British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

Earlier this month we noted plans for an upcoming six-week long stunt dubbed the ‘Great Return March’ that has been organised by factions in the Gaza Strip and is primarily aimed at the international media.

Gaza Strip border area

“In the coming weeks, Hamas plans to set up tent encampments along the Gazan border with Israel, where thousands of the strip’s denizens will be housed, with the intention to march hundreds of Palestinians every day—including the elderly, women and children—to the border fence in “return marches.”

Not least in light of multiple incidents of border infiltration from Gaza during the past week (which have also gone unreported by the BBC), the likelihood of violent incidents is high – as explained by Yoni Ben Menachem:

“Its [Hamas’] basic premise is that the large media presence on the Palestinian side will provide enough protection for the Palestinian marchers to overcome the “fear barrier,” approach the border fence with Israel, and try to cross it.

In Hamas’ estimation, IDF soldiers will act with great caution and won’t use live ammunition due to the media presence among the marchers.

No country in the world would agree to tens of thousands of demonstrators, accompanied by various kinds of media, infiltrating their borders and trying to get into their territory. Hamas is making cynical use of Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip as cannon fodder against the IDF, who have to protect the border fence and cannot allow infiltration.”

In the meantime, the ITIC has noted a British link to Hamas’ plans.

“One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and who in the past played a central role in organizing convoys and flotillas to the Gaza Strip.”

Readers may recall that in addition to playing a role in convoys and flotillas,  Zaher Birawi was also involved in the organisation of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ and was previously director of the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – an organisation banned in Israel due to its Hamas affiliations.

Zaher Birawi in Gaza with George Galloway’s 2010 ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy. Photo: ITIC

More recently Birawi has been active in the role of chairman of the London-based EuroPal Forum – an organisation which appears to have replaced the Council for European Palestinian Relations (also banned by Israel) which became defunct after its director – Arafat Shoukri , who was also involved with the Palestinian Return Center – left the UK for Qatar (and a job with Al Jazeera) around 2014.

The JCPA reports that in addition to Birawi:

“…others connected to PRC and its initiatives are joined by other UK Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the newly launched global “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign. […]

On March 14, 2018, the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad held a press conference in Beirut, where it announced the launch of its “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign […]. The campaign is held in cooperation with the Palestinians in Europe Conference […] Ziyad al-Aloul, a senior UK-based activist suspected of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, serves as spokesman of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad.”

Al Aloul has previously been involved with the Muslim Association of Britain (which was chaired by Birawi between 2001 and 2003) and the ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ (ECESG) which participated in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla and with which Arafat Shoukri was also involved.

The JCPA notes that organisers of the ‘Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad’ also include Essam Youssef of the UK-based, BBC investigated charity ‘Interpal‘ and Majed al Zeer of the Palestinian Return Center.

Apparently though the BBC does not consider the connections of British based activists and organisations to a potentially incendiary publicity stunt staged by more than one designated terror group to be of interest even to its domestic audiences – and not least British MPs who supported the Palestinian Return Center’s successful bid to gain UN accreditation or those who have in the past been briefed by Zaher Birawi on topics such as “violence in the occupied territories” or attended ‘EuroPal’ events in Parliament.

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BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

Back in June BBC Radio 4 aired an edition of ‘The Media Show’ which is still available online and includes an item (from 00:46 here) which is described as follows in the synopsis:

“Saudi Arabia and her allies have demanded that Qatar shuts down a number of media outlets as a condition of ending the crisis in the region. David Hearst is editor in chief of Middle East Eye. Crispin Blunt MP is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.”

Readers may recall that at the time a number of Arab states issued a list of demands (which was later modified) to Qatar that included:

“…stipulations that Doha close the broadcaster al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, end contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and submit to monthly external compliance checks. […]

…the Saudi-led alliance regards the Arabic wing of al-Jazeera, the most widely watched broadcaster in the Arab world, as a propaganda tool for Islamists that also undermines support for their governments. The list of demands also called for other Doha-supported news outlets to be shut, including the New Arab and Middle East Eye.

Other key demands mapped out by Saudi include Qatar severing all ties with terrorist groups, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.” 

The framing of the story by ‘The Media Show’, however, portrayed it solely as an issue of press freedom and made no effort to examine whether or not there was any substance to the Saudi claims concerning the named media organisations – including ‘The New Arab’, founded by Azmi Bishara  and Al Jazeera.

Presenter Amol Rajan – who is the BBC’s media editor – introduced the item as follows:

Rajan: “But first more on a story we’ve been covering on ‘The Media Show’. It’s the demand by Saudi Arabia that Qatar shuts down a number of media outlets. Qatar is currently being isolated by its neighbours who claim the country supports terrorism. The closure of the Qatari funded TV network Al Jazeera is near the top of Saudi Arabia’s list of demands to resolve the crisis. Saudi Arabia says Al Jazeera is Qatari propaganda; a charge denied last week on this programme by Giles Trendle, the acting managing director of Al Jazeera English.”

After listeners heard a recording of Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera English insisting that his outfit “cover[s] the world without favouring any point of view”, Rajan continued:

Rajan: “Since that interview we’ve learned that it’s not just Al Jazeera that Saudi Arabia and her allies want shut down. In fact some of the media organisations on the list are based in the UK. One is ‘The New Arab’ and the other is ‘Middle East Eye’ whose editor in chief is David Hearst and he’s with me now.”

Listeners then heard former Guardian employee David Hearst – who never had much of a problem rubbing shoulders with Islamists – insist that “we’re totally independent of Qatar” before Rajan asked him “why have they targeted “Middle East Eye’?”.

Hearst: “Well one of the things that’s going on is…well the business model of ‘Middle East Eye’ is that we sell our journalism to people who translate it into Arabic and other languages. And these regimes, unfortunately, do not want their citizens learning about what’s going on.”

Rajan’s next question was “who funds ‘Middle East Eye?”.

Hearst: “So, we fund it ourselves. And we…ah…we sell our journalism to people who translate it. It’s not a big operation…it’s not some sort of shadowy organization. It’s twenty journalists in London. It’s a British-based company and it’s about 700 contributors. And it’s been growing because it is a space in which people can actually discuss real issues and we actually bite every hand. Actually if you look at our coverage…ah….we’re critical of the Qataris, we’ve had really good reports from Kurdish areas of Turkey so you can’t say we’re funded by the AKP.”

Rajan then asked Hearst whether “the Saudis basically contend that you are sort of essentially Qatari agents”. In his response Hearst raised the legitimate issue of state censorship of the media in many Arab countries while avoiding answering that question directly. When later asked if the Qatari government had ever asked him “to adjust an editorial line”, Hearst’s answer was negative.

Having introduced Crispin Blunt, Rajan stated:

Rajan: “It’s completely unacceptable, isn’t it, for another country to demand the closure of a UK-based news source.”

Later on Rajan asked Blunt “why is the house of Saud targeting media organisations?” with Blunt replying that he does not know but opining that Al Jazeera English’s editorial standards “look pretty similar to the BBC” and that the outlet “looks pretty impeccable”. Admitting that he knows “less” about Al Jazeera Arabic , Blunt went on to compare Qatari funding of Al Jazeera with BBC funding by British tax-payers via the licence fee, again claiming that Al Jazeera’s editorial standards are similar to those of the BBC.

Listeners subsequently heard Rajan assert that the Saudi demands would “make it even harder to cover the Middle East properly” and after Rajan portrayed Hearst as a champion of free speech, the latter replied:

Hearst: “…the people who want to close us down believe in sort of weaponisation of the media. They believe the media is an instrument and it is a lever – it doesn’t exist in its own right.”

Remarkably, Amol Rajan failed to make any effort to question Hearst on the issue of his own organisation’s use of the media as “an instrument”.

At no point in this item were listeners were told that the ‘Middle East Eye’ stable of contributors includes political activists infamous for their “weaponisation” of the media such as the occasional Guardian and BBC contributor Ben White, the anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein, the former ‘Russel Tribunal’ coordinator and Al Jazeera contributor Frank Barat, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Kamel Hawwash, ‘Palestine Chronicle’ founder Ramzi Baroud, the Palestinian Return Centre’s Sameh Habeeb who has been linked to Muslim Brotherhood campaigns and also produces the ‘Palestine Telegraph’ and even ‘CAGE’ activist Moazzam Begg and well-known Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi.

Neither did Amol Rajan ask Hearst why the ‘Middle East Eye’ website was originally registered by a person – Adlin Adnan – connected to the Hamas linked charity ‘Interpal‘ or who actually owns the company and why the only name on its official records is that of Jamal Awn Jamal Bessano – a Dutch national of Palestinian/Kuwaiti origin with previous links to both Al Jazeera and a Hamas TV station in Lebanon.

At no point did Rajan address the topic of the type of content produced by ‘Middle East Eye’ which includes sympathetic coverage of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood such as the following anodyne portrayal of Yusuf Qaradawi by David Hearst himself:

“Rival preachers are cast as terrorists – but not because their interpretation of Islam is more extreme. It’s their moderation the Saudi clerics fear.

One of the objects of Emirati (and Israeli) ire comes in the form of an eminent Muslim Brotherhood scholar, Yousef al-Qaradawi, who lives in Doha. Qaradawi is no social liberal. He is not about to embrace homosexuality or Western feminism. But it is not those qualities that have put him on the Saudi terror list.

In May 2008, Qaradawi issued a fatwa permitting the building of churches in Muslim countries. He said it is allowed in Islam and Muslims have to respect and protect them.”

As we see listeners to this edition of ‘The Media Show’ were told a story framed as an assault on media freedom that by no means provided them with the full range of information concerning either the issue itself or the media organisation that is its focus. David Hearst was at the time doing the rounds at various media outlets to present his side of the story and Amol Rajan’s softball interviewing refrained from making any real effort to challenge Hearst’s narrative.

Would BBC audiences have gone away with a better understanding of this story? Quite the opposite.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC Business airbrushes abuse of foreign workers in Qatar

Op-ed at UK site edited by former Guardian editor claims Israel intentionally murders children  (UK Media Watch) 

 

 

 

BBC contributor on ME links up with UK Hamas supporters

Next month an organisation linked to Hamas (which is of course proscribed by the EU and in part by the UK) will hold an event titled ‘Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on’ at the British Library in London.

“The 1917 Balfour Declaration is widely regarded as one of the most formative and far-reaching documents in the modern history of the Middle East. It was the cornerstone of the Zionist project to transform Arab Palestine into a ‘Jewish state’. The Declaration and subsequent events changed not only the demographic map of the region but also its political, social and military configuration as well.

Join Middle East Monitor on the 7th of October at the British Library in Central London to learn more about and discuss the declaration, how it came about, it’s [sic] legal standing and consequences, and to look at Britain’s role in the continued oppression of Palestinians.”

The fact that ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO) is organising such an event comes as no surprise: it is after all the Hamas-linked outfit that invited Raed Salah to the UK in 2011 and it includes among its staff seasoned anti-Israel activists such as director Daud Abdullah (also connected to the PRC) and senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt of ‘Interpal‘. 

Neither is the line-up of speakers at this latest MEMO event much of an eye-opener: no-one familiar with the Hamas-sympathetic anti-Israel scene in the UK would be shocked to find names such as David Cronin, Clare Short and Peter Oborne on the list.

Nevertheless, one name on that list should raise eyebrows – not because he has unsurprisingly agreed to speak at an event run by a group known to be linked to Hamas but because the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activist academic Avi Shlaim is also a fairly regular (but inevitably inadequately introduced) BBC contributor on Middle East affairs and has even in the past been consulted as an ‘expert’ at the later stages of the BBC complaints procedure.

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Where did Jeremy Bowen learn the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict? 

 

BBC silent on British link to incitement of Palestinian children

A month ago the annual ‘Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education’ was held in the Gaza Strip. As the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported, the five-day festival’s opening event was attended by a representative from the Gaza office of a British charity.

“On April 3, 2016, a ceremony was held at the University College of Applied Sciences in Gaza to announce the beginning of the Annual Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education. The opening ceremony was attended by college’s rector, Dr. Refaat Rustom, members of the faculty, Ahmed Hawajri, director of guidance and special education in the department of education in the Gaza Strip, Imad al-Ghalayini, representing the Bank of Palestine, Mahmoud Lubbad, Interpal representative in Gaza, and representatives of children’s organizations throughout the Gaza Strip. The festival began on April 3 and ran until April 7, 2016, and organized various activities for children throughout the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

Lubbad’s participation is explained by the fact that the British charity Interpal co-sponsored the festival.

“The high point of the festival during Palestinian Children’s Day on April 5. One of the events was held in Khan Yunis, and was attended by many children and their teachers. Children came on stage in groups and put on shows they had prepared for the audience. There were dances and songs as well as displays with themes of hatred and violence against Israel, evidence of the indoctrination received by the younger Palestinian generation. The displays were accompanied by songs with themes of hatred and violence.

Three of the plays put on by the children were the following:

  1. A play in which a very young, veiled girl stabs an “IDF soldier” with a knife – In response the “soldiers” shoot her and she falls motionless to the ground. The play was related to the release of Palestinian prisoners (see below), and glorified the stabbing attacks which are a prominent form of attack in the current Palestinian terrorist campaign.
  2. A play showing a “Palestinian prisoner” incarcerated by “IDF soldiers.” A masked child wearing a uniform “shoots and kills the IDF soldiers” and releases the “prisoner”. The play reflects the Hamas’ efforts to abduct Israelis as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
  3. A display put on by another group of children showing an “IDF soldier” holding an Israeli flag. A little girl knocks him over, steps on him and picks up a Palestinian flag. Then she “releases” a Palestinian prisoner.”

As can clearly be seen in this video of clips from those shows, the stage backdrop displayed the Israel-erasing Interpal logo.

Interpal logo Gaza childrens festival

When approached by the Daily Mail, an Interpal representative stated that:

“…it did not support the play but instead ‘hosted some activities in Gaza City, as part of the larger event’, adding that it does not condone violence.”

And:

“Our logo was used in various materials for the festival, as we held our own activities as part of the larger umbrella of the festival in Gaza City,’ a spokesperson said. ‘We did not support this particular play and did not have any involvement with it.”

Ten years ago the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ made a very good programme about Interpal titled ‘Faith, Hate and Charity’ which opened with footage of Palestinian children performing similar ‘amateur dramatics’. Following that programme an investigation into Interpal was carried out (not for the first time) by the Charity Commission.

“Included in a wealth of material which Panorama passed to the Commission was video evidence of young girls at an event organised by one of Interpal’s partner charities being encouraged to sing: “We all sacrifice ourselves for our country” and “… we answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder.”

Another clip shows girls dancing to a tune with the lyrics: “Fasten your bomb belt oh would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland.”

A woman, who was organizing another event was seen taking the microphone and telling the children: “To martyrs in every time and place… To the rich blood and to the wounds which have drawn the identity of Islamic land.”

In paragraph 60 of its report, the Commission acknowledged that the material presented to it “seemed to indicate that certain local partners funded by the Charity promoted terrorist ideology or activities amongst their beneficiaries.”

Despite that Panorama report, Interpal continued to function and apparently very little has changed in the last decade – apart the BBC’s level of interest in the story, which it has not covered to date.

Related Articles:

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Extremist links of charities ignored in BBC reports

BBC Business covers one terror banking story, ignores another more close to home

BBC College of Journalism “associations”

 

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

On December 17th the UK Government published the main findings of an internal review of the Muslim Brotherhood which was commissioned by the Prime Minister in April 2014. Mr Cameron also made a written statement to Parliament on the topic on the same day.

The published main findings were the subject of a report titled “UK will not ban Muslim Brotherhood, says David Cameron” which appeared on the BBC News website’s UK page on December 17th.  

Another article relating to the same topic and published over a year previously in October 2014 still appears on the same webpage under the headline “Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Cleared of UK terrorism link’“. The opening paragraph of that report tells readers that:MB 2014 art

“A review of the Muslim Brotherhood’s UK activity has cleared it of links to terrorism, its lawyers have said.” [emphasis added]

Later analysis by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner includes the following:

“Whitehall insiders have been saying privately that – while there are concerns about some individual members – nothing has emerged to link the Brotherhood as an institution to any acts of terrorism.” [emphasis added]

That article was published long before the review’s findings were made public and, as can be seen below, those findings now call the accuracy of the above statements into question, both in terms of material and ideological support.

In his statement to Parliament, Mr Cameron noted that:

“Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism.”

And:

“Individuals closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK have supported suicide bombing and other attacks in Israel by Hamas, an organisation whose military wing has been proscribed in the UK since 2001 as a terrorist organisation, and which describes itself as the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The published main findings state that:

“The Hamas founding charter claims they are the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood treat them as such. In the past ten years support for Hamas (including in particular funding) has been an important priority for the MB in Egypt and the MB international network.”

And:

“…the Muslim Brotherhood at all levels have repeatedly defended Hamas attacks against Israel, including the use of suicide bombers and the killing of civilians. The Muslim Brotherhood facilitate funding for Hamas. The leadership of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, its Jordanian counterpart and Hamas are closely connected. There are wider links with Muslim Brotherhood affiliates throughout the region. Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood routinely use virulent, anti-Semitic language…”

And:

“They have deliberately, wittingly and openly incubated and sustained an organisation – Hamas – whose military wing has been proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organisation (and which has been proscribed in its entirety by other countries).”

The report goes on to state:

“Many Brotherhood groups have raised funds in the UK. A complex network of charities associated with the Muslim Brotherhood has developed here over many years. Whilst some of these seem to be raising funds only for the Brotherhood in the UK others have been linked to Hamas. In 2003 the UK charity Interpal was designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury, primarily on the grounds of alleged links to Hamas. Interpal has been investigated three times by the Charity Commission in the UK. In 2006 the Charity Commission found that Interpal was a member of the Union of Good, a wider group of charities believed to have Hamas links and that in 2003 an Interpal partner was designated as a terrorist entity under UK law. The Charity Commission took regulatory action against Interpal in 2009. Though never publicly acknowledged by the Muslim Brotherhood charities in the UK are an important part of the Hamas and Brotherhood infrastructure in this country.” […]

“The Muslim Brotherhood has not been linked to terrorist related activity in and against the UK. […] However, in common with the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere, Muslim Brotherhood-related organisations and individuals in the UK have openly supported the activities of Hamas. People associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK have applauded suicide bombing by Hamas, in some cases against civilians. Hamas terrorist activities have not been publicly disowned or condemned.”

Among the report’s conclusions is the following:

“…aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”

The statements from the October 2014 article highlighted above obviously do not present BBC audiences with an accurate picture of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to and relationship with Hamas terrorism according to the findings of the government review. The BBC’s editorial guidelines on the subject of online content management state:

“News pages and any content that advertises its topicality, or where users might reasonably expect it to be topical, must be kept up to date.  Content that appears to be topical but is, in fact, clearly out of date may undermine the BBC’s reputation for high editorial standards.  This includes databases of material gathered over time.”

Clearly then this article requires appropriate amendment in order for it to be accurate and up to date.  

Extremist links of charities ignored in BBC reports

The BBC’s Julia Macfarlane recently showcased a trip to the Gaza Strip by four British surgeons in a series of reports across a variety of BBC platforms.Macfarlane art main

On October 10th a feature titled “A war within a war: The battles fought by Gaza’s medics” appeared on the BBC News website where it remained for five consecutive days. A filmed version of the report – which also appeared on BBC television news – was posted on the same webpage on the same day under the title “Gaza conflict: UK surgeons help treat wounded“. On October 11th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presented by Julian Marshall, included an audio version of Macfarlane’s report – available from 12:25 here.  

The subject of the organizations behind the doctors’ trip to the Gaza Strip is not raised at all in the radio version of the report. In the televised version, one of the doctors says:

“I think myself as part of a charity like Ideals and MAP can actually now start setting something to try to sort these people out.”

Very few viewers of course are likely to be aware of the fact that the acronym MAP is in fact Medical Aid for Palestinians. The written version of Macfarlane’s report states:

“The surgeons belong to the charity Ideals, and were sent to Gaza by Medical Aid for Palestinians to visit the main hospitals there to carry out assessments and to perform post-traumatic, reconstructive surgeries.”

The same written feature also includes the following graphic displaying information provided by MAP.

Macfarlane art graphic

Like the rest of the content in all of Macfarlane’s context-free reports, this graphic makes no attempt to inform BBC audiences of the real reasons behind the information presented. There is of course nothing novel about that: from the very first day of the seven-week conflict the BBC misled its audiences by stating or implying that shortages of medical equipment in the Gaza Strip are a consequence of border restrictions imposed by Israel. On no occasion has any effort been made to clarify to BBC audiences that the permanent shortage of drugs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of ongoing disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and that Israel does not place any restrictions whatsoever on the entry of such items into the Strip.

Notably, the same context-free theme was also promoted by the BBC during Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, including in an interview with the then WHO representative Tony Laurance who has since become the chief executive of MAP.

All of these reports by Julia Macfarlane were obviously made with the collaboration of the charities involved in organizing and funding the doctors’ trip.

The charity ‘Ideals‘ states on its website that its ‘donors/supporters’ include Interpal – a UK charity with known connections to Hamas which is designated a terrorist entity by the United States and was the subject of a ‘Panorama‘ programme in 2006.

Macfarlane art Ideals

 

One of Interpal’s associates is Dr Paola Manduca who, together with MAP founder and honorary patron Dr Swee Chai Ang, was at the centre of a recent controversy caused by their publication (with others) of a highly defamatory and politicized letter in The Lancet. That controversy further escalated after the discovery of their promotion of antisemitic material.

According to Julia Macfarlane, the UK doctors’ trip was jointly funded by the British tax-payer (via DFID). The MAP website states that more such DFID-funded missions are planned in the future and that “… MAP will continue to work with the Ministry of Health in Gaza to identify key areas of need and offer specialised medical interventions”.

Both the issue of public funding and the collaboration, via MAP, with the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry should have made the extremist links of the charities showcased by the BBC even more of a matter of public interest, but yet no effort was made whatsoever to inform audiences of those links or MAP’s political agenda in any of Macfarlane’s reports. 

BBC Business covers one terror banking story, ignores another more close to home

On September 22nd a report titled “Arab Bank found liable by US court in Hamas attacks” was published on both the BBC News website’s Business page and its Middle East page.Arab Bank art

Here is what the BBC’s ‘Style Guide’ has to say about the use of the word Palestine in BBC reporting:

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…” ” [emphasis added]

That point does not seem to be clear to the writer of this article who – although he or she did make refreshing and accurate use of the term terrorist – also misleadingly declared locations which have yet to have their status determined in negotiations to be ‘Palestine’ and led readers to believe that such a state existed as long ago as “the early 2000s”.

“A New York jury has found Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas.

As a result, the Jordan-based bank must provide compensation to victims of nearly two dozen terrorist attacks that Hamas carried out in Israel and Palestine in the early 2000s.” [emphasis added]

Another notable point about this report is that it (or any other currently appearing on the BBC News website) does not inform readers that the same court in the United States ruled on the same day that a similar case is to be reinstated. As Reuters and the WSJ reported:

“The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a federal district judge got it wrong when she threw out legal claims by about 200 U.S. victims of Hamas attacks who claimed that National Westminster Bank PLC provided banking services to a London-based charity with alleged ties to the group.

The lawsuit, which the Second Circuit sent back to federal trial court in Brooklyn, was filed under the Antiterrorism Act, a 1990 law that gives victims of international terrorism recourse in U.S. courts. […]

In the lawsuit, NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, is accused of maintaining bank accounts and transferring funds for the Palestine Relief & Development Fund, also known as Interpal, which the plaintiffs allege solicited funds for and otherwise supported Hamas.”

Although eight years have passed since the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ documentary on Interpal, many of the issues it raised are still very relevant to the topic of this revived court case. If that did not spark the BBC’s curiosity, one might at least have expected that the British public’s interests in the RBS group would have prompted the corporation to cover this development. 

BBC College of Journalism “associations”

The BBC Academy’s College of Journalism was opened in 2005 in the wake of the Hutton Judicial Inquiry with the aim of providing “training for the entire BBC editorial staff”. Its website claims that it “focuses on best practice in core editorial skills, and offers an overview of specialist areas as well as legal and ethical issues”.

On that website one can find plenty of evidence of collaboration between the BBC College of Journalism and the Frontline Club in London, where events are frequently advertised as being “in association with the BBC College of Journalism” and BBC employees frequently appear. Whether or not that “association” has financial aspects is unclear. 

FLC 1

FLC 2

But not only mainstream media journalists appear at the Frontline Club. As the CST recently reminded us, some speakers with decidedly dubious connections are given a platform there too.

“Tonight [June 12th 2013], Ibrahim Hewitt (pro-Palestinian Islamist), David Hearst (senior Guardian writer) and Tim Llewellyn (ex-BBC Middle East correspondent), will be “critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict”. The venue is London journalist haunt, the Frontline Club. It will be chaired by Mark McDonald, a founder of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

Hewitt is central to this meeting. He is senior editor of Islamist news outfit, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and runs Interpal, a pro-Palestinian charity. In 2010, CST stated that MEMO’s beliefs about “Zionist” control of media and politicians, made it “unsuitable for Labour MPs and senior Guardian personnel to work with”.”

As noted above, as well as being involved with MEMO, Ibrahim Hewitt is also a trustee of the Hamas-supporting ‘charity’ Interpal which is proscribed by the United States, Australia and Israel. He is seen in the picture below on the left, together with Essam Mustafa of Interpal, visiting Hamas PM Haniyeh in Gaza. 

“In July 2006, an investigation by BBC Panorama claimed that Interpal was providing funds to a number of charities in the  Palestinian territories that were affiliated with Hamas. Some of these charities were even run by senior Hamas members. The investigation uncovered video clips of young girls from the al Khalil al Rahman Girls’ Society, which had received money from Interpal. The children sang: “We all sacrifice ourselves for our country. We answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder” … “Fasten your bomb belt, o would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland.” “

 So here’s a question for BBC licence fee payers: do they consider it appropriate for the BBC College of Journalism to maintain “associations” with an establishment which provides a platform (and even a MEMO organised book launch) for someone who belongs to what it knows itself to be a fundraiser for a terrorist organization