Weekend long read

1) Back in July 2015 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced two campaigning reports concerning illegally built structures in Susiya in the South Hebron Hills which lacked both impartiality and information essential for understanding of the story. At the Tower, Eylon Aslan-Levy now has a long article explaining its background.Weekend Read  

“Khirbet Susiya is an unlikely cause-célèbre. Deep in the South Hebron Hills, this shantytown comprises a few dozen tents, animal pens, and German-donated solar panels. Israel insists it was built illegally and wants to demolish it while offering to rehouse the residents nearby. The Palestinian Authority encourages further construction without permits and in defiance of Israeli court orders. The European Union funds this construction, and together with the U.S. and UN publicly warns Israel to back off. Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations on both Left and Right continue to petition the Israeli Supreme Court and wage an international public relations battle over the fate of the windswept hamlet.

How did Israel, the Palestinians, the international community, and an assortment of NGOs reach this unsightly stalemate over an obscure Judean hill?”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, Professor Amnon Rubinstein writes about Israeli Arab views of Western values.

“Public opinion polls should be handled with caution, but this latest one chimes in with other developments characterizing the Arab minority in the Jewish state: There has been a gradual shift in Israeli Arabs’ attitude toward Western values. In fact, the Israeli-Arab minority appears to have formed a community which is distinct from its brethren across the border: They have evolved into a multi-cultural society, which, while sharing a strong religious and nationalistic common denominator, incorporates a growing strong Western-style liberalism, perhaps as a reaction to the horrors of the “Arab Spring.”

Take the liberal litmus test of attitudes to gay rights as a yardstick. A Pew Research Center poll, conducted in 2013 in Arab countries, asked “whether society should accept homosexuality.” A vast majority (97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 93% in the Palestinian Authority) gave a negative reply. Three years earlier, in a poll sponsored by a German foundation, 45% of Israeli Arabs supported equality for gays.

Indeed, Israeli Arabs, dominated as they are by the Muslim faith , amazingly support civil marriage (43%), and the proportion of Israeli Arabs supporting separation of state and religion and gay marriages is truly astounding – 65% and 45%, respectively. The University of Haifa’s Prof. Sammy Smooha’s latest poll reveals the extent of this unheralded shift: 52.9% of Israeli Arabs advocate a policy that would integrate Israel into the West and maintain only necessary links with the Arab world, and this proportion grows to 62% when dealing with Israel’s external cultural links, a higher level than the Jewish-Israeli response (58.9%).”

3) The JCPA recently published a letter it received from a Palestinian attorney which gives some insight into topics habitually ignored by BBC correspondents in the region.

“I demand of the international legal organizations that pretend to defend human rights, the states of the European Union, and the United States, the great economic and rhetorical supporter of the PA, and even of the United Nations, which has a commitment to human rights, to set up investigatory committees on the irregularities of the Palestinian Authority, whose legal branch is nothing but an arm of Fatah’s governmental terror, and that includes the civilian and military prosecution. The security apparatus of the PA and the Fatah movement has already been committing crimes against the Palestinian people, which reach the level of crimes against humanity, for half a century – and the crimes continue.”

4) Readers may have heard that the BBC recently announced that it is “to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news”. Stefan Frank addresses that move at Gatestone Europe – with a quote from BBC Watch.

“Other British newspapers report that “the BBC is to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news.” Masquerading as real news? Wow, sudden self-criticism! Even at her age, Auntie never ceases to surprise us.

No, wait: According to The Guardian, “the plans will see the corporation’s Reality Check series become permanent, backed by a dedicated team targeting false stories or facts being shared widely on social media.””

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sundayclaims that it gives listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. However, the lead item in its January 15th edition fell outside that mission statement and, as its description in the programme’s synopsis shows, was in fact a transparently political story.r4-sunday-us-embassy-15-1

“Yolande Knell reports on the implications of a proposal by President elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item (from 00:61 here) as follows:

“Will Donald Trump follow through with his campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? The answer to that question could have huge implications for the Middle East. We’re joined from Jerusalem by our correspondent Yolande Knell. Yolande; it matters because the status of Jerusalem is absolutely crucial to the two-state solution that people, until now, say they want.”

Predictably, Knell’s response had the history of the millennia-old city beginning just fifty years ago, with no mention of the preceding 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Knell: “That’s right and Jerusalem has proven time and time again to be one of the most explosive issues; one of the most difficult issues to solve in this decades-old conflict, not least because of its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. And of course Israel captured the east of the city – which includes the Old City – in 1967 in the Middle East war. It went on to annex East Jerusalem, declare all of Jerusalem its united, eternal capital – although that’s never been recognised internationally. And the Palestinians are basically saying that any move for a US embassy – bringing it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – would kill the two-state solution; this long-standing goal of international policy on this conflict. It’s enshrined in UN resolutions: the idea of creating a Palestinian state to live peacefully alongside Israel. It will be based in Gaza, the West Bank and have East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Stourton: “I think I’m right in saying the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in the Vatican this weekend. He’s been talking about some of this, hasn’t he?”

In her response to that question, Knell introduced the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders” – a concept which not only does not exist, but was specifically and deliberately rejected by the parties to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Knell: “That’s right – very deliberate timing. He was actually at the Vatican to inaugurate an embassy for the State of Palestine. This is after the Vatican recognised a State of Palestine on pre-1967 borders and he was there for talks with the Pope. He told reporters while he was there that this…again, this move would destroy the two-state solution and he talked to the Pope about the need for Jerusalem to be an open city for three religions, we’re told. The Vatican’s position is that it seeks an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem: a status that would safeguard its sacred character.”

Stourton: “The…Donald Trump is not the first American president to have talked about the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Ahm…it hasn’t happened though in the past. How strong is the evidence that he’s really serious about this?”

Knell: “Well, because Donald Trump made this campaign promise and so many previous presidential contenders have – George W Bush and Bill Clinton at least and then they didn’t do it – that means that people really didn’t take it very seriously at first. But then we heard from one of his advisors – from Kellyanne Conway – that this was for him a very big priority. There was also the State Department official who came out saying to the press that it had been asked for logistical advice on a move. And then we know as well that the nominee for ambassador to Israel chosen by Mr Trump, David Friedman – somebody with very hardline views – he wants this very much. He issued a statement when he was nominated saying that he looked forward to moving the US embassy to Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem: those were his words. So when I’ve been briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days – one of their fears is this announcement could come in the inauguration speech of Mr Trump.”

According to reports from the time, the words Knell claims to quote were actually these:

“In the statement, Freidman said he was “deeply honored and humbled” that Trump selected him to represent the US in Israel, and that he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.””

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “What about the international background to all this because there’s this…as we have in the news, there’s this conference in Paris today on this question.”

Knell: “Yes and it’s also coming after a UN Security Council resolution was passed last month restating this commitment to the two-state solution and well-informed sources are basically saying that a draft statement from the Paris talks is going to come out with a similar kind of statement. It will affirm also the international community will not recognise changes to the pre-1967 lines for Israel unless they’re agreed with the Palestinians. It will make clear that a negotiated solution is the only way to ensure enduring peace but it’s also going to warn, I think, against unilateral moves. That could be a reference to the idea of Donald Trump moving…eh…moving the embassy because that would basically recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

In fact, the reference to “unilateral steps” in the text of the conference’s closing statement specifically relates to the two parties to the conflict rather than to the US or any other outside country.

Stourton: “And, Yolande, finally: do you detect internally any appetite for renewed negotiations between the two sides?”

Once again, BBC audiences heard a sanitised version of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014 that promotes false equivalence in Knell’s response to that question. However, Knell made sure to close with some very clear signposting with regard to which side listeners should view as being responsible for the lack of current negotiations.

Knell: “Ahm…both sides say that they’re ready to have talks but then the talks have been frozen since April 2014. They fell apart and I think that’s why there is now this…a lot of frustration from the international community. You have 70 countries and international bodies like the EU, the UN, the Arab League, other organisations, coming together for these talks. When you talk to analysts they really see these as a last-ditch attempt to try to save the moribund peace process but they don’t expect much to come out of these talks because – as much as the Palestinians are supporting them – the Israelis say that these are futile, they’re rigged, this pushes peace backwards and they’re not even going to go for a meeting with President Hollande in the coming weeks to be debriefed on what happened.”

Fatah Facebook account

Fatah Facebook account

Since mid-December the BBC has produced several items concerning or mentioning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. All those reports – including this one – have amplified the Palestinian messaging on that topic but BBC audiences have yet to hear any opposite viewpoint – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand.

Seeing as we now know that Yolande Knell is “briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days”, that lack of due impartiality is perhaps more comprehensible.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

 

 

 

 

Compromised BBC backgrounder surfaces again

On January 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia“. Included in that report was an insert of background information titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”, which previously appeared in an article concerning the same story in June 2016.tiran-art-jan-17

The insert includes the following context-free information:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

As was noted here over six months ago:

“The BBC did not bother to inform readers why that was the case.

“In 1949, Egypt established itself on two small and deserted islands in the straits that had never belonged to it – Tiran and Sanafir. Later, they were leased to it by Saudi Arabia. In January 1950, Egypt assured the United States Government that the occupation of the islands was in no way intended to interfere with shipping in the waters of the gulf. But soon Egypt broke its word, fortified the entrance to the straits and blockaded Israel. Having failed to conquer the southern Negev during the War of Independence or to bring about its cession by Israel through political pressure, Egypt now tried to land-lock Eilat and block Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which meant cutting Israel’s present and future communications with Asia and East Africa. The closure of the Straits of Tiran was one of the main factors that led to the Sinai campaign of 1956. Israel’s refusal to withdraw its forces from Sharm el Sheikh unless its freedom of passage through the straits were effectively safeguarded led to the stationing there of the UN Emergency Force. The blockade was lifted and Israel could freely develop its trade with countries in Asia and East Africa, import oil from the Persian Gulf, and redeem the southern Negev from its desolation. Israel declared solemnly that any interference with its rights of navigation in the gulf would be regarded as an attack, entitling it to exercise its inherent rights of self-defence. […]

On 23 May 1967, President Nasser re-imposed the naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran in a deliberate attempt to force Israel to forfeit its internationally-acknowledged rights or else go to war. Five days earlier the UN Emergency Force was expelled by Nasser, and the units stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh were evacuated. […] The Israeli army reached Sharm el-Sheikh on 7 June 1967 and lifted the blockade. From 1967, freedom of navigation prevails in the Gulf of Aqaba, benefiting shipping bound for Israel and Jordan.”

Apparently the BBC considered it necessary to ensure that its audiences know that “Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967” – but not why.”

That observation obviously still applies.

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen plays dumb to weave tangled web

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

 

 

 

 

 

A summary of the Gaza smuggling ignored by the BBC in 2016

During 2016 we documented several incidents of attempts to smuggle terror-related equipment and goods into the Gaza Strip – none of which was considered newsworthy by the BBC.kerem-shalom

BBC silent on latest Gaza Strip smuggling attempt

Israel seizes chemicals bound for Gaza – BBC yawns

Gaza terror smuggling again not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC policy of ignoring Gaza smuggling continues

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

Israel’s Ministry of Defense recently published a summary of smuggling activity in 2016.

“The number of attempt to smuggle goods from Israel into the Gaza Strip rose 165% in 2016, the Ministry of Defense Land Crossings Authority reported today.

The Land Crossings Authority’s figures show that attempts to smuggle forbidden goods and items to the Gaza Strip increased over the past year. Such items are banned due to concern about strengthening Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.

The goods involved include military clothing items, laser systems, metal balls, aluminum and metal pipes, snappling equipment, diving suits, model airplanes, drones, disassembled commercial vehicles, engines, etc. […]

Ministry of Defense figures show that 175,000 trucks carried goods of various kinds to the Gaza Strip in 2016, and that 1,126 smuggling attempts were stopped.”

On the one hand, BBC audiences have frequently seen or heard restrictions on the movement of people and specific categories of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip inaccurately described as “collective punishment” or a “siege”. On the other hand, since the end of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in informing its audiences of terror-related smuggling attempts.

The result is that when the BBC tells its audiences that “Israel says” the restrictions on the import of weapons and dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip are for reasons of security, they have insufficient information to be able to put that statement – and the restrictions themselves – into the correct context. 

Obviously the BBC – which claims to be impartial and is tasked with building audience understanding of “international issues” – should be reporting stories such as those above in order to help its audiences understand the real reasons for the counter-terrorism measures which include restrictions on the entry of specific items to the Gaza Strip.

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

As has been documented here on several occasions, the BBC has over the years repeatedly misinformed audiences on the topic of the causes of the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip.

That power crisis prompted demonstrations in September 2015 which went unreported by the BBC, as did Israeli efforts to ease the shortage.  

A recent exacerbation of the crisis brought about more demonstrations by Gaza Strip residents and this time the BBC News website produced two reports on the topic:gaza-power-crisis-1

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest‘ – January 13th

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages‘ – Rushdi Abu Alouf, January 14th

But did the BBC finally get round to giving its audiences full and accurate background information concerning the reasons why residents in the Gaza Strip only have a few hours of electricity a day in these two reports? In the first article readers were told that:

“Locals now get just four hours of power per day, instead of eight-hour cycles.

A vital plant was badly hit in fighting with Israel in 2014, but financial troubles and inter-Palestinian tensions have also contributed to the crisis.”

In fact, (and despite several inaccurate BBC reports to that effect which have remained uncorrected for two and a half years) Gaza’s power plant in Nusseirat was not “badly hit” in 2014: a fuel tank was damaged because terror organisations placed military assets close to the plant but it was back up and running within two months. As for the “financial troubles” and “inter-Palestinian tensions”, the report does not provide readers with any further information which would clarify that opaque terminology.

In the second article audiences find the following:gaza-power-crisis-2

“On Friday, the Hamas movement held the government of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, and President Abbas responsible for the dire electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said that the ongoing power shortage was “intentional” and aimed “to tighten the unfair siege on Gaza and create chaos and anarchy”.

Barhum demanded that Abbas, and the Fatah movement that he leads, “end this dangerous policy” and end the crisis, which has left Gaza with less than a quarter of its required electricity.

More than 10 years ago, Israel destroyed a large part of the power plant located in central Gaza after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants.

Since then, power shortages have had an impact on almost every aspect of life in Gaza.

Local and international organisations have suggested numerous solutions over the past decade to solve the crisis, leading to the reconstruction of the destroyed power station.”

So what is actually causing the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip? Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“Israel supplies the Strip with 122 megawatts of electricity on an ongoing basis, said Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). He added that a recent fault with one of the electricity lines had been repaired immediately.

In addition to the electricity from Israel, Egypt supplies 20-30 MW and the Gaza power station generates 60 MW, he said. […]

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the current electricity crisis in Gaza. “The leaders of Hamas enjoy electricity 24/7, while the rest of the population only gets three hours a day,” he said.

He also accused Hamas of using the funds it raises from taxing electricity for “personal interests and military equipment.” Every tunnel from Gaza has a generator beside it exclusively for the use of Hamas, Mordechai said.”

The Times of Israel provides a good overview of the background to the shortages:

“The latest crisis surrounding electricity supply in Gaza did not start overnight. It is the outcome of a long-running disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of excise taxes for the fuel that is used in the power station in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority purchases the gas at full cost — including the excise tax — from Israel before it is transferred to Gaza. However, the PA announced in 2015 that it is no longer prepared to bear the full burden of the excise tax and told Hamas it needs to foot its share of the costs of buying diesel fuel for the power station in Gaza. The station constitutes the main source of energy in the Gaza Strip (apart from a small amount that comes from Israel and Egypt).

While the Palestinian Authority is nominally responsible for the Gaza Strip, particularly in official dealings with Israel, in reality, Hamas has been in charge since ousting PA forces, in a bloody uprising in 2007. Several rounds of reconciliation talks between the two have failed to reach an agreement, leading to these kinds of grey areas of responsibility.

Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for Israel’s destruction, has refused to make any payments to Israel. The PA initially continued to pay the full cost of the fuel, but the disagreement was never resolved.

As a result, the Gaza Strip has seen drastic swings in the electricity supply. Each time the PA refuses to shell out the funds for the excise tax, the electric company in Gaza buys less fuel and in turn produces less electricity. This time, it appears that the crisis has become particularly severe, in light of the decrease in electricity supply from Egypt, due to technical problems with the power lines.”

There is of course no doubt that – did it wish to do so – the BBC could have provided its audiences with a similarly clear and factual explanation of the crisis. However, the corporation instead elected to steer audiences towards a version of events which implies that Israel is to blame, recycling inaccurate information and failing to adequately explain the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which is the real cause of the chronic electricity shortages.

However, one aspect of that second report is positive and noteworthy: BBC audiences found an extremely rare portrayal of Hamas’ intimidation of civilians and journalists and its practice of trying to silence foreign media coverage of unfavourable stories.

“Hamas’ police forces arrested dozens of people in northern Gaza for their involvement in the demonstration.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that “security personnel in the aftermath of the protest raided several houses and arrested a number of activists”.

The Associated Press said that one of its journalists was arrested, while a photographer for the French news agency AFP was reportedly hit in the face by a police officer’s gun when he refused to hand over his camera.

The foreign press had been told by Hamas not to cover the event. The photographer had to go to hospital and received stitches for a wound on his face.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the Foreign Press Association issued a statement concerning those incidents.

Related Articles:

BBC airs inaccurate report by Yolande Knell on Gaza infrastructure

The BBC and the ‘destroyed’ Gaza power plant

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

No BBC reporting on latest power crisis in the Gaza Strip

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

It is of course alarming that the fact that a BBC News report does not include Assad regime propaganda should be noteworthy – but that is the case with an article published on the BBC News website on January 13th under the headline “Syria accuses Israel of bombardment“.syria-strike-art

As has been documented on these pages in the past, previous BBC News reports concerning alleged Israeli strikes on weapons shipments destined for the Lebanese terror group Hizballah have frequently been marred by the amplification of unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda which falsely accuses Israel of collaboration with anti-regime forces in Syria.

Most recently such amplification was seen in BBC reports from November 30th and December 7th 2016 which are recycled in this latest article in the form of links.

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again (November 30th, 2016)

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News (December 7th, 2016)

links-syria-strike-art

On this latest occasion too, the Assad regime put out one of its pro forma statements:

““At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

The regime source also threatened “repercussions” against Israel over the strikes.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.””

However, this time round the BBC quoted just part of the statement and refrained from providing superfluous amplification of Syrian regime falsehoods, telling readers that:

“State-run Syrian news agency Sana reported explosions at the Mezzeh military airport and said ambulances were rushing to the scene.

The army was quoted as warning Israel “of the repercussions of the flagrant attack”, according to Reuters.”

The article also states:

“The Israeli government has previously neither confirmed nor denied that it carries out strikes in Syria.

It is thought to have bombed weapons shipments intended for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement several times since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.”

Audience understanding of this story and similar ones would of course be greatly enhanced were the BBC to meet its public purpose remit by identifying the parties sending “weapons shipments” to Hizballah, by clarifying the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation and by reminding readers that such supply of weapons is expressly forbidden under the terms of UNSC resolution 1701.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2016 and year summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 98 incidents took place: 87 in Judea & Samaria, ten in Jerusalem and one attack from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 67 attacks with petrol bombs, 19 attacks using explosive devices, two stabbing attacks and nine shooting attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem as well as one shooting attack from the Gaza Strip.

Six people – two civilians and four members of the security forces – were wounded in shooting, stabbing and IED attacks in December. Additional incidents included an attempted stabbing at Tapuach junction on December 8th, an attempted vehicular attack near Qalandiya on December 13th, a shooting attack near Ramallah on December 14th and a shooting attack near Beit El on December 25th.

The BBC News website did not provide coverage of any of the 98 attacks which took place during December.

Throughout the whole of 2016 the BBC News website reported a total of thirty-nine incidents – i.e. 2.8% of the terror attacks which actually took place. Only one of the ten barrages of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip which took place during 2016 received (belated) English language coverage. In contrast with the previous year, the BBC did report all the Israeli fatalities resulting from terror attacks that occurred during 2016.

table-dec-16

The BBC’s public purpose remit includes ‘Global Outlook’ which is interpreted by the BBC Trust as meaning that audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world, giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and includes the pledge to “build a global understanding of international issues” and “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

With the BBC News website having covered of just 2.8% of the terror attacks against Israelis throughout 2016 and with none of those reports, or any other, having clarified the all-important context of the scale of attacks as a whole, it is obvious that neither global nor domestic audiences are being adequately provided with “insight” into how Israelis live.

The absence of that information is important because it means that audiences are unable to properly understand Israeli counter-terrorism measures such as the anti-terrorist fence or checkpoints. It also means that when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism (as seen for example in the summer of 2014), audiences and BBC journalists alike are unable to put events into their appropriate context and thus arrive at uninformed and inaccurate conclusions.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: April to September 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

It is time for our annual review of the NGO’s most quoted and promoted in the BBC’s coverage of Israel throughout the last year.

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), the political NGO B’tselem featured prominently in BBC content but in 2016 the most widely promoted local NGO was Peace Now.

Peace Now:

The return of the BBC’s political narrative on Israeli construction

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

Superficial BBC portrayal of proposed ‘Regulation Bill’

Superficial BBC reporting on proposed legislation – part 2

More BBC promotion of the ‘Peace Now’ narrative on construction

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

B’tselem

BBC’s Connolly turns R4 report on Duma case into racism smear

More inconsistent BBC News reporting of the number of Israeli terror victims

BBC’s Connolly amplifies Ha’aretz columnist’s fallacious claims

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

HaMoked:

More inconsistent BBC News reporting of the number of Israeli terror victims

Kav L’Oved, ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights:

BBC Africa misrepresents campaigning reports as ‘scoop’

IRAC:

Another ‘dark Israel’ story from BBC World Service’s ‘Newshour’

BBC’s WHYS discusses Israel’s ‘moral compass’

Badil:

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

Breaking the Silence:

What the BBC World Service edited out of a ‘Boston Calling’ report

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

Unusually, in 2016 BBC audiences also heard on two occasions from an NGO on a different side of the spectrum as far as the political approach to Israel is concerned.

Shurat HaDin:

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

Among the foreign NGOs quoted and promoted in BBC content, Human Right Watch (HRW) was once again prominent.

Human Rights Watch:

BBC shoehorns partisan political NGO into report on policeman’s promotion

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

War on Want:

BBC R4’s ‘Moral Maze’ sidesteps the moral issues behind the BDS campaign

New Israel Fund:

The BBC’s Tim Franks and the ever ‘disappearing’ Jewish state

International Crisis Group:

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

Avaaz:

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football reportNGO law art main

Notably, the BBC’s reporting on a law concerning NGO funding failed to provide audiences with  a realistic, accurate and impartial view of either the legislation or some of the political NGOs it affects.

As in previous years, more often than not the political agendas of the NGOs quoted and promoted were not adequately clarified to audiences – as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. The BBC’s serial failure to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of NGOs and representatives of those organisations interviewed by the BBC (including in certain cases the fact that they are involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel) means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving about Israel comes predominantly from one side of the political spectrum and hence is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs