Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Tomer Fadlon, Sason Hadad and Elisheva Simon discuss ‘Lebanon’s Political-Economic Crisis’.

“The two deep problems weighing on Lebanon’s economy are inter-linked. The first is endemic corruption: the organization Transparency International ranks Lebanon 138 among 175 countries assessed. Corruption in Lebanon is manifested especially in nepotism and budget-inflation to line the pockets of those close to power. Thus, for example, in July 2017 public sector salaries rose by dozens of percentage points, while private sector salaries did not enjoy any increase. The only way to fund the higher salaries and inflated budgets is through taxes on the population, which have ballooned in recent years and burdened the private sector.

The second problem is political instability, which is linked to Lebanon’s community structure and greatly limits the Lebanese government’s freedom of action and ability to implement reforms. The instability makes it hard for the government to meet the public’s basic demands, including sanitation services and electricity supply. As a result, there is a burgeoning market in private generators, though even this phenomenon is arguably linked to corruption: politicians are aligned with the generator suppliers, and thus, in fact, profit from government inaction.”

2) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at ‘New Tensions between Egypt and Hamas’.

“In recent days, signs of new tensions between Egypt with Hamas in the Gaza Strip have intensified in light of the recent assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States.

This new rift was created following a surprise move by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who decided to take a senior Hamas delegation to Tehran to attend Qasem Soleimani’s funeral. He met and comforted the Iranian leadership and Soleimani’s family.

Qasem Soleimani’s assassination caught Ismail Haniyeh during his visit to Qatar. Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip two weeks ago with special permission from Egyptian authorities. The Egyptian authorities had prevented him from going abroad for the past three years in an attempt to prevent Iranian and Turkish influence that would endanger Egypt’s efforts to calm the Gaza Strip and move towards national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Egyptian authorities had put conditions on Ismail Haniyeh before his trip, and he pledged to comply. They included a ban on travel to Iran or Lebanon and meetings with Iranian and senior Hizbullah officials.”

3) The ITIC presents an overview of Palestinian terrorism in 2019.

“Two main trends in attacks characterized Palestinian organized and popular terrorism in 2019: in Judea and Samaria, the annual decline in the scope of popular terrorism and its lethality continued; in the Gaza Strip there was a significant rise in the scope and intensity of terrorism and violence, especially rocket fire. In 2019 1,403 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel, an almost unprecedented number (with the exception of Operation Protective Edge, 2014).

The reduction in the scope of terrorism and the level of its lethality during the past year again illustrated Hamas’ failure to export terrorism to Judea and Samaria, while at the same time prompting a lull arrangement with Israel through Egyptian mediation. The main reason for Hamas’ failure was the great effectiveness of the counterterrorism activities of the Israeli security forces (with the contribution of the counterterrorism activities of the PA security services). In November 2019 Nadav Argaman, head of the Israel Security Agency, said that in 2019 the Agency had prevented more than 450 significant terrorist attacks, among them showcase attacks which were liable to have had many victims. Thus it can be determined that the relative quiet in Judea and Samaria in 2019 was to a great extent misleading, while beneath the surface attempts to carry out terrorist attacks continued.”

4) The ITIC also provides a profile of the Iraqi militia headed by Qais Ghazali who was featured in a BBC World Service radio programme three days after his designation by the United States.

“On December 6, 2019, the US Department of State announced the imposition of sanctions on Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), and on two other senior militia operatives. According to the American statement, members of the militia headed by Qais al-Khazali opened fire at Iraqi demonstrators which resulted in the killing of civilians. Furthermore, it was stated that Qais al-Khazali was handled by the Iranian Qods Force and authorized the use of deadly weapons against demonstrators in order to sow terror among Iraqi civilians.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. […] In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.”

 

BBC News ignores rocket fire at school children

On the afternoon of January 15th residents of three communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip were forced to run for cover as warning sirens sounded.

“Four rockets were fired in total and the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two of the projectiles, the army said. […]

The sirens sounded in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Kibbutz Sa’ad and Kfar Aza, which are all within a short distance of the Gaza border.

The strikes took place as local children were disembarking from buses at the end of the school day.

“They ran to the bomb shelters, and acted perfectly,” local residents said.”

The IDF later responded with strikes on Hamas infrastructure.

BBC News did not find that attack newsworthy and the re-emergence of attacks using incendiary balloons over the past few days has likewise been ignored.

 

BBC WS radio gives uncritical amplification to Iranian ally’s Israel comments

On January 9th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Inquiry’ aired an edition titled “Why was Qasem Soleimani killed?” which was presented as follows in the synopsis:

“President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani came as a shock to America’s foes and allies alike. He was Iran’s top general and has been described as one of the country’s most powerful figures, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayotollah [sic] Ali Khamenei. He was, effectively, head of Iran’s foreign policy. He’s been credited as being instrumental in the fight against ISIS but has also been accused of arming and supporting terror groups. But why did Donald Trump order his death?”

Presented by Tanya Beckett and produced by John Murphy, that programme – which the webpage states will be “available for over a year” – includes a section (from 11:51) featuring a “witness” described to BBC audiences as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Beckett: “Our third witness, like our American military leaders, also encountered Qasem Soleimani in Iraq but he was on the same side in a militia working to bolster the position of Iraq’s Shia population. […] Qais Ghazali sees himself as a resistance fighter but to the Americans he was a terrorist. He was the leader of one of the most hard-line Shia groups in Iraq…”

Later on listeners hear that Ghazali (also spelt Khazali) “was part of a group that was attacking coalition soldiers” and that “in 2007 he was captured in a raid by British forces in southern Iraq”. Beckett goes on (from 14:19):

Beckett: “Qais Ghazali was released from prison in early 2010 in exchange for the British hostage Peter Moore, a computer consultant who’d been captured by Shia militiamen…”

As documented at ‘The Long War Journal’:

“In exchange for Qayis and his men, the U.S. government secured the release of a British hostage, Peter Moore, and the bodies of three of the four men who were kidnapped with him in the spring of 2007. Moore’s compatriots had been murdered by Khazali’s men; three of the bodies that were returned were riddled with bullet holes; the fourth was never recovered.”

Beckett goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

Beckett: “…Shia groups like Ghazali’s had been instrumental in increasing Iranian influence over the Middle East and making the reality of Soleimani’s master plan to build a continuous link or a Shia crescent stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hizballah in Lebanon. This put the Iranians and Soleimani into direct conflict with America’s allies in the region such as Israel. Qais Ghazali himself travelled to the Israeli border, declaring his support for the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause against what he calls the unjust Israeli occupation that is hostile to Islam. So, should Israel fear his group and Iran?”

Listeners then hear a voice-over translation of a statement from Ghazali:

Ghazali: “If Israel doesn’t want to cause harm and expand its ambitions over the countries in the region, then it shouldn’t be afraid. But if what it really wants to be is an occupying force, expanding its reach over the Arab countries, then it should be afraid.”

The programme then moves on to another topic with listeners hearing no challenge to that propaganda from Ghazali and left unaware of the fact that when he and his Hizballah colleagues refer to “the unjust Israeli occupation” they are in fact referring to the very existence of Israel.

When Ghazali made that trip to southern Lebanon in late 2017 he was filmed describing himself as standing “on the border between southern Lebanon and occupied Palestine”.

As the veteran analyst Jonathan Spyer noted at the time:

“…a recording emerged of an Iraqi Shi’a militia leader called Qais al-Khazali visiting the Lebanon-Israel border area. The short video shows him in the company of two other uniformed men. They are in the village of Kafr Kila, which is adjacent to Metulla.

At a certain point in the recording, Khazali addresses the camera. ‘“I’m at the Fatima Gate in Kafr Kila, at the border that divides south Lebanon from occupied Palestine,” he tells his listeners. “I’m here with my brothers from Hezbollah, the Islamic resistance. We announce our full readiness to stand as one with the Lebanese people, with the Palestinian cause, in the face of the unjust Israeli occupation, [an occupation] that is anti-Islam, anti-Arab, and anti-humanity, in the decisive Arab Muslim cause. And, inshallah, all goodness and blessings to the mujahideen all over the world. And blessings and goodness to the Islamic resistance, which is ready to heed the call of Islam to pave the way to the State of Allah’s Justice, the State of the Possessor of Time [the Mehdi], peace and prayers be upon him.” […]

Khazali’s appearance at the border is the latest and most graphic demonstration that Israel can no longer consider its long standoff with Hezbollah as a closed conflict system between a state and a small, albeit well-armed militia. Iran has now breached the boundaries of this system.”

Obviously the BBC’s editorial decision to provide amplification to the unchallenged and unexplained “occupation” propaganda of the leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia group not only contributes absolutely nothing to answering the BBC’s question “should Israel fear his group and Iran?” but actually hinders audience understanding of a complex topic the BBC generally prefers to avoid.

 

 

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2019

Regular readers will be aware of BBC Watch’s long-standing documentation of the BBC’s problematic portrayal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). For years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to audiences in its own words that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

In 2019 we saw that even when covering stories directly related to individual supporters of the BDS campaign, the BBC continued to avoid the obviously central issue of what the campaign they promote is actually about.

Such was the case for example in the generous BBC amplification of the story of Omar Shakir of ‘Human Rights Watch’. Descriptions of the BDS campaign were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” and suggested reading twice included a link to a previous BBC report promoting the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel.

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

Listeners to BBC World Service radio were inaccurately informed that the BDS campaign is “Palestinian led” and given a false portrayal of its aims.

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

The same editorial policy was also seen in BBC coverage of stories relating to two BDS supporting US Congresswomen. Although the topic of the agenda of the BDS campaign was obviously relevant to the story, audiences were not provided with a proper explanation.

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

In one report BBC audiences were told that the “aim” of the BDS campaign is “to put economic pressure on the Israeli government”. In others, no effort whatsoever was made to inform audiences what the two Congresswomen actually support.

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

BBC audiences saw amplification of a specific boycott campaign, inadequate portrayal of the BDS campaign which did not allow readers to put a quote into context and quotes from BDS supporters who were not identified as such.

But by far the most intense campaign conducted by the BBC throughout 2019 related to the Eurovision Song Contest. Having rejected the calls of BDS supporters to boycott the event in Tel Aviv, the BBC then spent four months amplifying such campaigns, with an epilogue two months later.

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

BBC gives multi-platform amplification to antisemitism

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Some of those reports included descriptions of the BDS campaign which were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” while others included inaccurate portrayals of the campaign as a “Palestinian led movement” which “calls on artists to avoid performing in Israel”.  None of that content clarified to audiences in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism.

The adoption of that partisan editorial policy – especially while providing self-conscripted amplification for the BDS campaign – clearly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public but does seriously compromise the BBC’s claim to be ‘impartial’.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

 

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2019

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), the Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2019 frequently included contributions or information sourced from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Often portrayed by the BBC as ‘human rights groups’ or ‘peace activists’, those inherently agenda-driven organisations make no claim to provide unbiased information and are obviously not committed to the BBC’s editorial standards.

When political agendas and journalism meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. One of the few safeguards in place comes in the form of the section titled ‘Contributors’ Affiliations’ in the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which, since their overhaul in July 2019, states:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

However, throughout 2019 BBC Watch once again documented numerous examples of that clause not having been upheld in Middle East related content which was sourced in one way or another from political NGOs and their representatives.

The BBC’s collaboration with political NGOs comes in a variety of forms. In some cases people associated with NGOs are interviewed or quoted in BBC reporting – but their links to those organisations are not adequately clarified. In other cases NGO activity or statements get BBC exposure without proper disclosure.

For example in June, Yolande Knell reported a demonstration at a gay pride event but gave no information concerning the NGO behind it. In July Tom Bateman cited an “anti-occupation group” without clarifying that he was apparently referring to the political NGO ‘Yesh Din’. In December the BBC showcased three Gaza residents without informing audiences of their links to the NGO ‘Euromed’.

More frequently the BBC directly amplifies statements and/or material produced by NGOs and throughout the past year such content appeared prominently in some of the stories the BBC chose to highlight.

The NGO ‘Medecins Sans Frontiers’ featured in several BBC reports relating to health services in the Gaza Strip:

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

Also while reporting on the Gaza Strip, the BBC promoted data sourced from a press release put out by the local branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – a highly politicised and partisan organisation that has in the past used dubious methodology to produce reports on Palestinian casualties.

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

BBC audiences saw uncritical amplification of statements from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in reporting on the Airbnb story:

BBC News report on Airbnb backtrack follows usual recipe

In May the BBC promoted a legal case launched by Amnesty International:

Examining BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of the WhatsApp story

Similarly – and unsurprisingly – the BBC provided uncritical amplification for Human Rights Watch’s campaign concerning the decision not to renew one of its staff’s work visa:

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part two

In February the BBC reframed a story with the help of the NGO ‘Hotline for Refugees and Migrants’:

BBC reframes a story about a man denied entry by his own country

Also in February, BBC Arabic produced a tri-lingual feature on Hebron which was made in collaboration with ‘Breaking the Silence’, ‘Palestinian Human Rights Defenders’ and B’tselem.

BBC Arabic’s tendentious Hebron feature – part one

BBC Arabic’s tendentious Hebron feature – part two

In July ‘Breaking the Silence’ was described merely as an “advocacy group” in the introduction to an interview with one of its members:

BBC WS radio fails to adhere to new editorial guidelines in partisan ‘Great Return March’ report

The BBC saw fit to solicit election commentary from B’tselem in September:

BBC WS radio promotes a political NGO’s disinformation

Partisan maps produced by B’tselem were once again used in BBC News website content throughout 2019.

In April the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher showcased ‘If Not Now’ and ‘J Street’:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The following month BBC audiences heard analysis from the ‘International Crisis Group’:

BBC WS radio’s ‘context’: falsehoods about counter terrorism measures

Also in May, the BBC promoted an anti-Israel event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

In June BBC Radio 4 promoted a story based on a trip organised by ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

In July BBC audiences heard commentary from ‘Peace Now’:

Political messaging eclipses context in BBC WS Fourth of July report

A BBC Radio 4 programme aired the same month showcased ‘Combatants for Peace’ and ‘Hand in Hand’:

BBC Radio 4 listeners are told of ‘Palestinian air’

In July and August the BBC News website published, removed and then reinstated a video about the NGO ‘Muntada Al-Jensaneya’.

Several BBC reports produced in August cited ‘Miftah’ but failed to provide anywhere near adequate information concerning that NGO and others related to the same story.

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

Also in August, the BBC widely promoted a report it admitted was based on a petition from ‘HaMoked’ in which the NGO ‘Addameer’ was featured.

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

BBC World Service radio’s OS promotes narrative over fact

The BBC continued to promote that video even after links between ‘Addameer’ and a terror cell had been exposed.

In November the BBC News website amplified a campaign by ‘Emek Shaveh’.

BBC News report on Jerusalem planning fails to meet impartiality guidelines

Not for the first time the most widely promoted local NGOs in 2019 were B’tselem and ‘Breaking the Silence’. Among the foreign NGOs quoted and promoted in BBC content, Human Rights Watch (HRW) was once again the most prominent. 

As in previous years, the political agendas of the NGOs quoted and promoted were not adequately clarified to audiences as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. Despite the amendments made to those guidelines in July 2019, audiences heard nothing at all about the funding of any of the NGOs featured in its content.

The BBC’s serial failure to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of quoted 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 – along with BBC commentators – remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving comes overwhelmingly from one side of the political spectrum and hence is serially and 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

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

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2018

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

 

Revisiting two BBC News website reports from July 2019

In early July 2019 the BBC News website published a report headlined “Clashes as Ethiopian Israelis protest over police shooting” which remained on its ‘Middle East’ page for two days. BBC audiences were told that: [emphasis added]

“Protesters have clashed with police across Israel following the funeral of a teenager of Ethiopian descent who was shot dead by an off-duty officer. […]

The killing of 18-year-old Solomon Tekah near Haifa on Sunday caused outrage among the Ethiopian community, with one member of the teenager’s family accusing the off-duty police officer of murder.

A police statement cited the officer as saying he had tried to intervene in a fight between two groups of youths. After he identified himself, the youths began throwing stones at him and he opened fire after “feeling that his life was in danger”, the statement added.

However, Israeli media cited witnesses as saying the officer was not attacked.”

A photo caption stated:

“The family of Solomon Tekah said the off-duty officer’s actions were disproportionate

The BBC also told its readers that:

“Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s. They say they have faced systematic discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships ever since. […]

“We’ll do whatever we can to make sure police will stop killing people because of their skin colour,” one protester told AFP news agency.”

A week later the BBC News website decided to publish a video also dated July 3rd in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section of its Middle East page. By the time that video was published separately on July 10th, a ballistics report had confirmed that “the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into Solomon Tekah” and the DNA of the deceased had been found on a rock recovered from the scene. Nevertheless, the BBC presented that video with a synopsis stating that:

“Israeli police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protests by Ethiopian Jews prompted by the funeral of a teenager who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman.”

Details of the investigation into the incident that sparked those violent protests in July were recently published by the Justice Ministry. As reported by Ha’aretz, the BBC’s second-hand quote from “witnesses” who claimed that “the officer was not attacked” was shown to be fabricated.

“The latest findings also reveal that two teenagers who initially said they had witnessed the incident later testified to department officials that they lied, and weren’t even in the area at the time. One said he had deliberately lied so the officer would be punished for Teka’s death. […]

The findings also suggest that some evidence had been fabricated. Two 14-year-old boys who claimed to have witnessed the shooting later turned out not to have been at the scene.

These so-called witnesses became instant internet stars on the day of the incident when they were videotaped claiming, in front of a large audience, that the officer had shot Teka in the chest for no good reason. The video clip was circulated on the web and cited as proof that “Israeli policemen murder under the auspices of the law,” as one person shouted in the footage.

But when the two youths were summoned for questioning, they said that they hadn’t been at the scene. One of them initially stuck to his story of seeing the shooting but later retracted it when questioned a second time, and said he had lied “to protect my friend” and so that “the officer would get what’s coming to him.”

The other youth told ministry investigators: “They dragged me there and I spoke under pressure. I said what my friend had told me, but I wasn’t there. I was at the gym.””

The BBC’s repeated claim that Teka was “shot dead by an off-duty policeman” was shown to be an incomplete portrayal of events.

“Teka died after the officer shot a bullet that ricocheted off the ground, during the altercation in a park in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood north of Haifa.

The details released by the ministry department in charge of investigating police misconduct attest that traces of DNA had been found in the park that support the officer’s account that he suffered bruises from stones Teka had thrown at him. Information on forensics tests indicate that sizable quantities of alcohol and hashish were found in Teka’s remains.”

Back in July 2019 we noted that the BBC had failed to produce any follow-up reporting to inform audiences of the findings of the early investigation into the incident. To date the BBC has likewise shown no interest in informing its audiences of the Justice Ministry’s latest findings. That of course means that the BBC’s “permanent public record” – the reports which remain available to the public online without any update – continue to promote partial and inaccurate information, including the allegation that the Israeli police kill people “because of their skin colour”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes context-free video

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2019 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 116 incidents took place: 75 in Judea & Samaria, 31 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and ten in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 81 attacks with petrol bombs,19 attacks using pipe bombs, four arson attacks and two shooting attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included two shooting attacks, one petrol bomb attack, one IED attack, one grenade attack and five incidents of rocket fire.

There were no fatalities or injuries during December.

The BBC News website reported just one of those 116 incidents – a rocket attack on Ashkelon on December 25th which was mentioned 14 hours later in an article on another topic. Previous rocket attacks on December 7th and December 19th did not receive any BBC coverage.

Throughout 2019 the BBC News website reported under a third (32%) of the terror attacks which actually took place and most of that reporting appeared in months (March, May and November) in which a high number of rocket attacks took place. In five of the year’s twelve months, no reporting on terrorism was produced at all and 72.7% of the fatalities resulting from terror attacks received BBC coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News belatedly reports rocket fire for the first time in a month

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2019

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

Another BBC item promotes falsehoods about Israel’s anti-terrorist fence

On January 3rd BBC Radio 4’s ‘Archive on 4’ re-ran an hour-long programme first aired in November 2019 under the title “Build the Wall!”.

“On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Katy Long asks why political leaders are celebrating the occasion while building new border walls of their own.

From the United States, where ‘build the wall’ has become a symbol of the Trump presidency, to Norway, India and South Africa, dozens of walls have gone up since 1989, with many more being built, planned or imagined. In this programme, Katy tells the modern history of border walls to ask why they are being built, and why now, when new virtual technologies increasingly offer alternatives to concrete barriers.

Katy will examine the complicated history of the Berlin Wall, and what it meant during the Cold War. She’ll examine border walls and border communities in Northern Ireland, the United States, South Africa and Israel, exploring what happens when walls are built – for good and ill – and whether it’s possible to take them down again. She’ll look at the difference between walls to keep people in, and keep them out, and whether the walls are really about safety, or certainty, or just about ‘us’ and ‘them’.”

Katy Long is not a BBC journalist. As readers may know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

BBC audiences however are told nothing of Long’s affiliations and hear nothing about the “funding and particular viewpoints” of the think tank for which she works.

According to its webpage, the BBC Radio 4 programme will be available “for over a year” and so the substantial section relating to Israel – which begins at 43:55 – is worthy of examination. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Long: “And the closer I look the more it seems like border walls run along the hidden fault lines of our liberal democracies. They’re monuments of the political impossibility of balancing national sovereignty with ideas of universal freedom, human rights and equality. That’s certainly the case of Israel – a state that is now almost entirely surrounded by walls. Danny Tirza.”

Tirza: “In 2000 the government decided to construct a security barrier between the West Bank and Israel and that was the project that I was the head of.”

Israel is of course not “entirely surrounded by walls” – in most places the border is protected by a fence. Long began by casting doubt on the information her interviewee had yet to provide.

Long: “For Tirza, the architect of the West Bank security fence, the logic of the barrier is simple and can be measured in the number of Israeli lives he believes it has saved.”

Tirza: “From 2000 till the end of 2006 we had in Israel more than three thousand terror attacks. We lost in this period 1,562 people that were murdered by terror attacks from the West Bank to Israel. At that period we had from Gaza Strip only three terror attacks because Gaza Strip was already fenced before that. But from January 2007 till today we had from the West Bank to Israel only 50 terror attacks and we lost in this period 41 people. You can see the differences.”

Long proceeded to signpost that information from a contributor  – who is the former head of the Strategic Planning Unit of the Judea and Samaria Division, IDF Central Command (1994-2009), a former senior security adviser and negotiator in diplomatic talks with the Palestinian leadership and a former advisor to prime ministers, the president of Israel, defense ministers, the National Security Council, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, the IDF Planning Branch, and senior IDF commanders – as unreliable. She did not inform listeners by whom that information is “contested” or whether that claim has any merit.

Long: “The exact numbers here are contested and correlation is not always causation. But what is beyond dispute is that there’s been a dramatic drop in Israeli deaths from terrorism since the barrier was built. But from the other side of the wall, the story looks very different.”

The contributor chosen to present the view from “the other side of the wall” is a London-based Iranian-American academic whose frankly often ridiculous claims did not receive any questioning, challenge or signposting from Katy Long.

Khalili: “This wall functions more as an offensive measure rather than as a defensive one.”

Long: “Laleh Khalili is professor in Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.”

Khalili: “So what do I mean by this? I mean that it has a certain series of functions that are used to control populations. Not only are you controlling people’s movements but you’re also by cutting the territory into different segments – and I think that in part explains the shape of the wall in the West Bank – what you’re doing is you’re creating areas with variegated modes of military control in them so that people can be subjected to surveillance in those spaces, they can be subjected to control of movement but also, should there be for example demonstrations or protests or forms of mobilization, the wall actually functions as a military means to limit those protests. And the third function is land grab so some of the areas where we see the wall have really – the wall in the West Bank – have some really very odd contours. In those instances the wall actually functions as a kind of a means to grab a bit of land and annex it.”

Those claims are of course complete nonsense but listeners heard no challenge from Long, who went on to promote an inaccurate claim of her own.

Long: “The West Bank’s wall sits to the east of the pre-1967 borders meaning that about 10% of the West Bank is now on the Israeli side of the barrier and some Palestinian villages are entirely encircled by the fence.”

There is of course no such thing as “pre-1967 borders”: as the BBC’s own style guide recognises, the 1949 Armistice Line is not a border.

“In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.”

Moreover, Long’s claim that all of the anti-terrorist fence “sits to the east” of what she wrongly described as a border is untrue. She went on to promote pure conjecture as fact.  

Long: “This means that while the wall may have brought Israel temporary security, it will make negotiations for a lasting peace still more complicated.”

Tirza: “No, this line is not a border. The border had to be decided only on the table of the negotiation. So the line will change there because there are other concerns that we can deal with on the negotiation table. That’s not that line.”

Long: “How permanent are those walls?”

Tirza: “As I was the territorial expert in all the negotiations with the Palestinians, I want to be the one that will take off the fences around the West Bank. I love this area very much. I have so many friends on the other side so really I hope that they will come and there will be no need for the security fence and we can remove it and live normally and quietly with our neighbours the Palestinians.”

Long: “I was reading as I was preparing for this that on some of the concrete slabs there are holes at the top. Is that right?”

Tirza: “That’s right. We call it the hole of hope. That it will be very easy to come with a crane and to take it off and remove it.”

Listeners then heard a recording, apparently from a news report, followed by the repetition of the false claim that Israel is “encircled with walls”:

“It’s a project shrouded in secrecy and there are plenty of denials today that this barrier is even being built.”

Long: “But despite Tirza’s hope that one day, when there is peace, the walls in the West Bank can come down, Israel is still building new barriers. Today the entire state is encircled with walls physically reinforcing the sense of the state existing under siege – a sense which has informed so much of Israeli politics in recent years.”

BBC audiences did not get to hear anything about the relevant issues of ISIS in the Sinai, Iranian-backed terror groups in the Gaza Strip or the terror group Hizballah in Lebanon and the Syrian Golan at that point or any other in the programme.

Apparently confusing the border with Egypt with that of the Gaza Strip – and making absolutely no mention of cross-border attack tunnels – Long went on:

Long: “On the border with Egypt a new barrier is being built. Not just up but also down underground, as Christian Fraser reported.”

The recording of Fraser’s report continued:

Fraser: “Sources say the new barrier is made of super strength steel that extends 80 meters below the surface. They believe it is manufactured in the United States. From descriptions it appears to fit together like a jigsaw and they say it’s been tested to ensure it’s bomb proof, it can’t be cut, it can’t be melted. In short, it sounds almost impenetrable.”

Long: “Ultimately, so much depends on where you’re standing when you look at Israel’s walls. For Israelis the fences are tolerable, even welcome, because they are held to keep terror out and because for most Israelis they are out of sight, out of mind.”

What evidence Long has to support that dubious claim is unclear. She went on:

Long: “For Palestinians, especially in overcrowded Gaza where nearly 2 million people live on just 350 square kilometers of land, they are hated as an assault on basic freedom because the walls limit everyday lives by keeping people in. Laleh Khalili explains.”

Khalili: “In Gaza the wall is so all-encompassing, in some ways so incredibly difficult to penetrate, that in fact it acts as a kind of a very large-scale prison. People often use that terminology to define…to describe Gaza as a large open-air prison but in fact the walls that surround it, at least on the land side, feels like anybody who’s in Gaza is stuck there.”

That ‘open air prison’ propaganda got no challenge from Long and listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip has a land border with Egypt or that thousands of people travel out of the territory every month. Of course the crucially relevant topic of the terrorism perpetrated by factions in the Gaza Strip did not even get one word of mention.

Long then joined some agenda-revealing dots for her listeners.

Long: “It’s tempting, standing here on the US border with Mexico, to talk about the many links between the barriers in Israel and the increased border enforcements here under President Trump. To point to the Israeli companies competing for contracts or the advice that Danny Tirza has given to the US Sheriff’s Association. To think about the increasing militarisation of this border between allies.”

As we see, the BBC is apparently quite happy for a programme which includes numerous inaccuracies to remain available on its platform for “over a year”.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC WS programme on anti-terrorist fence promotes inaccurate information

Weekend long read

1) The IDI provides a backgrounder on Israel’s immunity law.

“Procedural immunity protects MKs from standing trial while in office, and relates to any offense for which they have been indicted. In the past, MKs enjoyed procedural immunity automatically; the Attorney General had to specifically request the Knesset to revoke it when he deemed that appropriate. In the wake of several cases in which the Knesset declined to revoke an MK’s immunity, and which triggered harsh public criticism of the Knesset and forced the High Court of Justice to intervene, the law was revised in 2005. Today, no MK enjoys automatic immunity, but he or she can request the Knesset to grant immunity on various grounds. This means that having no immunity is now the default rule; the Knesset must specifically vote to grant it.”

2) The ITIC takes a look at Turkey’s relations with Hamas.

“A Hamas delegation headed by Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, recently paid a visit to Turkey. The delegation was accompanied by Jihad Yaghmour, who for the first [time] was officially mentioned as Hamas’ representative in Turkey. Yaghmour is a Hamas terrorist operative from Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem who was involved in the abduction of IDF soldier Nahshon Waxman 1994. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel but was deported to Turkey in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal. In Turkey he liaises between Hamas and the Turkish government and the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT). At the same time, in ITIC assessment, he has also been involved in covert activities, mainly the handling of terrorist squads in Judea and Samaria. In Hamas’ perspective, his past experience as a field operative may have prepared him for the role of terrorist handler. As Yaghmour’s cover for his activities in Turkey he is president of a Turkish organization called the Association of Jerusalem and Our History.”

3) At the JCPA Michael Segall analyses Iran’s strategy in Iraq.

“Iran continues to view Iraq and the Shiite militias operating there as critical elements in its efforts to store and transfer weapons to Syria and Lebanon, particularly precision rockets and missiles, and as a way to mobilize Shiite fighters for future battles with Israel and the United States. The ongoing Israeli efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria have prompted Iran to redeploy and store some of its weaponry in Iraq, thereby advancing its plans in the region with the help of the militias under its authority. This strategy has provoked widespread criticism in Iraq of this conduct, in particular, and Iran’s overall activity and presence in Iraq, in general. This resentment erupted in the ongoing demonstrations in Iraqi cities and in the attacks on the Iranian consulates in southern Iraq, along with recent calls by Iraqi demonstrators to boycott Iranian products.”

4) Jonathan Spyer explains the current situation Syria.

“North east Syria, two months after the US redeployment and the subsequent Turkish invasion, now constitutes a chaotic kaleidoscope of opposing forces. No less than eight separate armed forces may be discerned in the area. These are the SDF, the US Army, the Turkish Army, the Turkish associated Sunni Islamists of the Syrian National Army (SNA), the Syrian government army (SAA), the Russians, the IRGC-supported Shia militias and of course the Sunni jihadis of Islamic State. The Saudis, if indeed they are there, would constitute a 9th force.”

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

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

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

One report concerned external security issues:

Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes Jonathan Marcus (20/11/19 to 26/11/19 and 28/11/19 to 1/12/19)

One item related to political/legal issues:

ICC wants to open ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

One item concerned archaeology:

Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory (17/12/19 to 20/12/19)

Four reports related to religion/Christmas/Palestinians:

Jesus manger: Relic returns to Bethlehem in time for Christmas  (30/11/19 to 5/12/19)

Saint Barbara: A celebration for Arab Christians Barbara Plett Usher (17/12/19 to 31/12/19) discussed here

Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely (25/12 /19 to present) discussed here

Of nine items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, three concerned politics:

Israel will hold unprecedented third election in a year (12/12/19 to 17/12/19) discussed here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in party leadership challenge (26/12/19) discussed here and here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably wins party leadership challenge (27/12/19 to 30/12/19) discussed here

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

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’  (21/11/19 to 4/12/19 and 6/12/19 to 9/12/19)

Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned (25/11/19 to 2/12/19) discussed here

Ayia Napa Briton found guilty over false rape claim (30/12/19 to 31/12/19)

Ayia Napa: Foreign Office ‘concerned’ over Briton found guilty over rape claim (31/12/19 to present)

Two reports concerned social issues:

How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 1/1/20) discussed here

Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel? Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 26/12/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs. All of the December reporting concerning Palestinians came within the framework of one-sided Christmas coverage.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

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

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