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

Throughout the month of November 2019, thirty written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages.

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

Eight reports concerned an escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad:

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza (12/11/19) discussed here, here and here

Israel-Gaza violence: Rockets and air strikes follow militant death (12/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant (12/11/19 to 13/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death (13/11/19 to 14/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire holding despite rocket fire (14/11/19 to 15/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets and air strikes (15/11/19)

Israel-Gaza: Israel vows to investigate civilian death claims (16/11/19 to 19/11/19)

Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint Barbara Plett Usher (18/11/19 to 23/11/19) discussed here

Three reports concerned other external security issues:

Iran nuclear deal: IAEA finds uranium particles at undeclared site  (11/11/19 to 15/11/19)

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)

Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria (20/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Seven items related to political/diplomatic stories:

Jordanians detained by Israel for months freed after diplomatic crisis (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers (10/11/19 to 11/11/19) discussed here

US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal (18/11/19) discussed here and here

Pompeo: Previous US stance on Israeli settlements ‘hasn’t worked’ (18/11/19 to 24/11/19)

US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians (19/11/19 to 21/11/19) discussed here and here

US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal Barbara Plett Usher (19/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

Israelis and Palestinians on US settlement move (19/11/19 to 21/11/19 and 23/11/19 to 29/11/19)

Two items related to historical content:

WW2 Jewish survivors in rare reunion with Greek rescuer (4/11/19 to 5/11/19)

Greek rescuer, 92, meets families of WW2 Jews she saved (4/11/19 to 18/11/19)

One report related to religion:

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

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

Benny Gantz unable to form Israel coalition government (20/11/19 to 24/11/19)

Seven items related to legal stories:

Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal (5/11/19 to 6/11/19) discussed here

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

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’ (21/11/19 to present)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM charged with corruption (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption charges? Originally published in February 2019 (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in face of ‘coup’ (22/11/19)

Israel’s Netanyahu facing fight of his political life Barbara Plett Usher (22/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

One report concerned planning:

Jerusalem: Israel approves controversial Old City cable car plan (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs with visitors having seen no coverage of that topic whatsoever during the month of November.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

 

BBC WS breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality with Gaza report

h/t JP

The November 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included an item (from 20:10 here) which was introduced by the presenter as follows:

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

Presenter: “Earlier this month there was further fierce fighting over Gaza triggered when Israel assassinated a senior militant leader from the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. These rounds of violence have become almost routine, as have accounts of humanitarian suffering blamed largely on Israel’s blockade of the territory.”

Notably absent from that portrayal is of course any mention of the Palestinian terrorism which is the reason for “Israel’s blockade of the territory” as well as the last round of escalation during which about 560 rockets and mortars – conveniently whitewashed from this introduction – were fired at Israeli civilians.

The introduction continued:

Presenter: “But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news. They are Issam Adwan, Asmaa Tayeh and Ahmed Elqattawi. On a recent trip to Gaza our correspondent Barbara Plett Usher spoke with them about the recent violence. Ahmed begins the conversation.”

Listeners then heard nearly five minutes of unchallenged one-sided monologues.

Ahmed: “I want to live. I want to live like any other human being in the world. This is my right. I want to be respected. I want to have it and I want to see it like happened in the Gaza Strip. This is my…my city. I should feel safe in my city. Why would I walk in the street without feeling safe? I mean even like the horrific fear I witness. I mean during these three days was [unintelligible] for me. I have been like a victim to the sound of bombing and shelling. I couldn’t take it anymore, really. I was just…I was scared. I mean I’m 24 years old but I was really scared. Yeah.”

Issam: “But trust me this is not like the worst thing that could happen to the one who is living in Gaza, who lived through three wars and, you know, partially fourth one. The worst thing that could happen to you is that you’re not feeling fear anymore. Not because of being brave but because of, like, you have suffered so much. There are so many levels of being empty. Some people here in Gaza Strip they just want to die because they are suffering so much. At my point I’m…I’m fearless not because of being brave but I’ve seen so much. For them they are fearless because they have suffered so much. They just want to end it. I believe a lot of people exceeded what they can handle.”

Asmaa: “My sister-in-law two days ago was saying if they bomb us they should kill us all because we don’t want anyone to stay and live and keep crying on the others. I told her no. You all die and I want to live. Because I really didn’t live. I’m still twenty – twenty-three – and I didn’t live. I really need to live more so I can maybe find some sense of safety or joy or anything. It also makes me laugh when I see some Israelis comment on our posts on social media saying ‘you’re killing our children, you’re terrifying us, you’re doing this and that’. And they don’t get the fact that we’re trying to defend ourselves. They don’t get the fact that they every time start this. And when we do the same, or at least done the same because we don’t have the same equipment, they cry about it. And they tell us that we are violating their human rights. They were violating the international law. But they don’t think about themselves. They are doing the same or worse.”

Listeners heard no challenge from Barbara Plett Usher to those falsehoods and were not provided with any background which would help them put the propaganda into context. Instead, in the first of just two brief interventions throughout the whole item, Plett Usher chose to question the definition of the actions of Hamas and the PIJ as terrorism.

Plett Usher: “Do you think that Palestinian leadership bears any responsibility? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they have this doctrine of resistance, for example, that Israel and the international community call terrorism.”

Asmaa: “Well for me I don’t support anyone. I think we’re all Palestinians. But let me ask you: what do we really have as a choice? What can we do? Do we have equipment? Do we have anything that we didn’t try before? Tell me what we can do? What options do we have?”

Issam: “Such a response is just a representation of – fine representation – of what Gaza is not having, which is life. Also I would condemn Hamas and the PLO for such division which kill the Palestinians in the first place, especially the people in Gaza Strip. We are responding, we are shooting, we are, like, protesting at the Great March of Freedom because we don’t have hope. Israel is a great part of that. The PLO is also part of that. Hamas like makes the ideology of terminating others’ existence; they are responsible for that. I’m also blaming the lack of vision, the lack of – let’s say – a position that can lead us to move forward with the Palestinian case. They are responsible for that, not the occupation. I know that the occupation is imposing a lot of pressures and blows but they are responsible on that in the first place. They have responsibility. They cannot do with…these just [unintelligible] to step back and let other people to lead.”

Plett Usher: “What about you? How do you feel about the future, Ahmed?”

Ahmed: “Well I remember like a report was issued by the UN and they said that Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020. So 2020 is coming in January so I’m trying to just receive the shock when it comes.”

Asmaa “But for me, to be honest, I don’t think this is gonna be the last Israeli attack. So you will never feel safe. So I don’t have hope. No, I’m sorry, I don’t [laughing].”

Presenter: “Asmaa Tayeh ending that report from Barbara Plett Usher in Gaza and we also heard from Issam Adwan and Ahmed Elqattawi.”

It of course comes as no big surprise to hear such a blatantly one-sided report from Barbara Plett Usher: a report which does nothing to advance audience understanding of the topic it purports to address. But below the surface of this five minutes of unchallenged propaganda is another layer which once again highlights the issue of the BBC’s supposed impartiality.

Listeners were told in the introduction to this item that the three interviewees had set up a website:

“But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news.”

In fact, all three interviewees are involved with a website – called ‘We Are Not Numbers – that was set up in early 2015 by a political NGO called EuroMed Rights which is funded by a variety of foreign donors and has as members organisations engaged in lawfare against Israel. The website itself is funded by a US registered organisation called ‘Nonviolence International’ which was founded by Mubarak Awad who was deported by Israel due to his role in the first Intifada.

Issam Adwan is listed as the website’s ‘special projects coordinator’ and described as having joined it in May 2018. Asmaa Tayeh is listed as its ‘social media coordinator’ and Ahmed Elqattawi features in a 2015 report by anti-Israel activist Joe Catron for the infamous ‘MintPress News’. The website has also been promoted on the notoriously anti-Israel ‘Mondoweiss’ site by its founder Pam Bailey who is a contributor to that site as well as others includingMiddle East Eye’ and Al Jazeera.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate 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.”

Not only did Barbara Plett Usher’s report fail to inform listeners of the name of the website it inaccurately claimed was “started” by her three interviewees but BBC audiences were given no “appropriate information” about the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of the real founders and funders of that website and their very relevant political agenda. 

BBC News yawns at Gaza rocket fire yet again

Between November 25th and November 29th terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched four projectiles into Israel. 

On the evening of November 25th – just nine days after the last incident of rocket fire – a mortar attack took place in the Eshkol district.

“Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a mortar shell at southern Israel Monday evening, apparently striking an open field in the Eshkol region, Israeli authorities said. […]

An Eshkol Regional Council spokesperson said the shell had apparently struck an uninhabited area outside a local community.”

On the evening of November 26th two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“One of the projectiles was shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system. The second appeared to strike an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.

No injuries or damage was caused by the rockets, though one woman was lightly injured when she fell while running to a bomb shelter.

The rockets triggered alert sirens in the southern town of Sderot and surrounding communities.”

On the evening of November 29th residents of southern Israel once again had to run for cover.

“Incoming rocket sirens were activated at around 9 p.m. on Friday after a rocket was fired from the Hamas-run Strip. The projectile fell in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no damage or injuries. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck targets in the Strip.

Two hours later, sirens were activated in the southern city of Ashkelon and the kibbutzim of Karmia and Zikim. The military said that the sirens went off due to “non-rocket fire.” According to Palestinian reports, the sirens were activated following anti-aircraft fire towards IAF jets.”

As is more often than not the case, the BBC Jerusalem bureau ignored all those incidents and audiences once again heard nothing of the experiences of people in southern Israel who, since the beginning of this year alone, have been targeted by attacks using over 1,300 rockets and mortars.

Source: ITIC

 

BBC ignores conviction of man it portrayed in 2011 as ‘the Gandhi of Palestine’

On November 24th the Haifa Magistrates Court found Raed Salah guilty of incitement to terrorism.

“A prominent Arab Israeli Islamic cleric was convicted Sunday of incitement to terrorism over a 2017 speech in which he praised a deadly attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court also convicted Sheikh Raed Salah for supporting an outlawed organization. Salah was leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which Israel banned in 2015 over alleged links to terror groups and for inciting deadly violence.

Salah was arrested and charged two years ago for praising three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers in a July 2017 attack at the Temple Mount compound.”

That conviction has not received any BBC coverage to date.

A BBC profile of Salah – titled “Sheikh Raed Salah: Profile of pro-Palestinian activist” – dating from 2011 when he was banned from entering the UK to attend “a House of Commons meeting […] along with Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burden and Yasmin Qureshi” is still available online.

Readers of that profile are told that: [emphasis added]

“Sheikh Salah has been described by some as the “Gandhi of Palestine”.”

“Sheikh Salah is a poet and a father of eight children.”

“Sheikh Salah is a citizen of Israel – he was born in 1958 in the town of Umm al-Fahm, which a decade earlier had become part of the state of Israel when Palestine was divided.”

“…he became a founding member of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is a legal organisation. He is now leader of its northern branch.”

The Northern Islamic Movement ceased to be a “legal organisation” four years ago.

If the BBC is going to leave backgrounders such as this fawning profile of Salah (which includes a link to a pro-Hamas website) online as “historic public record”, then it should obviously be obliged to update them as subsequent events occur in order to ensure that the information available to audiences accurate and relevant.

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

BBC ignores another Northern Islamic Movement story – in English

CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

 

 

Reviewing the impartiality of BBC radio reports on the Pompeo statement

Earlier this week we reviewed inaccurate claims made in reports aired on BBC radio stations about a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

Some of those reports included recorded statements from or interviews with people other than BBC journalists and the overall picture indicates that audiences did not get a balanced view of the story.

November 19th, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 01:38 here)

Erekat: “Once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, once they become an administration that’s pro Israel’s occupation, pro Israel war crimes, this is constitute a major threat to international peace and security.”

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newsday’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 06:09 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo is absolutely rejected and must be condemned because once superpowers, once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, this is constitute a a major threat to international peace and security and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post (from 07:29 here)

Interview with Palestinian journalist and former PA spokesperson Nour Odeh (from 06:23 here)

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 14:06 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo the Secretary of State of the United States is absolutely rejected and must be condemned and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi (from 34:07 here)

In short, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment from one side only – the PLO’s side – while listeners to BBC World Service radio heard four times more comment from the Palestinian side than from the Israeli side.

Apparently the BBC believes that meets its obligation to ‘due impartiality’.

 

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a long item (from 14:05 here) that was aired on the November 25th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ and which related to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ employee Omar Shakir whose work visa was not renewed by the Israeli authorities in May 2018 and who – following several court cases – left the country on that day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal continued, providing the cue for another HRW talking point.

Iqbal: “There is a suggestion that the case against Omar Shakir was initially based on statements that he had made in support of a boycott before he took on his role with Human Rights Watch. Is that true?”

Roth: “The Israeli government really kind of resurrected these statements that he had made when he was a university student years ago. But even the government made clear that the anti-BDS law is supposed to be preventative – it’s supposed to look to the future. It’s not supposed to be punitive. So in fact, you know, whatever Omar Shakir said back in his university days is irrelevant. Everything he has done since joining Human Rights Watch – as any Human Rights Watch employee – strictly adheres to Human Rights Watch policy which is not to endorse BDS, it is not to call for boycott. So this is, you know, not about BDS. This is about trying to shut down mainstream human rights advocacy.”

Iqbal made no effort to challenge that spin or to inform listeners that while Shakir was indeed involved in BDS advocacy before joining HRW, that activity has continued, as detailed here, including the FIFA campaign, the Airbnb campaign, the UN BDS data base and the targeting of Israeli banks.

Iqbal: “You have Mr Shakir with you in the car. I’m assuming that you will not be replacing him in his role to cover this particular region.”

Roth: “The Israeli government wanted to get rid of Omar Shakir by deporting him so we are deliberately not playing along with that. Omar will continue his direction of Human Rights Watch’s work on Israel and Palestine. He will do it, as we do in many closed countries, from a neighbouring country so he will set up in one of our offices in the region. We have offices in countries that don’t censor us. Initially he’s going to be operating out of our office in Amman.”

Iqbal: “This Israeli decision has been criticised by the UN and the European Union. The United States sees this just [sic] an issue of freedom of expression. Are you going to appeal against this decision or or is that not possible now?”

Iqbal did not provide a source for her claim of how the US “sees this” but an identical claim appears in an AFP report in which it is also unsourced. Listeners then heard Ken Roth egregiously assert that the ruling given by Israel’s Supreme Court was based on politics rather than legal scholarship, with no challenge whatsoever from Iqbal.

Roth: “We brought this government’s decision to the Israeli Supreme Court. Ahm…the panel we received was a rather Right-wing panel which ruled against us so that they’ve allowed the deportation to go forward. Human Rights Watch has [unintelligible] a full panel which will be more reflective of a more centrist or moderate view of the law should require in light of free speech and human rights principles. That petition is currently pending before the chief justice of the court.”

Listeners did not hear that HRW petitioned – unsuccessfully – for Shakir to be allowed to stay in Israel in the meantime.

Iqbal then asked to speak to Omar Shakir himself.

Shakir: “I am on route to Ben Gurion airport to leave Israel Palestine after two and a half years documenting human rights abuses by all parties as Israel and Palestine director at the organisation. It’s difficult on a personal level to leave but at the same time our work will continue. We will continue to work on the same issues with the same intensity and the same methodologies and I will continue to direct that work and I’m confident I’ll be back one day; one day in which human rights abuses are no longer systematic, in which discrimination is not as deeply entrenched as it is today and until that day comes, I’ll continue to work as hard as I have for the last few years.”

Iqbal: “Are you disappointed that you are not getting perhaps the kind of robust support from the United States – of which you are a citizen – as you are from the United Nations and the European Union?”

Shakir: “It’s been fantastic just seeing the outpouring of support across the world. The world sees through the Israeli government’s narrative. This is about muzzling human rights advocacy. It’s been clear that this Trump administration has moved from failing to use its leverage to safeguard rights to full-fledged green-lighting at serious rights abuse but that position has been rejected whether it be with regard to the illegality of settlements, the status of Palestinian refugees or attacks on human rights defenders. The United States’ position has only highlighted its isolation from the global consensus.”

Iqbal: “And just one final comment on…on what you are being accused of doing by the Israelis – that you have been engaged in advocating boycotting and divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

Shakir: “Look, neither Human Rights Watch nor I as its representative ever called for a boycott of Israel. This is but the latest in a series of allegations used to muzzle Human Rights Watch’s work. The reality here is that Human Rights Watch uses the same methodology we use in a hundred countries around the world. One of our important focuses is business and human rights and we’ve done the exact same work. We’re not going to create a special rule for Israel. We’re going to use the same standards that we use everywhere else and we’ll continue that work.”

Iqbal closed the pre-recorded interviews there, failing to point out to listeners that Shakir’s claim of ‘using the same standards’ in Israel as it does “everywhere else” is patently untrue and that – for example – it did not campaign for Airbnb to de-list holiday rentals in other disputed territories such as northern Cyprus.

Listeners then heard an ‘explanation’ of why ‘Newshour’ completely failed to provide its listeners with any other perspective.

Iqbal: “Our correspondent in Jerusalem has attempted to get reaction from the authorities in Israel but they have rejected requests for interviews. We have also been trying here in London.”

That of course does not excuse the entirely one-sided nature of this long item in which listeners repeatedly heard HRW’s long-standing spin on the story go unquestioned and unchallenged but were told nothing at all about the court’s findings.

Once again we see that when reporting on ‘Human Rights Watch’ – which is one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel –  the BBC tosses its editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality aside, opting for journalistic activism over providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

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

A BBC promoted BDS myth exposed

 

 

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

The November 25th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a long item (from 14:05 here) relating to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ employee Omar Shakir whose work visa was not renewed by the Israeli authorities in May 2018 and who – following several court cases – left the country on that day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that eight minute and thirty-nine second item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now, a controversial fight [sic] between Israel and one of its most vociferous human rights critics. The outcome is the expulsion of the director of Human Rights Watch based in Israel, Omar Shakir, who is a US citizen but was accused by the Israelis of advocating BDS – a Palestinian-led campaign calling for the boycotting, disinvestment and sanctioning of Israel until it meets what it des…what is described as Israel’s obligations under international law.”

Anyone familiar with the long years of BBC refusal to inform its audiences of the BDS campaign’s aims would not be surprised by Iqbal’s blatant whitewashing of that subject. The BDS campaign – which is not “Palestinian-led” as claimed by Iqbal – does not aspire to have Israel ‘meet international law’. Rather it seeks to end the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and promotes a right of “Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties”: goals which undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

Yet as we see, Iqbal refrained from providing listeners with that obviously relevant background information before she went on to introduce her two sole interviewees – both from ‘Human Rights Watch’. She did however promote one of HRW’s long-standing talking points while referring to “a 2017 law” (actually an amendment to existing legislation) which she failed to explain.  

Iqbal: “The Israelis say that Mr Shakir is in violation of a 2017 law. Human Rights Watch say Mr Shakir’s expulsion places Israel in the same camp as Venezuela, Iran and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers. I’ve been speaking to Ken Roth. He’s the head of Human Rights Watch.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on “contributors’ affiliations”, listeners were not given “appropriate information” about HRW’s “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” and beyond the short description of Ken Roth’s title, they heard nothing of his record – a serious omission which obviously compromised the ability of audiences to put his assorted claims and allegations into context.

Roth: “I’m actually driving in the taxi at this moment toward the airport with Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, and I will accompany him out of Israel later today in compliance with the deportation order that the Israeli government has issued for him. The Israeli government wants him out of the country in essence because of his reporting on Israel’s illegal settlements and in particular the advocacy that he has done asking businesses to avoid complicity in that illegality. This kind of advocacy is similar to what Human Rights Watch does around the world, whether it’s child labour in gold and diamond mining or avoiding forced labour in cotton picking in Uzbekistan or the internet companies avoiding censorship in China. But Israel objected to this advocacy with respect to the illegal settlements and it’s retaliating against Omar by ordering his deportation.”

The claim that HRW’s work in Israel is no different to what it does in the rest of the world has long been one of the political NGO’s talking points but as NGO Monitor points out:

“HRW lobbies for boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses and companies doing business in Israel, including in the UN (“BDS blacklist”), FIFA, and Congress. Even if HRW can point to a handful of isolated calls for businesses to cease their operations in other places due to human rights concerns, there is no parallel in terms of the zeal, intensity, language, and continuous campaigns regarding Israel. […]

HRW misleadingly portrays its support for BDS against Israel as “calling on businesses to uphold their human rights’ responsibilities by cutting settlement ties.” First, there is no such obligation under international law, and every national court that has looked at these issues has rejected attempts to bar or criminalize such activity (for example, France, the UK, Canada, the US, and Israel). Second, HRW does not limit itself to BDS against settlements, seeking to have Israel sanctioned by FIFA and targeting Israeli banks, among other campaigns.

Finally, this claim is irrelevant. At the end of the day, HRW and Shakir are calling for boycotts in a way that expressly and directly meets the criteria in the Israeli law.”

Iqbal failed to challenge Roth on that point – or on his portrayal of Israeli communities as “illegal” – but did presume to present “Israel’s view”, once again without explaining the “law of 2017”.

Iqbal: “Israel’s view is that Mr Shakir is advocating the policies of the BDS movement – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – which is contrary to an Israeli law of 2017. Are you saying that he is not doing that?”

Roth: “That’s correct. I mean the Israeli pretext is the BDS law but in fact, you know, Human Rights Watch has never endorsed BDS. We have not called for a boycott. We don’t appeal to consumers. This was just kind of a concocted pretext to get rid of Omar Shakir. All this is to avoid complicity in human rights violations which is what we do around the world. This is nothing exceptional and frankly that’s what makes the Israeli government’s move so dangerous because this is not an action against some extremist position. This is an action against completely mainstream run-of-the-mill human rights advocacy. And if they can penalise Human Rights Watch for this completely ordinary position, they can go after anybody.”

Iqbal failed to challenge that spin from Ken Roth. As NGO Monitor explains:

“There are over 350 NGOs in the field of human rights listed with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, and an additional 400+ Palestinian and international groups that are active in the West Bank. Many of these strenuously and stridently oppose Israeli policy, with some deploying BDS and antisemitism in their campaigns. They get significant media coverage in Israel and internationally, as well as platforms in the UN and national parliaments. None of this will change, regardless of the court’s decision on Shakir.

In addition, the visa law is only relevant to non-Israelis and non-Palestinians, and as previously decided by the Israeli Supreme Court, is only applicable to active leaders of BDS. HRW, which has other employees in the region and is not in danger of disappearing, could replace Shakir with an Israeli or a Palestinian. If they hire an international staffer, they can select an individual who is not a long-time leader of demonization and BDS.”

Pursuing the same line of questioning but failing to specifically mention HRW’s failed campaign against Airbnb last year, Iqbal handed Roth yet another cue to repeat his talking points.

Iqbal: “Mr Shakir is a US citizen and it is the case, is it not, that Human Rights Watch does urge businesses to stop operating in the settlements and a broad interpretation of that 2017 laws [sic] would suggest that Human Rights Watch and in this case Mr Shakir are breaking that law.”

Roth: “If you want to interpret a call on businesses to live up to their global responsibilities to avoid complicity in human rights violations as a boycott then you get to the Israelis’ extreme position. But in fact it’s not a boycott. We don’t appeal to consumers. We’re not in any sense, you know, urging any boycott of Israel. We’re focusing simply on the illegalities of the settlements and that’s why I say this is such a mainstream position. It’s such an uncontroversial position within the human rights movement that if Israel’s gonna get away with trying to censor this kind of position, then no human rights advocacy is safe in Israel.”

Iqbal could have challenged Roth’s false claim that “we’re not in any sense, you know, urging any boycott of Israel” by reminding audiences that, together with other BDS supporting NGOs, HRW tried – unsuccessfully – to get Israel thrown out of the international football federation FIFA but she did not.

The rest of this item will be discussed in part two of this post.

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

A BBC promoted BDS myth exposed

 

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

On the afternoon of November 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned”.

With not much having happened since the BBC published its previous article on that story twenty days earlier (except for the Supreme Court’s rejection last week of another petition from HRW), it came as no surprise to see that a significant proportion of this latest report was identical to the earlier one – including the links to additional reading.

As was noted here the last time those links were promoted: 

“The first of those items promotes the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The second is remarkable for its lack of fact checking and the third (from 2015) uncritically amplifies falsehoods promoted by a professional BDS campaigner, including about the campaign’s origins.”

This latest report yet again made no effort to give BBC audiences an accurate picture of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the corporation’s own words.

“Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism – something the movement denies.”

It did however once again uncritically amplify HRW’s talking points concerning the case.

“HRW rejected the Israeli government’s portrayal of Mr Shakir, saying he neither supported nor opposed BDS.

It stressed that as its representative he had called on companies to stop working in or with Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and had not called for a consumer boycott of those companies.”

Remarkably, no effort was made to inform readers of the court findings which refute those talking points.  

Readers of course found the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.

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

Twenty-one percent of the report’s word count was devoted to uncritical amplification of the latest statements from the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’.

“Human Rights Watch has accused the Israeli authorities of an “intensifying assault on human rights” following the deportation of one of its activists. […]

“Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, who accompanied Mr Shakir as he flew out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Monday.

“This decision shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. A government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure.””

An additional paragraph was given over to amplification of similar comments from another political NGO which engages in lawfare against Israel, ‘B’tselem’ and yet another paragraph (also seen in the previous report) told readers that:

“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal against the deportation order at the Supreme Court, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on the Israeli authorities not to deport him.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that among those expressing support for Omar Shakir and ‘Human Rights Watch’ was Hamas.

While the caption to the main image illustrating the article told BBC audiences that “Omar Shakir vowed to continue investigating and reporting human rights abuses”, both a Tweet from Shakir embedded into the article and a Tweet from the head of HRW make it very clear that the NGO’s interest in human rights is far from universal.

This is the third BBC News website report on this topic (see earlier ones here and here) and all three have extensively and unquestioningly amplified the talking points of HRW and other political NGOs while failing to inform BBC audiences of the obviously relevant issue of the aims of the BDS campaign.

Clearly the BBC has no interest whatsoever in providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story and its wider related background but that editorial policy is more comprehensible when one appreciates that while for years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel, that organisation’s political agenda and funding has never been adequately clarified to audiences as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.   

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BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

BBC News website corrects inaccurate description of Israeli MK

Earlier this week we noted that in an article published on the BBC News website on November 22nd, MK Gideon Sa’ar was inaccurately described as “the education minister”.

“Gideon Sa’ar has not been the Minister of Education for over six years. He held that post between March 31st 2009 and March 18th 2013 and since then there have been three other ministers.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website to alert editors to that inaccuracy but over 24 hours later no reply had been received and no correction made. We therefore submitted a complaint on November 24th.

On November 25th we received a response from the BBC News website informing us that:

“This sentence was amended in the hours after publication, to now correctly refer to Gideon Saar as “The former education and interior minister…””

The amendment was in fact made at least two days after publication and no footnote has been added to inform audiences that they were previously given inaccurate information.

Before:

After:

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BBC News’ Plett Usher fails on fact checking

 

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents the 4th Geneva Convention

The role of the BBC’s Middle East editor is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent”.

Hence, when Jeremy Bowen appeared on two BBC radio stations on November 19th to provide answers to questions concerning “the legal status of […] settlements” following a statement made the previous day by the US Secretary of State, BBC licence fee payers no doubt expected to hear accurate, impartial and comprehensive information which would enhance their understanding of that undoubtedly “complex story”. 

The November 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ included an item (from 22:40 here) introduced by presenter Evan Davis as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Davis: “Last night the US made a dramatic shift in its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would no longer view them as inconsistent with international law. Most of the rest of the world considers settlements on Palestinian territory as illegal. Jeremy Bowen’s our Middle East editor. Jeremy: is it illegal? Is it a fact that it’s illegal? Does it become legal if America says we don’t consider it illegal? Where are we on what the legal status of those settlements are [sic]?”

Bowen: “Israel has always argued on legal grounds that it’s not formally occupied territory because they say that the West Bank and other occupied territories were not part of any country before Israel occupied them in 1967. In fact the land had been annexed by Jordan but that wasn’t recognised by that many states. Ah…the rest of the world pretty much – including the US up to last night – said that’s the wrong interpretation and under international humanitarian law – under the Geneva Conventions – states who capture by war territory are not allowed to move their own people onto that territory and to settle them there permanently, which is what effectively is done in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. So that’s the interpretation that Britain certainly clings to and the European Union, which put out a very strong statement along those lines today.”

Later the same day Bowen appeared on the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) and was similarly asked by presenter Tim Franks to explain the legal issues.

Franks: “…some people said that these settlements…well, international consensus seemed to be that these settlements were against international law. What was the basis for that?”

Bowen: “International humanitarian law – the Geneva Conventions – state quite clearly that if a belligerent country in a war seizes land and occupies it, it is not permitted to move its own people into that land and settle them there permanently. That is not allowed under international law. So that is why most of the world – including the US until last night – said that was their position. Now the Israelis have had a different position because the Israeli argument has been that conventions don’t apply in the same way because the West Bank till Israel captured it in 1967 was territory that had been annexed by Jordan and that annexation had not been widely internationally recognised, therefore you can’t call the land occupied.”

As we see, in both those items Jeremy Bowen claimed that the Geneva Conventions do not permit an occupying power “to move” its own people onto occupied territory. That, however, is not what Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention says.

None of the Israeli civilians living in Judea & Samaria were ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ there – or for that matter ‘moved’ by the Israeli government. 

Bowen’s portrayal of Israel as a “belligerent country” whitewashes the fact that it was Jordan which attacked Israel on June 5th 1967, even after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had sent a message to King Hussein saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities.

Bowen also whitewashed the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, referring only to the subsequent ‘annexation’ in 1950 which he described as not being “recognised by that many states” and “not…widely internationally recognised”. That portrayal obviously does not adequately reflect the fact that Jordan’s annexation of Judea & Samaria was recognised only by the United Kingdom, Pakistan and – according to some sources – Iraq. The UK refrained however from recognising Jordan’s annexation of parts of Jerusalem.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich raises an interesting point concerning that issue which was predictably ignored by Bowen.

“During the War of Independence, Jordan and Egypt conquered territories from Israel illegally, and it was almost universally agreed that neither Jordan nor Egypt had any legitimate claim of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria or Gaza. […]

Today, the prevalent approach is that even though the land did not belong to Jordan, it was “Jordanian enough,” and therefore the laws of occupation and the Geneva Convention apply to it. This is nonsense, because even if we assumed this was correct, the Geneva Convention no longer applies when there is a peace treaty, and there has been a peace treaty with Jordan since 1994. It has to be either one or the other: Either it belonged to Israel all the time and Israel liberated its own territory in 1967, and you can’t occupy your own territory. Alternatively, it was “Jordanian enough” in 1967 for the laws of occupation to apply. In that case, the peace treaty with Jordan nullified the Geneva Convention.” 

Another significant omission by the BBC Middle East editor is of course the status of that territory prior to that Jordanian invasion and occupation under the Mandate for Palestine which emerged following World War I. As Amb. Alan Baker explains:

“…the Principal Allied Powers finalized the territorial dispositions regarding the Jewish people in respect to Palestine and the Arabs in respect to Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, and Lebanon. 

The San Remo Declaration stated inter alia that:

“The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …”

This was incorporated into Article 95 of the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres of Aug. 10, 1920, and subsequently in the Preamble and Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.”

And so as we see, the man responsible for providing the BBC’s funding public with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” failed to meet his remit and instead touted a superficial and simplistic portrayal which included a misrepresentation of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.