Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2018

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2018 frequently included contributions or information sourced from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Often portrayed by the BBC as ‘human rights groups’, those agenda-driven organisations make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to the BBC’s editorial standards. When political agendas and journalism meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. Currently one of the few safeguards in place comes in the form of the section in the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality that states:

“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.”

However, throughout 2018 BBC Watch once again documented numerous examples of that clause not having been upheld in Middle East related content which was sourced in one way or another from political NGOs or their representatives.

The BBC’s collaboration with political NGOs comes in a variety of forms. In some cases people associated with NGOs are interviewed or quoted in BBC reporting – but their links to those organisations are not always adequately clarified to audiences.

In January 2018, for example, the BBC’s Yolande Knell quoted “an Israeli peace activist” but refrained from identifying him as a founder of the extremist group ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’. Also in January, a BBC News website report quoted “an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog” but failed to provide readers with the name of the organisation.

In July 2018 the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ featured a “writer and cook” who had “worked as a human rights campaigner for a very long time” but failed to inform listeners of the relevant fact that her campaigning had been done with the anti-Israel NGO ‘War on Want’. In October BBC Radio 4 interviewed a “Palestinian academic” without clarifying that he was the founder of the political NGO PASSIA

More frequently the BBC directly amplifies statements and/or material produced by NGOs and throughout the past year such content – including direct links to campaigns on NGO websites – featured particularly prominently in some of the stories the BBC chose to highlight.

BBC coverage of the Ahed Tamimi story, for example, included repeated promotion of the viewpoint of B’tselem including interviews with its research director (see here and here) but with no mention made of the Tamimi family’s connections to that organisation. Additional coverage of the same story included quotes from Amnesty International even promoted a link to the NGO’s relevant campaign webpage. Another report promoted the views of Human Rights Watch without clarifying that it had been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf and the same report even included a link directing audiences to a petition promoted by the political campaigning group Avaaz

BBC coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ story included promotion of a link to a campaign calling for Israeli soldiers to refuse orders on the website of B’tselem. A representative of B’tselem was interviewed in another BBC report and the NGO was referred to as “a leading Israeli rights group” in another. A BBC News website live webpage on the same story featured quotes from B’tselem and Amnesty International and a BBC radio presenter quoted “the Israeli rights group” Adalah. The political NGO ‘Gisha’ was quoted in two related reports.

Amnesty International was quoted in a BBC Sport report about a cycle race and later the same month the same NGO was quoted in another report along with Human Rights Watch and B’tselem. In June the BBC uncritically quoted a “campaign director at Avaaz” and later the same month BBC Radio 4 interviewed the “executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’”.

Adalah was quoted in a BBC report concerning Israeli legislation in July and BBC News website coverage of the Khan al Ahmar story included promotion of a link to the B’tselem website. BBC News website coverage of the Airbnb story included quotes from Human Rights Watch as well as a link to a report produced by that political NGO and another called ‘Kerem Navot’. Another report by Human Rights Watch was the topic of a BBC News website report in October.

A member of the NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ was featured on the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ programme in February and on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme in May. Additional examples of the BBC’s failure to adequately clarify to audiences the political agenda of NGOs represented by interviewees involve the ‘Norwegian Refugee Council‘, ‘Minds of Peace’, the ‘Foundation for Middle East Peace’, the ‘Oxford Research Group’, ‘Save the Children’ and ‘Embrace the Middle East’.

Once again the most widely promoted local NGO in 2018 was B’tselem. Among the foreign NGOs quoted and promoted in BBC content, Human Rights Watch (HRW) was once again the most prominent, closely followed by Amnesty International.

As in previous years, more often than not the political agendas of the NGOs quoted and promoted were not adequately clarified to audiences as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. The BBC’s serial failure to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of quoted NGOs and representatives of those organisations interviewed by the BBC (including in certain cases the fact that they are involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel) means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving comes predominantly from one side of the political spectrum and hence is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs

 

 

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Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

As the year’s end approaches we will be taking a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

One of the BBC’s campaigns began in late December 2017 and continued until March 21st 2018, with an encore on July 29th. It related to Ahed Tamimi who, together with other members of her ‘activist’ family, had been featured in BBC content in the past.

However, in this case the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC elected to lend its voice – and considerable outreach – to promotion and amplification of a blatantly political campaign. 

19th December 2017, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video

Both items discussed here.

“To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.”

1st January 2018, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video

Discussed here.

“Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.”

1st January 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

“…the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.”

3rd January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Discussed here.

“No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.”

8th January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

In this report from Yolande Knell, listeners heard from former IDF chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsh who noted the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. They also heard interviews with an Israeli MK, Tamimi’s lawyer, Tamimi’s father and statements from a member of an anti-Israel NGO.

“Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.”

17th January 2018, BBC News website, Yolande Knell:

Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen

Discussed here.

“The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.”

31st January 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, BBC News website, Jeremy Bowen:

Is a slap an act of terror?

Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?

Both discussed here.

“Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.”

5th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

13th February 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial

Discussed here.

“However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge.”

13th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, James Reynolds

Discussed here.

“All the more significant is the fact that he [Reynolds] failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.”

21st March 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal

Discussed here.

“…BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.”

Between December 19th 2017 and March 21st 2018, the BBC produced at least thirteen written, filmed or audio reports on that topic: clearly an unusual volume of coverage clearly intended to secure audience attention.

All the written and filmed reports (eight) included the word “slap” (or derivatives) in their title – an indication of what the BBC wanted audiences to think the story was about and how perception of the story was manipulated. Several of the reports told BBC audiences that Tamimi was imprisoned because of a ‘slap’ while failing to adequately explain – or even mention – the most serious charge against her: that of incitement to violence. Only one of the reports (BBC Radio 4, January 8th) provided audiences with a reasonable explanation of the charges against Tamimi.

The reports included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor. In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists such as B’tselemJonathan PollackAmnesty International, Avaaz (including a link to a petition set up by Tamimi’s father) and Human Rights Watch.

The BBC returned to the story in late July, with the same editorial policies in evidence in four additional reports.

29th July 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

Discussed here.

“…once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.”

29th July 2018, BBC World News TV, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

29th July 2018, BBC News website, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view.” 

29th July 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this latest instalment of the Ahed Tamimi story, the fact that the charge of incitement was the most serious of the charges against her – and its details – was erased from audience view.”

Throughout the BBC’s generous coverage of this story, audiences saw her described as “a prominent child activist“, a “star on social media”, “a modern-day Joan of Arc“, “a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation“, “a national icon” and “the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance“.

BBC audiences were told that Tamimi is to be seen as “standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands” and “standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land” and that her aim is “to resist the occupation“.

The one-sided politicised campaigning that BBC audiences saw instead of objective coverage of this story is a slap in the face for journalism and – not least in light of the BBC Middle East editor’s campaign contribution – detrimental to the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy media outlet committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

 

 

 

 

More inadequate BBC reports on the Airbnb story

Despite having already published a report on exactly the same story late the previous evening, on the morning of November 20th the BBC News website published an article titled “Airbnb: Israeli uproar as firm bars West Bank settlements“.

A video embedded into the article also appeared separately on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 21st under the title “The West Bank homes being dropped from Airbnb“.

In that filmed report from Gush Etzion – where Jews purchased land long before the Jordanian invasion and occupation in 1948 – viewers were told that:

“Built on land occupied after the 1967 Six Day War, the settlements are seen as illegal under international law.”

In the written report readers were similarly told that:

“Jewish settlements in territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Obviously this story in particular requires full audience understanding of the topic of ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ but nevertheless the BBC elected once again to ignore its editorial obligation of “due impartiality” by erasing from audience view the existence of legal opinions which contradict the BBC’s selected narrative.

BBC editorial guidelines relating to due impartiality on ‘controversial subjects’ state:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.”

The BBC’s standard portrayal of ‘international law’ – as seen in both these reports and the previous one on the same story – obviously does not meet those criteria. It purports to inform audiences what is ‘illegal’ but does not provide them with sufficient information or access to alternative views in order to enable them to reach their own conclusions and opinions on the issue.

The written report included uncritical amplification of a claim which dovetails with standard BBC framing of the conflict:

“Airbnb said it had made the decision because settlements were “at the core” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The BBC did not bother to enhance readers’ understanding of the story by pointing out that the conflict predates ‘settlements’ by several decades.

Linking to a report produced by the political NGOs ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Kerem Navot’ that is actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis, the written article told readers that:

“Human Rights Watch called Airbnb’s decision “a positive step” and urged other tourism companies, such as Booking.com, to follow suit.

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based group said “Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred”.

It said this was the only example the rights body could find “in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin”.”

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that Airbnb hosts in a plethora of countries including Algeria, Malaysia and Bangladesh would “have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin” because those countries do not allow entry to the holders of Israeli passports.

As in the previous written report, readers were not informed that Airbnb does business in numerous other disputed locations – for example northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

 

 

BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story

Late on November 19th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank listings” which was soon re-titled “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank settlement listings”.

One hundred and twenty-three of the article’s 422 words summarised the announcement put out by the company while 129 words described subsequent reactions from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat, the Israeli tourism minister and a relevant Israeli organisation.

One hundred and fourteen words were given over to background information, including the BBC’s standard partisan mantra concerning ‘international law’:

“The West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Readers were also told that:

“The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians see them as a major obstacle to peace and a barrier to a hoped-for Palestinian state on land which they occupy.

Israel says such an argument is a pretext for avoiding direct peace talks, and that the fate of settlements should be negotiated in accordance with peace accords signed with the Palestinians in 1993.”

Notably, despite having quoted Airbnb as saying that “…many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced”, the BBC did not find it relevant to tell its audiences about the people displaced from places such as the Gush Etzion communities, Beit HaArava or the Old City of Jerusalem just nineteen years before its selected start-date for Middle East history.

Without clarification of the fact that a PLO representative has in the past threatened legal action against Airbnb, readers were told that:

“Airbnb has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements.”

While those so-called “human rights campaigners” remained unidentified by the BBC, readers were not informed that Airbnb does business in numerous other disputed locations (for example northern Cyprus, Western Sahara) or whether or not those same campaigners have “criticised” those operations.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC found it appropriate to cite one of its most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – including images.

“The decision was announced the day before Human Rights Watch was set to publish a report examining Airbnb’s business in the settlements.

The organisation praised Airbnb’s decision on Twitter, hailing it as “a breakthrough”.”

The BBC did not bother to clarify to its audiences that the said ‘report’ produced by the political NGOs ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Kerem Navot’ is actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis which makes no mention whatsoever of Airbnb’s business in additional disputed locations around the world.

Related Articles:

The NGOs and Funders Behind Airbnb’s BDS Policy (NGO Monitor)

A second hand BBC News report on Palestinian torture

BBC Watch has in the past documented the BBC’s decidedly sparse interest in internal Palestinian affairs.

“Although the conflict is clearly just one story among many in the region, only very occasionally do audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within that context and do not have an Israel-related component.

Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

Reviewing BBC News coverage of internal Palestinian affairs

BBC News flunks on Palestinian internal affairs yet again

In August 2017 and again in July 2018 we noted that the BBC had totally ignored a story about Palestinian Authority citizens suing the PA over torture by its security forces.

BBC News ignores an unusual legal story from Israel

Story of PA torture continues to be side-lined by BBC

The last time the BBC News website produced any reporting on allegations of PA torture was over two years ago and prior to that – in 2009.

However, when ‘Human Rights Watch’ (one of the political NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted in BBC content) published a report on October 23rd, BBC News website quickly published an article linking to the relevant HRW press release under the headline “Palestinian forces routinely arresting and torturing critics – HRW“.

“The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip routinely arrest and torture peaceful critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch says.

A report based on interviews with former detainees alleges the rival factions have “established machineries of repression to crush dissent”.

Security forces, it says, often taunt, threaten, beat, and put detainees in painful stress positions.

The PA and Hamas deny the allegations.”

While the vast majority of the BBC’s 704-word article is given over to paraphrasing and quoting HRW’s press release, at its end readers find second-hand responses taken from a Reuters report on the same story.

“Officials in the West Bank and Gaza rejected the findings.

Maj Gen Adnan al-Dmairi, a spokesman for the PA’s security forces, told Reuters news agency: “Arrests are being carried according to the law and we are committed to upholding the law.”

Eyad al-Bozom, spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of interior in Gaza, said: “We do not have a policy of torture. This is a violation of the law.”

“We have taken action against officers who violated the law, including issues of torture. Some were detained and put on trial, others were demoted,” he added.”

Readers may recall that Adnan Damiri (or, as spelt in the Reuters article, Dmairi) is the same PA police spokesman whom the BBC found it appropriate to quote when, in 2016, it portrayed a temporary roadblock set up by Israeli troops following a terror attack by a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces as “collective punishment”.

While it is obviously refreshing to see this issue getting some exposure on the BBC’s website (and the article did at least refrain from recycling the irrelevant comment relating to Israel found in the HRW report), it is nevertheless notable that this is not a report by the BBC informing its funding public about the serious topic of torture conducted by Palestinian factions but the recycling of a report by an external organisation.

And so, BBC audiences still await serious, original BBC reporting on this issue as well as on other aspects of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

The Palestinian protests the BBC preferred to ignore

A rare BBC News report on internal Palestinian affairs

BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)

Gaza Strip stories the BBC chooses not to report

 

 

 

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part two

In part one of this post we saw how the BBC News website’s portrayal of the June 19th US announcement that it would leave the UN Human Rights Council failed to clarify to audiences that the decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms”.

The same story was the topic of an item aired in the June 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’. Presenter Ritula Shah introduced it (from 22:35 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Well a body that might have been charged with examining Italy’s plans for the Roma is the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the last few minutes the United States has announced that it’s pulling out of that organisation. The US ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of the statement made by the US Ambassador at the press conference at which the US decision was announced.

Haley: “…the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

Shah: “The mission of the UNHRC is to promote and protect human rights around the world. But when it was founded in 2006 the Bush administration declined to join, complaining that it included repressive states. The US has also repeatedly accused the body of being anti-Israel. Washington relented under President Obama and the US has been among the 47 countries elected to the council three times with the last 3-year term beginning in 2016.”

Remarkably the person chosen by ‘The World Tonight’ to comment on that story was the head of a political NGO with a long-standing anti-Israel bias who himself is infamous for having something of an obsession – particularly visible on Twitter – with that country. ‘Human Rights Watch’ had put out a press release concerning the US decision prior to this programme going on air and some of its themes were recycled in the Radio 4 item.

Shah: “Well Kenneth Roth is the executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ and he joins me now. [….] Kenneth Roth; Nikki Haley says the US hasn’t retreated from its human rights commitments. What difference then will its departure make – from the council – make?”

Roth: “Well I mean I wish it were true that the US hadn’t retreated from its commitments. I don’t see a lot of effort to stop, you know, Syrian slaughter of civilians, to stop the Saudis from indiscriminately bombing and starving civilians in Yemen, to defend the Rohingya who were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. So you know I would quarrel with her there but in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, you know the US seems to be making two points. One is that some abusive states sit on the council – which is true. And that’s really the fault of different regions of the world who nominate them and then don’t give the UN General Assembly members the choice. They basically say ‘here are the same number of candidates as openings: take ’em or leave ’em’. And you have no choice but to take them.”

Shah: “So among the current members: the DRC, Egypt, China – all of which could be criticized for their human rights record.”

Roth’s agenda then became apparent:

Roth: “Absolutely. But even given that, the Human Rights Council has done a lot of good. It has actually done very serious investigations and condemnations in places like Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Myanmar. The problem is, it also criticises Israel and what this is really about…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But it’s a bit more than just criticising Israel, isn’t it? Israel is the only country that actually has a permanent space on its [the UNHRC] agenda – so-called Agenda 7 – which stipulates that alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian conflict should be reviewed every council meeting.”

Roth: “That’s true and that’s something that the US has complained about a lot. But the truth is the US votes against resolutions criticising Israel even under other agenda items that apply to everybody. So it’s a bit hypocritical. Yes, they can complain about Agenda Item 7 but it never criticises Israel’s human rights abuses under this administration.”

Shah: “But it is strange that in that sense the US isn’t the only country that’s pointed this out. Even Ban Ki Moon the former UN Secretary General and the EU have pointed out that singling out Israel when there are human rights abuses all over the world is strange and slightly undermines the council’s credibility.”

Roth: “Well you know ‘Human Rights Watch’ has pointed this out as well but the real issue is, you know, does the Human Rights Council do more good than harm and it does enormous good in many places around the world.

Roth’s claim that HRW “has pointed this out” is apparently based on previous statements the NGO’s staff such as this one last year from its Geneva director, John Fisher, in which he effectively compared Israel’s human rights record to those of two repressive dictators infamous for murdering their own people:

“Fisher said Israel’s human rights record did warrant Council scrutiny, but the special focus was “a reasonable concern”.

“It is an anomaly that there is a dedicated agenda item in a way that there isn’t for North Korea or Syria or anything else,” he said.”

Roth went on to promote more of the messaging found in his NGO’s press release, even using the same words:

Roth: “But the Trump administration basically has a one-dimensional human rights policy. Ahm…it wants to defend Israel from criticisms above all else. So even given this…ahm…this fault in the council that it has this idiosyncratic stand-alone item for Israel, none the less most governments say we’re gonna work with the council; we can try to amend that Agenda Item but it does a lot of good. But the Trump administration’s in essence saying that we want to undermine the council because it criticises Israel…”

Shah: “Well it is interesting though….”

Roth: “…and the rest of the good work it does can be damned.”

Shah: “Item 7 was inserted after the organisation was formed. Perhaps if some sort of reform of the council to make it more balanced, to take into account the points that you’ve made at the beginning that it also includes countries that actually could be accused of human rights abuses, when actually its formation, its purpose is supposed to defend human rights and demand of its members the highest standards in defending human rights – those issues could have been tackled, couldn’t they?”

Shah failed to inform listeners that the US had been trying for a year to introduce exactly such reforms. Neither was it clarified to audiences that the “reform process” subsequently referred to by Roth is not the same one that the US was promoting or that his organisation – along with others – had actively opposed the US’s proposed reforms.

Roth: “Yes, there’s actually an active reform process underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the US government was participating in that process until now. Now it’s walking away. So ironically it’s less likely to get any reforms by turning its back on the council but that’s why I don’t think this move is really about reform. This move is about trying to discredit the council because the council criticises Israel and that one-dimensional policy is just fortunately not where the rest of the world is. The rest of the world recognises there’s a need to address serious problems elsewhere in the world as well.”

Ritula Shah closed the item there. Listeners were not informed – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require – of the “particular viewpoint” of Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch on Israel despite that being of obvious relevance since his messaging was given an almost unchallenged stage.

And so, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard a person presented as the head of an authoritative sounding “international human rights organisation” telling them repeatedly that the US withdrawal from the UNHRC is actually “really about” Israel and – as was the case in his organisation’s press release – that because of Israel, human rights in the rest of the world will suffer.  

Related Articles:

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

On May 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel orders Human Rights Watch activist to leave for ‘supporting boycott’“.

On the one hand, readers were told that:

“Israel has ordered the senior representative of Human Rights Watch in the country to leave within 14 days.

The interior ministry said it had terminated the residency permit of Omar Shakir, who is a US citizen, because he had supported a boycott of Israel.”

On the other hand, they were also told that:

“HRW insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”

However, BBC audiences were not told which of those claims is true.

Apparently the BBC could not be bothered to take a closer look at Omar Shakir’s history of anti-Israel activismincluding pro-BDS Tweets.

Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:

“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.”

Nevertheless, the BBC chose to devote over 25% of this report’s word count to the amplification of statements from some of its own most quoted and promoted political NGOs.

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, a deputy executive director of the New York-based organisation.

“Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” […]

Other human rights groups also criticised the expulsion of Mr Shakir.

Amnesty International called it “yet another worrying sign of the country’s growing intolerance of critical voices”.

Israeli organisation B’Tselem, meanwhile, said it was a “sign of the times”.”

In other words, rather than providing audiences with the facts about HRW’s anti-Israel activity which would enhance their understanding of this story, the BBC preferred to amplify the NGO echo-chamber of which it is frequently part.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

 

 

 

 

The BBC’s partisan coverage of the Ahed Tamimi case continues

On March 21st the BBC News website published a report billed “Palestinian slap video teen gets jail term”. That framing of the story was reinforced in two items of related content offered to audiences under the headings “Was slap terrorism?” and “Spotlight on slap video teen”.

The same messaging was further reinforced in the report’s headline – “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal” – and in the caption to the same video offered as related content (a highly problematic report by the BBC’s Middle East editor dating from January 31st) which was embedded at the top of the article: “Is a slap terrorism?”.

Clearly the intention was to lead BBC audiences towards the understanding that this story is about a “Palestinian teen” who got a “jail term” for a “slap” deemed “terrorism” even before they had read one word of the report.

The article opens in the same vein:

“A Palestinian teenager arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier has accepted a plea deal that will see her serve eight months in prison.

Ahed Tamimi had agreed to plead guilty to four of the 12 charges she faced, including assault, her lawyer said.”

Only in the eighth paragraph do readers learn the nature of the additional charges against Ahed Tamimi.

“Ahed Tamimi would plead guilty to one count of assault, one of incitement, and two of obstructing soldiers, Ms Lasky said.”

However, as has been the case in the vast majority of the BBC’s copious reporting of this story throughout the last three months (see ‘related articles’ below), BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

Furthermore, the BBC’s report amplifies a clear misrepresentation of the charge of incitement from a representative of a political NGO that has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf – without clarifying that obviously relevant fact to readers.

“Human rights groups said her case highlighted what they considered Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.

“Ahed will be home in a few months, but Israel is putting this child behind bars for eight months for calling for protests and slapping a soldier, after threatening her with years in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.” [emphasis added]

Notably, as the Times of Israel reports, Tamimi admitted to having made the call for violence which the BBC conceals from audience view.

“Under the terms of the plea bargain, Ahed admitted to the aggravated assault of an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.”

In addition to amplifying statements from the political NGO Human Rights Watch that has been campaigning on behalf of Tamimi (a previous BBC report similarly amplified another NGO involved in that campaigning), this report even includes a link directing audiences to a petition promoted by the political campaigning group Avaaz.

“For Palestinians, she has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.

Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release has gathered 1.75m signatures.”

As has been the case in several previous BBC reports on this topic, readers find several quotes from Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky in this article – including the following:

“Asked why she had agreed to a plea deal, Ms Lasky said: “When they decided to keep her trial behind closed doors, we knew that we were not going to get a fair trial.””

No alternative view is provided of either that allegation or the similar one from Human Rights Watch with which the BBC chose to close this report.

“Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases”

In the past three months the BBC has produced at least thirteen reports on this story but only in one of those – aired on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – have audiences been provided with any information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. In all the other reports (and in all those provided to international audiences) the fact that Ahed Tamimi called for violent acts against Israelis has been concealed.

Some of the thirteen reports have included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor.

In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story has promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists including B’tselem, Jonathan Pollack, Amnesty International, Avaaz and Human Rights Watch.

Significantly, although video footage filmed by Tamimi’s mother has been generously promoted in many of the reports, the part of that footage showing Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence has not been presented to BBC audiences at all.

In summary, the BBC’s treatment of this story has overwhelmingly diverted audience attention away from the background to the main charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi and propagated the deliberately misleading notion that she was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a “slap”.

The BBC’s repeated promotion of partisan NGOs that have been campaigning on this case once again highlights the fact that the corporation which is committed to providing its audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards” has in this case chosen to abandon impartiality and accuracy – and instead lend its voice and outreach to one-sided promotion of a blatantly political campaign.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“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.”

However, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

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

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs

Weekend long read

1) At the Middle East Quarterly, Wolfgang G. Schwanitz discusses ‘The “Ottoman Balfour Declaration”‘.

“In October 1917, as British forces knocked at Jerusalem’s gates, the Ottoman authorities declared a string of draconian steps aimed at destroying the Jewish community in Palestine (the Yishuv). Should the Turks be driven from Palestine, threatened Djemal Pasha, governor of the Levant and one of the triumvirs who ran the Ottoman Empire during World War I, no Jews would live to welcome the British forces.

Less than a year later, on August 12, 1918, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, Djemal’s co-triumvir, issued an official declaration in the name of the Ottoman government abolishing these restrictions and expressing sympathy “for the establishment of a religious and national Jewish center in Palestine by well-organized immigration and colonization.”

Though issued far too late to have any concrete effect—nearly half a year after the British conquest of Palestine and some eighty days before the Ottoman surrender—the significance of the declaration cannot be overstated. Here was the world’s foremost Muslim power mirroring the British government’s recognition (in the November 1917 Balfour Declaration) of the Jewish right to national revival in Palestine, something that many Muslim states refuse to acknowledge to date.”

2) At the Algemeiner, Ben Cohen writes about a statement concerning the AMIA bombing case made by one of the political NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted by the BBC.

“The influential NGO Human Rights Watch rose to the defense of the previous Argentine government on Wednesday — two weeks after a federal judge indicted former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and several of her senior colleagues for allegedly colluding with Iran in the cover-up of Tehran’s responsibility for the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

In a statement, HRW claimed that there was “no evidence that would seem to substantiate those charges.”

“Relatives of victims of the AMIA terrorist attack deserve justice for this heinous crime,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW. “But, instead of promoting accountability, this far-fetched indictment further tarnishes the credibility of the Argentine judiciary over the AMIA attack investigations.””

3) At the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on a new law in Iraq discriminating against Palestinians.

“Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Iraqi government has approved a new law that effectively abolishes the rights given to Palestinians living there. The new law changes the status of Palestinians from nationals to foreigners.

Under Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator, the Palestinians enjoyed many privileges. Until 2003, there were about 40,000 Palestinians living in Iraq. Since the overthrow of the Saddam regime, the Palestinian population has dwindled to 7,000.

Thousands of Palestinians have fled Iraq after being targeted by various warring militias in that country because of their support for Saddam Hussein. Palestinians say that what they are facing in Iraq is “ethnic cleansing.”

The conditions of the Palestinians in Iraq are about to go from bad to worse. The new law, which was ratified by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, deprives Palestinians living in Iraq of their right to free education, healthcare and to travel documents, and denies them work in state institutions. The new law, which is called No. 76 of 2017, revokes the rights and privileges granted to Palestinians under Saddam Hussein. The law went into effect recently after it was published in the Iraqi Official Gazette No. 4466.”

4) At Mosaic Magazine Professor Martin Kramer discusses “The Fantasy of an International Jerusalem“.

“In the uproar over President Trump’s announcement of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, one constant refrain has been the insistence that, by longstanding international consensus, the city’s status has yet to be decided. In the portentous words of the recent UN General Assembly resolution protesting the American action, “Jerusalem is a final-status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions.”

The most “relevant” of those prior resolutions was the November 1947 resolution proposing partition of Palestine and envisaging, in addition to two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish, an entirely separate status for Jerusalem as a city belonging to no state but instead administered by a “special international regime.”

One might have thought that the wholesale Arab rejection of the entire partition plan, in all of its parts, would also have put paid to the idea of an internationalized Jerusalem. Evidently, however, this fantasy is too convenient to lie dormant forever.

That is why it’s useful to know that, almost exactly three decades before the 1947 UN plan, internationalization of Jerusalem was killed—and killed decisively. Who killed it? Thereby hangs a tale, but here is a hint: it was neither the Arabs, nor the Jews.”