gave speeches and mostly related to the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian struggle against it. Calls were heard demanding the British apologize to the Palestinian people. Senior figures also stressed that the marches would continue. The Palestinian ministry of health reported that 96 people had suffered varying degrees of wounds.”

Although the BBC has never reported it, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been involved in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop from the beginning and at least six of those killed during the weekly violent rioting were members of its ‘military wing’.

Nevertheless, Bateman’s simplistic analysis framed the actions of the PIJ commander solely as a response to Israeli actions against ‘protesters’ – while concealing both the violent nature of those events and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s involvement in them. In other words, Bateman’s bottom line told BBC audiences (who have yet to be informed of the terror group’s basic ideology and aims) that Israel is to blame for PIJ rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

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BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

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BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC failed to adequately report on three separate incidents of severe vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing carried out by Palestinian rioters – on the instruction of Hamas – on May 4th, May 11th and May 14th.

The sole reference to the May 4th incident came in the form of twenty-two words in a BBC News website report on another topic that was published the following day:

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.” [emphasis added]

The May 11th incident was completely ignored and, despite the corporation’s extensive coverage of the events of May 14th, the fact that Palestinian rioters once again set fire to the sole commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip was not reported to BBC audiences.

The day after the second incident on May 11th it was announced that the crossing would have to be closed while repairs were underway.

“The Israeli military on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip, a day after Palestinian rioters trashed key infrastructure serving the only entry point of outside goods into the Hamas-run Strip, causing immense damage.

The crossing will be closed while the damage is repaired, and will reopen in accordance with the security situation, officials said. […]

Apart from humanitarian cases, the IDF said the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the “extensive damage” caused to the torched gas lines, electricity infrastructure and a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the Strip is repaired.

The army estimated the damage to Kerem Shalom would cost $9 million to repair.”

On the evening of May 14thit was announced that the crossing would reopen at limited capacity.

“Israel announced on Monday night that it would be reopening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza on Tuesday, after Palestinian rioters set fire to parts of the facility on three separate occasions during border protests this month — including on Monday. […]

Israel closed the crossing on Saturday night in order to assess and repair the damage caused by rioters the day before. […]

While the crossing was scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, it will only be able to function at a partial capacity in light of significant damage caused to the facility, including to the fuel lines — the only way to bring diesel and gasoline into Gaza in significant quantities.”

On May 15th the crossing did indeed reopen but, as the Times of Israel reported:

“Palestinian officials on Tuesday refused to allow trucks loaded with goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which Israel had reopened in the morning after rioters from the coastal enclave set fire to parts of the facility three times over the past month.

Shipments of medical supplies, food and diapers arrived at the crossing in the morning. But officials on the Palestinian side said they could only allow through the medical supplies and sent back 14 trucks full of food and diapers, The Times of Israel has learned.”

Now let’s take a look at how the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell presented that story in a report aired on BBC World Service radio’s “Global News Podcast” at 13:00 GMT (15:00 local time) on May 15th.

04:41 Knell: “We have had the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh…he left Gaza and went to Egypt where he’s been meeting members of the Egyptian intelligence. A lot of speculation that there is a lot of diplomatic pressure – international pressure – being applied to try to calm things down. Even though Israel had said that it was going to close the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing – the one commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza – indefinitely, it has now opened that crossing. There have been some supplies going in. And the Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been opened and we’re told it will stay open for an extended period beyond what was initially imagined at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. So it could be that these kinds of moves as well, going on behind the scenes, give people in Gaza some kind of hope.” [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

So what did Knell do there? First of all she steered audiences towards the belief that Kerem Shalom had been reopened on May 15th after “international pressure” rather than – as was actually the case – on the recommendation of the IDF and COGAT. Secondly, she failed to clarify to audiences that the reason for the prior announcement of indefinite closure of the crossing was the serious damage done to its infrastructure rather than some Israeli caprice. Third, she refrained from telling BBC World Service listeners that the extensive damage was deliberately caused by Palestinians themselves on three separate occasions within eleven days. And fourth, she completely avoided the topic of the refusal by Palestinian officials to allow some types of goods to enter the Gaza Strip on the day of her report.

That is apparently what passes for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC. 

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