The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

Last month the BBC aired reports from the Gaza Strip presented by Radio 4’s Mishal Husain which included multiple references to issues concerning water, electricity and sewage.

As was noted here at the time:

“…listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.”

The portrayal of those issues focused mainly on framing them as being primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures while no effort was made to explain the role of Hamas terrorism in bringing about those measures. The effects of Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare, its chronic mismanagement of services and utilities and infrastructure and the influence of the Hamas-Fatah split on the situation in the Gaza Strip were not adequately explained in the BBC’s reporting.

Like other BBC reporters before her, Mishal Husain did not bother to clarify that the “shortage of clean water” in the Gaza Strip is the result of years of over-pumping.

“The coastal aquifer, which is located under the coastal plain of Israel and the Gaza Strip, is the only source of natural water in Gaza. Due to rapid population growth, which in the last decade increased from nearly 1.5 million in 2007 to more than 2 million today, the demand for water in the Gaza Strip has surged. The increased water needs alongside the scarcity of alternative sources of water have led to the extreme over use of the aquifer. While the renewable extraction rate for Gaza’s underground aquifer is about 60 million cubic meters of rain water annually, Palestinians in Gaza have been drawing an estimated 200 million cubic meters a year for over a decade, leading to the infiltration of sea-water into the aquifer, and therefore raising the levels of salinity far beyond WHO health regulations.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed of the effects of Hamas’ failure to address the issue of sewage treatment.

“Gaza’s groundwater has also been extensively contaminated by sewage. The discharge of untreated sewage generated by the two million inhabitants into shallow ponds – which eventually percolates into the aquifer – has caused alarming levels of Nitrate (NO3).”

The chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, which was exacerbated in 2017 by the Palestinian Authority’s dispute with Hamas, also contributed to the problem.

“Wastewater plants are not fully operating, resulting in more than 100,000 cubic meters of raw or poorly treated sewage being discharged into the sea on a daily basis.”

Notably BBC audiences have heard nothing whatsoever about the health and environmental hazards created by the increased draining of sewage from neighbourhoods in the northern Gaza Strip since summer 2017 into a stream which crosses into Israeli territory. That practice continues and an additional hazard has emerged.

“Due to the dire economic situation in Gaza, the wastewater plant cannot undergo the needed treatments, prompting Palestinians living in the northern neighborhoods of the Strip—Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia—to drain sewage into Nahal Hanun, which crosses Israel and empties into the sea, polluting the groundwater in the process.

In order to stop wastewater flow and reduce the environmental damage, the [Israeli] Water Authority has recently set up a pumping station near the Erez border crossing, which effectively made Israel responsible for water purification of the northern Gaza Strip. Before the Israeli intervention, the moshavim and kibbutzim near the border—Netiv HaAsara, Erez, Yad Mordechai, and Zikim—suffered from a continuous onslaught of mosquitoes and flies. […]

As well as that, massive piles of trash have accumulated in the area bordering the Eshkol Regional Council after three giant landfills were set up along the border fence, leaving the locals to cope with a putrid and toxic smell being carried by the wind across the border. 

The landfills are derelict as dry and wet waste gets mixed up and subsequently burned, increasing the environmental impact.”

BBC reporting on the subject of shortages of water and electricity in the Gaza Strip and the related issue of inadequate sewage treatment nevertheless continues to adhere to the type of framing seen in an edition of ‘Hardtalk’ aired on multiple BBC platforms in November 2018 in which presenter Stephen Sackur told the Israeli minister being interviewed: [emphasis added]

“…you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

Although BBC audiences have long been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story, that framing clearly does not meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. 

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

 

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BBC WS ‘Heart and Soul’ discusses internal Israeli affairs

In recent months the BBC World Service radio religious programme ‘Heart and Soul’ has aired several editions described as ‘Gatherings’ involving a panel and audience discussion to “explore questions of faith shaping futures around the world”.

In September 2018 the programme visited the United States, asking “What role do black churches have in the fight for social justice today?”. A November 2018 edition of the programme was billed “Nuala McGovern is in Rome with young Catholics from across the globe to discuss issues such as sexuality, leadership in the Church, and the role of women”.

On January 12th the programme’s latest edition – titled “Marriage in Israel” – was broadcast from Jerusalem.

“Many young Jewish people living in Israel feel religion has too big an influence over their private lives. Numerous aspects of life are governed by a council made up of orthodox rabbis called the Rabbinate. They decide who is and isn’t Jewish and by extension who can and can’t marry.

Supporters of the organisation say this helps preserve Jewish identity. Critics say it means thousands of people who are not deemed ‘Jewish enough’ can’t marry each other, forcing couples to leave the country to have a ceremony that will be recognised by the authorities when they return home.

The religious monopoly on marriage also means Jews cannot marry non-Jews and as the council of orthodox rabbis rule on divorce for every married couple in Israel, many say this disadvantages women.

Tim Franks is with a live audience and a panel of guests to discuss whether the Rabbinate should be stripped of its monopoly, or whether the current rules protect the identity and values of the Jewish faith.

This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the third programme in a series of faith-based community discussions.” [emphasis added]

Obviously debate on that topic is of relevance solely to Israelis and more specifically – given that the discussion was conducted in English with contributing members of the panel and the audience mostly coming from the very small proportion of Israelis for whom English is a native language – to any BBC World Service radio listeners among roughly half of the Israeli population who describe their English language skills as fair or good.

Readers can hence judge for themselves the objectives and value of the worldwide broadcast of a nearly hour-long English language discussion of internal Israeli affairs involving a presenter and production team flown in for the occasion.  

One to watch out for on BBC Two

BBC Two has a programme called ‘See Hear’ which is described as a “Magazine for the deaf community highlighting the issues affecting the community”. The programme has in the past included a series called “On Tour” in which a deaf presenter has visited foreign cities in order to “explore deaf culture in other countries” and to ask:

“What is life like for the local deaf community and what are the highlights for deaf travellers seeking out a short city break?”

The current “On Tour” series – now presented by deaf British actor Nadeem Islam – has already visited Reykjavik:

“Nadeem Islam visits Reykjavik in Iceland, the land of ice and fire. The birthplace of the legendary Vikings, who pillaged and plundered their way around the world, today’s Icelandic people are more laid back – but there are still living, breathing deaf Vikings around – and Nadeem is going to meet one.

Nadeem experiences a dip in one of the hot springs that are dotted around Iceland’s mountainous landscape, watches a geyser erupt, tries on a few animal furs, enjoys a spot of knitting, does some whale watching and tastes one of the most revolting foods ever – fermented shark fat!

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention Nadeem’s trip to the world-famous penis museum!”

And Rome:

“Nadeem Islam visits Rome in Italy, also known as the Eternal City, to see what sights there are for deaf people to see. Starting with a guided scooter tour, Nadeem also meets the deaf signing guides who work at the Colosseum, and imagines being a deaf gladiator thousands of years ago.

Nadeem then has the opportunity to spend some time with one of the most powerful deaf men in Rome – Roberto Wirth, the proprietor of the five-star Hotel Hassler. Rome is a city where the inhabitants express themselves freely through gesture and body language – but do deaf people get equal status? With the campaign for legal recognition of Italian Sign Language still ongoing, it is a big issue.

Nadeem then rounds off his trip with a visit to One Sense, a deaf-owned restaurant, and gets to try his hand at a spot of Italian cuisine!”

The episode scheduled to be aired on the morning of January 16th is titled “On Tour: Tel Aviv” and its synopsis suggests that viewers may see a departure from the disabilities and travel genre.

“Nadeem Islam visits the city of Tel Aviv in Israel, also known as The Miami of the Middle East. Wandering the sunny boulevards and beaches with his deaf Israeli guide Omer, they take in the beautiful Bauhaus architecture and a show at the famous Nalaga’at theatre of the deafblind. Nadeem has a Muslim background, and Omer is Israeli – will international signing be a bridge for them to meet in the middle and discuss the issue of Israel and Palestine?

Nadeem also takes on a couple of deaf volleyball champions, meets a deaf Holocaust survivor, learns the Israeli fingerspelling alphabet, and joins Tel Aviv’s Pride march – one of the largest in the world!” [emphasis added]

The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ of course tells BBC journalists that “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”.

Remarkably BBC Two appears to believe that this particular episode of its half-hour travel show should include a political discussion simply because its British presenter “has a Muslim background”.

Now there’s a stereotype for you.

Related Articles:

BBC Travel Show inaccurate on Jaffa demography

Breaches of the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ continue

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 155 incidents took place: 118 in Judea & Samaria, 20 in Jerusalem and 17 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 103 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one arson attack, three shooting attacks, four vehicular attacks, two stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 6 attacks with petrol bombs, 4 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, five grenade attacks and one incident of rocket fire.  

Throughout December three people were killed and fourteen wounded in terror attacks.

A shooting attack at Ofra Junction on December 9th in which seven civilians were wounded and which resulted in the death of a newborn baby initially did not receive coverage on the BBC News website.

A shooting attack near Givat Asaf on December 13th in which two members of the security forces were killed and one wounded was reported in an article that also included a brief mention of the earlier Ofra Junction attack.

Also on December 13th two members of the security forces were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and a soldier was wounded in a vehicular attack outside Ramallah. Both those incidents were mentioned in the same report on the attack near Givat Asaf.

On December 14th a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Beit El and two days later a civilian was wounded when her car was pelted with rocks. No coverage of those two incidents was seen on the BBC News website and a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on December 29th was also ignored.

In summary, four out of 155 terror attacks – 2.6% – which took place during December 2018 were reported on the BBC News website.

Throughout 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

More BBC reporting on terror against Israelis without use of the word terror

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

On January 13th the IDF announced that with the discovery of a sixth tunnel, it had completed the mission to expose the tunnels dug by the Lebanese terror organisation Hizballah which passed under the international border, infiltrating Israeli territory.

“The tunnel, which had been dug at a depth of 55 meters (180 feet), was the most important one detected since the operation began in December, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

According to him, the stairs were built in the tunnel which contained “railroads to transport equipment, garbage, lighting equipment and ladders to enter Israeli territory. A lot of resources were invested in this tunnel.”

With the latest tunnel discovered and its destruction in the coming days, he added, “the threat posed by the tunnels has been eliminated.” […]

While the military announced the end of the operation, it noted that it “is simultaneously monitoring several locations where Hezbollah is digging underground structures which have yet to cross into Israel.””

With Operation Northern Shield now coming to an end, this is an appropriate time to review the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of that story throughout the six weeks of the mission.

The story of an internationally recognised terrorist group tunneling under an international border into a neighbouring country with the intention of carrying out a large-scale attack actually got remarkably little BBC coverage.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw two reports throughout the six-week operation:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ programme also heard two reports on the same days:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels December 4th 2018

Razia Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Razia Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701 December 19th 2018

The BBC’s domestic Radio 4 audiences heard one report the day after the story broke:

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701 December 5th 2018

Ritula Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

Ritula Shah: “Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems.”

In addition to Razia Iqbal’s unwarranted questioning of the purpose of the tunnels and the promotion by both her and Ritula Shah of the baseless notion that the operation was motivated by political considerations, audiences saw three main characteristics throughout the BBC’s reporting on this story.

In all but the first BBC News website report – where the information was added later – audiences were not given an accurate portrayal of Hizballah’s designation as a terror organisation by numerous countries and bodies. The subject of Iran’s funding and supplying of the terror organisation was grossly downplayed in the two written articles and ignored in the three audio reports.

In all of the reports the crucially relevant topic of UN Security Council resolution 1701 was either completely ignored or inadequately presented. Not one of the five BBC reports gave audiences an accurate explanation of that resolution or how it has been repeatedly violated by Hizballah for over twelve years. Moreover, in the second BBC WS radio report listeners were inaccurately led to believe that the only violation of that resolution comes in the form of tunnels that cross into Israeli territory.

Relatedly, BBC audiences were not given the full picture of the UN peacekeeping force’s failure to identify cross-border tunnels dug over a significant period of time literally under its nose and its serial failure to prevent violations of the UNSC resolution. In the second BBC WS radio report a UNIFIL spokesman’s statements went unchallenged.

Martin Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Not only was it suggested to audiences in forty percent of the BBC’s reporting that Operation Northern Shield was actually a cynical politically motivated exercise but the corporation failed throughout six whole weeks to produce even one item which would provide its funding public with the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of the story of a complex operation which, had it been managed and executed less efficiently, could have sparked a major conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

BBC Sport ignores anti-Israel bigotry yet again

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s sports department has a record of under-reporting both anti-Israel discrimination in international sporting events and efforts to combat such bigotry.

The latest story ignored by BBC Sport involves Israel’s paralympic swimmers.

“The International Paralympic Committee expressed disappointment Saturday after Malaysia said it would not allow Israeli swimmers to attend a competition in the country that will serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Malaysia is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.

The city of Kuching in the eastern Sarawak state will host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries from July 29th to August 4th.

But on Thursday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Kuala Lumpur would deny visas to Israeli para swimmers seeking to attend the meet. […]

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab or Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies and promises to reform.”

The BBC News website’s ‘Malaysia’ page carries no coverage of that story and neither does the BBC Sport website’s ‘swimming’ page. As has been noted here on previous occasions the BBC Sport website usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport and indeed one of the stories currently at the top of its home page concerns two Indian cricketers and inappropriate comments concerning women.

 

BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview highlights presenter’s Israel fixation

h/t RH, DK

A recent edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ was presented to viewers of the BBC World News channel and the BBC News channel on January 10th as follows:

“HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis. There is plenty of disturbing data pointing to a significant rise in overt anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States but why? How should the Jewish community respond? And how much reassurance and protection is being offered to Jews whose past has so often been written in blood? Is rising anti-Semitism a symptom of a liberal democratic order that is starting to crumble?”

A similar synopsis was presented in an audio version of the programme aired on BBC World Service radio on January 11th.

While the first part of the programme largely stuck to some of the subject matter presented in that synopsis, from around the middle of the interview presenter Stephen Sackur shifted the focus of the discussion, beginning by questioning whether opposition to the existence of the Jewish state is antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[14:07] Sackur: “Interesting you put it in the historical context throughout this interview. I felt from you a consciousness not just of the present but of the past in Europe and what has happened to Jews in the past. And it’s interesting that the former Chief Rabbi in Britain, Jonathan Sacks, he said, you know, ‘in the Middle Ages Jews were persecuted because of their religion, in the 19th and 20th centuries they were reviled because of their race and today in the 21st century Jews are attacked because of the existence of their nation-state, Israel’. Do you feel that Israel has now become front and centre in ways in which people who have antisemitic intent are now using the Israel issue to get at the Jewish people?”

Pointing out that not everyone who criticises Israel is an antisemite, Rabbi Goldschmidt went on:

Goldschmidt: “However, if you go and you delegitimise Israel […] and you say that every people in the world have a right to a nation-state besides the Jews, so that’s also another form of politically correct antisemitism which…”

Sackur [interrupts] “Is it? It’s anti-Israel and its government and its policies in occupied territory but is it antisemitism?

Sackur – who is apparently embarrassingly unaware that the IHRA working definition of antisemitism adopted by his own government categorises “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” as a form of antisemitism – next moved on to the topic of the leader of the British Labour party.

[15:44] Sackur: “When you observe in Britain the fall-out between the Jewish community and the leader of the main opposition party in the United Kingdom – Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party – with clear overt allegations from the Jewish establishment that Jeremy Corbyn has aided and abetted antisemitism, do you worry about the degree to which there is now this gulf between one of the main political parties and the Jewish community in Britain?”

When Rabbi Goldschmidt stated that the meaning of security for Jews is that they would fare equally well regardless of which political party was elected Sackur interjected:

[16:51] Sackur: “Well only if you’re suggesting to me that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is an existential threat to the future of the Jewish community in Britain. Are you seriously saying that?”

Goldschmidt: “I think that the British Jewish community is the best to answer that. However I’ve seen the turbulence….”

Sackur [interrupts] “Let us remember that despite all of the allegations about Jeremy Corbyn and his actions in the past and his words in the past, Jeremy Corbyn insists that throughout his political career he has been a fighter against, an enemy of all forms of racism including, he always says, antisemitism.”

The remainder of the programme saw Sackur focus somewhat obsessively on one political figure who is of course unconnected to the supposed topic of the programme, beginning with employment of the ‘some people I’m not going to name say’ tactic.

[17:54] Sackur: “You see some observers of this debate and this argument and this rift that has developed see a fundamental hypocrisy amongst many Jewish people because while they castigate Jeremy Corbyn for some of his associations in the past, they look across the water to Israel, to the leader of Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu who just recently hosted for five days of warmth and friendship prime minister Viktor Orban of Hungary who has long associations with far right elements including antisemitic elements in Hungary. Also they see Binyamin Netanyahu making a point of journeying all the way to Brazil to declare his friendship, alliance and partnership with the new president of Brazil, Mr Bolsonaro, who has a record – a long record – of making statements which are deeply troubling in terms of his attitude to minorities, to gay people, to women. Where’s the consistency here?”

The Hungarian prime minister’s July 2018 visit to Israel in fact lasted two days rather than five as inaccurately claimed by Sackur, who predictably had nothing to say about the representatives of 59 additional counties who attended the recent inauguration of Brazil’s new president.

When Rabbi Goldschmidt pointed out that British Jews do not vote for the prime minister of Israel Sackur interrupted him again:

Sackur: “But nobody’s accusing Binyamin Netanyahu of antisemitism because he develops a very warm friendship with Viktor Orban, who many Jews regard as deeply dangerous to the future of Jewish communities in Europe.”

Sackur did not provide any evidence for his claim of “a very warm friendship” between the prime ministers of Israel and Hungary and did not clarify whether or not he believes that, by the same standard, the British prime minister should be criticised for hosting the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince last year.

Interrupting his guest yet again, Sackur pursued his point:

[20:04] Sackur: “…let me ask you a very blunt question. What do you – as the chief of the Conference of European Rabbis – what do you think of Binyamin Netanyahu cosying up to Viktor Orban and the leadership in Poland, both of which have very troubling attitudes to many Jews in Europe?”

Goldschmidt: “I think that…”

Sackur [interrupts] “Just tell me what you think.”

Sackur then posed his fourth question relating to Israel’s prime minister.

[20:55] Sackur: “Just a final thought and it involves your personal life as well. You’ve made a life for the last 3 decades in Russia and actually the position for Jews in Russia appears on the face of it to have improved over the last 30 years. I dare say you’ve been involved in that. Binyamin Netanyahu – again quoting him – when there are serious, horrible terror attacks which involve Jewish people being killed in Europe, he always says to the Jews of – in this case I’m quoting France but the Jews of Europe – he says ‘listen, Israel isn’t just the place in whose direction you pray; the State of Israel is your home and Israel is waiting for you with open arms’. As a European Jew who’s made a life in Russia, do you think it is wise and helpful for the Israeli prime minister to constantly tell Jews that ultimately, by implication, the only safe place for Jews is in Israel?”

Failing to listen to Rabbi Goldschmidt’s answer – which included clarification of the importance of the existence of Israel “to all Jews” – Sackur interrupted him again.

Sackur: “I’m not sure you’re answering my specific point. Is it your perspective that Israel is ultimately the only safe place – truly safe place – for the Jewish people?”

This programme could have provided BBC audiences – both domestic and international – with some insight into the issue of antisemitism in Europe and how the Jewish minority living on the continent perceives its future.

Unfortunately, Stephen Sackur’s often aggressive focus on getting his own points across – including promotion of the notion that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, defending Jeremy Corbyn, downplaying the fears of British Jews and his bizarre but long-held obsession with the current Israeli prime minister – meant that viewers and listeners lost a good deal of the opportunity to hear from one of the better informed voices on those issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi provides an interim assessment of Operation Northern Shield.

“This display of IDF intelligence and operational capabilities strengthens Israeli deterrence somewhat, evident in Hezbollah’s “thunderous silence” over the past month and the lack of any significant response by its fighters or leadership, be it a public announcement or activity on the ground, except for the limited effort to show its presence along the border. Moreover, it made no attempt to disrupt the IDF activity, despite the impact of this activity on the Lebanese side (the sound of explosions and flow of liquid concrete poured into the tunnels). One way to explain Hezbollah’s restraint is the caution taken by the IDF to operate solely on the Israeli side. However, the restraint also strengthens the assumption that Hezbollah, like Israel, is not interested in an all-out conflict at this time. It appears that Israel’s cognitive and public diplomacy campaign surrounding the operation also had an impact, as it presented a clear picture regarding the IDF’s goals and activity, including updates given to UNIFIL and through it to the Lebanese army. This in turn reduced the possibility of military conflict, miscalculations, and escalation.”

2) At the CFR Elliot Abrahams takes the pulse of Palestinian democracy.

“On January 9, 2005—exactly 14 years ago today—Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. For a four-year term.

Today Abbas begins serving the fifteenth year of his four-year term.

That 2005 election was actually a milestone for Palestinians. Yasser Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas. […]

As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has outlawed any criticism of the corrupt Fatah rule and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future.”

3) At the FDD Saeed Ghasseminejad and Tzvi Kahn take a look at Iran’s new budget. 

“Iran’s military spending will significantly decrease while its domestic security expenditures will modestly increase, according to a draft of the 2019-2020 budget that President Hassan Rouhani submitted to parliament in late December. The new figures suggest that reimposed U.S. sanctions, which intensify the pressure on a regime already rocked by ongoing nationwide protests, have forced Tehran to prioritize its stability over its expansionary ambitions. […]

To be sure, Iran’s military establishment, especially the IRGC, does not depend solely on the state budget for its funding. The military establishment controls a fifth of the market value of companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and owns thousands of other companies, all of which generate revenue for the armed forces. Additionally, the IRGC controls a significant portion of Iran’s underground economy.”

4) The Times of Israel carries a story about a new shopping mall that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear.

“The parking lot is open, but the escalators aren’t working yet at Atarot Mall, a new, two-floor, NIS 200 million ($54 million) mall built by supermarket king Rami Levy on the seam between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem. […]

Officially, the mall will open for business on January 29, Levy said. For now, about one-third of the stores were open, while others were still stocking inventory. Some 35 percent of the store owners in the mall are Palestinian and some of the branches of chain stores are owned by Palestinian franchisees.

Customers, a mix of Palestinians and Israelis, were drinking coffee and eating pastries at Cafe Neeman, and wandering in and out of the stores that were open. […]

The Cafe Neeman chain opened its 56th outlet in the mall, said Yaniv Neeman, scion of the family, who was working the sandwich counter on Tuesday morning. The manager is Amjad Awadalla, who franchised this branch.

“That’s how we always do things,” said Neeman. “Jews and Arabs always work together at every Cafe Neeman.””

An Israel elections story that falls outside BBC framing

Although the BBC has still not got round to producing much coverage of the general election to be held in Israel on April 9th there is no shortage of news on that front.

The Joint Arab List – which featured in the corporation’s coverage of the previous election and was described by one commentator as a “glimmer of hope”– has lost one of its four component parties.

“The Knesset approved a request on Wednesday by MK Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al (Arab Movement for Change) party to withdraw from the Joint Arab list.

Tibi announced on Tuesday that he would leave the Joint List ahead of the April 9 election, and that his party will run independently. […]

Tibi’s request was filed days after controversial Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka and United Arab List MK Masud Gnaim confirmed that they will not run in the upcoming elections. Similarly, the Joint List faction’s only Jewish lawmaker, Dov Henin, announced he will not be running either. Henin served 13 years in the Knesset as a member of the Hadash Party.”

Meanwhile, a new Arab party has been registered.

“A new Arab party has registered to participate in the upcoming Knesset elections on April 9, Justice Ministry documents show.

“New Horizon — An Arab Centrist Party” registered in mid-December to run in the vote, which has since been set for April 9.

Salman Abu Ahmad, a 62-year-old engineer and Nazareth resident, told The Times of Israel in a phone call that he had established the party, whose candidates will include Arab Israelis from around the country.

The documents say the party’s goals include “improving the status of Israel’s Arab citizens…and promoting a national master plan as a basis to solve the housing shortage in the Arab sector.” […]

The documents also say New Horizon’s aims include “upgrading the education system,…putting together an uncompromising plan to uproot crime and violence in Arab society, forming a plan to promote the status of women in Arab society and serving as a bridge to a historical reconciliation between the two [Israeli and Palestinian] peoples and peace with Arab states.””

But perhaps the most surprising development is one which definitely falls outside the BBC’s conventional framing of Israeli politics: the announcement by a Muslim female candidate that she will run in the Likud party’s primaries next month.

“Dima Tayeh, from the village of Kafr Manda in the Galilee, made headlines on Tuesday when she gave an interview on Hadashot TV news announcing she was running in the right-wing party’s primaries, praising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defending the controversial Nation-State Law, which many see as discriminating against Israel’s Arab minority.

If elected, she would be the first Arab Muslim lawmaker in the Likud party. […]

Tayeh, who has previously taken part in a group of Arab Israelis who toured the US to campaign against the BDS movement that seeks to boycott Israel, said she has been a proud Likud member for six years.”

Whether or not Ms Tayeh will gain a place on the Likud list remains to be seen but should she be successful it will be interesting to see if and how that story – which defies the BBC’s standard framing of both Israeli politics and Israeli Arabs – will be presented to audiences.

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The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

The BBC’s response to a complaint about Christians in Israel

In late December we noted that listeners to an edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ had been told by presenter Jonny Dymond that:

“More than 200 million Christians are at risk of persecution around the world – a number that has risen sharply over the past few decades according to the Foreign Office. In Christianity’s home – the Middle East – the numbers speak for themselves. Four fifths of Iraq’s Christians have fled or been killed. In Israel and the Palestinian territories as those following other religions have grown sharply in number, the Christian population has shrunk. Today the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into the persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.” [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning Dymond’s inaccurate claim that “in Israel…the Christian population has shrunk” which, nine days later, we were informed would take more time to address. Nearly two weeks after the complaint was originally submitted we received a response from BBC Complaints which includes the following:

“We understand you feel Jonny Dymond falsely stated that the Christian population has shrunk in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The information was clearly flagged up as being Israel and the Palestinian Territories because they are and were the best comparable figures to use to make a comparison between now and pre- Second World War – there was prior to the Declaration (and War) of Independence no administrative unit known as ‘Israel’, only the combined territory of the Ottoman and Mandate units known generally as Palestine, subdivided at times, what is now bits of Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and the State of Israel.

To get as long as possible time frame on the Christian decline in the region that was the administrative unit we chose.”

BBC Watch has submitted a second complaint clarifying that the original one related solely to Dymond’s statement concerning Israel, that the time frame presented was “the past few decades” rather than “between now and pre- Second World Warand that seeing as listeners would have reasonably understood that Dymond was referring to Israel rather than “Ottoman and Mandate units” which were not mentioned at all, a correction is still in order.