The Guardian – anti-Israel bias, more obsessive and vindictive than you think

Written by David Collier

Over recent months I have been dealing a lot with issues of bias, chiefly because of the soon-to-be-published report into Amnesty International. The report itself is done. It is 227 pages long and has 650 references. The report touches on the bias of dozens of Amnesty staff, many of whom hold Director, Deputy Director or other management positions at the NGO. The report contains a lot more, but there will be no more spoilers from me. It is out of my hands now and being assessed by some NGO experts before it is published. This gave me some free time, so I thought I would relax and have some fun.

Most arguments of media bias occur over the language inside an article or headline. Even the way a sentence is structured can change its entire meaning. But this level of bias is also very hard to prove. Days of arguing can eventually be put down to an editorial mistake or oversight. I always prefer looking at the big picture, where signs of an institutional bias tend to both far more visible and much harder to dismiss.

Take the Guardian newspaper. A media outlet well known for having anti-Israel obsessions. Just recently I wrote a piece about how the paper likes to bait British Jews. What if we look at the paper from a wider angle?

Guardian Bias

A simple test. The website has a search function. All things being equal, the number of returns that nations receive should ‘rank’ them in order of relevance and importance. False positives should equal out. And it seems to work. Germany has 338k, France 225k, Russia 245k and the USA 302k. China gets 286k and New Zealand 90k. The UK is an important global power situated in Europe and with deep connections to the Commonwealth. These results appear to include every reference to those nations, so we can assume New Zealand’s 90k has a fair few rugby and cricket references included.

How about Israel? Not in the commonwealth, nor in Europe. Israel receives 101k. What can we compare Israel with? Geographically, Syria for a start. A nation that has seen 500k deaths – 94k. Saudi, the Arabian Kingdom that controls so much of the world’s oil? 63k. What about Lebanon – 21k. For a regional power, how about Pakistan, a nation in the commonwealth that also plays cricket. 79k. What is most interesting about Pakistan is that unlike Israel, it really is a brutal oppressor of human rights. Yet only 79k hits, including of course ‘x’ amount of cricket scores.

A few more. Bangladesh 26k. Turkey? Erdogan’s Turkey only gets 81k, and that probably includes Christmas recipes along with all those holiday recommendations in Antalya. How about Cyprus, an invaded and occupied Island? 18K. Lesser nations in Europe? Sweden 59k, Romania 22k and Poland 41k. I looked at the eight bloodiest conflicts of the 21st century. Syria (94k) I already mentioned. There is also Congo (21k), Darfur (6k) Afghanistan (79k), Yemen (20k) and Ukraine (45k). Only Iraq, a war that actually involved the UK for years, scores more highly than Israel. Fun stuff huh?

It gets really silly. ‘Palestinian’ gets 60k results. 300% more than Lebanon. Kurds only get 17k. Perhaps if even more of the Kurds had been killed through Genocide, they may have made 20k, but it does seem as if the Kurds have to make Israel their enemy for the Guardian to really take any notice. ‘Palestine’ gets a whopping 50k, which is 10x the number of references to Kurdistan. In fact, ‘Palestine’ gets more mentions than the illegal occupation of Cyprus and the bloody conflicts of Lebanon combined. Think about it. On what planet can ‘Palestinian’ return as many results as the Saudi Arabian Kingdom that controls so much of the world’s oil? Perhaps it is a good thing that Palestinians don’t play much cricket.

Hamas, a terror organisation in a tiny regional spat in the Middle East gets 14k returns, which is more than Boko Haram (4k) and Al Qaeda (7k) combined. Guardian editors sure seem to have funny priorities.

An Israel obsession? Never mind. I am sure this is all just an editorial error.

A closer look at bias

One thing that was discovered during the Amnesty project was the big difference qualitative bias can make. A newspaper can write the same number of articles about two subjects, but the different approach the paper takes carries the real bias. An example. Take Israel and Saudi. Israel is a democracy; Saudi Arabia is not. Both nations are in conflict. Saudi’s conflict in Yemen is brutal. There are reported to have been 100k deaths since 2015. That is in the same ballpark as the total death toll of all the wars, on all sides, that Israel has ever been involved in.

Jerusalem is a diverse city, but Mecca isn’t. Mecca is a ‘Muslim only zone’ – if you are not Muslim, you are not allowed inside. So Saudi Arabia has real Apartheid too. Israel scores highly on women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of the press, access to legal systems and all the other variables relevant to free and liberal societies. Saudi does not. In fact, if you are critical of the Kingdom, it is advisable never to visit their embassy.

The Guardian tags articles and creates ‘country pages’ for them. This allows for a far more serious and accurate assessment. Israel’s pages have 17k results, Saudi Arabia has 4k. The ‘Palestinian territories’ pages gets 10k, as much as India (10k) and more than Pakistan (7k). It seems the actual obsession is worse than the simple keyword search originally indicated. The poor Kurds only get 1k. Some ‘national liberation movements’ appear to be 10x more important than others.

From Quantitative to Qualitative Bias

How about Pakistan? Israel’s recent monthly returns have been August – 37 articles, July -19 (it would be interesting to know who was on holiday), June – 31, May – 45 and April – 59 articles. Pakistan was the subject of 27 articles in August, 16 in July, 14 in June, 13 in May and 12 in April. Even a potential bloody conflict over Kashmir in August couldn’t knock Israel out of its top spot. Total score: Israel 191: Pakistan 82.

Articles were then categorised. An article that was critical was counted as ‘negative’. A simple statement of fact was ‘neutral’. An article written attacking a second party was also ‘neutral’. A good news story was categorised as ‘positive’.

During August, not a single explicitly negative article was written about Pakistan. As was expected, the main focus was Kashmir. Almost all the articles were ‘negative’ about India. Three articles required closer attention. One was about China and the Uighurs, with Pakistan’s involvement incidental. Another simple stated as a matter-of-fact that Pakistan had vowed to protect Kashmiris. The third about Pakistan’s intent to expel the Indian high commissioner.

In July there were articles that uncritically talk about Pakistan cracking down on ‘militants’. They have a story about Pakistan building a wall along a disputed international border to stop terrorist infiltrations. The journalist runs with the human angle of families that have been split by the wall. But there is nothing critical in the article of the policy. No call for the ICC to investigate it. No use of the word Apartheid. The wall is actually splitting ethnic Pashtun’s who now need a visa to visit family members who live in neighbouring villages. Kudos that the Guardian mentioned it at all, but it is more an indication in the different way Israel’s story is handled than anything else.

Most of the articles were about Donald Trump or regular non-relevant news stories.

Obsessive Israel bashing

The picture with Israel was somewhat different and the language changes dramatically. Just a few examples from Israel’s August pages:

  • UN calls for maximum restraint after Israeli strike in Lebanon
  • Israel government accused of abandoning soldiers with PTSD
  • Trump and Netanyahu are playing a bigoted game of chicken
  • Israel, Apartheid and antisemitism
  • Freedom of expression on Palestine is being supressed
  • Israeli police clash with Muslim worshippers
  • Israel bars entry to US politicians

Or just from Israel’s lowest scoring month, July:

  • Israeli crews demolish Palestinian homes
  • Isralei fires threaten Christian holy site
  • Israeli spraying of herbicide harms Palestinian crops
  • Israeli Minister talks about gay conversion
  • Syria accuses Israel of heinous aggression
  • Israeli teenagers held on allegations of rape

All this means that the true level of obsessive bias is not immediately clear when you count the number of articles (191:82), in fact it is understated. Many of the references to other nations are neutral, positive or contextualised. The level of hate is certainly not as evident if you focus on the language used in a single article. Only when you draw comparisons in the way different nations are treated do you realise how unacceptable the situation with the Guardian’s treatment of Israel has become.

Horrendous, obsessive, anti-Israel bias

The Guardian are obsessed with Israel, that much was already clear. But the Guardian’s reporting on Israel also contains a vindictive hostility. An endless stream of negative articles, all carefully worded to present Israel as the most vile, oppressive, Muslim hating, Christian hating, gay hating, Palestinian hating, murderous nation on earth. An ‘Apartheid state full of brutal bigots’. Compare that to the sensitive, contextualised reporting on Pakistan, one of the most oppressive nations on the planet, and you are left in a place without any rational or acceptable explanation.

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Here’s how to write critically about Jewish Trump officials without evoking antisemitism

Cross posted by UK Media Watch

Last week, we posted about a Telegraph article focusing on newly appointed US-Middle East peace envoy Avi Berkowitz which, we argued, evoked an antisemitic trope.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from that Sept. 6th piece, written by Leila Molana-Allen (the Middle East correspondent for France 24 News).

The appointment [of Berkowitz] “demonstrates a lack of seriousness” in the administration’s approach to the peace plan and Mr Kushner’s complete dominance over the process, former Middle East advisor to the US defence department Jasmine El-Gamal told The Telegraph. “They are not even pretending otherwise by hiring a qualified person as an envoy.”

Others have raised concerns that Mr Berkowitz, like Mr Greenblatt before him and Mr Kushner, is a Zionist Jew, which may lead to a perception of bias in any peace negotiations with Palestinian officials.

This doesn’t need too much unpacking. The word “Zionist” before “Jew” is meaningless, as the overwhelming majority of diaspora Jews are Zionists, in the sense that they wish for Israel to continue existing. The journalist was legitimising unnamed critics who evidently believe there are too many Jews on Trump’s Middle East team, and that these officials, by virtue of their religious background, can’t be trusted to faithfully carry out their duties. This is a classic example of a news organisation – which, we should note, is normally very responsible on the issue of antisemitism – legtimising the dual loyalty charge, codified as antisemitic by the IHRA Working Definition.

Let’s turn now to another article, one published on Sept. 15th by Bel Trew at the Independent – a publication which, unlike the Telegraph, hasn’t always been so vigilant about preventing antisemitic narratives from being promoted.

Like the Telegraph piece, Trew’s article also raises the question of conflicts of interest against some Jewish members of Trump’s Mid-East team.

However, Trew raises the concerns in a completely different manner than Molana-Allen did at the Telegraph, noting not the religion of US Ambassador David Friedman and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (architect of the US peace plan), but, rather, their personal and financial ties to Israeli settlements, particularly the community of Beit El.

Trew highlights the fact that Friedman and Kushner’s family have given significant donations to Beit El. (She also adds that former US National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke at a fundraising event for the settlement.)

Trew makes her argument thusly:

And it is the unique relationship Trump’s cadres have with this settlement that is a keyhole to the overhaul in the US administration’s attitudes towards Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories as a whole.

To be clear, we’re extremely skeptical that Friedman and Kushner’s ties to Beit El provide a “keyhole” to the shift in US policies towards Israel, as Trew’s explanation leaves out other important factors likely impacting US policy. It also fails to consider that Friedman’s and Kushner’s important roles may merely be a reflection of the president’s desired Mid-East policy, rather than representing a force driving it.

However, at least Trew’s argument doesn’t rest on the implicit assumption that the religious background of Friedman and Kushner (and Berkowitz) alone renders them biased – a toxic and racist charge that should have no place in mainstream British publications.

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Sky News Arabia omits fact that deceased Palestinian prisoner was a terrorist

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

The death of Hamas-affiliated Palestinian terrorist Bassam as-Sayeh, 47, in an Israeli prison last Sunday received a considerable amount of attention from Arabic-language Western media outlets, which are often quite eager to amplify Palestinian Authority propaganda when dealing with such matters.

Having learned that as-Sayeh died of cancer, the outlets (AFP on Sep. 9, Independent Arabia on Sep. 9 and Sky News Arabia on Sep. 8) uncritically quoted Palestinian officials who leveled allegations at “the Occupation” (i.e, Israel) for “medical negligence”, “withholding treatment” and engaging in a “slow-motion execution” – though without providing any evidence of such conduct.

Even more telling was the fact that all three outlets ignored as-Sayeh’s conviction in an Israeli court for a series of terrorist acts, the most significant being his role in the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in October 2015.

Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin

Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin (Photo courtesy of MFA)

The Itamar couple was gunned down in front of their four children while driving the family car, and As-Sayeh was found responsible for funding and authorizing the attack.

While AFP and Independent Arabia mentioned his involvement as merely an Israeli accusation used to justify his “arrest” (thus omitting his conviction), Sky News Arabia – a venture between UK-based Sky News and UAE-based Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp – ignored his connection to the attack altogether: AFP:

“As-Sayeh was arrested in 2015, having been accused of participation in the shooting deaths of two Israeli settlers near the settlement of Itamar […]. The Israeli prosecution demanded that as-Sayeh be sentenced to life in prison.”

The report also refers as-Sayeh as “detainee” (Arabic: Mu’taqal) rather than “captive/prisoner” (Aseer/Sajeen), thus creating the false impression he was still waiting trial, or sentencing, at the time of his death. Independent Arabia:

“Four years after the arrest of Bassam as-Sayeh under the accusation of killing two settlers near the city of Nablus, the latter has died after a long suffering from blood and bone cancer, [which lasted] since 2011.”

Ironically, the most decisive confirmation of as-Sayeh’s involvement in the Henkins’ murder appears in Hamas’ response, which was indirectly quoted by Independent Arabia:

“The ‘Izz ad-Deen al-Qassam battalions, the military wing of Hamas movement, has stated that Bassam as-Sayeh was one of its field leaders, and one of those who committed the ‘Itamar attack’ in October 2015.”

Research and writing by CAMERA Arabic. Edited by UK Media Watch.

UK Media Watch prompts Financial Times correction to false Oslo claim

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

A recent article in the Financial Times (Netanyahu vows to extend Israeli sovereignty in West Bank, Sept. 10) includes the following claim about the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.

Extending Israeli sovereignty to the sprawling settlements that divide up the occupied West Bank would make it extremely difficult for future prime ministers to live up to pledges made in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to negotiate a possible withdrawal of Israeli forces in order to facilitate the birth of a Palestinian state.

However, the agreement did not pledge Israel to facilitate the birth of a Palestinian state.

As our CAMERA colleagues have noted previously, this fact was made clear by by Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, in a piece for the Atlantic marking the 25th anniversary of the agreements. The Oslo Accords, he wrote, “did not provide for a Palestinian state.” He also re-emphasized that the two-state solution is “a concept that is nowhere mentioned in the Oslo Accords.”

Moreover, the New York Times, responding to a complaint from CAMERA in April, corrected an article which similarly claimed that the Oslo Accords committed both sides to a two state solution.

To their credit, shortly after we notified the Financial Times journalist of this error, the passage was revised, and no longer alleges that Oslo committed Israel to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Extending Israeli sovereignty to the sprawling settlements that divide up the occupied West Bank would make it extremely difficult for future prime ministers to live up to pledges made in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians.

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UK Media Watch prompts Times of London improvement to wild Lebanon War claim

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

A Sept. 5th obituary at The Times for Princess Dina bint Abdel Hamid, the first wife of Jordan’s King Hussein, included the following sentence, in the context of noting Princess Dina’s role in prisoner-exchange negotiations between Lebanon and Israel:

It had all started in June 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and rounded up all males aged between 9 and 75

This staggering claim, that, upon invading Lebanon in 1982 to stop PLO rocket attacks on northern Israel, the IDF rounded up “all males” as young as 9 years old, was not supported with a source, and we hadn’t previously come across this allegation, even from anti-Israel activists. The closest thing we could find online or in books we reviewed on the war was a claim by radical academic Noam Chomsky in his book ‘The Fateful Triangle’ that Israel had rounded up males as young as 16.

So, we contacted editors at The Times to ask for a source. However, instead of providing one, they instead slightly toned down the sentence to claim that the IDF had rounded up not “all”, but onlythousands of males aged between 9 and 75“.

Again, we asked editors for the source of this revised, but still wild and unsubstantiated accusation.

The following day, they changed it again to the following:

It had all started in June 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and rounded up thousands of males, from children to old men.

Since a “child” can technically be a teen as old as 17, and they are no longer claiming that preteen Lebanese and Palestinian boys were rounded up and imprisoned by the IDF, the claim is at least more plausible. However, we’re continuing to press The Times to provide a source, and will update this post when we receive a response.

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Daily Mail (sort of) corrects. Britain’s national mapping service (clearly) deceives.

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

The Daily Mail’s coverage of Israel is, by and large, not compromised by the egregious bias found in UK media outlets such as the Guardian and Independent, and editors there are generally amenable to corrections when we point out errors. Nonetheless, their “correction” to a complaint we filed over a map they distributed (to close to a million news consumers) in their Sunday print edition, which falsely listed Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, is disappointing.

Here’s the section of the map in question, which we originally posted about last week.

Now, here’s the ‘correction’ the Daily Mail published in today’s print edition in response to a complaint filed by UK Media Watch (and countless other followers of our blog):

First, it’s important to note that the UK government map cited by Britain’s national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, which was sent to us by Daily Mail editors in response to our complaint, does NOT, as they claim, list Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

Here’s the map they cite:

As you can see, there’s no capital listed. (Capitals, per the legend, are marked with a black square.)

Moreover, Ordnance Mapping’s claim that they are just following the government’s position on Israel’s capital is not accurate. Though the UK government does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (a reflection of diplomatic sensitivities regarding the future status of the holy city), it also is not Downing Street’s position that Tel Aviv holds this status – a fact that the quote from the Foreign Office in the Daily Mail correction makes clear.

However, the main point – one that we’ve made continuously at this blog when getting corrections from UK outlets suggesting that Tel Aviv was Israel’s capital – is that, regardless of the question over diplomatic recognition, Jerusalem has been Israel’s official capital since 1949. It is the seat of government, and the city where the Knesset, Supreme Court, Prime Minster’s office and most government ministries are located.

As the Press Complaints Commission (the regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines that preceded IPSO) ruled back in 2012 in response to a complaint made about the Guardian: ‘Stating that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital represents a breach in the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice’.

Whilst we’re reasonably confident that Daily Mail editors will remember this, the fact that the country’s official mapping agency got it wrong, and then mischaracterised the government’s position on the matter when facing criticism, is extremely troubling.

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Weekend long read

1) The ITIC takes a look at Hezbollah’s media empire.

“The “resistance society,” created by Hezbollah with massive Iranian support, is based on three legs: The first leg is Hezbollah’s military system. This system is designed to operate against Israel but also supports Hezbollah’s hold of the Shiite population. The military system places Hezbollah in a political power position in the internal Lebanese scene and provides it with major influence on the decision-making process in Lebanon; the second leg is a large-scale network of institutions contributing to the improvement of the socioeconomic situation of the Shiite population and strengthening its support of Hezbollah; and the third leg is a media empire which plays an important role in disseminating the ideology and political messages of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Middle East and throughout the rest of the world. Such an extensive media empire in the possession of a terrorist organization is unprecedented among terrorist organizations operating around the world.”

2) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran proposes that Any Way You Slice it, Hezbollah Had a Very Bad Month.

“The dust is still clearing, but what’s clear is that Israel’s operation reflects a new security footing towards Hezbollah that is being put into effect at the same time the U.S. increases pressure on the group on other fronts. All told, it’s plain that August did not end auspiciously for Hezbollah. First, Israel seemingly resumed operations in Lebanon against Hezbollah and Iranian missile capabilities. Then shortly after, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank, which it described as Hezbollah’s “bank of choice.” These actions mark an important shift in both Israeli and U.S. policies, which is likely to deepen Hezbollah’s strategic dilemma.”

3) At the BESA Center, Professor Hillel Frisch explains how The EU Is Battling Israel in Area C.

“Ever since a decision in January 2012, the EU has been expressly committed to the expansion of illegal Palestinian settlement in Area C in conjunction with the PA. This is in blatant disregard of the Oslo accords, which the EU purports to uphold. The object is to create continuous Palestinian settlement throughout the West Bank and thereby isolate and strangle Israeli communities.”

4) Yoram Schweitzer and Orna Mizrahi discuss The Complexity behind Hezbollah’s Response to Israel’s Attacks at the INSS.

“Hezbollah’s limited and calculated response so far points to its desire to avoid, at this stage, a widening of the confrontation with Israel, both out of considerations linked to the situation facing its patron Iran and due to its interest in preventing a calamitous war in Lebanon. Compounding these considerations are also independent reasons. Hezbollah is currently under political pressure: additional countries have designated it as a terrorist group, and Arab countries, responding to the attack on IDF vehicles in Avivim, even accused it of irresponsible behavior. In addition, Hezbollah is in economic distress due to the direct sanctions imposed on it by the United States.”

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Throughout the month of August 2019, twenty-five written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which were carried over from the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Three reports concerned terrorist incidents:

Israel hunts killer of off-duty soldier in West Bank (8/8/19 to 14/8/19) discussed here and here

West Bank bomb blast kills 17-year-old Israeli girl (23/8/19 to 25/8/19)

Israeli teenage girl killed in West Bank bomb attack (23/8/19 to 27/8/19) discussed here

Five reports concerned alleged or confirmed external security issues:

Iraq paramilitary force blames US and Israel for mystery blasts (21/8/19 to 22/8/19) discussed here

Iraq paramilitary chief plays down allegation against US (22/8/19 to 26/8/19)

Israel says it struck Iranian ‘killer drone’ sites in Syria (25/8/19 to 27/8/19) discussed here

‘Israeli strikes’ target Palestinian group in Lebanon (26/8/19) discussed here

Netanyahu: Israel will defend itself ‘by any means necessary’ (27/8/19 to 28/8/19)

Four items related to political/diplomatic aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including two reports about alleged Israeli spies in Iran.

‘Iran tortured me into confessing to be an Israeli spy’ Jiyar Gol (13/8/19 to present)

Israel bars Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting (15/8/19 to 16/8/19) discussed here

Rashida Tlaib rejects ‘humanitarian’ W Bank visit (16/8/19 to 20/8/19) discussed here

Iran ‘convicts British-Iranian dual national of spying for Israel’ (27/8/29 to 30/8/19)

Three items concerned history/archaeology:

Zionism: A very brief history BBC Ideas (25/7/19 to 7/8/29) discussed here

Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem (7/8/19 to 13/8/19)

Crusader winery found under house in Israel BBC Monitoring (14/8/19 to 15/8/19)

Two reports – one of which was carried over from the previous month – concerned Palestinian social and political affairs:

Talking about sex no longer so taboo in the Arab world Shereen El Feki (17/7/19 to 1/8/19)

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19 to 1/9/19)

Of eight reports concerning Israeli affairs, one concerned planning:

Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians (31/7/19 to 3/8/19) discussed here

Three reports concerned legal/criminal cases, of which two concerned a case in Cyprus in which Israelis had been released without charge the previous month, yet the BBC continued to publish reports on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Ayia Napa: ‘False rape claim’ case adjourned after lawyer resigns  (7/8/19 to 13/8/19)

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz to be tried over ‘Guinea bribes’ (13/8/19 to 15/8/19)

British woman pleads not guilty to Cyprus ‘false rape claims’ (27/8/19 to 28/8/19)

One report concerned Palestinian detainees:

Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention Megha Mohan/Yusef Eldin (28/8/19 to present) discussed here

One report concerned health:

Israeli flight attendant dies from measles (13/8/19 to 15/8/19)

Two reports related to a ‘Netflix’ film:

Red Sea Diving Resort: The holiday village run by spies Raffi Berg originally published April 2018 (1/8/19 to 12/8/19)

Netflix streams film of Ethiopian Jews escaping war Emmanuel Igunza (1/8/19 to 4/8/19)

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian affairs with visitors having seen nearly seven times more coverage of the former since the beginning of the year.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotes inaccurate claims on Hizballah, Israel

The September 2nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item described in its synopsis thus:

“…concerns grow over clashes between Israel and Hezbollah on the Lebanese border”

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that item (from 30:05 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now to the Middle East and there has been over the weekend a sharp escalation of already high tensions between Israel and Hizballah – the Shi’ite Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. The group is headed by Hassan Nasrallah and its military wing is considered to be a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States, the Arab League and the EU among others.”

That portrayal of designations of Hizballah is inaccurate and misleading. The organisation as a whole is proscribed by the US, Canada, Israel, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Netherlands, Bahrain, Japan, the UAE, Kosovo, Argentina, Paraguay and of course the BBC’s own home country, the UK. Hizballah’s so-called “military wing” (a distinction which even Hizballah leaders say does not exist) is proscribed by Australia, New Zealand, France and the EU.

Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “It’s widely acknowledged that Hizballah acts as a proxy for Iran and the group fired anti-tank missiles into northern Israel on Sunday: retaliation it says for a drone strike by Israel in Beirut and the killing of two commanders in an Israeli strike inside Syria. That prompted Israel to retaliate against three villages in southern Lebanon and also, fears that what appears to have been a contained exchange could become a bigger deal.”

Israel did not “retaliate against three villages in southern Lebanon”. As reported by the Times of Israel:

“In response to the attack, the Israeli military said its artillery cannons and attack helicopters fired approximately 100 shells and bombs at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. […]

“The IDF returned fire at the [missile-launching squads] at targets in southern Lebanon,” the army said in a statement. […]

Lebanese media reported that the IDF bombed sites near the Lebanese border town of Maroun al-Ras.”

AP reported that:

“The Lebanese army says Israeli forces have fired some 40 shells on the outskirts of several border villages…

In Lebanon, the Israeli shelling was concentrated on areas close to the border near the villages of Maroun el-Ras and Yaroun, triggering some fires.”

In other words, not only did Razia Iqbal fail to clarify to listeners that Hizballah is entrenched among the civilian population of southern Lebanon in violation of UN SC resolution 1701, she also gave them the erroneous impression that Israel had ‘retaliated’ against civilian communities – “three villages”.

The item continued with an interview with Brigadier General (Res.) Assaf Orion during which Iqbal unnecessarily qualified Israeli intelligence findings.

Iqbal: “I wonder if we can just focus on the extent to which Israel believes that these precision missiles are already in possession of Hizballah [sic]; how advanced that programme is from Israel’s point of view.”

Following that interview listeners heard from Barbara Plett Usher in Jerusalem and that conversation included more irrelevant qualification from two people who are not military correspondents and without the BBC as far as we know having carried out any independent investigation into the subject.

Plett Usher: “They [Israel] have been bombing…ah…Iranian bases and convoys in Syria, thinking that they’re trying to get weapons to Hizballah and now if the Iranians are indeed trying to convert Hizballah rockets in Lebanon, that by the Israelis would be seen as an even bigger threat. So they have this campaign out there – information campaign – claiming that this is happening and providing details about it.”

Significantly though, neither Iqbal nor Plett Usher bothered to clarify to listeners that Iran’s supply of weapons to Hizballah violates UN SC resolution 1701 and so once again BBC audiences were exposed to inaccurate and superficial reporting which fails to contribute to their understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

Limited BBC coverage of latest Hizballah designation

BBC News promotes a claim it previously amended in February

BBC reporter who “breached the requirements of due impartiality” back in Israel

Through the Smoke, Reuters’ double standard: fires in Lebanon, Israel (CAMERA)

 

 

BBC reporter who “breached the requirements of due impartiality” back in Israel

The September 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item relating to events from the previous day which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 38:20 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “There’ve been clashes between Israel and the militant group Hizballah along the Lebanese border. Let’s talk now to Barbara Plett Usher, our correspondent in Jerusalem. And at the outset, Barbara, just explain to us why this is…ahm…such an important area. There has been actually war – hasn’t there? – between Israel and Hizballah…eh…around southern…southern Lebanon.”

As readers may know, while posted in Israel in 2004 Barbara Plett Usher produced a report which is still available online about Yasser Arafat that was described in a Telegraph editorial thus:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings. […]

Ms Plett’s flood of feeling is just the most overt and recent manifestation of a pro-Palestinian bias endemic within the BBC. As a publicly-funded organisation, it should remember that it is not paid to take sides. As things stand, however, we might conclude that Mr Arafat’s culpable “ambivalence towards violence” is echoed by our national broadcaster.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Plett Usher’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

That apparently has not deterred the BBC from sending Barbara Plett Usher – who has been reporting from the US in recent years – back to Israel.

Radio 4 listeners heard the following:

Plett Usher: “It is an important area because it’s the front line for conflict between Israel and Hizballah but the thing that’s interesting is that there hasn’t been much conflict between them for the past thirteen years. They fought a major war in 2006 but there’s been a sort of uneasy ceasefire between them since, so this flare-up is the first kind of clash we’ve seen like this in years.”

That of course is inaccurate. Incidents that have taken place along the Israel-Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 conflict include the planting of explosive devices in February 2007, the detonation of two explosive devices in March 2014, the detonation of explosive devices and the injury of two IDF soldiers in October 2014, the killing of two IDF soldiers and wounding of seven others in an attack using anti-tank missiles in January 2015 and the detonation of an explosive device in January 2016. In December 2018 the IDF commenced Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hizballah which were definitely not part of any “sort of uneasy ceasefire”.

Kearney: “And what’s been happening?”

Plett Usher: “So the Hizballah [sic] fired a number of anti-tank missiles at Israeli military positions and they received quite a large incoming return fire as a result. They claim to have killed a number of people although the Israelis said that wasn’t the case. Now the point here is that the Israelis had been expecting some kind of confrontation because there’s been tensions rising over the past week. A number of drone strikes in Lebanon and Syria attributed to Israel has meant that Hizballah has said it would retaliate.”

The August 25th strikes in Syria – which were not “attributed” because Israel immediately claimed them – were not carried out using drones as claimed by Plett Usher but did target IRGC drones intended for use in an attack against Israel. Plett Usher failed to inform listeners of the relevant fact that that two Hizballah operatives were killed in that strike before continuing:

Plett Usher: “In particular there was a drone strike in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, which Hizballah felt that’s its stronghold and it needed to respond. Now the Israelis did not confirm they carried out that strike but they did say that they were trying to prevent the…eh…the development of long-range precision missiles which is something they’re very concerned about. They believe Iran is helping Hizballah do that. So that was what was building ahead of time and then you had this flare-up.”

Israel does not “believe” that Iran is helping Hizballah to develop precision-guided missiles – it has solid evidence some of which was made publicly available four days before Plett Usher made this report, meaning that there was no justification for her use of the term “believe”.

As we see Barbara Plett-Usher produced a report which, despite being relatively short, was replete with basic inaccuracies and failed to provide Radio 4 listeners with the wider context of UN SC resolution 1701 and its relevant call for all armed militias to be removed from southern Lebanon.

What Barbara Plett-Usher is doing in Jerusalem and how long she is scheduled to be there is unclear. What is already apparent is that BBC audiences are not getting accurate reporting which will “build people’s understanding”.

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