BBC News promotes political NGO’s commentary on Gaza video

On April 10th the BBC News website posted two items relating to the same topic: a written report titled “Israeli minister praises viral video sniper” (which was also promoted on social media) and a filmed report headlined “Israeli soldier shoots Palestinian on Gaza border“.

In the written report the account of the story given to BBC audiences is as follows:

“Footage of the incident, in which a soldier expresses joy at having captured it on film, drew condemnation from politicians and rights groups.

Israel’s military said the man who was shot had been orchestrating a riot, and he was hit in the leg.

It said the soldiers involved in the filming will be dealt with.

In the video broadcast on Monday, three men are seen nearing a barrier or fence. The crack of an apparent gunshot is heard and one of the men, who had been standing still and appeared to be unarmed, falls to the ground.

A voice is heard to exuberantly declare in Hebrew: “Wow, what a video. Yes! Son of a bitch! What a video!”

A crowd of people are then seen rushing to retrieve the man who was shot. His condition is not clear.”

The article goes on to paraphrase a statement put out by the IDF:

“In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the incident had taken place on 22 December, 2017, in the area of the Israeli community of Kissufim, close to the Gaza border.

It said the video “depicts a short part of the response to a violent riot”, and “a single bullet” was fired after other attempts to stop the violence had failed.”

The IDF statement actually said that the video “records a short part of the handling of violent disturbances that included stone-throwing and attempts to sabotage the fence and carried on for some two hours”. The statement went on to clarify that during that time, steps had been taken to disperse the rioters including verbal and loudspeaker calls to them to stop, the use of riot control methods and shooting in the air and that when none of those means was effective, a single bullet was fired at one of those suspected of organising and leading the rioting when he was a few meters from the fence and that he was wounded in the leg.

The BBC’s account went on:

“The statement did not comment on the sniper but said the “unauthorised filming” by another soldier, and the distribution of the footage and comments heard on the tape “do not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers”.

It said those issues would “be dealt [with] by commanders accordingly”.”

In fact the IDF statement clarifies that “the video was not filmed from the position from which the shooting was carried out and was filmed by a soldier who does not organically belong to the unit that fired.”

In other words, the BBC’s account does not adequately clarify to audiences that the voice it describes as ‘exuberant’ does not belong to the soldiers engaged in attempts to control the rioting. Despite numerous media outlets having reported on the extensive rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on that specific day, the BBC also refrains from describing the events as such in its own words.

The article closes with the following description of the more recent rioting at the same border:

“The case comes at a time of heightened tensions over Gaza.

Israel has faced mounting criticism for shooting dozens of Palestinian, many fatally, during clashes at protests along the border in the past two weeks.

Israel has defended its actions, saying it has only used live fire against individuals trying to breach the border fence, or those using weapons or explosives.”

In the synopsis to the BBC’s filmed report the rioting that is the context to the story is likewise described in unnecessarily qualified terms and it is not adequately clarified to audiences that the soldiers “heard…cheering” are not those engaged in attempts to control the rioting.

“The Israeli Defense Force say a Palestinian who is seen being shot in a viral video was a man who had led a “violent riot.”

The video of the incident, which the IDF says happened in December 2017, first emerged on Monday.

Soldiers can be heard in the footage excitedly discussing their target and cheering after the shot.”

In the video itself the background to the story is again portrayed in scare quotes:

“The Israeli military said this event took place in December 2017 and the target was suspected of organizing a “violent riot”.

Viewers are also told that:

“A leading Israeli rights group said it had little faith in any military investigation.”

Although, for reasons unclear, that “rights group” is not named, the BBC appears to be paraphrasing its most quoted and promoted political NGO, B’tselem.

In other words, the BBC’s idea of ‘impartial’ reporting is to promote commentary on this story from the same partisan group that just days ago enjoyed generous BBC amplification (including a link) of its public call to Israeli soldiers to refuse orders

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BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ presenter vilifies Israeli soldiers – part two

In part one of this post we looked at a ‘Hardtalk’ interview with a representative of the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ that was aired on the BBC World News TV channel on February 15th (available in the UK here) as well as on BBC World Service radio on February 16th.

From the start of the programme presenter Stephen Sackur refrained from sticking to asking questions, instead indulging his own political pronunciations. However, BBC audiences next heard the following mini-monologue from Sackur. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Sackur: “Yeah and I want to come back to the politics of this in some detail but just to stick for now with testimony, because ‘Breaking the Silence’ is all about gathering together the voices of soldiers – former soldiers – who are no longer prepared to be silent about what they have seen. I just want you to be very clear with me about some of the other behaviours because you’ve talked about the day-to-day dull routines of the occupation but the other behaviours like for example testimony about looting, stealing, Israeli soldiers stealing from inside Palestinian homes. Other testimony about deliberate acts of violence, striking youths, striking people in their own homes, beating them. Also firing rubber bullets, transgressing the limits that are supposed to be imposed on the firing of those bullets and undoing the packaging so they do more damage. All of these aren’t just about the occupation. They suggest to me an army that has within it significant numbers of soldiers who want to do bad things.”

Gvaryahu: “I mean you could choose to look at it like that.  I think it’s more complex.”

Sackur: “But isn’t it important to be honest that there are Israeli soldiers, if this testimony is true – many say it’s not – but if it’s true there are people in the IDF doing very bad things.”

Those four words – “many say it’s not” – were Sackur’s only allusion throughout the whole programme to the fact that many of the frequently anonymous testimonies published by ‘Breaking the Silence’, including Gvaryahu’s own, have been disputed by fellow soldiers and disproven by investigative journalists. Sackur also failed to inform audiences that the IDF Military Attorney General examines all allegations of improper conduct by soldiers and conducts a criminal investigation where necessary – but that ‘Breaking the Silence’ refuses to cooperate with such investigations.

Similarly, Sackur’s sole vague allusion to Palestinian terrorism throughout the whole programme came in the following question:

Sackur: “Can you afford the luxury of this delicate conscience of yours when there is – whatever you say – there is a struggle; a struggle which involves violence on both sides between Israel and the Palestinians?”

When – in response to a question from Sackur about “threats” – Gvaryahu cited “an individual who was caught with about 20 gallons of gasoline trying to burn down our offices”, Sackur did not clarify to BBC audiences that the individual concerned was not in fact “caught trying to burn down” the ‘Breaking the Silence’ office but was indicted for intent to commit arson.

Despite providing a platform for Gvaryahu’s claim of a “smear campaign led from the highest echelons of the Israeli government” against his organisation, significantly, at no point in this interview did Sackur bother to ask Gvaryahu about the highly relevant topic of the considerable amounts of foreign funding accepted by ‘Breaking the Silence’ or the agenda behind that funding.

There is of course nothing remotely novel about the BBC providing a friendly platform for the amplification of politically motivated messaging from ‘Breaking the Silence’ – it has been doing so at least since 2009. It is however interesting to see once again that despite the existence of BBC editorial guidelines stating that “minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus”, the corporation’s generous promotion of this political NGO – that was accurately classified in this interview by Stephen Sackur as “a fringe” and “an extreme” which influences “only a very tiny minority” – continues.

No less remarkable was Stephen Sackur’s own departure from editorial guidelines stating that “our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters” in his lengthy promotion of the notion of “soldiers who want to do bad things” and his repeated amateur diagnosis of Israel’s moral health.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ presenter vilifies Israeli soldiers – part one

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

 

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ presenter vilifies Israeli soldiers – part one

In the past we have documented several cases in which the BBC has amplified the messaging of what it labels an “Israeli activist group” or a “human rights” group but failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the agenda and ideology that lies behind the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

What the BBC World Service edited out of a ‘Boston Calling’ report

BBC News portrays political NGOs as ‘human rights activists’

Last July, during a ‘Hardtalk‘ interview with Israel’s former minister of defence, BBC presenter Stephen Sackur used allegations made by that political NGO to advance the notion of moral failures in Israeli society.

“I’m trying to dig to something deeper about the morals, the values, the cohesion of an Israeli society that has always prided itself on having the very best of humane values. And I’m putting it to you, if you listen to Israeli soldiers who have served the occupation like Yehuda Shaul of ‘Breaking the Silence’ – a group that is now opposed to the occupation of former IDF soldiers – he says this is the moral consequence of prolonged occupation of the Palestinian people; that is, the corruption of young Israelis who serve that occupation.”

Sackur returned to that theme in another ‘Hardtalk’ interview which was aired on the BBC World News TV channel on February 15th (available in the UK here) as well as on BBC World Service radio on February 16th. The programme was also made available as a podcast.

“The Israeli Defence Force sees itself as an institution that binds the nation together. Most young Israelis serve in its ranks after leaving school. It claims to combine defence of the state with a sense of moral purpose. Avner Gvaryahu served in the IDF but he sees an institution in denial – corroded and corrupted by the military occupation of Palestinian communities over a fifty year span. Avner Gvaryahu and like-minded soldiers turned dissidents say they are breaking the silence. Are they patriots or traitors?”

In his introduction, Stephen Sackur told audiences that Israelis ‘enroll’ for military service rather than being conscripted. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Sackur: “My guest today is a young man whose experiences as a soldier changed his life in ways that have severely tested his ties to family, community and nation. Avner Gvaryahu was brought up in a suburb of Tel Aviv; an ordinary Israeli in an Orthodox household who, like pretty much all young Israelis, enrolled for military service after leaving school. He served as a sergeant in a unit of paratroopers deployed in the northern West Bank. He was part of Israel’s five decade-long military occupation. What he did and saw on active duty deeply disturbed him. After leaving the army Gvaryahu shared his feelings about the occupation and its corrosive impact on the Israeli army with other former soldiers. They formed a group – ‘Breaking the Silence’ – which gave voice to the troubled consciences of soldiers who recounted stories of harassment, intimidation and violence. It was time, they said, for Israel to confront the corrosive reality of the occupation and end it. The Israeli government reacted with fury. The dissident soldiers have been called traitors, puppets of anti-Israel interests, even aiders and abeters of terrorism. Avner Gvaryahu broke his silence but has it made any difference?”

Sackur’s framing of the story is of course patently obvious in that introduction – and it continued with more promotion of Sackur’s basic – but unquestioned – premise of Israeli wrongdoing.

Sackur: “I think it’s fair to say the IDF is probably the most sacrosanct institution in all of Israel. Was it hard for you to cross a line, to break the taboo and speak out against what the IDF is doing?”

Sackur: “Are you saying that the very act of going into the house of an innocent Palestinian family to you was, and is, totally unacceptable and corrosive and doing serious damage to the sort of moral values of Israel’s army and indeed the nation-state? Or are you saying that that’s just the tip of an iceberg of behavior, much of which is worse than that?

After Gvaryahu had cited “the flying checkpoint or entering houses for searching or checkpoints or making our presence felt” as additional examples of what he described as “instilling fear into the Palestinian population”, Sackur moved from asking questions to making pronunciations.

Sackur: “It’s the imposition of a basic power dynamic, the message being we are in control, we’re in charge of you and your lives and we, in essence, can do what we want.”

While mirroring Gvaryahu’s messaging – with which he clearly sympathises – Sackur made no effort to introduce audiences to the history and context of ‘the occupation’. Neither did he bother to remind them – or his guest – of the pertinent fact that when Israel withdrew all its forces and civilians from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Palestinian terrorism did not come to an end.

Sackur: “… what you’re outlining as your critique of what is happening in Israel and that the IDF, as the agent of occupation, is doing, is essentially political. I mean you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, that the very act and policy of occupation is corroding Israel’s values and must end. But the truth is time after time the Israeli public votes in elections for parties which sustain and believe in that occupation.”

Gvaryahu: “That’s true but when you look at this democracy, it’s basically a democracy that is controlling and ruling millions of people that don’t have a right or a say in that democracy. So between the river and the sea we have about 13 million people where half of them do not go and elect anyone. So a big part of our mission – and that’s where we spend as ‘Breaking the Silence’ the vast majority of our energy and our time – is speaking to our fellow citizens all across Israel.”

Sackur made no effort to challenge that latter claim from Gvaryahu by asking him why his organisation has been conducting foreign speaking tours since shortly after its founding or why 40% of its activities in Israel are with non-Israelis.

Sackur also did not bother to point out to BBC audiences that Gvaryahu’s claim that Palestinians “do not go and elect anyone” is misleading because the vast majority of them have lived under Palestinian Authority or Hamas rule for over two decades and have the right to vote in PA elections which have nothing to do with Israel at all. He did, however, go on to promote at length his own ideas about Israeli soldiers – as we shall see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

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

The February 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also in the programme; the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court”

Presenter Julian Marshall also used the terms ‘slapped’ and ‘lunged’ in his introduction to the item (from 14:04 here).

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

Marshall: “Now, so the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court. Ahed Tamimi, aged 17, is charged with 12 offences including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence. If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

Marshall then went on to introduce a recording of a statement made by Tamimi’s lawyer – who has been featured in two previous BBC reports by Yolande Knell.

Marshall: “The case of Ahed Tamimi is being heard behind closed doors on the judge’s orders as the 17 year-old is being tried as a minor. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Miss Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky criticised the decision to close the trial to the public.”

Lasky: “The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed. They understand that people outside of the military court are interested in Ahed’s case. They understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn’t be happening. So the way to keep it out of everybody’s eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearings.”

A report by the Times of Israel provides some background to the statement from Lasky which the BBC chose to promote.

“Lasky popped out of the courtroom to provide a quick statement to reporters — in English, of course — expressing her outrage over the ruling.

The attorney explained that upon returning inside chambers, she would argue that because Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people is illegal, the military court hearing Tamimi’s case was illegitimate as well.

The line of defense appeared to establish an uphill battle for Lasky in that it required the judge to denounce his own authority in order to rule in Tamimi’s favor.

But her audience outside the caravan, didn’t seem concerned as they nodded their heads in approval of the defense.”

Marshall next introduced the BBC’s Rome correspondent who appears, once again, to have been temporarily reassigned to the Middle East.

Marshall: “Well let’s speak now to the BBC’s James Reynolds live in Jerusalem and James, remind us of the facts of this case – those, that is, that are not disputed.”

Reynolds: “Right, let’s take you back to December tw…last year in her West Bank village – the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. There are around 600 people live there. They often periodically every Friday have clashes with Israeli soldiers and at one point on the 15th of December, mobile phone footage shows her confronting and speaking to two Israeli soldiers on the outskirts of the driveway of her family home. And the mobile phone footage – which I’m sure a lot of people have seen – shows her arguing. It shows her first trying to hit one soldier – I think on the arm – and then she slaps him on the face. He doesn’t react. She then moves towards the second soldier and is eventually separated from them. Israel says that that mobile phone footage is enough evidence – it is enough proof of assault – to put her on trial along with a number of other incidents. But Palestinians of course see it very differently.”

Given that Reynolds was asked to state “the facts of this case”, it is of course remarkable that he failed to mention that the Friday “clashes” in Nabi Saleh are organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father and extended family or that the mobile phone footage he partially describes was filmed by her mother Nariman and live-streamed on Facebook. All the more significant is the fact that he 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.

“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”

Those highly relevant omissions facilitated subsequent trivialisation of the charges against Ahed Tamimi by both Marshall and Reynolds.

Marshall: “It seems – well ehm…I suppose it depends on your perspective – but a relatively minor offence to be tried in front of a military court.”

Reynolds: “Yes and it does sound incredibly surprising when you think of an army – a hugely powerful army – why it would be spending its time prosecuting what on any judgement is a relatively minor misdemeanour. “

In addition to incitement, the charges against Ahed Tamimi include two counts of aggravated assault of a soldier, two counts of stone-throwing, two counts of threatening a soldier and four counts of obstructing a soldier in execution of his duty. In the UK, the charge of obstructing or assaulting a police officer would not be considered “a relatively minor misdemeanour” – i.e. a non-indictable offence – as the BBC well knows.

Displaying his ‘expertise’ by twice inaccurately describing the IDF as “a volunteer army”, Reynolds then went on to bizarrely suggest that the charges against Ahed Tamimi are steered by public mood rather than by the law and to further trivialise her actions.

Reynolds: “But Israelis say it’s about more than that. It is about soldiers. The key thing from Israel’s point of view is this: the army is at the heart of the society here. It is a volunteer army – a lot of Israelis can identify themselves with those soldiers. There’s been praise for the fact that they didn’t react and there’s been a thought among some in Israel that you have to stand up for those soldiers, who are clearly identifiable with the rest of the population, and you have to protect them against insultshowever trivial those insults may be. That might be an explanation which is very difficult to understand outside Israel but here, because of the centrality of a volunteer army to society, it is perhaps more understandable.”

Marshall: “And very briefly, James, what kind of sentence could she face if convicted?”

Reynolds: “If convicted of all crimes, essentially she could be looking at around a year in jail if found guilty.”

This is the BBC’s twelfth report (at least) on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months and the third to appear on ‘Newshour’. Only one of those reports – on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – has provided audiences with any sort of information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi.

In other words, this report continues the editorial policy of providing BBC audiences worldwide with a trivialised and one-sided portrayal of the story which resembles activism more than journalism.  

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

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at Newsweek, David Daoud discusses the new Lebanese presidency.

“…the day after Aoun took office, his Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) stressed that Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah is their “partner in victory.” The Party of God virtually imposed Aoun as the country’s next leader by boycotting elections unless Aoun ran unopposed and was guaranteed victory. For two years, Hezbollah held Lebanon’s politics hostage until Hariri, its chief political opponent, caved and endorsed Aoun on October 20, ushering him into the presidency.

Lebanon’s National Pact, the multi-confessional country’s unwritten power-sharing agreement, requires the president to be a Maronite Christian, with a Sunni prime minister, and Shiite speaker of parliament. The 1989 Taif Accords —which ended Lebanon’s civil war— limited the president ’s traditional constitutional powers, but Aoun will still have the capability to continue Lebanon’s national and foreign policy tilt toward Hezbollah. In fact, he has already done much to empower the Shiite group.

In 2006, Aoun signed a Memorandum of Understanding which cemented his party’s alliance with Hezbollah, granting it outside political influence. In it, he recognized the group’s right to retain its arms, in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.”

2) Senior Law Lecturer Lesley Klaff explains “Why all Labour members need to read parliament’s antisemitism report“.Weekend Read

“The committee has clearly grasped something that eluded Chakrabarti. It has realised that in order to investigate allegations of antisemitism, you first need to define what you mean by the term.

The Chakrabarti report refused to provide a definition of antisemitism. It even said there was “no need to pursue an age-old and ultimately fruitless debate about the precise parameters of race hate”. This is incredibly short sighted.”

3) As reported by the Times of Israel and other outlets (not including the BBC), the IDF’s emergency field hospital unit recently gained unprecedented recognition form the World Health Organisation.

“The United Nation’s World Health Organization recognized the Israeli army’s field hospital, which is regularly sent abroad to provide aid at natural disaster sites, as “the number one in the world” in a ceremony last week, classifying it as its first and only “Type 3” field hospital, according to its commander, Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin. […]

In 2013, the United Nation’s WHO created a set of criteria to classify foreign medical teams in sudden onset disasters, on a scale from one to three. Israel is now the only country to receive the top mark. […]

Israeli disaster relief delegations — some of them led by Merin — have been some of the first and largest to arrive at the scenes of natural disasters. Teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

This Type 3 classification ensures that Israeli teams will continue to be the first allowed on the scene of future disasters…”

The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

In mid-October the BBC World News channel aired a documentary by Jane Corbin titled “Israel’s Arab Warriors” and on November 8th, 9th and 10th the same programme was shown on BBC Arabic TV. A written article by Corbin on the same topic (which includes the video) was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 8th under the title “Israel’s Arab soldiers who fight for the Jewish state“. The same article was translated into Arabic and promoted on the same day on the BBC Arabic website.israels-arab-warriors-orig

It is of course good to see the BBC finally getting round to reporting on a topic which has long been off its radar and Jane Corbin is to be commended for enabling BBC audiences to see beyond the standard BBC narrative in her unusually nuanced presentation of Israeli society.

A distinctly less laudable aspect of Corbin’s filmed and written reports is their generous amplification of unqualified and unchallenged propaganda from the inadequately presented Haneen Zoabi.

Less than a minute into the film’s pre-title introduction viewers see Zoabi – unidentified – saying:

“This small, marginalized group that serves in the Israeli army against its people knows they are crossing a patriotic red line.”

At 08:33 Jane Corbin tells viewers that:

“Haneen Zoabi is an MP in the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – but she identifies herself as Palestinian and often clashes with the government.

A similar portrait of Zoabi is presented in the written article:

“Hanin Zoabi is an Israeli Arab MP who identifies herself as Palestinian and is a fierce critic of the state.”zoabi-israels-arab-soldiers-2-with-desc

When Zoabi is presented on screen, the description given is “Hanin Zoabi MK Joint Arab List”. While that description is of course accurate, it tells BBC audiences nothing about the ideology of the Balad party to which Zoabi belongs and the very relevant fact that she and her fellow party members reject the existence of the Jewish State, promote the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and aspire to a bi-national state. The absence of that information – along with relevant details such as Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Hamas-supporting violent flotilla and her glorification of terrorism – of course prevents BBC audiences from being able to put her “particular viewpoint” into its appropriate context.

Following that inadequate introduction from Corbin, viewers hear Zoabi say:

“Should we serve in an army that besieges our people in Gaza, occupies our people in the West Bank? A State which expelled my people and built its State on the ruins. 678 cities and villages were demolished by the State of Israel. There’s a conflict with a state that defines itself as a Jewish State; a state that grants privileges to its Jewish over its Palestinian citizens. We just can’t accept the situation.”

The BBC’s commitment to accurate and impartial broadcasting should of course have meant that if it was deemed necessary to include those allegations from Zoabi in the film, then Corbin should have clarified – inter alia – that Gaza is not ‘besieged’, that the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and that most of Palestinians who left what is today Israel in 1948 were not “expelled”. Corbin, however, failed to add any clarifying comments.corbin-art-in-arabic

At 15:28 Corbin tells viewers that:

“The Israeli government says Israeli Arabs have equal rights but they often complain that they are second class citizens. Haneen Zoabi – an MP here – accuses Israel of using bribery to get Arabs to join up.”

Zoabi: “Israel is after people who are poor with no work to serve in the army. 52 – 54% of our Palestinian people in Israel are under the poverty line. Only 10% of the Palestinian youth in Israel continue their university study. You are talking about a whole new generation. The government’s policy of creating poverty obliges people to look for the only solution they can.”

Not only does Corbin fail to challenge the falsehood that the Israeli government has a “policy of creating poverty” but she refrains from supplying any context to Zoabi’s propaganda (for example the fact that just 22% of Arab women of working age are employed or the fact that poverty among the ultra-Orthodox population stands at a similar 54.3%) or informing viewers of government investment in efforts to raise the proportion of Arab citizens in higher education.

Three minutes further on, Zoabi is again given an unchallenged platform.

19:19 Corbin: “Haneen Zoabi’s at a protest outside an Israeli hospital where a Palestinian from the West Bank is on hunger strike. He’s being held under Israeli administrative detention without being indicted or tried.”

Zoabi: “There are hundreds of Palestinians in administrative detention. It’s political persecution; part of the Israeli policy to criminalise the lawful Palestinian resistance. We are fighting for equality and our rights against Israeli racism and colonialisation against the people who have rights to this land.”

Once again, there is no comment from Corbin – not even an effort to distance the BBC from the claim that violent terrorism against civilians is ‘lawful resistance’ or an explanation of the fact that the particular hunger striker in administrative detention is associated with the terrorist organisation Hamas – as the BBC is aware.

At 20:26 viewers see Zoabi repeat the statement made in the programme’s introduction:

“This small, marginalized group that serves in the Israeli army against its people knows they are crossing a patriotic red line.”

At 20:37 Zoabi tells viewers that:

“[Father] Naddaf is a person rejected by Palestinian society – even by some Christians. Not only does he not represent anyone, he is being used by Israel. He is a tool in the hands of the Israeli authorities.”corbin-art-eng

The ability of audiences to put those statements into their correct context would of course have been enhanced had Corbin bothered to tell them of Zoabi’s attempts (together with other Balad MKs) to intimidate Father Naddaf. 

At 24:11 Zoabi returns:

“90% of the Arabs who serve in the Israeli army don’t have equality with Israelis. Israel does not need us to protect its security. Israel doesn’t want to treat us according to our national identity but divide us into Bedouins, country people, city people, Muslims, Christians, Druze. Any way to divide us.

At 40:07 Corbin yet again provides a platform for more unchallenged propaganda from Zoabi – this time at a Land Day rally in Sakhnin.

“Knesset member Haneen Zoabi is here to address the rally.”

Zoabi: “Our message is this army is the army of a country which is against us and kills our people in Jerusalem and in Gaza and in the West Bank. We are not going to play a part in killing our people.”

Following an interview with Mohammed Zoabi, audiences once again hear from Haneen Zoabi:

42:33 “Of course I do not represent those who serve in the Israeli army. I do not speak in the name of the person you just mentioned [Mohammed Zoabi]. Just because he’s part of my family doesn’t make me responsible for his actions. Of course I do not represent those who have identity disfiguration. I do not represent those who have no self-esteem, those with a slave mentality. I represent people with dignity who feel they are in their homeland and never left it.”

Haneen Zoabi appears no fewer than nine times in this 47 minute-long film and on none of those occasions does Corbin challenge her falsehoods and propaganda or correct the inaccurate impressions received by viewers. Although at one point in the film (40:39) Corbin does tell viewers that “a recent poll says a majority of the Arab-Israeli community identifies as Israeli in some way”, none of the sixteen other Muslim, Christian or Druze members of the Knesset are interviewed, meaning that BBC audiences are restricted to hearing Zoabi’s extremist views without understanding her place on the political map.

The vast majority of this programme’s viewers around the world will of course not be aware of the ideology of Zoabi and her political party and will not be familiar with the phenomenon of publicly funded MPs who advocate the destruction of the state they ostensibly serve. The failure to adequately explain the political motivations behind Zoabi’s propaganda means that not only does this film become a platform for its unchallenged amplification, but that viewers are misled with false and distorted information which overshadows and detracts from a long-overdue presentation of the seriously under-reported topic of co-existence between different ethnic communities in Israel.  

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BBC News amplifies a false story of the ‘dark Israel’ genre

On July 12th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran an article headlined “Israel army names new chief rabbi criticised over rape comments” which opened by informing readers that:Chief Rabbi art

“Israel’s military has nominated a new chief rabbi criticised for remarks he made in the past that seemed to condone the rape of non-Jewish women in war.

In an answer to a religious website in 2002, Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim implied that such an act was permissible.”

The link in that second paragraph directs BBC audiences to the English language version of an article published by Yediot Aharonot in Hebrew on its Ynet website, as well as in print, on the day that this BBC News article appeared.

As the respected media watchdog website ‘The Seventh Eye’ showed on the same day, Yediot Aharonot’s story – including the alleged ‘quotes’ it promotes – is false.

The BBC has enough Hebrew speakers working in its Jerusalem bureau to have been able to determine that amplification of Yediot Aharonot’s false claims is not in line with the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and that is perhaps why the subsequent paragraph read as follows:

“He [Rabbi Karim]  clarified in 2012 that his words had been taken out of context and that rape was forbidden “in any situation”.”

Nevertheless, the next 96 words of the article were devoted to the amplification of vacuous reactions to the non-story which were lifted directly from the linked Ynet article.chief rabbi art on hp

“But his appointment, which requires the defence minister’s approval, was condemned by a top female politician.

Zehava Galon, leader of the Meretz party, described Rabbi Karim as “not suitable to represent Jewish morality in any way whatsoever”.

“His appalling, racist and violent statement makes women fair game,” she added.

The head of the Israeli parliament’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List, said: “Col Karim’s ruling on permitting raping non-Jewish women is similar to the fatwa of a murderous organisation that’s not so far from Israel’s borders.””

That was followed by a response from the IDF.

So what was the point of the BBC’s amplification of this second-hand non-story? Obviously it certainly wasn’t to report news or contribute to audiences’ “understanding of international issues” because the ‘news’ is false and the issue non-existent.

Rather, this is yet another BBC report belonging to the ‘dark Israel’ genre: the succession of stories which – often with little or no regard for accuracy – paint a portrait of a country parting ways with democracy that is rife with racism, sexism, xenophobia, government censorship and more.  

The publication of articles such as this of course does nothing to support the BBC’s claim that its reporting from Israel reporting is “impartial” and professional. 

Which country is absent from the BBC’s list of international aid efforts in the Philippines?

On November 10th a lead team of experts in search & rescue and medicine from the IDF’s Home Front Command left Israel and travelled the 6,000 miles to the typhoon-stricken Philippines in order to assess the needs of the local population.

On the basis of that lead team’s assessments, a delegation set out for the Philippines on the morning of November 13th. In addition to around 100 tons of humanitarian aid and medical supplies, the mission includes 150 team members from the IDF Home Front Command’s Search & Rescue Unit and from the IDF Medical Corps. A field hospital is being set up and live updates are available here and here

IDF mission to Philippines

Among the BBC’s coverage of the disaster appearing on the homepage of its website is an article from November 13th titled “Typhoon Haiyan: UK’s Philippines appeal raises £13m“.

The article includes a side-box headed “Aid From Around the World”, another version of which also appears in this report and in this one. As readers can see for themselves, one country’s contribution – already present on the ground – is absent from that list. 

Aid from around the world

BBC WS programme on women in military combat roles ignores one country

The synopsis of a BBC World Service radio programme titled “Women on the Frontline” which was broadcast on October 22nd 2013 informs audiences that its presenter Emma Barnett:

“…examines which countries in the world do allow women to serve, and contrasts the experiences of these three women to present a picture of life for women on the military front line.” [emphasis added]

Women on the Frontline BBC WS

Whilst the list of countries in which women serve in combat roles as provided by Barnett is extensive and numbers some fourteen states, the only country in which women are conscripted and in which 92% of positions are open to them is excluded from her list.