BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during November 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 84 incidents took place: fifty-three in Judea & Samaria, twenty-nine in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and one in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 72 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using explosive devices, one shooting attack, one vehicular attack and two arson attacks. A fatal stabbing attack took place in Arad and there was one incident of multiple mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.

During November one soldier was murdered in the stabbing attack in Arad and two civilians were wounded in the vehicular attack at Gush Etzion Junction.

As noted here at the time, the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on that vehicular attack. The stabbing attack in Arad on November 30th in which Sgt Ron Yitzhak Kukia was murdered was covered the next day in a BBC report that also mentioned the mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. None of the additional incidents that took place during November received any BBC News website coverage.

Throughout the first eleven months of 2017 the BBC News website has reported 0.79% of the total terror attacks that took place and 88% of the resulting fatalities.

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BBC inaccurately paraphrases Israeli officials

BBC News goes from not reporting car rammings as terror to not reporting at all

 

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How did BBC radio frame the US announcement on Jerusalem?

Last week we looked at the way in which the story of the US president’s statement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city was framed in reports on the BBC News website even before that announcement had been made.

BBC radio stations likewise devoted coverage to that story prior to the actual announcement. BBC World Service radio, for example, aired items about that story in four different programmes in the twenty-four hours before the statement was issued.

December 5th:

1) ‘Newshour’ presented by Tim Franks (from 00:34 here).

In that item listeners heard from the BBC’s Yolande Knell who did note the existence of the US’s ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’, its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the waivers signed by US presidents since then. In addition listeners heard negative reactions to the anticipated announcement from the PA’s Nabil Shaath and from Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal who misrepresented the 2004 ICJ advisory opinion on the “legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian Territory” as a “legal ruling” with no challenge from Franks. A negative opinion was also heard from the former advisor to US administrations Aaron David Miller. No Israeli voices were present in that programme.

December 6th:

2) ‘Newsday’ presented by Lawrence Pollard and Andrew Peach.

The early edition of that programme included a re-broadcasting of the statement from Nabil Shaath, an interview with Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer and an interview with Mustafa Barghouti which was discussed here.

A later edition included interviews with American human rights lawyer Brooke Goldstein and Saree Makdisi which was discussed here and a still later edition of the programme recycled a version of Barghouti’s comments and reporting from Yolande Knell.

3) ‘The Newsroom’ presented by Claire MacDonald.

In that programme (from 00:05 here) listeners heard reporting from the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus and recorded statements from the PLO’s Manuel Hassassian and Israeli minister Naftali Bennett.

4) ‘Newshour’ presented by James Coomarasamy.

In addition to reporting from the BBC’s Barbara Plett-Usher (from 00:05 here) listeners heard interviews with Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli MK Yoav Kish and a Jerusalem bookseller called Mahmoud Muna. Later on in the same programme listeners heard a problematic portrayal of Jerusalem’s history from British academic Mick Dumper which was discussed here.

In all, listeners to those four BBC World Service programmes heard two from two American interviewees (one presenting the announcement as negative and one as positive), two Israeli politicians and one Israeli journalist. They also heard negative views from one Jordanian and one British academic as well as in interviews with Palestinian commentators that were promoted (including repeats) a total of eight times.

In other words, negative views of the anticipated announcement got nearly three times as much exposure as positive ones on the BBC World Service in the twenty-four hours preceding the US president’s statement.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the topic discussed in three programmes on the same day.

December 6th:  

1) ‘Today’ presented by Mishal Husain and John Humphrys

That programme included reporting from the BBC’s Yolande Knell, Barbara Plett Usher and Jon Sopel as well as interviews with the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat (discussed here) and the PLO’s Manuel Hassassian (discussed here).

2) ‘World at One’ presented by Martha Kearney

In that programme listeners heard from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen (from 34:24 here) who made no mention of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, preferring to ‘explain’ the anticipated announcement as follows:

“It was an election promise. As well as people who are Jews who are pro-Israel who may have voted for him – and in fact most Jews in America vote for the Democratic party – he’s also got a lot of support from evangelical Christians who are very, very strong supporters of Israel. So it could be that.”

3) ‘PM’ presented by Eddie Mair

In that programme too Radio 4 listeners heard from Jeremy Bowen (from 18:09 here) who, while once again failing to mention the context of existing US legislation, gave a negative view of the anticipated statement.

“It adds another potential incendiary bomb in what’s already a tense city in a tense and chaotic region. And I think that if you are interested in peace, that isn’t the right thing to do.”

While BBC Radio 4’s guest list was more balanced than that of the BBC World Service, with the exception of Nir Barkat, listeners heard a very monochrome presentation of the story.

Like the BBC News website’s coverage, these two BBC radio stations failed for the most part to provide audiences with the story’s essential context and refrained from providing the relevant – and accurate – historical background necessary for understanding of the story. Instead, their coverage was overwhelmingly focused on framing the issue according to a partisan political narrative.

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Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the December 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an interview with the mayor of Jerusalem concerning a statement – which at the time had yet to be made – by the US president announcing recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Later on in the same programme listeners heard another segment relating to the same topic which began (from 02: 10:16 here) with presenter John Humphrys telling audiences that:

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

Humphrys: “The world has grown used to Donald Trump making provocative comments since he became president of the United States – usually in his endless flow of late-night Tweets. What he’s planning to say today will not be in a spontaneous Tweet but in a scripted speech and it has the potential to change the course of the peace process in the Middle East – many say to bring it crashing down. He will announce that Washington will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

After listeners had heard a report from Jon Sopel, Humphrys introduced (at 02:14:56) his next interviewee. Not for the first time ‘Today’ listeners heard a presenter upgrade the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Humphrys: “Well I’ve been talking to Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to this country. He’s effectively the Palestinian ambassador. What does he think of the speech?”

Hassassian: “If he says what he is intending to say about, you know, Jerusalem being the capital of Israel it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution. I think, you know, such a statement means a breach to the international conventions and to all UN Security Council resolutions concerning East Jerusalem as being, you know, an occupied city. I think it’s going to have big repercussions; not only in Palestine but it will be in the Arab and Islamic world. I think this could be the beginning of another compulsive violence that all parties need to avoid. I think, you know, this could be detrimental to the entire peace process. I think the United States will discredit himself as an honest broker of peace. I think by doing that it will show and portray to the entire world that the US is unequivocally supporting Israel and cannot really broker peace in the Middle East.”

Humphrys: “Presumably your leader Mahmoud Abbas has said all of this to Mr Trump.”

Hassassian: “Yes, he’s said that. He said that the repercussions will be very detrimental to the entire region. That it will create instability and insecurity again. It will put us back into the zero sum conflict. Violence will be inevitable and the end result is total chaos.”

Humphrys: “How did President Trump respond to Mr Abbas when he said that?”

Hassassian: “Basically he did not respond but he was trying to beat around the bush by explaining to him that we will give you this instead and that instead. You know; all gibberish talk that leads to nothing except to the escalation of tension and violence. At the time when the entire Middle East and the Palestinian, Israelis need a certain breakthrough in a re-engagement in negotiations, here he comes, you know, to start a whole new episode of confusion, anarchy, distortion to the concept of a two-state solution. And by, you know, announcing that, he’s declaring war in the Middle East. He’s declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept their holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, let alone that East Jerusalem has always been known as, you know, the future capital of Palestine, let alone that it is under occupation.”

If listeners expected to hear Humphrys question Manuel Hassassian further on the interesting topic of what the Palestinians had been offered “instead”, they would have been disappointed.

Humphrys: “Well that’s very strong language; declaring war in the Middle East. What he says he’s doing is making the case that he’s settling the question of the American embassy and could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.”

Hassassian: “If he seriously wants to bring the parties together he doesn’t start with a total violation in such a decision of moving the embassy. That is a total breach to the international conventions, let alone it is a breach basically to the arrangements and to the…to all the negotiations that we have been engaged with the Israelis about how East Jerusalem could be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem could be the capital of Israel. But by doing that he is preempting the entire process, you know, into a fait accompli and that in itself is going to have really a bad and violent reaction.”

Humphrys: “And you talk about declaring war and a violent reaction. What will actually happen? Because the Palestinians don’t have the wherewithal to [laughs] declare war on the United States of America, let alone in Israel.”

Hassasian: “What I mean by declaring war means that, you know, the Palestinians will go down to the streets and complain. And of course the entire Middle East will be on its feet because such a decision is going to be, you know, detrimental to the entire stability and security in the Middle East. Definitely this reaction is going to be different than any other reaction. Let us not forget what happened in the summer, you know, in Jerusalem when the Israelis tried to close down, I mean, the al Aqsa Mosque to the prayers and, you know, almost an intifada could have broke out. No, if we don’t take this issue seriously, what is left? I mean Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state. If that is gone, what do we mean by a two-state solution when there is no geographic contiguity anymore? This is the last straw that will break the camel’s back. I don’t mean war in terms of conventional war. I mean war in terms of diplomacy. We are basically going to go to the international courts. We will do all our utmost diplomatically and politically to put pressures on the United States to rescind from such a decision because this would definitely kill the entire peace process and will take us back to square one where convulsive violence will be inevitable.”

Humphrys: “Manuel Hassassian – thank you very much for talking to us.”

That interview lasted five and a half minutes and as we see, Humphrys refrained from interrupting his interviewee at all (in contrast to the five interruptions in his earlier interview with Nir Barkat) and asked just four questions.

While Humphrys spent over 30% of the time allotted to the interview with Barkat speaking himself, in this interview he spoke for just 13% of the time, giving Hassassian an uninterrupted platform from which – inter alia – to disseminate a false account of the events in Jerusalem last July that followed the introduction of security measures after the terror attack near Temple Mount.

Equally revealing are the BBC’s subsequent actions concerning these two interviews. While nothing was done at all with the interview with the mayor of Jerusalem, an edited version of the interview with Hassassian was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme “The Newsroom” (from 00:05 here) on the same day (with Hassassian again upgraded to ‘ambassador’).

The BBC also chose to make a video version of part of the interview and that was promoted on the BBC News website under the headline “Jerusalem as capital is ‘declaring war'”. A link to that video, along with quotes from Hassassian, also appeared in a BBC News website article that was published on December 6th under the headline “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace“.

It is once again abundantly clear that even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem, the BBC – including the ‘Today’ programme – had elected to frame the story for its audiences in line with the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

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Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

 

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

The December 6th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included several items relating to what was at the time an anticipated announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the transfer of his country’s embassy to that city.

In addition to reports from the BBC’s own Yolande Knell, Barbara Plett-Usher and Jon Sopel, listeners heard two interviews conducted by presenter John Humphrys in which very different styles of interviewing were evident.

The first interview (from 01:34:40 here) was with the mayor of Jerusalem and in his introduction Humphrys erased the religious significance of that city to Jews from the picture presented to listeners.

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

Humphrys: “There is no more sensitive issue in Middle East peace negotiations than the status of Jerusalem. The Israelis claim it as their capital and treat it as such but it’s alone in that. For the Palestinians and every Arab country it is a sacred city. Every foreign country has its embassy not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv. That may be about to change. Today President Trump is going to make a speech which will, it seems, reverse decades of American policy by announcing that the American embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and thus effectively recognise the ancient city as Israel’s capital. I’ve been talking about that to the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat who welcomed what Mr Trump is going to say.”

Barkat: “I applaud the president of the United States, President Trump. Indeed he said in his campaign that he will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy and for us to see him take action on his campaign promise is meaningful and it’s a very important day for Jerusalem today.”

Humphrys: “Well it may be an important day for Jerusalem but for the Middle East as a whole it’s highly provocative, isn’t it?”

Barkat: “I don’t think so. I think we have a brave president that understands the Middle East. He understands that in any peace scenario Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people for the last three thousand years and the Bible says so. We recognise that and for us to see a world leader like the president of the United States come and look forward and understand that, if anything, this will contribute to the peace process, to very…to stability, for the world to understand that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people regardless of any peace process or it’ll help the peace process, I think is meaningful.”

Humphrys: “Well so long as you believe that that’s fine but that is not what the rest of the world believes and your own Brigadier General Michael Herzog who, as you will know, serves in…served in very senior positions in the IDF and he’s been an Israeli peace negotiator – he says he is worried that extremists – Hamas etcetera – will use this as a rallying cry and Mr Trump should think very carefully about the impact his statement will have.”

Barkat: “Well I recognise that there are people that have different thoughts on the issue; that’s very clear. But I want to tell you one more thing: Israel would never exist if we would be afraid of threats made by our neighbours. Now we have to recognise…do the right thing. We’ll align interests with our partners around the world like the United States and others – and there are many, many others – and no deter from doing the right thing because of [the] threats of terror and other organisations. I have to tell you; about two years ago we had a round of violence for no reason. So the point is that you’ve got to make [do] the right thing and defend ourselves if, God forbid, they try to deter the decision – the terrorists – from doing the right thing we will overcome.”

Humphrys [interrupts] “Well there is no doubt…there is no doubt that they will try to deter you [sic] from doing this because for them there is no more sensitive issue and it isn’t just the Palestinians saying this, is it? It’s the Arab league talking about dangerous measures that would have repercussions. Saudi Arabia: ‘detrimental to the peace process’. Jordan: ‘it will provoke Muslims and Christians alike’. Turkey: ‘we may cut off diplomatic relations with Israel’. The consequences will be massive, won’t they?”

Barkat: “I don’t think so but I understand why people…”

Humphrys [interrupts]: “You don’t think so?”

Barkat: “No. I think that we have to do the right thing period. Look, if somebody threatens you and you deter he will continue threatening you and you’ll never get anywhere.”

Humphrys then managed to erase Hamas and additional terror organisations from the story:

Humphrys [interrupts]: “But you’re not being threatened over Jerusalem as we speak, are you? Nobody is trying to throw you out of Jerusalem.”

Barkat: “Well that’s the absurdity. I think what you’re basically saying to me [is] that there are people that are threatening us – extremists, radical Islam and others and maybe other people that have [unintelligible] opinions about Jerusalem are threatening in all ways…in all kinds of ways…”

Humphrys [interrupts] “No. What….”

Barkat: “If you’re asking me if we should deter from doing the right thing, the answer is definitely not.”

Humphrys then presented the Palestinian Authority’s narrative on this issue a fact:

Humphrys [interrupts]: “They want…what…yeah, but what they want is…is…is a two-state peace process and this will destroy that process – completely.”

Barkat: “I don’t think so. I think recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not…is not saying anything. But as a matter of fact, the opposite. In any scenario Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people period. Now if you don’t recognise that and you don’t want to have peace it will be very unfortunate. But that is something that is not negotiable from the Israeli side and, you know, hopefully people will understand and accept…and accept that historic fact and thank God if everything goes right it’s the reality and the future.”

Humphrys: “Nir Barkat – many thanks for talking to us.”

Leaving out the introduction, this interview lasted just over four minutes, during which Humphrys interrupted his interviewee on five occasions and spent well over a quarter of the time (1 minute and 14 seconds) speaking himself – including lengthy statements .

Later on in the same programme Humphrys conducted a longer interview with a Palestinian official and in part two of this post we will see how the interviewing technique used differed and what the BBC chose to do with both those interviews.

 

 

 

Jerusalem terror attack gets 21 words of BBC coverage

On December 10th the IDF announced that it had destroyed a cross-border attack tunnel constructed by Hamas.

“The Israel Defense Forces this weekend destroyed an attack tunnel coming from the southern Gaza Strip that entered Israeli territory, the army announced on Sunday.

photo credit:IDF

The military said the kilometer-long tunnel was constructed by the Hamas terrorist group. It began in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and extended “hundreds of meters” inside Israeli territory. Israel demolished another cross-border tunnel, which was being dug by the Islamic Jihad terror group, six weeks ago.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus would not specify where exactly the newly destroyed was located in Israel, but said it ended in open farmland, approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the nearest Israeli community. […]

He said the tunnel appeared to be a “very substantial” one for Hamas, “based on the level of detail.””

The BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone reporting on that story and the only mention of the IDF’s announcement came in twenty words in half a sentence in yet another article about the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that was published on the website’s Middle East page on December 10th under the headline “Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem“.

Notably, despite the IDF having identified the tunnel as belonging to Hamas, the BBC did not report that information to its audiences and was ‘unable’ to describe the tunnel’s purpose in its own words.

“…Israel said it had blown up a tunnel from Gaza, which it says was being dug to enable militant attacks”

Obviously Israeli officials did not use the phrase “militant attacks” and so for the third time this month we see the BBC inaccurately paraphrasing statements made by Israelis despite the fact that the BBC’s guidance on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people…” 

Later on the same day a terror attack took place at the main bus station in Jerusalem.

“A Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard in the chest,  seriously wounding him, at the entrance to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on Sunday, before being tackled by police and a passerby, officials said,

Graphic video footage from the scene showed the terrorist slowly handing his belongings to the security guard, who was checking travelers at the door to the station, before suddenly taking out a knife and plunging it into the guard’s chest. […]

The victim, 46, was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where doctors were battling to stabilize his condition and save his life, said Dr. Ofer Merrin, the head of trauma center.

“The knife, unfortunately, hit his heart. His condition has stabilized, but I cannot say that there’s not threat to his life because, like I said, he’s in serious condition,” the doctor said, adding that he was unconscious and connected to a respirator.”

The only reporting of that attack on the BBC News website came in the form of twenty-one words in the same article.

“In Jerusalem itself, a Palestinian was arrested after stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli security guard at the central bus station.”

Unsurprisingly given the BBC’s record, audiences were not informed that the incident was a terror attack.

Related Articles:

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Multiple inaccuracies in BBC WS Jerusalem history backgrounder

Like the BBC News website, BBC World Service radio produced a considerable amount of coverage concerning the US president’s December 6th announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel even before that announcement had been made.

One of the many items broadcast to listeners around the world during that run-up time is of particular interest because it was presented to audiences as an academic account of Jerusalem’s history – and therefore by implication, both accurate and impartial.

The final item in the December 6th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 48:20 here) as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “We’re going to end the programme by returning to Jerusalem ahead of President Trump’s speech and a look at the history of the city and how it’s made it such a revered and contested place. Well Mick Dumper is a professor of Middle East politics at Exeter University here in the west of England. He says that Jerusalem’s status as a holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians makes it highly prized.”

That portrayal of Mick (Michael) Dumper’s job title is indeed accurate. It does not however provide listeners with any insight into his “particular viewpoint” – as required under the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

And so – unaware that Dumper has for example in the past proposed that UNESCO be the “guardian of Jerusalem’s holy sites“, collaborated with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil‘, described visits by Jews to Temple Mount as “settler encroachments” and claimed that Israel is “undermining…the Islamic presence” in Jerusalem – listeners heard him describe the Palestinian Authority as a “country”: a claim the BBC’s own style guide refutes.

Dumper: “It is the centre for the three major religions of the world; very central to Judaism, to Islam and to Christianity. But on top of that it’s then become the capital that both countries aspire to have as the central city of their country. And…eh…they can’t agree on it.”

Coomarasamy: “And in terms of the holy sites; just remind us what we’re talking about.”

Dumper: “For the Jews it’s what they call the Wailing Wall – or sometimes it’s known as the Western Wall – which is supposed to be the original wall of the Second Temple from the biblical period. For the Christians it’s the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and for the Muslims it’s the site where Mohammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven and receive some of the revelations for the Koran.”

Jews of course do not “call” the Western Wall “the Wailing Wall” – that term is a British invention. Neither is the Western Wall “the original wall of the Second Temple”, but part of the retaining wall of the plaza on which the Temple stood. Coomarasamy made no effort to correct those gross inaccuracies before continuing with a bizarre and context-free portrayal of the city’s division in 1948.

Coomarasamy: “And ever since the State of Israel was founded it’s been a divided city.”

Dumper: “Yes, I mean if I take you back a little bit to the period of the British mandate – that’s between 1917 and 1948 – it was the administrative capital of the territory known as Palestine which was a kind of quasi-colony of the British Empire. And Palestine was administered from Jerusalem. And after that in ’48 it was divided by the warring parties. The west side was occupied by Israel and the east side was occupied by the Jordanians and there was a line running through the middle.”

The British mandate of course did not take effect in 1917 but five years later and the assignment of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to British administration did not make the territory a “quasi-colony of the British Empire”. Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that Jerusalem is located in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland and failed to challenge Dumper’s claim that Israel “occupied” – and by inference, still does – the western area of Jerusalem.

Coomarasamy: “And then there was the war of 1967 which changed the situation on the ground.”

Dumper: “Exactly. After 1967 Israel acquired the rest of Jerusalem and a wider area around the edge of Jerusalem and tried to incorporate it into Israel to try and make it as much Israeli as, say, Tel Aviv. But because of Palestinian resistance, because of long historical connections between that area of East Jerusalem and religious authorities – religious endowments and foundations – it was very difficult for Israel to impose itself. So there was this sort of grey area. East Jerusalem was not quite Israeli. It wasn’t treated exactly the same way as other areas that Israel had occupied in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. And the international community refused to accept any change in the status of Jerusalem prior to any negotiations.”

Coomarasamy: “And another change when the settler movement came to the fore as well.”

Dumper: “Yes, about ten years after Israel acquired the rest of East Jerusalem saw a change in the Israeli government between a more secular-minded Labour party and this was replaced with a Likud party which fostered and encouraged a widespread settlement movement which had a lot of religious foundations to it. And Jerusalem became very central to their thinking about what was the future of Israel.”

Failing to challenge Dumper’s inaccurate portrayal of the importance of Jerusalem across the Israeli political spectrum, Coomarsamy steered the subject of the discussion away from its professed subject matter.

Coomarasamy: “A lot of countries in the run-up to this much-anticipated announcement from President Trump are warning him against moving the embassy to Jerusalem. What sense do you have of how things might play out if he goes ahead with that move?”

Dumper: “By moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the United States will be saying that they were no longer interested in a Palestinian state. Ten years ago I would have said there would be a huge reaction with, you know, flag burning in capitals of the region – Istanbul [sic], Cairo etcetera and, you know, a lot of attacks on Israeli embassies around the Arab world. I’m not absolutely sure that this will take place this time. It’s partly because the Arab world is so divided. The Palestinians themselves are very divided and sending out lots of different messages about how seriously they’ll respond to this. And the Islamic world is very divided between Shia and Sunni as well. So I think it’s a mistake what Trump is doing but I think he may have calculated that the response will not be as cataclysmic as it may have been…ah…ten years ago.”

Coomarasamy: “Professor Mick Dumper of Exeter University.”

In addition to its multiple inaccuracies, this ‘backgrounder’ obviously failed to inform listeners of the context to both the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem following the War of Independence and the Jordanian decision to participate in the Six Day War. Listeners heard nothing of Jewish life in Jerusalem before the division of the city in 1948 and nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population from areas including the Old City. The centrality and significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Israelis alike was not clarified in Dumper’s obviously politically motivated – and severely distorted – account of the city’s history.

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

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The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part two

In part one of this post we saw examples of the BBC’s framing of Palestinian violence as being caused by the US president’s recent announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those engaging in that violence – in two BBC radio programmes. Both those programmes however also promoted some additional and no less interesting linkage.

Listeners to the 8 a.m. news bulletin in the December 9th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme also heard (from 01:05:16 here) the newsreader say that:

“President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem has cast a long shadow over the annual Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain. The defence secretary Gavin Williamson is there as part of the British delegation. From Bahrain: our security correspondent Frank Gardner.”

Gardner: “Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, was due to deliver the keynote speech. Instead she stayed in the US and accused the UN of having an anti-Israel bias. Here in the Gulf there is widespread concern that the US president’s announcement will embolden both Iran and the jihadists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al Faisal, who ran his country’s intelligence service for 24 years, told the conference the US announcement is oxygen and nutrition to radicals. ‘They will be active again’ he warned ‘and will be difficult to handle’.”

The December 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’ also promoted similar messaging. In her introduction (from 00:07 here) presenter Jackie Leonard told listeners that:

“There’s new concern in the Gulf that Mr Trump’s announcement will embolden radical groups.”

Later on she asked Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher about that topic.

Leonard: “Now there is a large security conference going on in Bahrain at the moment and President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been a topic of discussion. What has been said?”

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Usher: “Well essentially we’ve been hearing from representatives from Saudi Arabia and from the UAE that this is deeply unhelpful in the context not just of the status of Jerusalem – of its position between the Palestinians and the Israelis – but also in terms of fuelling extremism, fundamentalism: all the forces that Mr Trump and the US has essentially said they’ve been focusing on recently. The warnings have been coming from foreign ministers, from security officials, that this is going to give a new boost to the extremists in the Arab world who will see it as an insult and will use that to try and rebuild support, much of which has been leaking recently because of the way that IS – the Islamic State group – has been pushed back.”

After referring to the statement from the Iraqi prime minister pronouncing that “they have entirely defeated ISIS”, Usher went on to say:

Usher: “So in that context, these Arab officials are saying this is not helpful. We’ve just about pushed them onto the ropes – this is giving them a lifeline to come back fighting and inspiring new people to join.”

The BBC News website published an article by Frank Gardner promoting the same theme on December 8th. Titled “Trump Jerusalem shift puts counter-terror efforts at risk“, the article tells BBC audiences that:

“The recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has triggered more than just criticism from America’s allies.

Here in Bahrain, at the annual Manama Dialogue security conference, there is an almost universal concern that the announcement will be a gift to the region’s twin adversaries – Iran and the jihadists of al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS).

“The president has lit a fire and left his Arab allies to deal with the blaze,” said Elisabeth Marteu, Consultant Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

A former UK Special Forces officer, who asked not to be quoted, compared the announcement to “throwing a hand grenade into a room with the pin removed”.”

Readers also find the following:

“The first is the risk that people who might not be well disposed towards the West but were not planning to translate this into violent action may now think again.

Hediya Fathalla, an expert on Gulf security and a former Bahrain government official, told the BBC: “There are dormant jihadist mentalities who are sitting there thinking ‘I’m not operational but I have jihadist feelings’ so will this push them over the fence?””

So there we have it: in addition to the BBC’s already much promoted narrative according to which the US administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the cause of violence on the part of people who have engaged in exactly the same sort of violence for decades, will plunge a notoriously unstable part of the world into ‘instability’ and will be the “kiss of death” to a peace process that has been on life-support for 24 years, the BBC would now have its audiences believe that Trump’s announcement is going to kick-start ISIS and other jihadist groups.

While there is no doubt that the US announcement will have caused serious annoyance and ‘insult’ to a great number of people, there is of course a vast difference between being angered and taking violent action. The BBC, however, apparently does not believe that those who throw rocks at children in cars, stab random people in the street, launch missiles at civilian communities or sign up to a murderous jihadist terror organisation have any agency whatsoever or bear any responsibility for their choices.

Rather, the BBC’s soft bigotry of low expectations causes it to promote the notion that an announcement from Donald Trump triggers inevitable and irresistible reactions in followers of a particular religion – people the corporation apparently would have its audiences believe are not capable of making choices of their own.

Related Articles:

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part one

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

 

 

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part one

As recently noted here, the fact that the BBC was able to promote the notion of linkage between last Friday’s rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and the announcement concerning Jerusalem made by the US president two days beforehand meant that visitors to the BBC News website saw some modest coverage of that particular incident – in stark contrast to the numerous other incidents that the corporation chose to completely avoid reporting earlier in the year.

The same was true of some BBC radio stations. The December 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’, for example, included an item (from 52:08 here) introduced by Justin Webb as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Webb: “Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to allow plans for the US embassy to move there from Tel Aviv have enraged Palestinians and caused disquiet – to put it mildly – among America’s allies and the wider international community. In a statement issued after a UN Security Council meeting, Britain and other European countries called the move ‘unhelpful’. The Trump administration is hitting back at the UN – that they believe is biased against Israel – and at all those who’ve complained at this decision, telling them in effect ‘hold on, nothing’s working at the moment to bring peace – let’s try something new’.”

Webb then introduced “Tom Bateman our correspondent who’s been monitoring developments yesterday and indeed overnight” and Bateman opened his report with the last event to have taken place rather than the first.

Bateman: “Ah well overnight there were Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military says it targeted Hamas military sites including weapons manufacturing sites and also a training facility. And in the last 30 minutes or so Gaza’s Shifa hospital has said that they’ve found the bodies of two people under the rubble of one of those sites.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the “two people” concerned were Hamas operatives, Bateman went on to give an account that included elements which BBC audiences could have found for themselves on Israeli English language news sites.

Bateman: “Now this comes after the Israeli military said three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Now we knew about two of those last night because one had been intercepted by the Israelis. Another didn’t reach Israeli territory. But a third it seems landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It’s unclear whether it actually exploded – there are conflicting reports about that – but the Israeli press is showing pictures online of a damaged car and one resident is said to have heard an explosion; said that her windows were shaking after what she said was an explosion. But all of this after those clashes across the West Bank yesterday and Israeli troops using live fire on people who got near to the border fence in Gaza where one man was killed.”

Later on in the same programme (from 01:03:59 here) that theme of linkage between the US announcement and ‘inevitable’ violence (of the kind that actually has been a regular occurrence throughout the long decades in which the US kept its embassy in Tel Aviv) was promoted in a news bulletin. Listeners were told that:

“Violence has intensified between Israel and Gaza after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

And:

“Israel has launched further airstrikes against Hamas military positions in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. At least four Palestinians have been killed and many more injured in violence in the West Bank and Gaza since President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo today to discuss their response. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Listeners then heard a similar report to Bateman’s earlier one.

BBC World Service radio audiences also heard similar linkage promoted on December 9th in an edition of ‘The Newsroom’. Presenter Jackie Leonard introduced a lead item (from 00:07 here) that began with the sound of gunfire.

Leonard: “The sounds of further clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank this morning. It follows Friday’s ‘day of rage’ against President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel said it had launched airstrikes against Hamas military positions in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. […] Here’s our Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher.”

Usher – who apparently confused the Arabic term for Jerusalem with the name of the mosque on Temple Mount – misled listeners with the inaccurate claim that Israel’s response to the missile attacks on Friday evening was directed at launch sites rather than at Hamas facilities.

Usher: “As expected there was the announced ‘day of rage’ in the Palestinian territories against the decision by President Trump and that was also across a number of Arab countries. That sparked clashes with the Israeli police. Two people were killed in those clashes. Since then there’ve been several attempts, as forces in Gaza have done in the past, at firing rockets into Israel. Several of these were fired. They didn’t cause any casualties but the Israelis have responded – as they do – and they targeted what they said were bases where the rockets were being fired from and we know that two militants have died in Gaza from that. So four people so far as far as we know have died in one way and another from the violence. A large number of others have been wounded. Funerals are being held. Those are potentially new flashpoints. There are peaceful prayers with a large mass of people at the moment in Jerusalem itself in the Old City at Al Quds. Really everyone is just waiting to see how this now develops. It wasn’t as violent as some might have expected on Friday. Whether this now builds, whether the casualties build and this becomes similar to the intifadas that we’ve seen before is really very much an open question.”

However, the framing of Palestinian violence, rioting and missile attacks as being caused by the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those throwing rocks and firebombs, launching missiles or stabbing a security guard at a bus station – was not the only type of linkage promoted in these two programmes, as will be seen in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

As regular readers know, the BBC’s English language services did not report any of the fourteen separate incidents of missile attacks by terrorist groups located either in the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula that took place between January and November 2017. Multiple mortar attacks on an IDF position that were launched from the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on November 30th were mentioned in a BBC report on another topic.

On December 7th three missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and did not reach Israeli territory, but set off rocket sirens in the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar HaNegev regional councils, as well as the city of Sdreot. 

A Jihadist Salafi group in Gaza called the Al-Tawheed Brigades […] claimed responsibility for the first two launches. […]

A third rocket, of unconfirmed origins, was fired toward Israel and landed in Israeli territory in an open area, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed. Since the rocket did not approach an urban center it did not set off rocket sirens in the Negev communities near the Gaza Strip.”

Israel later responded to those attacks – which were not reported by the BBC.

On the evening of December 8th three more attacks took place. One projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, one – initially thought to have fallen short – was later located in the Sdot Negev district and one hit the town of Sderot.

“”There was an immense explosion. I heard glass shattering and then car alarms. The walls of my house shook. I didn’t dare leave the shelter. Now the entire street’s closed off and police and bomb squad technicians are everywhere. Ambulances are parked in front of my house and paramedics are looking for anyone who might have been hurt,” said a local Sderot woman.”

The following day an additional rocket was discovered in the yard of a kindergarten in Sderot which was fortunately empty at the time. 

Israel responded to those attacks with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip in which two members of Hamas’ Izz a din al Qassam brigades were killed.

On the morning of December 9th the BBC News website ran an article titled “Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks” on its main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East page’. The article once again opened with inaccurate paraphrasing of statements from Israeli officials. [emphasis added]

“Israel says it has targeted sites in Gaza belonging to militant group Hamas in retaliation for rocket strikes.

Israel’s military said it hit weapons sites early on Saturday. Two people were killed, a Gaza hospital said, bringing the deaths in Israeli strikes and gunfire over the past day to four.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza late on Friday.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The report did not clarify that the two people killed were Hamas operatives and readers saw no reporting from the town of Sderot other than the statement “[n]o casualties were reported” that appeared later in the article.

The rest of the report related to additional incidents of Palestinian violence and demonstrations further afield, with now standard BBC messaging on “settlements” in Jerusalem and “international law” promoted towards its end. Readers also found a recycled euphemistic statement according to which:

“The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014”

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website also found a report on the Israeli response to Friday’s missile attacks.

Given that the BBC’s English language services elected to completely ignore numerous separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip earlier in the year, the question that inevitably arises is why the attacks on December 8th were treated differently.

It is of course difficult to avoid the conclusion that the novel display of BBC interest in this particular round of attacks from Gaza is linked to the fact that it can be framed as being connected to – or indeed ‘fallout’ from – the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem. The fact that the BBC refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of all previous attacks this year obviously reinforces that erroneous narrative. 

(The table relates only to missiles that landed in Israeli territory and does not include shortfalls, interceptions or failed attacks)

 

 

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.