Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part one

Even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel on December 6th, the BBC was already setting the scene.

As documented here previously, the BBC News website published several pre-emptive reports that framed the story according to a very particular narrative and thus shaped audience views of it even before anyone knew what the US president was actually going to say. Some BBC radio stations adopted the same strategy, with listeners hearing no small amount of speculative commentary prior to the actual event.

On the morning of December 6th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ devoted much of the airtime in its various editions to the topic of the anticipated announcement. The commentary included contributions from several people selected to present ‘the Palestinian view’ that were remarkable for gross inaccuracies and distortions.  

Did the programme’s presenters challenge those inaccuracies or did BBC audiences go away with misinformation and misleading impressions that would colour their view of the story in advance?

The early edition of ‘Newsday’ opened (from 00:34 here) with an introduction by presenters Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach that was immediately followed by a statement from Fatah official Nabil Shaath. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Pollard: “Now let’s begin in the Middle East and…err…history and symbols hugely important there and there must be no more powerful symbolic expression than the city of Jerusalem.”

Peach: “Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as their capital. Israel, which controls the city, claims it entirely as theirs. In circumstances such as these it’s not surprising that most other countries have kept well out of it until now and maintain their embassies in the Israeli financial capital of Tel Aviv, in the process withholding recognition of the Israeli claim to the entire city of Jerusalem.”

Pollard: “But now American president Donald Trump is preparing to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy from Tel Aviv. America’s allies in Europe and the Arab world have been warning against the plan: a plan which President Trump promised on the campaign trail.”

Peach: “Lots of reaction coming for you, including this from Nabil Shaath – who’s a senior advisor to the Palestinian president – who says Mr Trump is throwing away his credibility.”

Shaath: “That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker. That takes away honest, takes away broker, takes away chaperone of peace, takes away the deal of the century and makes them behind us – gone into the files of history.”

Listeners then heard commentary from Ha’aretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer. Later on (from 26:55 here) the programme returned to the same topic.

Peach: “First, later today the US president Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Pollard: “He’s not likely to immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, partly because it will take several years, it’s said, to build a new embassy.”

Peach: “We’re told the US president has already telephoned several Middle East leaders to inform them of these plans. His regional allies were strongly against it all, warning of dangerous consequences.”

Pollard: “We’ve heard from Israel. Let’s get the opinion now of a member of the Palestinian parliament. Dr Mustafa Barghouti joins us once again on the programme. Dr Barghouti – welcome back. This has been a possible move for decades; now it’s coming. What’s its significance in your opinion?”

Pollard’s presentation of Barghouti as “a member of the Palestinian parliament” is of course misleading because not only has the Palestinian Legislative Council not functioned for over a decade since the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, but – like the rest of the PLC members – Barghouti’s term of office ended years ago.

Barghouti opened with a spurious reference to ‘international law’ that went completely unquestioned and went on – likewise unchallenged – to promote the ‘apartheid’ smear.

Barghouti: “It’s very significant but it’s very reckless – from a president who seems to be risk reckless on many issues. And it means the United States is officially participating in violating international law. And it is showing such a level of bias to Israel that it is killing any future role of the United States in any future peace process. As a matter of fact Mr Trump is aborting his own peace initiative before it is born. And the worst thing is that he’s making a dangerous move that will definitely destabilise the region and will consolidate, or help consolidate, a system of apartheid that Palestinians suffer from.”

Pollard: “Sorry. Let me just ask you about immediately what you think the consequences will be. First off, in the street – do you think that there is a risk of a violent response to this in terms of demonstrations and attacks?”

Barghouti: “No. From the Palestinian perspective we don’t want violence. We have opted for non-violent resistance but for mass popular non-violent resistance which was very successful last July in Jerusalem and we managed to defeat Netanyahu and force him to remove all obstacles he put in front of the people in Al Aqsa Mosque.”

Pollard failed to challenge Barghouti’s false claims of ‘non-violent resistance’ or to inform listeners of the incitement to violence from Hamas, the PA and Fatah even before the US announcement had been made. He also failed to clarify to listeners that his interviewee’s mention of “last July in Jerusalem” in fact refers to events triggered by a violent terror attack near Temple Mount or that those so-called “obstacles” were metal detectors and security cameras.

Pollard: “OK, so no violence in the street. OK, that’s an important point. What about…”

Barghouti: “I cannot guarantee it. I cannot guarantee that there will be no violence…”

Pollard: “Of course.”

Barghouti: “…in other places because this action is provoking the feelings of 1.6 billion Muslims, 2.2 billion Christians and 360 million Arabs.”

Pollard: “And politically, what difference does it make? You mentioned that in a sense – if I can put words into your mouth – it’s kind of destroyed the idea of America as the honest broker. Who else moves into that vacuum therefore? There is no-one else, is there?”

Barghouti used that question as a cue to promote the PA agenda of internationalisation of the conflict but listeners were not informed of the existence of that policy and so were unable to put his comments into context.

Barghouti: “There can be no one single country but I think we have…we moving in this world from unipolar system to multipolar system and if there would be a serious peace process it has to be an international conference with participation of many countries like China, Russia, European Union for sure. France tried to lead the road and it was obstructed by the United States and by Israel.”

Pollard: “But do you think that in any international arena…we have seen time and again an American veto used. Do you not think that simply any appeal or any hope that you’re now raising of an international effort to do it will simply be blocked or vetoed by the super-power; by the United States?”

Barghouti: “More than that. Any peace initiative will be blocked by Israel because Israel does not want peace, which is giving us a message. We the Palestinians have waited 25 years for the peace process to work. Now we receive the message it’s dead. Fine; we will choose an alternative path. We have to concentrate on changing the balance of power first. And that can happen only through popular resistance and a very wide large enhancement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel like the apartheid system was treated in South Africa. We are fighting for our freedom in every possible way.”

Listeners were not reminded of the second Intifada terror war instigated by the Palestinians in 2000 or of the repeated Palestinian refusals of peace offers. Pollard failed yet again to challenge Barghouti’s promotion of the ‘apartheid’ smear as well as his promotion of the BDS campaign.

Pollard: “If America has gone against the opinion of many of its allies  – European allies as well as Arab allies as well – do you think that this means that they have made themselves so close to the Israeli position that other groups such as for example the Europeans will be freer to have a more independent line?”

Barghouti: “Absolutely. But the Europeans need to be courageous. And they need to move forward and they need to move forward fast and quick. The problem they face is that they don’t have unity inside Europe. And that’s why I don’t think it should be a full European Union initiative.”

Pollard: “Right.”

Barghouti: “It should be an initiative by several countries like France, Germany and others.”

Pollard: “Now can you just clarify one thing because we’ve heard conflicting comments on the programme so far. This is a sort of technical point. In your opinion, by recognising the entirety of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, does that de facto preclude East Jerusalem being a potential capital of a Palestinian authority?”

Barghouti: “It will…it will…of course. It means that it is considering East Jerusalem as part of Jerusalem because for Israel, Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel. Jerusalem is unified and that means that the annexation – the illegal annexation – of East Jerusalem which was occupied in ’67 and which is not accepted by anybody in the world, is considered part of the Israeli capital. That’s why unless the president says very clearly that East Jerusalem…I recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, he’s practically participating in the crime.”

Refraining from providing listeners with any of the crucial historical context diligently erased by Barghouti, Pollard closed the conversation.

Pollard: “Right. Thank you for that.”

As we see, not only was Mustafa Barghouti not challenged on any of his falsehoods but he was allowed to promote his distorted narrative completely unquestioned. If that were not enough, the BBC World Service chose to further amplify some of Barghouti’s spurious claims in an edited clip from the interview promoted on Twitter.

There were, however, additional editions of ‘Newsday’ to come and they will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

 

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An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

If the phrase ‘over the top’ comes to mind in relation to the volume of coverage of the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel that has appeared on the BBC News website, that is not surprising. 

Between December 4th and the morning of December 7th inclusive, the website published the following reports:

December 4th:

1) “Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows” – earlier version discussed here

December 5th:

2) “Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’” – discussed here

3) “Trump’s Jerusalem calls spark warnings from Arab leaders

December 6th:

4) “Why Jerusalem matters” – filmed backgrounder by Yolande Knell, discussed here

5) “US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

6) “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump

7) “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace

8) “Jerusalem: Trump move prompts negative world reaction

9) “Palestinians and Israelis on US Jerusalem recognition” – filmed

10) “Trump on Jerusalem: ‘I am delivering on promise’” – filmed

December 7th:

11) “Jerusalem status: World condemns Trump’s announcement

12) “What Trump’s Jerusalem decision means for peace” – filmed, Lyse Doucet

13) “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift”  – Barbara Plett Usher, discussed here

Clearly the language used in most of the headlines of those nine written articles portrays the US announcement as a negative development to audiences even before they have read the actual articles. A review of the content of those articles shows that their framing of the story is no less uniform.

In none of those nine written reports were readers given an accurate and comprehensive overview of the history behind the story. Accounts of Jerusalem’s history, when given, invariably begin in 1967 with some articles making a cursory but unexplained reference to Jordan’s occupation of parts of Jerusalem but no mention made whatsoever of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from parts of the city in 1948 or of the fact that Jerusalem is situated in the territory assigned by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

Five of the nine written articles and one of the four filmed reports described certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements” and presented a partisan portrayal of “international law”. All but one of the nine written reports promoted partisan maps of Jerusalem produced by the political NGO B’tselem and – in one case – UN OCHA that include among other things portrayal of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City as a ‘settlement’.

The majority of the written reports – seven – unquestioningly portrayed Jerusalem as being the “thorniest” issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and eight of the nine, along with two of the filmed reports, told BBC audiences that the US announcement endangers or even destroys the ‘peace process’ – even though that process made no progress for the past 24 years, despite the US embassy being located in Tel Aviv.

None of the BBC’s reports informed readers that the Palestinians have previously been presented with peace offers that included considerable Israeli compromises on Jerusalem – which they refused.   

All of the written reports gave copious amplification to condemnations of the US announcement by assorted parties with some even uncritically amplifying threats of violence as though that were a legitimate response. Any dissenting views presented came solely from Israeli politicians.

The sole mention of the fact that Russia recognised part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital back in April was found in Lyse Doucet’s filmed report. An announcement relating to Jerusalem from the Czech Republic has at the time of writing not been covered by the BBC.

The essential context of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ was provided to readers of just three of the nine written reports and subsequently added to one other many hours after initial publication. The context of the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate was absent from all the BBC’s reports. Only two of the total thirteen reports mentioned that previous US presidents had made similar campaign promises to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

The BBC framed the US president’s announcement as being intended to appeal to specific sectors.

In article 5 readers were told that:

“Mr Trump would also direct the state department to begin the process of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem – but this could take several years as it still has to be designed and built and security concerns would need to be addressed.

He originally promised the move to pro-Israel voters during his campaign for the presidency.”

Article 6 included the following:

“The Republican Jewish Coalition have already thanked the president in a New York Times ad. The group is backed by Republican and Trump campaign mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.”

In article 11 readers were told that:

“Despite warnings of regional unrest over any such move, the decision fulfils a campaign promise and appeals to Mr Trump’s right-wing base.”

Article 13 informed BBC audiences that:

“…there’s far more evidence he [Trump] was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.”

And that:

“…this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.”

In fact, as noted by Michael Totten, the issue is far more bipartisan that the BBC would have its audiences believe.

“In 1995, the United States Congress, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passed a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” This law, passed by a whopping 93-5 when Bill Clinton was president, had no effect whatsoever on the Camp David Peace Process which would have given East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as the capital of their sovereign state had Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said yes instead of no and chose peace rather than war.

That law was reaffirmed in the United States Senate just six months ago by a unanimous vote. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, co-sponsored the bill. And just two months ago, Schumer slammed Donald Trump for not keeping his campaign promise to recognize reality.”

As we see, BBC audiences got ample – but monochrome – coverage of this story over those three and a half days. While failing for the most part to provide essential context and refraining entirely from providing the relevant historical background necessary for understanding of the story, the coverage was uniformly focused on promotion of a partisan political narrative.

 

 

 

 

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

On December 6th a filmed ‘backgrounder’ titled “Why Jerusalem matters” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“US President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell explains why the city is so important.”

The film opens with the Jerusalem bureau’s Knell telling audiences that:

“This ancient city lies at the very heart of the Israel – Palestinian conflict…”

Predictably, Knell did not inform viewers that the Palestinians only began to display an interest in Jerusalem after 1967. Until then – as shown in Article 24 of the original PLO charter from 1964 – the Palestinians specifically stated that they had no claim to territory occupied at the time by Jordan and Egypt and the “Israel-Palestinian conflict” was only about the land on which Israel was established in 1948.

Knell continues with a whitewashed portrayal of Palestinian incitement and violence and no mention of the ‘three days of rage’ announced by Palestinian factions the day before her report was posted.

“…we’ve seen many times how just a small change on the ground here can quickly lead to a flare-up and to violence. So what happens here really does matter.”

She continues:

“Jerusalem’s got great religious significance of course – its Old City has some of the holiest sites for Jews [image of the Western Wall], Muslims [image of Temple Mount] and for Christians [image of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]. But it’s also got great political significance too.”

Following a caption reading “What does Israel say?”, Knell tells viewers that:

“Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal, undivided capital”. Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city.”

With no mention whatsoever of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland, the 1948 Jordanian invasion and subsequent nineteen-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City or Israel’s warning to Jordan not to participate in the Six Day War, Knell goes on:

“But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and it later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally. Israeli leaders often vent their frustration that there’s not recognition of full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, particularly from international allies.”

Following another caption reading “What about the Palestinians?”, Knell continues:

“Of course, Palestinians see things starkly differently. They want east Jerusalem as their capital.”

She then goes on to claim that a Palestinian capital in “east Jerusalem” is an already agreed component of the two-state solution:

“And that’s part of the long-standing international formula for peace here, known as the “two-state solution”.

Not for the first time, audiences then see a BBC journalist present the two-state solution in terms that dovetail with the PLO’s interpretation of that term.

“Basically the idea that an independent Palestinian state would be created alongside Israel, along the boundaries that existed before 1967, it’s written up in UN resolutions.” [emphasis added]

In fact the UN – along with the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity – supports “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords as being subject to negotiations of course include borders and Jerusalem.

Having previously erased the pre-1948 Jewish population of the Old City and other Jerusalem neighbournoods from the picture, Knell continues with a partisan portrayal of ‘international law’:

“About a third of Jerusalemites are Palestinians, some of them come from families that have been here for centuries. And there are lots of ongoing tensions, particularly over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the east of the city, they’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

After the appearance of the caption “What do international peacemakers say?”, Knell goes on:

“For decades, the international community has been saying that any change in the status of Jerusalem can only come about as part of a negotiated peace deal. So for now all countries with embassies in Israel keep them in or near to Tel Aviv and they just have consulates in Jerusalem.”

As has been the case in additional recent BBC reporting on this story, Knell then went on to present the apparently upcoming establishment of a US embassy in Jerusalem as something related solely to the current US president. Yet again, audiences were not informed of the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ and the related June 2017 resolution passed by the US Senate.

“But President Trump is insisting that he does want to move his embassy to Jerusalem. And he’s also said he’s pursuing the “ultimate deal” of peace between Israel and the Palestinians – although he’s not committed to conventional ways of achieving it.”

Viewers then see a clip from February of this year with Donald Trump saying at a press conference:

“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

With the rest of that statement erased, Knell closes this ‘backgrounder’ with editorialised commentary that promotes a theme pushed by the BBC for months:

“Just more evidence that with this US administration, options that were once seen as off-bounds, off-limits are now up for serious consideration.”

So did this ‘backgrounder’ enhance BBC audience understanding of what this story is about? Obviously not: the omission of essential history and the promotion of partisan portrayals of the two-state solution and ‘international law’ mean that rather than being a ‘backgrounder’, this item by Knell was in fact just one more contribution to advancement of the BBC’s chosen narrative.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC continues to amplify a political narrative on Jerusalem

The BBC’s partisan portrayal of Jerusalem persists

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did the BBC portray a story about an attack on Bar Mitzva hikers?

On the afternoon of November 30th the BBC News website published a report titled “Palestinian shot dead by Israeli settler in West Bank” on its Middle East page.

The incident that report purports to describe had taken place a few hours earlier when a group of 22 children and two adults on a Bar Mitzva hike in Samaria were attacked by a large group of Palestinians throwing rocks. Like the headline, the report’s opening paragraph ignored that relevant background.

“A Palestinian man has been shot and killed by an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank, officials say.”

The report then went straight on to describe the event’s circumstances as being disputed.

“There are conflicting reports about the circumstances surrounding the incident near the village of Qusra.”

Five of the report’s seventeen paragraphs described an IDF statement concerning the incident. The word “students” – rather than pupils – was used to describe the children.

“Israel’s military said the settler had opened fired in self-defence after Palestinians threw rocks at a group of hiking settlers and students. […]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Wednesday’s incident took place while a group of 20 Israeli boys, who were accompanied by adults, went on a hiking trip near Qusra.

“A disturbance broke out… involving dozens of Palestinians, during which one of the hikers shot at the rioters in self-defence,” the Jerusalem Post quoted a statement as saying.

“The hikers barricaded themselves in a cave near the village. IDF forces arrived at the site and rescued all the hikers.”

“One of the rioters was hit by gunfire,” the statement added.”

A further five paragraphs portrayed the ‘conflicting’ view, but without clarifying the quoted official’s relevant job description and his dubious record of unsupported allegations.

“But Palestinian officials said the dead man was a farmer who had been working his land when settlers attacked him.

They identified him as Mahmoud Odeh, 48, and said he was shot in the chest. […]

A Palestinian Authority official disputed the Israeli military’s account of the incident.

Ghassan Daghlas told the Associated Press that Mr Odeh had been at work when a group of settlers trespassed on to his land and then ordered him to move. When Mr Odeh refused, one of them shot him, Mr Daghlas added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing of Mr Odeh, calling it a “cowardly act and evidence to the world of the ugly crimes conducted by settlers against unarmed Palestinians”.”

The report’s final three paragraphs were devoted to framing of the story, with readers clearly being steered towards the view that it should be seen as being about “settler violence”. Readers also found the standard BBC insert on ‘international law’ that fails to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions that conflict with the corporation’s chosen narrative.

“The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says tensions between settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been on the rise.

A UN agency that monitors incidents said earlier this year that an increase in settler violence had occurred alongside a major rise in Palestinian attacks against Israelis, the vast majority of which involved stone-throwing at vehicles.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The report paraphrased by Bateman was produced by the notoriously partisan UN agency OCHA.

In addition, readers were provided with a link to a BBC backgrounder on ‘settlements’ and a frequently recycled partisan map produced by the political NGO B’tselem.

In other words, in just seventeen paragraphs the BBC managed to turn a story about a violent attack by Palestinians against children on a Bar Mitzva hike and the unfortunate ensuing death of a man when one of the accompanying adults had to use his firearm in self-defence, into a story about “settlements” and “settler violence”.

BBC practice of repeat reporting of Israeli planning permits continues

Earlier this month the BBC’s most quoted Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, published an article by Barak Ravid and Chaim Levinson titled “Netanyahu Pledged 3,800 New Settlement Homes, but Only 600 Will Be Actually Built” and sub-headed “[c]lose examination of the list of construction plans expected to be approved next week reveals that the number of units presented to the public inflated and recycled”.

“The 3,800 units presented to the public is an inflated, recycled number, with the government expected to give immediate building permits to only 600 units.

Of these, 300 homes will be in Beit El, promised to the settlement after the demolition of the homes in Ulpana Hill over five years ago.[…]

Final approval will also be given for 102 homes in the new settlement of Amichai, which is being built for those evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. But since there has been no decision made yet on the objections that were submitted to the plan, construction isn’t expected to begin in the near future. […]

The total of 3,800 units includes plans that were approved in the past but which have had some units added. For example, Kfar Etzion already had 120 units approved, and the 38 have now been added. The government is thus presenting all 158 as “new” homes to be approved. A similar trick was pulled in Har Adar, where 10 additional homes were added to a previously approved plan of 60 homes and together became a “new” plan for 70 homes.

That’s not the only strange matter on the list published Tuesday. In Elkana, there had been a previously approved plan for 45 homes. Now the planning council is meant to turn that plan into a sheltered housing facility for 250 elderly people. The government is counting it as 250 new homes.”

On October 25th (two weeks after the appearance of that Ha’aretz article) readers of a report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel approves 176 new settler homes in East Jerusalem” were told that:

“Last week, Israeli authorities approved the construction of more than 2,600 additional homes in settlements across the West Bank.”

The BBC already reported on the planning approval for 234 units in Elkana over a year ago. In January of this year it reported on the approval for 100 units in Beit El and in June it reported on the plans for Amichai.

In other words we see that the BBC policy of reporting the same planning applications over and over again – and thereby inflating the number of what it likes to call “settler homes” constructed in the minds of its readers – continues to be an issue.

As is inevitably the case, this latest BBC report (which once again promotes a partisan map produced by a political NGO) fails to meet the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on due impartiality by failing to give “due weight” to alternative views of its standard mantra:

“About 200,000 Jewish settlers and 370,000 Palestinians currently live in East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As usual too, this report portrays history as having begun in June 1967 with no mention of the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or explanation of the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish National Home in 1922.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a step that was not recognised by the international community.”

The article portrays the story which is its subject matter as follows:

“Israeli authorities have approved a major expansion of a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality issued permits for 176 new housing units in Nof Zion, which is surrounded by the Palestinian district of Jabal Mukaber.

It will almost triple in size, making it the largest settlement inside a Palestinian area of East Jerusalem.”

BBC audiences were not, however, told that preliminary plans for those “new housing units” were already approved in 1994 and that the first 91 units were built in the early 2000s. Neither were they informed of some relevant background to the story: (translation by BBC Watch)

“The basis of the neighbourhood [Nof Zion] is on lands that were purchased on the hill by 11 Jewish families in the 1930s. After the War of Independence the Jewish contractor Rahamim Levi bought lands on the slope overlooking Temple Mount from residents of the Arab village. His children, Yehuda Levi and Evi Levi, completed the job in the coming years when they bought the plots from the Jewish families. But the area did not have building permits and in the coming decades, until the beginning of the 1990s, the land stood empty. Only during the time of the Rabin government were building plans approved for the site.”

When, in April 2015, planning permission was granted for over 2,000 units in Jabel Mukaber the BBC did not bother to report that story because the permits were for the Arab sector. In other words, once again we see that the BBC’s interest in reporting on Israeli planning permits is not determined by the project’s location or by the ownership of the relevant land but is entirely dependent upon the faith and ethnicity of the people it assumes will be moving into newly built apartments and houses in specific areas.

That is self-conscription to a political cause rather than journalism.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes more of its unvarying narrative on Israeli construction

‘Due impartiality’ and BBC reporting on Israeli construction

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’

Why is this Israeli planning decision different from others for the BBC?

What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

BBC WS report on Har Adar attack avoids narrative-conflicting issues

The September 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included (from 33:54 here) a report supposedly about the terror attack that took place at Har Adar earlier the same day.

Unsurprisingly, presenter Julian Marshall portrayed the attack without using the words terror or terrorist: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Marshall: “Let’s go now to Israel where President Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has arrived in Jerusalem to try to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks and shortly before his arrival there was a shooting incident on the occupied West Bank in which three Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman who was himself later killed by police. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on what he called ‘Palestinian incitement’. The BBC’s Yolande Knell joins us now from Jerusalem and, Yolande, first tell us a bit more about that shooting incident.”

Knell: “Well the attack happened early this morning at Har Adar settlement. It’s just north-west of Jerusalem, just inside the occupied West Bank, and there are Palestinian workers there who were – with Israeli permits – going to work inside the settlement. They were queuing up for security checks. This man was among them and he had a work permit but his behaviour made security staff suspicious. When they asked him to stop he pulled out a gun and he shot and killed two of the private security guards from the settlement and one Israeli policeman as well. There was another security official who was badly injured and then the Palestinian man himself was shot dead. I was in the area just afterwards as an ambulance raced past. All surrounding roads were blocked off with a very heavy security presence.”

Marshall: “And…err…what has prompted the prime minister to blame the attack on ‘Palestinian incitement’?”

With BBC audiences being serially under-informed about Palestinian incitement, that question (notwithstanding the scoffing tone in which it was voiced) obviously provided an opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the issue. Yolande Knell did not however step up to the plate.

Knell: “This is something that we have regularly seen from the Israeli prime minister. He also called on the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the shooting and his deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely linked this to the arrival of the US envoy Jason Greenblatt – he’s back here trying to revive the moribund peace process. She said that the Palestinians meant this as a reception for him and she suggested that the US should focus on getting the Palestinian leader to condemn such acts of violence before any peace initiative could be launched. And we’ve heard this a lot from Israeli leaders recently.”

In addition to side-stepping the very relevant topic of incitement, Knell also avoided a no less important subject raised by Tzipi Hotovely in the statement partly paraphrased by Knell.

“The terrible attack this morning in Har Adar is the reception that the Palestinians prepared for US envoy Greenblatt,” she [Hotovely] said in a statement. “The American efforts must focus first of all on stopping the murderous Palestinian terror before anything else. There can be no negotiations with those who only fan the flames of terrorism and continue to pay the families of terrorists.”

The issue of the PA’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists, allocation of benefits to released prisoners and payments to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks is one about which BBC audiences know next to nothing. Knell, however, sidelined that issue too and – choosing her words carefully – went on:

Knell: “Of course it’s very difficult for Palestinian leaders to come out..ehm…condemning individual attacks because many of these…err…attackers would be seen…by…many Palestinians as being heroes of some kind while the Israelis would see them as being terrorist. And there was actually a senior member of President Abbas’ Fatah movement who came out saying that Israel alone bears responsibility for what he called the crimes of the occupation. And then the…err…Palestinian militant group Hamas as well; their spokesman told the BBC…ahm…that this was a natural reaction – those were his words – to the occupation and he praised this attack.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that Abbas’ Fatah party glorified the terrorist on social media or that among the so-called “crimes of the occupation” cited by that Fatah “senior member” was “the incessant invasions by the herds of settlers of the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas”. 

Marshall then gave Knell the cue for a typically tepid and obfuscating portrayal of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014.

Marshall: “Ahm…Yolande, you referred to those…err…peace talks as moribund. In fact so moribund you’re going to have to remind us when the two sides last sat down to talk to each other.”

Knell: “Well it’s now three years since…eh…the peace talks – the last round of peace talks – which were brokered by the US – ehm…fell apart. And Jason Greenblatt is back, trying to help President Trump work towards what he’s called the ultimate deal but there have been many signs that this is not gathering momentum. Palestinian leaders making complaints that the US is not pressuring Israel to curb its construction of Jewish settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell of course knows full well that the phrase “construction of Jewish settlements” is inaccurate and misleading, with no new communities having been constructed for decades. She closed her report with the BBC’s standard – yet partial – mantra on ‘international law’.

Knell: “Of course settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with that. And the other complicating factor that we have to remember are [sic] these fresh signs of reconciliation between the two main Palestinian political factions; between Hamas and Fatah. Ehm…they’ve just said in the last week or so that they want to work towards a unity government; expected to have more on that and Hamas of course is seen by the US, by Israel, by the EU and others as being a terrorist group.”

In conclusion, listeners to this report ostensibly about a terror attack against Israelis did not hear the words terror or terrorist used in the BBC’s portrayal of the incident. Neither did they learn anything about the three people murdered other than their job descriptions and Yolande Knell carefully avoided narrative-conflicting topics such as the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and financial rewards to terrorists.

However, BBC World Service listeners did hear two references to the “occupied West Bank”, five references to “settlements”, two references to “the occupation” and a one-sided portrayal of international law.

Related Articles:

BBC editorial policy on terror continues in Har Adar attack report

 

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

For almost two years the BBC News website has been using maps credited to UNOCHA and/or the political NGO B’tselem which purport to inform audiences about the geo-political status of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, those maps describe the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City along with many other locations of pre-1948 Jewish habitation as ‘Israeli settlements’ and – as regular readers are aware – the BBC consistently steers its audience towards the view that such neighbourhoods and communities “are considered illegal under international law”.

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

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

Among the inaccurate features on those maps is the portrayal of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus as “Israeli settlements”.

Map as it appeared on the BBC News website between February – September 2017

The Hebrew University (established in 1925) and Hadassah Hospital (established in 1938) were both built on land purchased by Jews in 1914 and the Mount Scopus enclave remained Israeli territory throughout the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. Interestingly, B’tselem’s own map does not mark Mount Scopus as a ‘settlement’.

Map produced by B’tselem

Earlier this month BBC Watch submitted a complaint raising that specific topic and others (including the portrayal of the Jewish Quarter as a ‘settlement’), as well as the general issue of the compromise of impartiality caused by the use of partisan maps sourced from a foreign funded political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel.

The response received includes the following:

“We have rectified our map of the area of the Hebrew University/Mount Scopus. The source map had incorrectly identified it as an Israeli settlement and we have now corrected this.

The issue of Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem is obviously contentious and given the different political positions held on the matter, no map can be considered strictly neutral.

The BTselem map corresponds with the position of the UN, which considers the Jewish Quarter a settlement in occupied territory, as it does all the Jewish communities beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire line, and for this reason we do not consider it a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.”

In other words, the BBC would have us believe that its impartiality is not compromised by the use of maps that it admits are not “strictly neutral” which it sourced from an interested party because they reflect the non-legally binding position of a body which is neither a legislature nor a court. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to meet its editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing its audiences with maps reflecting any alternative views.

The amended map now looks like this:

After amendment

Related Articles:

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’ 

Weekend long read

1) The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies has published a paper by Yaakov Lappin titled “The Low-Profile War Between Israel and Hezbollah“.

“In defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon war, Hezbollah and its Iranian patron, with the assistance of the Bashar Assad regime, are filling Lebanon with surface-to-surface projectiles, and aiming them at population centers and strategic sites in Israel. To forestall this threat, the Israeli defense establishment has, according to media reports, been waging a low-profile military and intelligence campaign, dubbed “The War Between Wars,” which monitors and occasionally disrupts the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. This campaign has allowed Israel to reportedly exhibit the extent of its intelligence penetration of Hezbollah and the prowess of its precision-guided weaponry, thus boosting its deterrence, but has not weakened Hezbollah’s determination to expand its vast missile and rocket arsenal. It also carries the calculated risk of setting off escalation that could rapidly spin out of control.”

2) At the JCPA, Amb. Alan Baker takes a look at the topic of the laws of occupation.

“Israel has consistently claimed that the simplistic and straightforward definitions of occupation in the 1907 Hague Rules and 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, may not necessarily be appropriate with regard to the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip area, which do not fit within the rubrics set out in the above conventions.

This is all the more evident in situations where the sovereign status is recognized to be legally unclear or non-existent and as such cannot be seen as “territory of a High Contracting Party” as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The legal questionability of pre-1967 Jordanian sovereignty, as well as Egypt’s self-admitted non-sovereign military administration of the Gaza Strip, give added relevance to the question whether the classic and simplistic concept of belligerent occupation could be legally relevant and applicable to Israel’s unique situation in the territories?

It is well known that prior to 1967, Jordan’s annexation of and claim to sovereignty in the West Bank were not accepted in the international community, except for the UK and Pakistan. Jordan’s claim to east Jerusalem was not accepted by the UK either.”

3) The Jerusalem Post carries a Kurdish writer’s impressions of his visit to Israel.

“I recently traveled to Israel as part of a study abroad program through the American University in Washington, DC. As a master’s student concentrating on peace and conflict resolution and as a Kurd from northern Iraq, I was curious about the intense hostility toward Jews in the Middle East, the negative bias in the mainstream media and the continuous antisemitic lectures and activities on college campuses, including my own university.”

4) At the Washington Examiner, CAMERA’s Sean Durns discusses “How terrorists and tyrants do PR“.

“”Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising,” observed the American writer Mark Twain. Unfortunately, this principle is known to terror groups and tyrants as much as it is to businesses that use high-flying public relations firms.

Terrorists of all types have long utilized the media for propaganda purposes—from the Irish Republican Army timing bombings to ensure they appeared on the nightly news to al-Qaeda’s exploitation of the Al-Jazeera news network during the second Iraq War. Indeed, as long-ago as 1987, the analyst and psychiatrist Dr. Jerrold Post was pointing out that many terror groups had what he called a “vice president for media relations,” tasked with orchestrating press coverage.”

 

BBC News squeezes ‘settlements’ into internal PA affairs story

As regular readers know, the BBC does not as a rule cover internal Palestinian affairs and so – as was noted here in July – the absence of any reporting on a new Palestinian Authority “Cyber Crime” law came as no surprise. 

“The controversial Cyber Crime Law, signed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on July 11, permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet.

Critics say the law paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

The new law comes on the heels of the PA’s recent decision to block more than 20 Palestinian websites accused of publishing comments and articles critical of the PA leadership.

The law was approved by Abbas himself, without review by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC has been paralyzed for the past decade, as a result of the power struggle between Abbas’s PA and Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.”

Likewise, the BBC did not produce any English language coverage of the recent spate of detentions and arrests of Palestinian journalists and social media users by both the PA and Hamas.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 6th may therefore have been rather surprised to find a highly unusual article with the oddly punctuated headline “Palestinian Authority ‘detains rights activist over criticism’“.

“The Palestinian Authority is reported to have extended the detention of a prominent human rights activist who called on it to respect free speech.

Issa Amro, 35, was detained on Monday by Palestinian Preventive Security in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian officials have not commented, but a local non-governmental organisation says prosecutors have accused him of “causing strife”.”

However, rather than informing readers of the context to this story in its own words, the BBC assigned over half of this article’s word count to uncritical amplification of statements made by political NGOs, including a link to the Amnesty International website.

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the move.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East director.

Amnesty said Mr Amro, the co-ordinator for Youth Against Settlements group, had posted comments on his Facebook page criticising the arrest by Palestinian security forces on Sunday of a local radio journalist who had called for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months,” said Ms Mughrabi.

“Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely.””

Readers are not told that the man portrayed as “a prominent human rights defender” is actually an anti-Israel political activist with links to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). No information is provided concerning the agenda and activities of the non-transparently funded ‘Youth Against Settlements’ group which has in the past – along with Amro himself – been promoted in BBC reports (see ‘related articles’ below).

The absence of that background information is particularly relevant given that in the later paragraphs of this report the BBC chose to deviate from its supposed subject matter.

“Mr Amro is also currently being tried by an Israeli military court on several charges that include calling for illegal protests and obstructing the official duties of soldiers.

He has rejected the charges, which Amnesty has described as “baseless”.”

The charges against Amro also include several counts of assault, incitement and damage to property. As in any country, it is of course the role of the court – rather than a political NGO that the BBC elects to amplify – to decide whether or not those charges are “baseless”.

The final paragraph of the report is similarly gratuitous and unrelated to the story supposedly being told in this report.

“In Hebron, where Mr Amro is based, several hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily-guarded enclaves surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinians. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The Israelis living in Hebron of course do so according to the terms of the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron which was signed by the representatives of the Palestinians within the framework of the Oslo Accords but the BBC chose to omit that all-important context from its portrayal.

With 25.7% of the word-count of this report promoting Israel-related subjects unrelated to the story it purports to tell and 52.5% devoted to repetition of statements from a political NGO, the BBC can hardly be said to have deviated from its usual policy by taking the opportunity to provide its audiences with meaningful and comprehensive reporting on what the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau chief described as a human rights issue.

Related Articles:

Disingenuous report from BBC Trending promotes Palestinian agitprop

Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ of teens’ kidnappings breaches BBC editorial guidelines

BBC editorial guidelines breached in report on Hebron incident

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra exposed by Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

 

Political NGOs and dissonance in BBC report on Jerusalem eviction

On September 5th an article titled “Israel evicts Palestinians after East Jerusalem legal battle” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, along with a video relating to the same story titled “Palestinian family loses East Jerusalem home“.

Of the written report’s 491 words, one hundred and eleven are used to describe the events themselves and a further 136 are given over to brief explanation of the legal background to the story, but without clarifying that the property was supposed to be vacated by the Shamasneh family long ago.

“In 2013, the Shamasneh family lost their appeal of the case in the Supreme Court, after lower courts ruled that the land should be restored to its Jewish owner.

But the Supreme Court also deferred any eviction of the Shamasneh family at the time on humanitarian grounds, stating: “It is not easy to evict someone from their residence, particularly when it involves someone elderly who has lived at the property for many years.”

Two and a half years after the eviction date set by the court, legal proceedings against the family were renewed and the family was served with an eviction order.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s report includes a rare mention of the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

“Under Israeli law, Jews can reclaim property lost when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem in the war of 1948-9.” [emphasis added]

However, that sentence is followed by a reference to another ‘occupation’ of the exact same location and the BBC fails to provide any explanation for that dissonance.

“Israel has occupied the area since driving Jordan out in a war in 1967.”

Readers find a 21-word reaction from a member of the evicted family and a thirty-six word long comment from the political NGO ‘Peace Now’. The article does not include any response from or on behalf of the property’s owner.

The report correctly explains that the property in question – which is actually located in the Shimon HaTsadik neighbourhood rather than in Sheikh Jarrah as stated – was originally owned by Jews.

“The land in Sheikh Jarrah was originally owned by a family among the thousands of Jews who fled or were expelled from eastern Jerusalem by Jordanian forces in the 1948-9 war.”

The purchase of the land upon which the property was built was made in 1876.

“…in 1876 the cave [of Shimon HaTzadik] and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees. The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.

Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik. […]

After 1948 the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.”

However readers are – as usual in BBC content – encouraged to view Jewish presence on land legally purchased over 140 years ago as ‘illegal settlement’ and the BBC offers no explanation for its promotion of that incongruous and partial politically motivated narrative.

“The issue of control in East Jerusalem is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

About 200,000 Jewish settlers and 370,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. Some 2,500 of the more hardline settlers live in buildings bought inside Palestinian neighbourhoods, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The article also promotes a partisan map credited to the political NGO B’tselem that has been seen many times before in BBC content and which similarly promotes the notion that places such as the Old City, Neve Ya’akov and even parts of Mt Scopus are ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in such areas long before they were expelled by the invading Jordanian army in 1948.

Further encouragement of audiences to view this as a story about ‘settlements’ is evident in the ‘additional reading’ accompanying this article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and at the bottom of the article itself. The promoted reports include a BBC backgrounder on ‘settlements’ that first appeared in December 2016 and was subsequently amended four times.

The article closes with the unquestioned promotion of Palestinian messaging:

“Palestinians say the Israeli law allowing Jewish property reclamation is discriminatory since no such law exists for Palestinians, some 800,000 of whom fled or were expelled from what became Israel in the 1948-9 war.”

Not only does the BBC not provide any source for the debatable claim that 800,000 Palestinians became refugees around 1948 but it also fails to inform readers that a larger number of Jews fled or were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries (most of whom found refuge in Israel) and that they have never received compensation for the lands and property they were forced to abandon.  

This report propagates the BBC’s usual simplistic narratives on ‘settlements’ and ‘East’ Jerusalem. Inevitably, readers find the standard BBC insert on ‘international law’ – which makes no attempt to inform them of legal views on the topic that fall outside the corporation’s chosen political narrative – and interested parties in the form of campaigning NGOs are repeatedly given uncritical amplification. As ever, that editorial policy fails to contribute to the enhancement of audience understanding of these complex topics.

Related Articles:

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

Standard BBC ‘international law’ insert breaches editorial guidelines

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder