BBC and Guardian reports on Alan Duncan omit his “powerful lobby” comments

Yesterday’s Al Jazeera investigation focused on a covertly filmed private dinner conversation in London involving a diplomat at the Israeli embassy who was looking for information to “take down” deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan.

Though the Israeli ambassador quickly apologised for the comments by the low-level official, Shai Masot, and there was no suggestion of a coordinated Israeli effort to bring down Mr. Duncan, British news outlets immediately pounced, devoting significant coverage to the incident – more coverage, overall, than on the deadly terror attack later that same day.

Some of the coverage has addressed the question of why Masot seemed particularly keen on getting information on Duncan, and correctly pointed out his extreme criticism of Israel.  Both the Guardian and BBC specifically noted Duncan’s critique of settlements in speeches and interviews made in 2014.

An article was published in the BBC website on Jan. 8th titled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” which included the following background.

Sir Alan, who has described expanding Israeli settlements as a “stain on the face of the globe”, was seen as more of a problem than Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was “basically good”, according to Mr Masot in a transcript of the conversation.

“He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.”

Sir Alan launched a scathing attack on Israel in 2014, when MPs backed Palestinian statehood, deeming Israeli settlements as an “act of theft”.

“Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity – this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame on Israel,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

Curiously, the BBC omitted the most controversial comments from Duncan’s 2014 BBC Radio 4 interview.  Duncan said during the interview – in the context of the previous day’s vote by MPs to recognise Palestinian statehood – that American politics is “”dominated” by a “very powerful financial lobby”.”  (Unsurprisingly, these comments were not challenged by the BBC host.)

Similarly, a Jan. 8th Guardian report by Patrick Wintour, “Why might an Israeli diplomat believe Alan Duncan needs taking down?” focused on Duncan’s record of comments on Israel and the settlements. Here’s the relevant part:

Above all, he simply refuses to accept Israel’s policy in the Middle East is defensible. In a landmark speech in 2014 at the Royal United Services Institute he pushed the anti-settlement policy further than any Tory politician, likening the Israeli attitude towards Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.

He said: “Those that supported settlement policy should be put on a par with racism sexism and xenophobia and antisemitism. Indeed just as we rightly judge someone as unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise settlements are illegal.

“No settlement endorsers should be regarded as fit to stand for public office, remain a member of a mainstream political party or sit in a parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country or any other country when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists and should be treated as such.”

Leaving aside Duncan’s extraordinary demand that anyone who expresses a pro-settlements view is unfit to stand for election, note that, as with the BBC, the Guardian omitted Duncan’s comments about the powerful lobby’s putative control over the US.

Tellingly, Duncan’s dog whistle was clearly heard by one particularly prominent antisemitic extremist, who cited his comments as a rare example of a British politician ‘revealing’ the injurious nature of Jewish power.

Earlier today, we tweeted the BBC thusly:

Find information on complaining to the BCC here.

Information on complaining to the Guardian is here.

You can Tweet the Guardian journalist here.

 

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BBC News amplifies political NGO in inaccurately headlined report

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 13th and 14th found the following headline:

Video ‘shows Palestinian’s shooting’

Qalandiya film on HP

The link leads to a July 13th article similarly titled “Video ‘shows Israeli officer shoot fleeing Palestinian’” which relates to an incident which took place on July 3rd and was not reported by the BBC at the time except for a brief mention in an unrelated article.Qalandiya film art

However, despite those two very clear headline statements, the video in question in fact does not show the shooting of a Palestinian – but only those who bothered to read down to the article’s sixteenth paragraph (out of 22) would discover that.

“On Monday, B’Tselem released video footage recorded by a security camera at the petrol station showing the moments before the shooting.

It shows a person believed to be Kasbeh running at the Israeli army vehicle as it passes by and throwing a stone. He then runs away as the car then brakes suddenly and at least two soldiers get out, brandishing weapons.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s article links to and promotes sections from a report by the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont on the same subject. As our colleague Adam Levick of UK Media Watch noted in a post concerning that report :

“As you can see, the video shows Kasbah hurling rocks at the soldiers’ vehicle, the soldiers giving chase and aiming their weapons, and then the seconds before the Palestinian was actually shot.  The soldiers then can be seen returning to their vehicle. We don’t see Shomer firing his weapon, or what Kasbah was doing as he was shot.

 Indeed, Beaumont, in one passage, acknowledges this fact:

‘The footage – acquired by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem – was recorded by a security camera on a nearby petrol station and, although it does not show the moment of the lethal shooting itself, shows the preceding seconds.'”

Clearly those two BBC headlines are inaccurate and misleading.

Obviously this report is primarily based on – and provides further amplification for – a video and a press release produced by the NGO B’Tselem. In addition, readers are also directed to the B’Tselem website and to its Youtube channel via two separate links. However, the only explanation readers are given regarding B’Tselem comes in the article’s introductory paragraph:

“An Israeli human rights group has published a video it says contradicts the account of an Israeli army officer who shot dead a Palestinian teenager.” [emphasis added]

All additional references to the NGO only mention its name and no information whatsoever is provided to readers regarding the organisation’s political agenda and funding.

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

B’Tselem is – as has been noted here in the past – one of the NGOs most frequently promoted and quoted in Israel-related BBC content. Despite that fact, the BBC has yet to provide its audiences with the relevant information concerning that organisation’s background which will enable them to put its extensive ‘contributions’ into perspective and context.

BBC News website parrots Guardian’s leaked cable spin

One really would think that by now the BBC should have learned to take the serial Israel-related journalistic ‘scoops’ produced by the Al Jazeera-Guardian duo with the appropriate bucket-load of salt. After all, the same partnership was responsible for the publication of the so-called ‘Palestine Papers’ in 2011 and the Al Jazeera employee behind those leaks also engineered the ridiculous ‘Arafat was poisoned’ story in 2013.

But no: the BBC has once again swallowed the latest Clayton Swisher creation promoted via Al Jazeera and the Guardian hook, line and sinker, producing its own version of the non-story in the form of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 23rd under the title “Israel PM ‘differed’ with Mossad on Iran, says report“.leaked cable story  

On the website’s Middle East page the article is promoted with the by-line:

“Israeli intelligence took a different view of Iran’s nuclear capabilities from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leaked cable suggests.”

The article itself opens:

“Israeli intelligence did not share PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s view that Iran was a year away from making a nuclear bomb, a leaked cable suggests.

In 2012, Mr Netanyahu said Iran needed to be stopped, telling the UN the country could build a weapon next year.

But a Mossad report said Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”, according to al-Jazeera and The Guardian.”

Readers can study the leaked cable for themselves here. The spin put on it by the Guardian and Al Jazeera (and faithfully parroted by the BBC) is aimed at persuading the public that the Israeli prime minister deliberately misled the world with regard to Iran’s nuclear intentions in his 2012 speech at the UN and that statements in that cable from none other than the Israeli security services (a nice poetic touch) prove the point. Obviously, the timing of this leak needs to be viewed within the context of both the current stage of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and PM Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the US Congress next week – as this paragraph in the Guardian’s report indicates:

“The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned address to the US Congress on 3 March.”

We would not of course expect anything else from the Seumus Milne-Clayton Swisher stable of politically motivated ‘journalism’, but is there actually anything in the leaked cable which backs their claim? As several observers have already noted, the answer to that question is no.

“A cable from October 2012, apparently from the Mossad, assesses the state of Iran’s nuclear program. Al Jazeera notes that the document says that “Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” but “is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” They contrast this with “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its ‘plans to build a nuclear weapon’” and (in their video report) with his line that “by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage.”

The Mossad report doesn’t actually contradict this.

Making nuclear weapons is complicated. A working warhead is the result of several distinct lines of technical development. You need enough enriched uranium to sustain a rapid chain reaction (the core of the bomb), and you need a way to induce that chain reaction (the mechanism of the bomb). (You’ll also probably want a way to deliver the bomb, a third line of technology.) Netanyahu’s argument rested on this distinction: he said that the world must draw a red line on Iran’s activities that could be useful for making a core because those activities are much harder to hide than those for making the mechanism:

For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear [detonation mechanism]….it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in very big industrial plants. Those Iranian plants are visible and they’re still vulnerable. In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator…in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months. The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop…So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

Bibi was, in other words, not asserting that an Iranian nuclear device was coming soon—he was saying that Iran was approaching the end of the phase in which its nuclear program would be easiest to interrupt. The Mossad’s statement that Iran “is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” doesn’t contradict that, particularly when read with their line that Iran’s activities at the time would “reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” Iran was taking steps that made weaponization easier, even if it wasn’t weaponizing. A closer reading of the speech, and a better understanding of the underlying technical issues, would have revealed the harmony between the two positions.”

Either the BBC did not bother to check out the substance of the Guardian/Al Jazeera story before deciding to replicate it on its own platforms or it has no qualms about playing the role of amplifier for politically motivated ‘scoops’ originating from a media outlet owned and controlled by a terrorism-supporting Middle East dynasty. Perhaps Steve Herrmann would like to tell us which it is.