BBC WS radio’s ‘context’: falsehoods about counter terrorism measures

BBC coverage of last week’s escalation of violence during which terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired 690 rockets at civilian communities in Israel included an item aired in the May 5th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, hosted by James Menendez.

The item (from 00:10 here) commenced with analysis from Alan Johnston who referred to a “deal” brokered by the Egyptians to bring an end to the previous exacerbation in March which he described as including:

“…easing of the blockade which Israel imposes on Gaza – the blockade that cripples economic and many other aspects of life in Gaza…”

Making no effort to inform listeners why that blockade was put in place or how Palestinian Authority actions and Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over civilian well-being have contributed to the current state of affairs in the Gaza Strip, Johnston went on to amplify the narrative promoted by Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza are unhappy with the Israelis for not implementing that…their side of the deal. That’s the Palestinian Gazan view of the situation.”

Johnston’s contribution ended there, with listeners hearing nothing at all about the Israeli “view of the situation” – including the rocket fire days earlier (unreported by the BBC) which brought about a reduction of the fishing zone or the fact that Israel disputes the claims made by Gaza Strip terror groups concerning the delay of transfer of cash from Qatar.

With that one-sided framing in place, Menendez introduced another ‘analyst’ at 04:08.

Menendez: “Well Tareq Baconi is an analyst with the non-profit International Crisis Group. He’s based in Ramallah in the West Bank. He’s also the author of ‘Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance’. Why does he think the violence has flared up again now?”

Despite the BBC having editorial guidelines which stipulate that audiences should be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors, listeners were told nothing of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) record, agenda and fundingincluding its receipt of donations from Qatar which are obviously relevant to the story, given that country’s history of support for Hamas.

Neither were listeners informed that Tareq Baconi – formerly a Policy Fellow with Al Shabaka – has repeatedly made his own position on Hamas clear, including in his book:

“Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people.” [emphasis added]

Obviously that information would have been critical in helping audiences reach informed opinions about the one-sided talking points they were about to hear but rather than providing it, the BBC chose to present Baconi’s contribution as impartial analysis. Like Johnston, Baconi presented just one explanation for the “quite dire” situation in the Gaza Strip, erasing Hamas terrorism and inter-factional Palestinian disputes from the picture.

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

Baconi: “I think the cause is that there are fundamental demands that the Palestinians in Gaza are requesting that Israel abide by – namely the humanitarian suffering and the economic situation in Gaza – and by virtue of the blockade the situation in Gaza continues to be quite dire. So often these escalations are ways for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to pressure Israel into abiding by its side of ceasefire agreements. We can pinpoint the specific reason for this latest escalation. There are several things that are happening. The Eurovision contest is happening next week and we’re coming up to milestones and anniversaries that are quite full of emotion for Palestinians: Nakba of course on May 15 which is the same day that Israel celebrates its Independence Day. And domestically within Israel Netanyahu is currently in discussions to form a new coalition government.”

Menendez: “I mean is there any reason to think from the Palestinian point of view that doing this will bring that relief that they want, that at the moment they have any greater leverage – because it doesn’t look like it, does it?”

Listeners heard nothing about the context to the counter-terrorism measure which is the blockade and they were wrongly led to believe both that Israel has made agreements with “the factions in Gaza” and that the terms of understandings in fact brokered by third parties “never translates into action”.

Baconi: “Well the issue that we need to remember here is that Israel has historically – certainly over the course of the last decade since the blockade was first imposed on the Gaza Strip but definitely over the course of the past year or so – it has shown that it only really responds to force. It has reinforced that message time and again. It’s only when Hamas and other factions fire rockets at Israel that Israel countenances taking any measures that might relieve the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Even though every kind of ceasefire agreement between Israel and the factions in Gaza have been predicated on the simple understanding that there will be calm in Israel’s southern communities if the situation in the Gaza Strip changes, that never translates into action so while Hamas and other factions do restrain any kind of activity from the Gaza Strip, Israel never responds by meeting its obligations under a ceasefire. So really whether or not Hamas has more of a chance now is unclear but that’s sort of beside the point because it’s unclear what other measures Hamas has. If the Gaza Strip isn’t a source of rocket fire, it’s forgotten from Israel’s perspective and the collective punishment of two million Palestinians sort of becomes acceptable or forgotten.”

Menendez had nothing to say about Baconi’s promotion of the “collective punishment” myth but went on to describe terror groups that launch military-grade rockets at civilians as “militants”.

Menendez: “Is there a danger then, if the Palestinian militants feel that they’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, that we could be on the brink of another big conflagration as we saw, what, in 2014?”

Baconi: “Absolutely. I think that’s always a danger. I think neither Hamas nor Israel wants an escalation which is what’s so ironic about this dynamic. The dynamic keeps repeating itself every few months but neither party necessarily wants an escalation. Hamas certainly; it rightly believes that any escalation will be hugely destructive for the Gaza Strip in terms of the loss of life – certainly civilian life – but also in terms of infrastructure and the destruction that we’ve seen Israel unleash over the Gaza Strip repeatedly in the past. The Gaza Strip is already according to the UN close to being uninhabitable. Another military assault by Israel would be devastating. And in return, Israel certainly doesn’t want an escalation because Netanyahu is quite…in a quite sensitive position in his own coalition discussions. However, having said that, even though no party wants an escalation, the dynamic is such that neither party is willing to pay the political will to get out of this dynamic and here I shouldn’t actually equate both parties. The political will here rests with Israel as the stronger party and the enforcer of the blockade. The only thing that can change fundamentally this dynamic is for the blockade to be lifted and for the Gaza Strip to be dealt with as a political reality, not as a humanitarian reality.”

Menendez: “But don’t the rocket attacks just play into Israel’s hands in the sense it proves to the Israeli government that the blockade has to continue because it needs to put the squeeze on people who are firing rockets at their civilian centres?”

Baconi: “This is obviously not to justify the use of rockets: rockets in the form that Hamas is using them is a war crime because they are indiscriminate and they fall on civilians and combatants in an indiscriminate manner. But nonetheless, one needs to understand the drivers of these forms of activities and seeing the rocket fire as a response to the blockade is fundamental here. The blockade is itself an act of violence that is indiscriminately treating two million Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are youth and refugees – under collective punishment. So the idea that Israel has imposed the blockade because of the rockets is false, actually. The blockade has been imposed on the Gaza Strip in many ways since before Hamas was even created. The fundamental issue in Gaza is the fact that it’s [a] Palestinian political issue that Israel doesn’t need to or doesn’t want to address.”

Menendez made no effort whatsoever to challenge Baconi’s inversion of the facts and whitewashing of terrorism. Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip was designated ‘hostile territory’ by Israel over two years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and following over 2,000 rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terrorists in which 14 Israelis were killed.

The item was closed by Menendez at that point but listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day heard a slightly different version of the same interview with Baconi which was presented by Menendez (from 00:11 here) as “the context for this sudden escalation of fighting”.

In other words, BBC World Service radio’s idea of “context” that would aid audiences to understand the story was falsehoods concerning the counter-terrorism blockade from a known Hamas apologist representing an inadequately introduced political NGO.

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Critics slam pro-BDS article from BBC quoted NGO writer

Those of us who follow the BBC are more than familiar with the corporation’s long-standing practice of promoting the views of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) without disclosing their political agenda (let alone funding) in breach of its own editorial guidelines.

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

When the New York Times magazine recently published a very long Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) promoting essay by Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group (ICG), critics not only took issue with its content but also with the fact that readers were not informed of the relevant background to the writer’s organisation.

“Thrall, who the Times presents as a disinterested expert, serves as director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, or ICG, a left-leaning advocacy organization that has received around $4 million from the Qatari government in the just the last year. Qatar’s donations represent around 6 percent of ICG’s total budget. Qatar is not mentioned in Thrall’s 11,500-word piece.

ICG also has raised $1 million in the past several years from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, a prolific and open funder of the BDS movement in the United States.

Another significant portion of ICG’s funding—more than $5 million in the last three years—comes from the Open Society Foundations, run by liberal billionaire George Soros. Open Society funds dozens of Palestinian organizations that are prominent members of the BDS movement.

ICG’s president is former Obama administration official Robert Malley, another Israel critic who was fired from President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election team after he met with the Hamas terror organization. He joined the Obama administration in 2014.”

BBC correspondents based (like Thrall) in Jerusalem have in the past promoted Thrall’s analysis and  in June 2013 the BBC told its audiences that:

“A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the impact of international sanctions on Iran found no indication that the sanctions had affected Iran’s regional role.

And the report’s principal author says there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah. “There isn’t a single line in the budget that confirms any aid or financial support to Hezbollah”, Ali Vaez contends.” [emphasis added]

Over the years the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs has flourished with news consumers finding that more and more of their news comes or is sourced from agenda-driven organisations which make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to journalistic standards. 

When political agendas and journalism meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. But, as this latest New York Times example shows, some of the world’s most prominent media organisations – including the BBC – continue to fail to provide consumers of their content with crucial information concerning the agenda and funding behind the voices they choose to quote and promote.

The fact that the BBC has existing editorial guidelines which would tackle precisely that issue but are serially ignored of course raises considerable concern.  

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Nathan Thrall’s Propaganda Welcomed at the New York Times (CAMERA)

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

October 28th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Titled “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“, the report was translated into Arabic and also appeared two days later on the BBC Arabic website.knell-abbas-art-main

Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.

For example, readers are told that:

“Three other potentially important players have strong backing in the security forces:

  • Mohammed Dahlan, led the PA’s Preventive Security force in Gaza until 2007. He was expelled from Fatah after falling out with the president and now lives in luxurious exile in Abu Dhabi. He also has close ties to regional leaders”

Knell refrains from telling audiences that in recent months Abbas has been urged by some of those “regional leaders” to mend fences with Dahlan – as the Times of Israel explained back in August.

“Arab leaders have recently been pressuring the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan.

Among the heads of state who have weighed in are Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. […]

In response, Fatah’s Central Committee has resolved to consider readmitting to its ranks several dozen senior Fatah figures expelled for their links to Dahlan. But they have not yet agreed to readmit Dahlan himself, who was kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2011 after a feud with Abbas.

Indeed, despite Arabic media reports about possible reconciliation within the Fatah movement, senior figures within the Palestinian Authority (PA) say there is still quite some way to go.”

Abbas himself voiced public objection to what he saw as intervention from “other capitals” on that issue – although Dahlan himself is on record as denying a wish to run for the PA presidency (despite Knell’s later claim that he and others “undoubtedly regard themselves as possible future presidents”).

Relatedly, in the days before (and since) Knell’s article was published severe violence was seen in a number of locations in PA controlled areas.

“Intense clashes erupted in three refugee camps Tuesday night between Palestinian youths and Palestinian Authority security forces, after a protest over the recent expulsion from the Fatah party of a Palestinian lawmaker was suppressed.

At least two people were wounded from reported live fire during the clashes, which took place in the refugee camps of al-Amari, near Ramallah, Balata, near Nablus, and Jenin.

The clashes began when PA security refused to allow a protest in support of Jihad Tummaleh, who was expelled from the Fatah party on Saturday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, near Tummaleh’s home in the al-Amari refugee camp.

Tummaleh’s expulsion came after he organized a conference at al-Amari in support of “party unity.” The event was viewed by some in Ramallah as an effort to urge reconciliation between Abbas and his chief political rival Mohammad Dahlan. […]

PA security forces also arrested Tuesday night the official spokesperson of Fatah in Jerusalem, Rafat Alayan, who had earlier participated in a rally in support of Tummaleh.”

Also unmentioned by Knell is the meeting which took place between Abbas and Hamas leaders in Qatar the day before her report was published.

“The 81-year-old Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for a “business lunch” in Doha, the PA’s official news agency Wafa said. […]

The meeting in Doha was attended by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghanam.”

Veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff interprets that meeting as follows:

“In a turn of events no one could have foreseen mere weeks ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — until recently the ally of Egypt and Saudi in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups — met on Wednesday with Khaled Mashaal, outgoing head of Hamas’s politburo, and with Ismail Haniyeh, Mashaal’s successor. These meetings took place after Abbas met the previous week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Erdogan and Sheikh Tamim are considered strong patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood, the great rival of Egypt and its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Abbas’s meetings with them, as well as his talks with Mashaal and Haniyeh, the two highest-ranking members of Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot), may even lead to a historic reconciliation with Hamas, though that outcome is still a long way off. Whether such a reconciliation would be a good or a bad thing depends on whom you ask.

So what — or, rather, who — has led Abbas straight into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, and maybe even into those of Hamas, just days after a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza called him a traitor?

The answer is simple: Mohammad Dahlan. This former high-ranking Fatah official, who has been challenging Abbas for several years, succeeded this week in areas where even Hamas has failed. He managed to get Cairo on his side in the fight against Abbas and proved how weak and shaky Abbas’s status is in the Arab world.”

As Issacharoff also points out, another succession struggle is also underway:

“…everybody is busy with the question of “the day after.” Many members of Fatah fear that the day is fast approaching when Fatah will split over the uncompromising battle between Dahlan and Abbas, and Hamas will become more powerful still.

It should be emphasized that Dahlan is not the only one in Fatah to be marking out territory in anticipation of the fight over the succession.

The highest levels of Fatah, as a whole, are busy with Fatah’s general assembly, which is set to take place in late November and can point the way to who Abbas’s successor might be. Fatah’s Central Council will be elected during the assembly — and according to Fatah’s bylaws, it is only from the Central Council that Abbas’s successor, Fatah’s next chairman, may be chosen. It is also likely that the assembly will elect Fatah’s deputy chairman, who could, in time, succeed to the chairmanship.”

All that internal Palestinian conflict is obscured by Knell. She does however find it necessary to promote ‘analysis’ from a Belgium-based NGO.

“…there is no clear frontrunner and analysts warn against second-guessing the dynamics within Fatah.

“The names you hear about most often are basically former security people because these are whom Israel is most comfortable with and whom Western donors have interacted with and vetted,” says Nathan Thrall of International Crisis Group.

“These sometimes correlate with what’s realistic in Fatah power structures but oftentimes not.””

So is Yolande Knell unaware of the back story to the issue she supposedly set out to explain to BBC audiences? A vaguely worded caption to one of the images used to illustrate the article suggests not.

knell-abbas-art-pic

The question that therefore arises is why the BBC’s funding public and worldwide audiences are not being told the whole story. 

 

Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

As we noted here a few months ago, the BBC is decidedly coy on the subject of Iranian terror financing in general and its material support for Hizballah in particular.

“The BBC News website’s coverage of the Iranian president’s visit to Europe late last month included two reports – “Rouhani in Europe: Italy covers nudes for Iran president“, January 26th and “Rouhani arrives in Paris as Iran drums up business with France“, January 27th – in which audiences were told that:

“Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Obviously that choice of minimalist phrasing does not clarify to readers who has accused Iran of funding “militant groups” (the BBC standard euphemism for terrorist organisations) or whether or not there is any basis to those accusations. It also obfuscates the fact that at least one Iranian official has acknowledged that Iran provides support to Hizballah.”

Neither the BBC profile of Iran nor its profile of Hizballah provides audiences with any in-depth information on that topic.  Moreover, in June 2013 the BBC specifically told its audiences that:

“A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the impact of international sanctions on Iran found no indication that the sanctions had affected Iran’s regional role.

And the report’s principal author says there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah. “There isn’t a single line in the budget that confirms any aid or financial support to Hezbollah”, Ali Vaez contends.” [emphasis added]

Hassan Nasrallah evidently disagrees with that ICG analyst.Iran Hizballah

“Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday said his group would not be affected by fresh US sanctions because it receives its money directly from Iran, not via Lebanese banks.[…]

“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added. […]

“As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it,” Nasrallah said.”

If the BBC is to fulfil its remit of enhancing audiences’ understanding of international issues, then obviously its profile of Hizballah needs to be updated following Nasrallah’s confirmation of Iran’s long-known funding of that terror organisation and the implications of his admittance of receiving weapons from Iran in violation of UN SC resolution 1701.

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