BBC’s Tom Bateman tells part of a story about a Palestinian house ‘in a cage’

On February 14th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman on its ‘Middle East’ page. Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: The family with its own checkpoint”, the report was apparently filmed a week earlier and its synopsis indicates that it falls under the category of BBC framing of the recent US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal.

“How is President Trump’s plan to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict being received on the ground?

The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman went to visit two homes in the occupied West Bank; starting with a Palestinian family whose house is in a fenced off enclave within an Israeli settlement.

Israel has said it intends to formally annex all settlements in the West Bank based on President Trump’s plan.

But the US proposals are rejected by the Palestinians, who say its vision of a state for them is unacceptable.

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

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

The same report was apparently aired on the BBC News television channel and readers will no doubt note the use of hyperbole in the title used in both versions: “The house ‘in a cage’ surrounded by a settlement”.

Similar rhetoric is used by Bateman himself – “like being in a prison, inside a cage” – and by his Palestinian interviewee – “not left me air to breathe”, “we are living in a prison”, “under siege”, “confiscated my land”.

Bateman tells BBC audiences that:

“Israel declared ownership of the land around the Gharib’s house. The settlement was built and the family home was later fenced off as part of the separation barrier Israel said it built for security.”

In addition to failing to note the second Intifada terror war as the context for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence, Bateman does not bother to clarify that the land on which the ‘settlement’ – Giv’on HaHadasha – was built had been purchased by Jews long before the State of Israel came into being, that it had been the site of a Jordanian army camp after the 1948 Jordanian invasion and subsequent 19-year occupation or that claims by the Gharib family that they owned additional land were shown to be unsupported in several court cases.

Later on in the report Bateman interviews a resident of Giv’on HaHadasha. Pointing at the fence he asks her:

“What do you think when you see a Palestinian home behind all this?”

Ilanit Gohar replies: “He chose this, he chose this type of living” but BBC audiences would be incapable of understanding her reply because Bateman did not bother to inform them that the Gharib family refused an offer of compensation for relocation prior to the construction of the anti-terrorist fence in that area in 2008 and that their claims were rejected by the Supreme Court

The compromise reached in that court case was that the fence would be built around the Gharib house (which had been constructed, according to court documents, without building permits) and that the family would have a key to the gate shown in the film. Nevertheless, BBC audiences were told by Sa’adat Gharib that “we live in a prison where they [Israeli forces] can lock the gate [when they like]”.

The aim of Bateman’s report is amply apparent in his closing remarks at 05:26:

Bateman: “What strikes me, you know, when you look at this [fence] with the settlement on the other side, most of the rest of the world has always said, building them by Israel is illegal. But what has changed in the Trump plan is he says OK, they become a formal part of the State of Israel. And as soon as you say that, you then say well these fences and walls that have been built by the Israelis, they become the new borders.”

The story that Bateman has chosen to highlight in this report is of course very much an exception. But by using that atypical example and failing to provide all the relevant background information, Bateman is able to further promote the BBC’s one-sided framing of the US Administration’s proposals to the corporation’s audiences.

Perusal of some of the comments under Bateman’s video shows just how far removed the report is from meeting the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial” reporting which will “build people’s understanding”. 

More tendentious BBC reporting on UNHRC blacklist

Last week we looked at the BBC News website’s simplistic reporting of the publication of a blacklist of companies by the UN Human Rights Council.

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

Among the issues arising from that BBC report was the fact that at no point were readers informed that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories, as explained in this article by Orde Kittire:

“The blacklist also lacks a basis in international law. Indeed, international law does not prohibit business in disputed territories. Nor is doing such business inconsistent with the principles of corporate social responsibility (which are non-binding). That is the official view of the United Nations, expressed in its Global Compact document titled “Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: A Resource for Companies and Investors.”

The same serious omission was found in a news bulletin aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on February 12th (from 18:04 here).

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

Newsreader: “The UN Human Rights Council has released a list of more then a hundred companies it believes are operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Publication of the names is being seen as the first substantial step against settlements by the international community in years. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Listeners were not told by whom the UNHRC’s publication “is being seen” in that manner or what is the political agenda of organisations or individuals supposedly expressing such a view and hence were not able to judge that glib statement for themselves.

Bateman: “The list names 112 firms considered to help the development of Israeli settlements. The UN looked at companies who supplied building or surveillance equipment as well as banking, transport and travel services. Most of the firms named by the Human Rights Council are Israeli but others are large international companies including Airbnb, Booking.com and Motorola Solutions. The list also names the British construction company JCB and the travel booking firm Opodo. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. Its government has been deeply concerned about the release of the so-called blacklist, fearing it would be used to justify boycotts of its private sector. Tonight it called the publication a shameful surrender to those who want to hurt Israel, while the Palestinian Authority said it was a good day for peace and a rules-based order.”

Once again we see that BBC audiences were told nothing about the dubious composition and long-standing anti-Israel bias of the UNHRC or the fact that it has not complied similar lists of companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world. Likewise listeners were not informed of the role played by BDS supporting political NGOs in the compilation of the blacklist.

Most notably, however, while Tom Bateman specifically named several companies in his report – including two British ones – he did not bother to clarify that there is nothing illegal about their business activities before he immediately went on to recite the BBC’s standard partisan mantra concerning ‘international law’.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

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BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

On the evening of February 12th the BBC News website published a report headlined “UN lists 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements” which, for reasons unknown, it chose to tag “Trump peace plan”.

The main image illustrating the report appears to show an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem near the anti-terrorist fence but is captioned “The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this”.

That partial but standard BBC mantra is of course repeated in the body of the article.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

The report promotes a version of a partisan map produced by the political NGOB’tselem’ which has appeared in countless previous BBC News website reports. The map marks the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City as a “settlement” and fails to inform audiences that what are described as areas under “Palestinian civil control” and areas under “Israeli military and civil control” are in fact Areas A and B and Area C as designated under the Oslo Accords, to which the PLO was party.

Readers are told that:

“The UN human rights office has issued a long-awaited report on companies linked to Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in activities related to settlements.

They include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions.”

The BBC does not clarify that the UNHRC’s blacklist also includes the Rami Levy supermarket chain (which is known as a model of co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians) and numerous companies providing services such as transport, water and telecommunications to both Israelis and Palestinians.  

Later on readers are told that:

“In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to produce a database of companies involved in specific activities relating to settlements. […]

Following what it said was a thorough review and assessment of all information available, the OHCHR presented a report on Wednesday identifying 112 business entities that it said, there were reasonable grounds to conclude, had been involved in one or more of those activities.”

BBC audiences are not informed that members of the UNHRC at the time that the resolution (3136) requesting the compilation of that database was passed included human rights ‘beacons’ such as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, Qatar and Venezuela. Neither were they given any background information concerning the UNHRC’s infamous and long-standing bias against Israel.

The BBC’s report avoids all mention of the BDS supporting NGOs involved in the compilation of the blacklist. NGO Monitor notes that:

“The list was based on input from BDS groups, including Human Rights Watch. Many of the groups centrally involved receive significant funding from the EU and European governments. […]

Given that 85 of the 112 companies included on the blacklist are also found in the BDS NGO Who Profits’ database, and based on documentation seen by NGO Monitor,  it is clear that the UN relied on this and other BDS actors as its sources of information.”

In light of that serious omission, the BBC’s decision to include part of a quote from Human Rights Watch in its report is particularly notable.

“Human Rights Watch said the list “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.””

Although the BBC’s report claims that “There were no immediate comments from the companies named on the list”, one such comment is available here.

The BBC report amplifies comments made by a PA official:

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said: “The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law.”

He also called on the Human Rights Council member states to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements”.”

However at no point in the article did the BBC bother to inform readers in its own words that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories.

Neither does the report make any effort to inform audiences of the fact that the UNHRC has taken no such action against companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world.  

Given the BBC’s dismal record on informing audiences on the topic of UNHRC bias against Israel, its long-existing editorial policy of promoting a specific politically motivated narrative concerning ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and its promotion of the BDS campaign agenda, the serious omissions in this report come as no surprise whatsoever.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to obstruct audience understanding of UN bias

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The January 28th edition of BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ included a report by the programme’s diplomatic editor Mark Urban on the topic of the peace plan launched by the US administration earlier in the day.

The report featured contributions from two interviewees, the first of whom was brought in immediately after viewers had seen images of Tel Aviv and had been told that “viewed from Israel, it’s certainly a significant intervention”, despite the fact that the interviewee is a British citizen based in London.

The second interviewee, brought in to give the Palestinian view, is a Canadian citizen of Palestinian heritage. Diana Buttu was presented as “Former legal adviser, Palestinian negotiating team”. That “negotiating team” is of course part of the PLO but that point was not clarified to viewers.

Buttu’s first contribution was as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Buttu: “If you look at the settlements, he’s decided that all of the settlements will be allowed to stay. When it comes to borders…despite the fact that settlements are illegal…when it comes to borders, he hasn’t recognised the 1967 borders and instead is going to allow Israel to take large swathes of Palestinian land and annex…ahm…annex the Jordan Valley. When it comes to refugees, completely off the table and when it comes to Jerusalem it’s only a question of access and not even of the ability to have Jerusalem as our capital or even as a shared capital.”

The fact that viewers saw no effort made to challenge that partial portrayal of ‘settlements’ as ‘illegal’ is perhaps unsurprising – though not acceptable – given that the BBC itself regularly promotes the same partial mantra. Audiences likewise saw no challenge to the concept of “Palestinian land” even though the BBC’s style guide points out that “Critics of the phrase say it is not strictly accurate because, for example, the West Bank was captured from Jordan in 1967”. 

The failure to challenge the false notion of “the 1967 borders” – actually cease fire lines drawn up under the 1949 Armistice Agreement which were specifically defined as not being borders – breaches the same BBC Academy style guide which states:

“The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.”

Buttu’s second contribution to Urban’s report purportedly explaining the US peace plan to BBC audiences was as follows:

Buttu: “Let’s be clear; this isn’t a deal. This is a demand that Palestinians submit to Israeli dictates and that’s it. And they’ve tried this in the past. It’s failed in the past. And it should fail because we as Palestinians shouldn’t be forced to live less than human beings. We shouldn’t be forced to be less than equals. We should be treated as equals and the world should be now putting sanctions on Israel to make sure that Israel’s not allowed to be above the law and that we’re no longer treated as though we’re beneath the law.”

Anyone familiar with Diana Buttu and her record of promoting falsehoods to the media would not be surprised in the least by her hyperbole and distortions. Most BBC viewers, however, have probably never heard of her and so it was Newsnight’s responsibility to ensure that falsehoods such as the notion of “1967 borders” were adequately challenged so as to avoid misleading viewers.

As we see, Newsnight fell short of that responsibility, just as it failed to clarify why – as stated by Urban – “there was no Palestinian partner in the room”.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newsday’s one-sided ‘peace process’ reporting – part one

BBC Complaints contradicts BBC News website article

Last month we noted that in a report by Aleem Maqbool which was aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ on November 18th listeners were told that the announcement made by the US Secretary of State concerning the US administration’s change of position regarding Israeli communities in areas that came under Israeli control during the Six Day War “breaks four decades of State Department policy”. [emphasis added]

Listeners also heard Maqbool say that:

“…the timing has surprised some people because, you know, many Palestinians will feel – even over those four decades during which the United States did consider the building of settlements inconsistent with international law, it never really stopped those settlements expanding at a rapid rate to the point now where some of them are as big as cities.”

And:

“One of them in particular – Ma’ale Adumim – cuts the West Bank in half.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those two inaccurate claims which included a link to a BBC News website report from the same day in which it was explained that:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

On December 2nd we received a response telling us that BBC Complaints had “referred your complaint to the relevant people and regret that it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On December 21st BBC Complaints informed us that “we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

On December 30th we received the following reply:

“Thank you for contacting us The World Tonight on November 18. Firstly, we apologise for the delay in replying here – it’s taken longer than normal and we’re sorry for the undue delay. Your concerns about accuracy and impartiality were raised at the time and the programme team respond here as follows:

‘We stand by the assertion that President Trump’s policy is a significant change of a decades-long approach by the State Department to the issue of the legality of settlements in the West Bank.

Successive US administrations have largely avoided the expression of a public opinion on the issue of legality, although in 1980 the US voted for UN Security Council resolution 465 and in 2016 the US did not veto a UN resolution that declared Israeli settlements had “no legal validity and constitute[s] a flagrant violation under international law”.

With regards to Ma’ele [sic] Adumim and the settlements around Jerusalem: it is clear that their expansion has made a significant change to the 1949 armistice line, significantly reducing the width of the remaining West Bank.’”

UN SC resolution 465 dates from the time of the Carter presidency and the 2016 resolution (2334) from the end of the Obama administration. In other words, the BBC has chosen to ignore the interim thirty-six years during which – according to the BBC itself – “the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations”.

Obviously Israeli construction in Ma’ale Adumim or other locations has not “made a significant change to the 1949 armistice line” at all. That line remains as it was when drawn and is specifically defined in that agreement as being “agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

However Aleem Maqbool did not claim that construction in Ma’ale Adumim had had the effect of “significantly reducing the width of the remaining West Bank” – he claimed that it “cuts the West Bank in half”. That statement of course remains inaccurate, as does the claim that the US Secretary of State’s announcement “breaks four decades of State Department policy”.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

 

Superficial and one-sided BBC reporting on ICC statement

A report headlined “ICC wants to open ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the afternoon of December 20th.

Readers were told that:

“The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she wants to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

Fatou Bensouda said “war crimes” had been or were being committed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and asked for a ruling on the court’s territorial jurisdiction.”

And – linking to the statement put out on the same day by the ICC:

“In her ruling, Ms Bensouda said a preliminary examination had gathered enough information to meet all criteria to open an investigation, and that she was “satisfied that there [was] a reasonable basis to proceed” with an inquiry.

“[T]here are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice,” she said, adding that she had filed a request with judges to rule on what territory a future inquiry would cover because of the contested legal and factual issues of the territories.”

No further explanation was provided concerning those “contested legal and factual issues” which are the background to that request for “a jurisdictional ruling” and so readers would be ill equipped to understand the context to the Israeli reactions quoted in the report.

“Israel said the ICC move was baseless.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ICC, of which Israel is not a member, had “no jurisdiction in this case”, and that the decision had turned the Hague-based court into a “political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel”. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. […]

Mr Netanyahu described the announcement as an “outrageous decision”, saying: “The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state.”

Earlier, Israel’s attorney general said the ICC had no jurisdiction in the West Bank or Gaza. Israel also considers East Jerusalem, which it regards as its sovereign territory, as outside the court’s mandate.”

The BBC did not bother to provide readers with a link to the statement issued on the same day by the Attorney General’s office which concludes:

“…the necessary precondition to the Court’s jurisdiction under Article 12(2) of the Rome Statute, which requires there to be a sovereign State that has delegated to the Court criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals, cannot be met by virtue of the simple fact that no sovereign Palestinian State is in existence. The events surrounding the purely technical act of the purported accession of “Palestine” to the Rome Statute, or the Palestinian purported Article 12(3) declaration, neither alter this conclusion nor substitute for the substantive inquiry required for the establishment of the Court’s jurisdiction. Moreover, even if a conclusion is erroneously reached that a sovereign Palestinian State exists, the scope of the territory concerned is indeterminate and is clearly not for an international criminal court to define; and if the Rome Statute is misinterpreted to allow for non-sovereign entities to confer jurisdiction upon the Court, the latter would still lack jurisdiction over Area C and Jerusalem as well as Israeli nationals.”

Readers of the original version of the BBC’s report were told that:

“Ms Bensouda did not specify the perpetrators of the alleged crimes but it is understood that in her preliminary inquiries she has been focused on issues like Israel’s building of settlements and its military operations in Gaza, BBC Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.”

That section was later amended to read: [emphasis added]

“Ms Bensouda did not specify the perpetrators of the alleged crimes but, if she proceeds with her investigation, charges might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians, BBC Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.

It is understood that she focused her preliminary inquiries, in a case the Palestinians brought under the State of Palestine, on issues like Israel’s building of settlements and its military operations in Gaza, our correspondent adds.”

The BBC did not clarify to readers that the relevant document published by the ICC also states (section 94) that:

“…there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Hamas and Palestinian armed groups (“PAGs”) committed the war crimes of: intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects (articles 8(2)(b)(i)-(ii), or 8(2)(e)(i)); using protected persons as shields (article 8(2)(b)(xxiii)); wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of fair and regular trial (articles 8(2)(a)(vi) or 8(2)(c)(iv)) and wilful killing (articles 8(2)(a)(i), or 8(2)(c)(i)); and torture or inhuman treatment (article 8(2)(a)(ii), or 8(2)(c)(i)) and/or outrages upon personal dignity (articles 8(2)(b)(xxi), or 8(2)(c)(ii)).”

Quoting casualty figures that the BBC has never bothered to independently verify, the report informed readers that:

“The ICC has been examining what they say are war crimes committed by Israel since June 2014, one month before a war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. In the fighting, 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed while 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.”

Despite having previously acknowledged in 2015 that “the date chosen by the Palestinians as the starting point for the ICC to investigate requires explanation as it is clearly not arbitrary”, this report makes no effort to inform audiences why the ‘start date’ of June 13th 2014 – which deliberately excludes the abductions and murders of three Israeli civilians by members of a Hamas terror cell – was selected by the Palestinians.

The BBC’s report promotes reactions from the Palestinian Authority and a political NGO also engaged in lawfare against Israel.

“In a statement, the Palestinian Authority said: “Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination.”

Reacting to the ICC decision, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said: “Israel’s legal acrobatics in an attempt to whitewash its crimes must not be allowed to stop international legal efforts to, at long last, hold it to account.””

It closes with promotion of the BBC’s standard but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

“There are some 140 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most of the international community consider illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, and last month the US reversed its position and declared it no longer considered the settlements invalid.”

At the bottom of the article readers are told that they “may also find interesting” an embedded video dating from August 2019 which features as one of its main interviewees the director of another political NGO – Addameer – which is linked to a Palestinian terrorist organisation.

Although the BBC acknowledged years ago that the Palestinian decision to join the ICC and pursue this suit is part of what it has described as “a new strategy to put pressure on Israel“, that information is completely absent from this latest report. 

Related Articles:

Why isn’t the BBC telling its audiences all about the PA’s ‘lawfare’ strategy?

Superficial BBC News report on PA application to join ICC

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ flouts corporation’s guidance on use of term Palestine

BBC World Service or Palestinian Authority radio station?

On the BBC News ICC Q&A

The part of the ICC preliminary investigation story the BBC decided not to tell

BBC amends ICC Q&A following reader complaint

 

 

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

On the afternoon of November 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned”.

With not much having happened since the BBC published its previous article on that story twenty days earlier (except for the Supreme Court’s rejection last week of another petition from HRW), it came as no surprise to see that a significant proportion of this latest report was identical to the earlier one – including the links to additional reading.

As was noted here the last time those links were promoted: 

“The first of those items promotes the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The second is remarkable for its lack of fact checking and the third (from 2015) uncritically amplifies falsehoods promoted by a professional BDS campaigner, including about the campaign’s origins.”

This latest report yet again made no effort to give BBC audiences an accurate picture of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the corporation’s own words.

“Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism – something the movement denies.”

It did however once again uncritically amplify HRW’s talking points concerning the case.

“HRW rejected the Israeli government’s portrayal of Mr Shakir, saying he neither supported nor opposed BDS.

It stressed that as its representative he had called on companies to stop working in or with Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and had not called for a consumer boycott of those companies.”

Remarkably, no effort was made to inform readers of the court findings which refute those talking points.  

Readers of course found the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.

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

Twenty-one percent of the report’s word count was devoted to uncritical amplification of the latest statements from the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’.

“Human Rights Watch has accused the Israeli authorities of an “intensifying assault on human rights” following the deportation of one of its activists. […]

“Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, who accompanied Mr Shakir as he flew out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Monday.

“This decision shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. A government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure.””

An additional paragraph was given over to amplification of similar comments from another political NGO which engages in lawfare against Israel, ‘B’tselem’ and yet another paragraph (also seen in the previous report) told readers that:

“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal against the deportation order at the Supreme Court, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on the Israeli authorities not to deport him.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that among those expressing support for Omar Shakir and ‘Human Rights Watch’ was Hamas.

While the caption to the main image illustrating the article told BBC audiences that “Omar Shakir vowed to continue investigating and reporting human rights abuses”, both a Tweet from Shakir embedded into the article and a Tweet from the head of HRW make it very clear that the NGO’s interest in human rights is far from universal.

This is the third BBC News website report on this topic (see earlier ones here and here) and all three have extensively and unquestioningly amplified the talking points of HRW and other political NGOs while failing to inform BBC audiences of the obviously relevant issue of the aims of the BDS campaign.

Clearly the BBC has no interest whatsoever in providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story and its wider related background but that editorial policy is more comprehensible when one appreciates that while for years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel, that organisation’s political agenda and funding has never been adequately clarified to audiences as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.   

Related Articles:

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents the 4th Geneva Convention

The role of the BBC’s Middle East editor is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent”.

Hence, when Jeremy Bowen appeared on two BBC radio stations on November 19th to provide answers to questions concerning “the legal status of […] settlements” following a statement made the previous day by the US Secretary of State, BBC licence fee payers no doubt expected to hear accurate, impartial and comprehensive information which would enhance their understanding of that undoubtedly “complex story”. 

The November 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ included an item (from 22:40 here) introduced by presenter Evan Davis as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Davis: “Last night the US made a dramatic shift in its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would no longer view them as inconsistent with international law. Most of the rest of the world considers settlements on Palestinian territory as illegal. Jeremy Bowen’s our Middle East editor. Jeremy: is it illegal? Is it a fact that it’s illegal? Does it become legal if America says we don’t consider it illegal? Where are we on what the legal status of those settlements are [sic]?”

Bowen: “Israel has always argued on legal grounds that it’s not formally occupied territory because they say that the West Bank and other occupied territories were not part of any country before Israel occupied them in 1967. In fact the land had been annexed by Jordan but that wasn’t recognised by that many states. Ah…the rest of the world pretty much – including the US up to last night – said that’s the wrong interpretation and under international humanitarian law – under the Geneva Conventions – states who capture by war territory are not allowed to move their own people onto that territory and to settle them there permanently, which is what effectively is done in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. So that’s the interpretation that Britain certainly clings to and the European Union, which put out a very strong statement along those lines today.”

Later the same day Bowen appeared on the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) and was similarly asked by presenter Tim Franks to explain the legal issues.

Franks: “…some people said that these settlements…well, international consensus seemed to be that these settlements were against international law. What was the basis for that?”

Bowen: “International humanitarian law – the Geneva Conventions – state quite clearly that if a belligerent country in a war seizes land and occupies it, it is not permitted to move its own people into that land and settle them there permanently. That is not allowed under international law. So that is why most of the world – including the US until last night – said that was their position. Now the Israelis have had a different position because the Israeli argument has been that conventions don’t apply in the same way because the West Bank till Israel captured it in 1967 was territory that had been annexed by Jordan and that annexation had not been widely internationally recognised, therefore you can’t call the land occupied.”

As we see, in both those items Jeremy Bowen claimed that the Geneva Conventions do not permit an occupying power “to move” its own people onto occupied territory. That, however, is not what Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention says.

None of the Israeli civilians living in Judea & Samaria were ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ there – or for that matter ‘moved’ by the Israeli government. 

Bowen’s portrayal of Israel as a “belligerent country” whitewashes the fact that it was Jordan which attacked Israel on June 5th 1967, even after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had sent a message to King Hussein saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities.

Bowen also whitewashed the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, referring only to the subsequent ‘annexation’ in 1950 which he described as not being “recognised by that many states” and “not…widely internationally recognised”. That portrayal obviously does not adequately reflect the fact that Jordan’s annexation of Judea & Samaria was recognised only by the United Kingdom, Pakistan and – according to some sources – Iraq. The UK refrained however from recognising Jordan’s annexation of parts of Jerusalem.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich raises an interesting point concerning that issue which was predictably ignored by Bowen.

“During the War of Independence, Jordan and Egypt conquered territories from Israel illegally, and it was almost universally agreed that neither Jordan nor Egypt had any legitimate claim of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria or Gaza. […]

Today, the prevalent approach is that even though the land did not belong to Jordan, it was “Jordanian enough,” and therefore the laws of occupation and the Geneva Convention apply to it. This is nonsense, because even if we assumed this was correct, the Geneva Convention no longer applies when there is a peace treaty, and there has been a peace treaty with Jordan since 1994. It has to be either one or the other: Either it belonged to Israel all the time and Israel liberated its own territory in 1967, and you can’t occupy your own territory. Alternatively, it was “Jordanian enough” in 1967 for the laws of occupation to apply. In that case, the peace treaty with Jordan nullified the Geneva Convention.” 

Another significant omission by the BBC Middle East editor is of course the status of that territory prior to that Jordanian invasion and occupation under the Mandate for Palestine which emerged following World War I. As Amb. Alan Baker explains:

“…the Principal Allied Powers finalized the territorial dispositions regarding the Jewish people in respect to Palestine and the Arabs in respect to Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, and Lebanon. 

The San Remo Declaration stated inter alia that:

“The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …”

This was incorporated into Article 95 of the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres of Aug. 10, 1920, and subsequently in the Preamble and Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.”

And so as we see, the man responsible for providing the BBC’s funding public with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” failed to meet his remit and instead touted a superficial and simplistic portrayal which included a misrepresentation of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.  

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

As we saw in two previous posts, the BBC’s domestic radio audiences were repeatedly – but inaccurately – told that a statement made last week by the US Secretary of State changed a “four-decades-old position”.

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

As CAMERA explained:

“Pompeo declared that his administration was reversing the position taken in the last days of the Obama administration.  On December 28, 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry declared his re-adoption of the position taken by the Carter administration 38 years earlier of Israeli settlements as “inconsistent with international law.” […]

…this was not a “major reversal” of policy: Pompeo was not announcing a new campaign to promote settlement building. He was presenting the administration’s legal opinion.

Nor was the 1978 legal opinion of Herbert J. Hansell, the State Department’s legal advisor at the time, “longstanding.” It was reversed by President Reagan less than three years after it was adopted by the Carter administration. 

Pompeo was merely reversing a 3-year-old position by the Obama administration that re-adopted the old Hansell opinion.  Ignoring nearly 38 years of history in between, the journalists falsely suggest that the Hansell opinion was held unwaveringly throughout four decades.”   

Articles which appeared on the BBC News website demonstrated that the BBC is fully aware of that history but nevertheless, listeners to BBC Radio 4 were misled with inaccurate information. Unfortunately for the BBC’s international radio audiences, the same erroneous claim was also promoted on BBC World Service radio.

On November 19th three consecutive editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ – presented by Lawrence Pollard – promoted that ‘forty years’ myth. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edition 1 – from 06:09 here:

Pollard: “Now let’s talk […] about another American policy switch in the Middle East. For forty years Israeli settlements in the occupied territories which were captured in the war of 1967 have been seen as illegal by most world opinion. Now, after an announcement from Mike Pompeo the US Secretary of State, the US no longer regards them as – the phrase is – inconsistent with international law.”

Edition 2 – from 06:23 here:

Pollard: “We’re going to talk about another major U-turn in American policy in the Middle East. The Trump administration says they don’t consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law. I should say any more because they have done for the past forty years.”

Edition 3 – from 00:46 here:

Pollard: “Palestinians have expressed outrage after the United States said it no longer believes that Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories are illegal. The announcement was made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It reverses forty years of US policy and puts Washington at odds with…ahm…the UN and particularly the EU as well.”

Listeners to the November 19th afternoon edition of the same radio station’s programme ‘Newshour’ were told by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 14:06 here) that:

Iqbal: “The Trump administration has abandoned its four decades old position on Israeli settlements  in the occupied West Bank. Its position now is that the settlements do not violate international law.”

According to their webpages, those editions of ‘Newsday’ will remain online “for over a year” and the ‘Newshour’ broadcast will be available for a further 24 days. Clearly those materially misleading statements regarding “forty years of US policy” need to be urgently corrected, as has already been done at some other British media outlets.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

As we saw in part one of this post two programmes aired on BBC Radio 4 on November 18th and November 19th promoted the myth that a statement made earlier in the day by the US Secretary of State reversed a “four-decades-old position”.

Listeners to the November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard about that statement in three news bulletins, two of which (from 1:02:31 and from 2:02:29 here) included the same spin. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Palestinians have expressed anger after the Trump administration said it no longer considers Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. The move, announced by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reverses a forty-year-old US policy and puts Washington at odds with virtually all other countries as well as the UN Security Council’s resolutions.”

The programme also included an item relating to the same story (from 2:31:00) in which the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel told listeners that:

Sopel: “It is significant in the sense that, you know, that what happens to the West Bank and the settlements on the West Bank is kind of one of the key contested areas. For forty years it has been seen as a breach of international law that Israel were [sic] building settlements on that land and it was gonna be one of the key negotiating areas in any final settlement talks. And at a stroke Donald Trump has overturned this with the State Department saying ‘you know what? We don’t think it is illegal now and so we’re coming out and saying so’.”

Later on in the same item Sopel misled listeners with another inaccuracy.

Sopel: “But you know we’ve now seen it with…ahm…the Golan Heights which was annexed by Israel in the Six Day War that Donald Trump says ‘we think that is Israeli territory’. He surprised everybody by saying that.”

Israeli law was of course applied to the Golan Heights in December 1981 – fourteen and a half years after the Six Day War.   

As noted here earlier, we can determine that the BBC knows full well that Secretary Pompeo’s statement did not ‘reverse a forty-year-old US policy’ because in a report published on the BBC News website it clarified that:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Nevertheless, the BBC allowed that ‘forty years’ spin to be repeatedly promoted to its domestic audiences, even in supposedly factual news bulletins.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)