BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC reporting on last week’s UNESCO resolution concerning the old city of Hebron – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs – has consistently failed to adequately clarify to audiences both the real reasons for Israel’s objections to the motion as well as the fact that the professional body assessing the proposal submitted by the Palestinian delegation did not recommend its adoption and criticised it for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links”.

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 2/7/17

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution BBC News website, 7/7/17

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 7/7/17

An additional report concerning that story was broadcast (from 30:07 here) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 7th. In his introduction to that item, presenter James Coomarasamy once again failed to clarify to listeners in the BBC’s own words that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Coomarasamy: “Israel has denounced a decision by UNESCO to declare the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank a protected world heritage site. The resolution passed by a committee of the UN’s cultural agency also put it on a list of sites considered to be in danger. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a delusional decision.”

Listeners next heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister speaking in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship ensured for everybody. Throughout the Middle East mosques, churches and synagogues are being blown up. Places where Israel is not present. So we will continue to guard the Cave of the Patriarchs to ensure religious freedom for everybody and we will continue also to guard the truth.”

Coomarasamy then told listeners that they were about to hear information concerning “the history” behind the story.

“So what is the history behind the Israeli prime minister’s clear annoyance at this decision? Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

The history of the Tomb of the Patriarchs is of course well documented, with Abraham’s purchase of the site appearing in the Book of Genesis. While one can of course choose to believe that biblical story or not, what is not disputed is that the site was of such importance to Jews that Herod built a structure over the burial caves that is described by UNESCO’s professional team as having been “built in the 1st century BCE” – i.e. hundreds of years before the Islamic conquest of the region.

However, instead of providing audiences with a factual account of the site’s history, Tom Bateman preferred to give a narrative based portrayal of the story that cites ‘views’ – with views of course by definition being open to question and debate. [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Well he’s upset because Hebron, which is in the occupied West Bank, in his view and in the view of many Israelis has a connection to Judaism that goes back thousands of years. And the Cave of the Patriarchs that he talked about there, whilst the site itself is revered by all three of the monotheistic religions, to Judaism it is the burial-place of Abraham. Ah…and so it is his view that what’s happened here is that the Palestinian delegation has gone to UNESCO and has effectively used it for a politically motivated decision to try and enshrine Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city. Now for the Palestinians the view is rather different. It is that they believe that the site is endangered because of what they see as threats from occupation, from the Jewish settlements that are there in those…right in the centre of the old city and so they have for some time now been pushing for this vote and it went their way at UNESCO in Krakow at the meeting by 12 votes to 3.”

Bateman also refrained from providing audiences with any information concerning the history of the Jewish community in Hebron up to the 20th century or the more recent history – the Hebron Protocol – that would help listeners understand that there are “Jewish settlements …right in the centre of the old city” because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement twenty years ago. He did however find it important to describe “pretty chaotic scenes” at the UNESCO vote before Coomarasamy made a vague reference to some more history: that of the Palestinian delegation’s repeated exploitation of the UN’s cultural forum for the denial of Jewish history and delegitimisation of Israel.

Coomarasamy: “And Israel’s going to reduce its funding to the UN; as you say there’ve been a number of decisions by the UN that Israel is unhappy about. This is just going to make, I guess, that relationship even worse.”

Bateman: “Yeah that’s right. I mean we’ve heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say repeatedly that parts of the UN, and particularly UNESCO, are biased against Israel; they’re politically motivated, they’re in hock to Israel’s adversaries. And when he said – as we heard in the clip there – that this was delusional yet again by UNESCO after a vote that they felt severed Judaism’s historic ties to Jerusalem itself – to the Western Wall – ah…earlier this year, so he has said after this vote that he’s gonna withdraw another million dollars of funding to the United Nations and instead, he says, he will put that money into a heritage museum in Hebron.”

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story, Bateman’s equivocal ‘he said-she said’ account and his refusal to even provide historical facts without introducing false equivalence and ‘narratives’ obviously does not meet the corporation’s mission of providing “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

 

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

As readers may know, the old city of Hebron is on the agenda at a UNESCO conference that opened this week.

“The meeting will run through July 12 and debate contentious issues like a Palestinian motion to deny Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem and have the West Bank city of Hebron designated as a “World Heritage Site in Danger.” […]

Given the Arab nations’ automatic majority in international forums, the Palestinian proposal is likely to be accepted. […]

The Tomb of the Patriarchs could become the third cultural site on UNESCO’s “List of World Heritage in Danger” that is registered as located in the “State of Palestine.” The other two are the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and the “cultural landscape of Southern Jerusalem,” around Battir.”

Of course this is far from the first time that UNESCO has been exploited for politically motivated denial of Jewish history since the Palestinian Authority joined that UN body in 2011. As in previous cases, professionals have not recommended adoption of the PA’s latest proposal.

“UNESCO experts have warned the Palestinian Authority that it has overly focused on Hebron’s Muslim history at the exclusion of the Judeo-Christian heritage in its request that the West Bank’s city’s “Old Town” be inscribed on the “World Heritage in Danger” list. […]

The PA’s written proposal had focused on Hebron’s “Old Town” history from the Mamluk period of 1250 and onward, which includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, whose Herodian structure houses both Jewish sanctuaries of worship and the Ibrahimi Mosque. […]

“This means that the association of Hebron with Jewish and early Christian societies is given little recognition, and Tell Rumeida [an area of Biblical Hebron] and other sites are excluded from the boundaries,” the report continued.” […]

This is the third time in a row that ICOMOS has failed to recommend a Palestinian Authority proposal for inscription on the “World Heritage in Danger” list; it rejected both the 2012 proposal to put Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and 2014 request to place the ancient agricultural Terraces of Battir on the list.”

However, that professional view is once again unlikely to have any influence over the politicised proceedings at UNESCO, which is why Israel did not cooperate with the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) process.

On the past occasions in which the BBC has produced coverage of PA proposed UNESCO resolutions concerning Israel it has consistently failed to provide its audiences with the relevant information concerning the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of its tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here 

So how did the BBC World Service present this latest story to listeners to ‘Newshour‘ on July 2nd? Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 14:07 here) as follows:

“A UN committee is beginning to consider a Palestinian request to classify the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank as an endangered world heritage site. Israel is opposed to the plan.”

With no further explanation, Coomarasamy then gives an inadequate introduction of his sole interviewee, describing an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group as a tour organiser.

“Eliyahu McLean runs regular dual-narrative tourist visits to Hebron.”

McLean begins by noting that Hebron is “an ancient city” with “at least four thousand years of history” before clarifying that “it’s a holy city to Jews, Christians and Muslims”. He goes on:

“It’s the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. It’s a centre of the Palestinian economy. It’s also the burial place of our shared ancestor for Jews, Christians and Muslims – Abraham. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Leah and Rebecca; all buried in Hebron.”

Coomarasamy then asks a question which might appear less relevant to an item supposedly discussing a proposal to designate part of that city as a world heritage site but nevertheless, listeners do get to hear about a subject – the Hebron Protocol – which is all too often absent from BBC reporting on that city.

“An ancient city but what has its modern history been like?”

McLean: “…It’s also a very divided city. It’s one of the most divided cities in the holy land and if not the world. Here we have a Jewish side of the old city of Hebron and you have a Palestinian side. Now Hebron itself was divided as part of the Hebron Accords in 1997 signed by Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu with Bill Clinton presiding. Israel negotiated the withdrawal of 80% of the city. So 80% of the city has been handed over to the Palestinian Authority and that is now called H1 – H for Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – is still controlled by Israel and the Israeli army. Within that 20% there are about twenty to thirty thousand Palestinians and about 1,000 Israeli Jews living there.”

Coomarasamy: “What is life like for both those communities?”

McLean: “H1 is a thriving metropolitan city; there’s industry, there’s three universities, there’s hospitals […] Now within the old city is where there is tensions and conflict. In the old city you have the Tomb of the Patriarchs. I’m Israeli and I help run a weekly dual-narrative tour to Hebron and we take travelers from around the world to go to Hebron and for half a day I hand them over to a Palestinian guide and they hear the Palestinian narrative of victimisation, of occupation. They feel that they’re living under oppression; violence by settlers, violence by soldiers. The Israeli Jews who live there feel that they’re not just occupying and stealing other people’s land – Palestinian land – but that the Jews in fact have an ancient historical connection. In fact Jews lived in Hebron from ancient times; from the time of Abraham through the Roman period, into the Byzantine early Christian period, early Islamic period, the Crusader period. Throughout all of these periods there was an ancient Jewish community that always lived side by side with their Arab Muslim cousins in peace and harmony.”

Glaringly absent from that account is of course any mention of the murder of 67 Jews in the 1929 Hebron Massacre – the event that brought hundreds of years of Jewish life in Hebron came to an abrupt end.

Coomarasamy then finally asks a question related to the item’s supposed subject matter.

“So what are the claims then of the Palestinian Authority that the old city is an endangered place and it needs to be on the World Heritage in Danger list?”

Unfortunately, listeners do not hear a proper answer to that question.

McLean: “The UNESCO decision about making it a world heritage site should take into account not only the very valid and legitimate Islamic historical connections there but the Christian and of course the ancient Jewish connection. Now I think Israel is making a mistake not allowing in some of the committee members so they can see the reality for themselves because I believe that Israel has a valid, legitimate case to make that there is an ancient and legitimate Jewish history and presence that has nothing to do with endangering Muslims. It is true there are a handful of violent settlers who live there who make life miserable and ruin the reputation of the wider community and people that I know in Hebron, they condemn the action of a minority in their midst that do some violent things.”

Coomarasamy ends the item there.

“Hebron tour guide Eliyahu McLean.”

So although BBC audiences around the world do get to hear references to “violent settlers” who are supposedly “occupying and stealing […] Palestinian land” (despite their presence in Hebron being part of an agreement willingly signed by the Palestinian Authority), they do not actually get to hear anything about the substance of the PA’s latest UNESCO bid.

They are not, for example informed that on the PA’s list of complaints:

“…was the placement of security barriers by the Tomb of the Patriarchs and in Hebron’s Old City, as well as an attempt by Jewish residents of the city to purchase property. The Palestinian delegation also protested the use of tear gas in the Old City.”

Neither are they told that Hamas has a major foothold in Hebron, that the city has a new mayor who is a convicted terrorist or that dozens of terror attacks against Israelis have been carried out in the city: a fact obviously relevant to some of those factors claimed by the PA to be ‘endangering’ Hebron.  

And of course, as usual in BBC coverage of such stories, the all-important context of the Palestinian Authority’s repeated attempts to delegitimise Israel and erase Jewish history and heritage at the UNESCO forum is glaringly absent from this BBC World Service report.

Related Articles:

UNESCO and the Denial of Jewish History (CAMERA)

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Special final instalment – part one

The third and final part of Tim Franks’ special report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ concerning the viability of the two-state solution (see ‘related articles’ below) was broadcast on February 3rd in two segments.newshour-3-2

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

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 30:10 here):

Coomarasamy: “All this week my colleague Tim Franks has been travelling across Israel and the Palestinian territories for this programme. He’s been in Jerusalem, in Gaza and today – today where are you, Tim?”

Franks: “I’m in Tel Aviv, James, and more of that later in the programme. But I’m going to take you now to the West Bank, where most Palestinians live. It’s land that those who believe in a two-state solution say should form the basis of a Palestinian state. It’s also at the moment land on which several hundred thousand Israeli settlers live. Many of them go there just looking for a cheaper place to be but a minority are very committed to the idea of Israel having sovereignty all the way to the border with Jordan. Among them, the woman you are about to hear from; the founder of a campaign group called ‘Women in Green’. She’s Nadia Matar. She spoke to me on a wind-swept hilltop overlooking the West Bank. For her, that wind is blowing in her direction.”

An edited clip from the interview that followed was also promoted separately on Twitter by the BBC World Service.newshour-3-2-clip-matar

In contrast to some of his previous interviews in the series, Franks displayed the ability to challenge some of Matar’s claims and views.

Matar: “There’s so many historical moments now. The new Trump administration, the fact that we are celebrating fifty years of our return to this area, the fact that the Palestinian Authority is soon going to be completely dismantled and we’re going to see all hell go out; basically the Oslo Agreements can be officially declared as dead. All this together creates an incredible window of opportunity for our government to correct the mistake that wasn’t done 50 years ago and to apply sovereignty. And I have a little secret to tell you Tim. There are so many Arabs who are with us, who want this to happen.”

Franks: “But the counter argument is very simple, which is just as the Jews have a right to self-determination in their own homeland, so do Palestinians have a right to self-determination. It’s not for you to say this is what the Arabs want – it’s for them.”

Matar: “This so-called claim by the Arabs that they want a Palestinian self-determination is another lie. The time has come to respect the Arab culture. They themselves do not want a state. This is a foreign concept to the Arabs in general. The Arabs we talk to – and I started learning Arabic and I started learning how they think and not trying to put our Western principles on people who do not want a state. They don’t want a state.”

Franks: “But how can you say what it is that they want?”

Matar: “Because I speak to them and I hear them.”

Franks: “But they’re represented by their politicians, their leaders – just like any other…any other country has a government that represents…”

Matar: “Excuse me. Their current leaders who they are a bunch of terrorists who have only one thing in mind: the millions of dollars that you in Europe are giving them. Not for the welfare of their people but for making weapons and strengthening themselves to fight Israel. They have only one wish: it is to destroy Israel. And we will not commit suicide. The two-state solution has been thrown into the garbage of history, thank God.”

Franks: “What do you say to those who are not making a political argument but a security argument? There are more than 200 very senior former members of the military and the security establishment who said that the violence that there is…the responsibility for that violence is of course down to the perpetrators but in large measure it is – and I quote their words – the product of Israel’s rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank and their resulting humiliation, abject poverty, despair and the absence of hope for a better future.”

Matar: “Oh wow! The sentence you just quoted; I love it. To tell us that there’s Arab terror because of despair. It is exactly the opposite. There’s Arab terror because they still have hope to be able to create a Palestinian state and to erase the State of Israel. We must once and for all wipe out the hope that they will have through terror. They will get the message that no matter what they do, they will not get one more inch from our homeland. That is when terror will stop.”

Franks: “Nadia Matar speaking to me from the settlement of Neve Daniel with her view of what makes at least some Palestinians tick. There’s a man though here in Ramallah – the administrative capital of the West Bank – whose sole job it’s been over the last 25 years to sample the mood of Palestinians. His name is Khalil Shikaki and he says he’s witnessing a decline in support for – and belief in – the two-state solution.”

Listeners were not informed that Khalil Shikaki heads the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research or that some of his past analysis of “the mood of Palestinians” has proved to be decidedly off mark. In 2005 Shikaki claimed that, following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the priority for Palestinians there was “an improvement in the economic life” and in 2006 he predicted that Fatah would win the Palestinian Legislative Council election.  

Shikaki: “The mid-90s was the golden era for the two-state solution among Palestinians and Israelis alike. Probably close to 80% supported it.”

Ignoring the obviously relevant question of why, if that were the case, the Palestinians initiated the second Intifada, Franks asked:

Franks: “And now among Palestinian opinion?”

Shikaki: “It is less than 50%. Although I would say that a lot of people no longer support it not because they dislike it but because they think it is no longer viable. That for practical reasons – most importantly the construction of settlements throughout the West Bank – has simply made it impossible to create a Palestinian state in the future.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that – despite Shikaki’s implication – since the mid-90s new communities have not been constructed, Franks went on:  

Franks: “Can you look into the future and say there is a chance that if it does not happen within the next four years, say, of the Trump administration, it will be over?”

Shikaki: “It could happen in a even a shorter notice. If the Israeli government decides on a very extensive, large-scale settlement build up, then obviously this will change attitudes immediately.”

Listeners then heard a short recording followed by Franks’ introduction of his next interviewee.

Franks: “A short distance away in Ramallah, the sounds of the brand new Yasser Arafat museum – dedicated to the memory of the Palestinians’ most famous leader. The man behind the museum is Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al Qudwa and he appears in this photo, looking on at the last ever hand-shake in 1995 between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader who was assassinated later that year. Nasser al Qudwa has for years been close to the centre of Palestinian power. He’s now talked about as perhaps the next Palestinian president. He’s a man who sticks to the line that a Palestinian state has to come into being. But isn’t belief losing out to reality?”

An edited clip from that interview was also promoted separately on Twitter by the BBC World Service.newshour-3-2-clip-qudwa

Although, as listeners later heard, al Qudwa is a senior figure in the Fatah movement which dominates the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, Franks failed to raise the very relevant topic of its refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state. Neither did he make any effort to clarify the statements made by al Qudwa which come across as barely veiled threats of violence.

Al Qudwa: “While there are some new legal facts on the ground, I refuse to consider these as tantamount to ending the national rights of the Palestinian people, ending the Palestinian state. I’m saying that our struggle is going to continue until we achieve our national goals. It’s not up to the Israelis and it’s not because of some settlements that this is going to come to an end. But it is going to be [a] long, arduous, bloody path.”

Franks: “I wonder if you are making the same mistakes as those on the Left in Israel which is to say look at the logic of the two-state solution; you cannot argue with the logic. But the reality is, what’s happening on the ground, you’re whistling in the wind.”

Al Qudwa: I don’t agree with that at all. If there is no diplomatic solution based on the two-state solution there isn’t a better diplomatic solution such as the one-state solution. This is total nonsense. We should understand that the absence of diplomatic solutions means serious, lengthy confrontation with the Israelis leading to the realisation of our national rights. To hell with any diplomatic solution if it’s not working.”

Franks: “What do you say to the Israeli government’s argument that you’re the people who are standing in the way of any process because you won’t negotiate?”

Al Qudwa: “Yeah, sure. While they take our land and they bring more settlers…”

Franks: “But that’s carrying on while you’re not negotiating so why not talk to them?”

Al Qudwa: “You know, it’s the antithesis of a peaceful solution. So while you are doing practically all these things, it just doesn’t make any sense for you to argue that I’m ready to negotiate, I’m ready to make peace. You are doing the exact opposite.”

Franks: “Yeah but from their point of view they can argue in equal force of logic which is as long as you’re not willing to negotiate, we’ve got a growing population. We need to house them somewhere so we’re going to carry on building places for them to live.”

Al Qudwa: “Whether there is negotiations, no negotiations, it’s clearly absolutely illegal under international law and it represent even a war crime. You are colonising the land of another people in the 21st century – something [that] is absolutely unbelievable.”

Making no effort to inform listeners of alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ or to clarify the disputed status of the areas concerned, Franks closed that part of the programme.

Franks: “That’s Nasser al Qudwa; one of the big power brokers inside the Palestinian Fatah faction. Later in the programme – our final voice and he’s one of Israel’s greatest writers; David Grossman.”

That segment will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC reports from Golan Heights omit basic context

The February 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a report from the Golan Heights by the BBC’s diplomatic and defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Marcus’ report (from 37:49 here) provided listeners with a good picture of the current situation along the border between Israel and Syria and the potential implications.

“The changes in Syria have brought Iran closer to Israel’s borders than ever. […]

It does create at least in theory the possibility of Iranian-Hizballah cooperation not only along the border between Israel and Lebanon but along the border between Israel and Syria as well. Israel has never faced that kind of situation on the northern border.”

However, audiences also heard a much less helpful portrayal of the events which brought about Israeli control over the Golan Heights in Marcus’ opening to the report.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in 1967. Israeli law was extended here in 1981, effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground.”marcus-golan-written

On February 8th a written report on the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“. While as interesting and informative as the audio report, the article similarly presents a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli law was extended there in 1981 – effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground. It is now a heavily fortified area.”

As regular readers will be aware, it is extremely rare for BBC audiences to be provided with the background information necessary for their understanding of the events which preceded Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights and additional areas in 1967. All too often we see that the BBC begins its accounts of history in June 1967 without providing the necessary context.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War approaching – and with it, one can assume, augmented BBC coverage of the topic – it is obviously all the more important for audiences to be provided with accurate, impartial and comprehensive information concerning the background to that war.

Related Articles:

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ misleads on EU statement on Iran missile test

January 31st saw the appearance of BBC reports concerning reactions to a recent Iranian ballistic missile test.iran-missile-test-art-31-1

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Netanyahu: Iran missile test must not go unanswered” and the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ also included an item on the topic.

In that item (from 30:10 here), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed Israel’s ambassador to the UN. During the conversation (32:16) Coomarasamy said to Danon:

“You’ll be aware that the European Union has said that it does not believe that these tests were in violation of that UN Security Council resolution; that this was a…not under the nuclear agreement.”

So did EU foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali really say that the test did not violate UNSC resolution 2231? Not according to ABC:

“Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”.

EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that a ballistic missile test would not be a violation of the nuclear deal, but that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Times of Israel:

“The EU spokeswoman noted that since Iran’s ballistic missile effort was not included in the nuclear accord, “the tests are not a violation.”

Additionally, it was up to the Security Council to determine if the latest test was a violation of UN resolutions on Iran’s missile program, she said.”

And not according to AP:

“The European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust.” EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said a ballistic missile test would not violate the nuclear deal with world powers, but added that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Independent:

“The EU called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”, with foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali saying that a ballistic missile test would not constitute a violation of the nuclear deal but was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231. 

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she added.” 

So, while Ms Massrali did point out that the test would not violate the JCPOA (because it does not relate to missile development), she did not – as Coomarasamy inaccurately and misleadingly claimed – say that it did not violate UNSC resolution 2231.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

 

BBC WS report on UNSC resolution endorses Palestinian narrative

On the afternoon of December 22nd (before news broke of Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution tabled at the UN Security Council) listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report (from 50:04 here) relating to that story.plett-newshour-22-12

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

JC: “The US president-elect Donald Trump has called for a UN Security Council resolution aimed at halting the building of Israeli settlements to be vetoed. The draft resolution is meant to put an end to all settlement activity by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem. Well, joining us now on the line from Washington DC is the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher. Ehm…so Barbara; this is meant to be voted on a bit later on today – is that right?”

Plett Usher responded:

BPU: “Yes; it’s a draft resolution put forward by Egypt which would say that Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the Palestinian…rest of the Palestinian territories are illegal. Now, UN resolutions already say that….eh…but there has been some push to get…ehm…it out there again and re-in…re…re-supported by the UN because of the…this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building and it is…it’s very much its policy.”

JC: “And what about the Obama administration’s policy? What do we know about its thoughts on this draft resolution?”

BPU: “The Obama administration and the United States generally has said that settlement building lacks legitimacy. It stops short of adopting the position that it is illegal under international law but Mr Obama’s administration has been very, very critical of the settlement building during his administration and he has…and some of his advisors and his officials have said it was…contributed to breakdown in the peace talks. So there’s been a lot of speculation that in the final month of his…of his term he might take some sort of step, some sort of parting shot, to put his own stamp on what he thinks Israel – Palestinian peace should look like or what the parameters might be or what the problems might be and so there’s been some speculation he might take action at the UN. Up until now…eh…the Americans have vetoed any resolution critical of Israel and the Obama administration did that too in 2011 exactly on a resolution involving settlements. But because he’s leaving, because of his contentious relationship with the Israelis, because Mr Trump is coming after him and looks like he will be changing policy or could change policy…ahm…there’s speculation that he might vote differently this time.”

JC: “So briefly, Barbara, what should we make of the president elect’s intervention?”

BPU: “It’s consistent with what he’s done so far. During the campaign his advisors…ahm…were very sceptical of a two state solution. He has appointed an ambassador as his nominee who is a hardline pro-settler…ah…views. Ahm…so I think that’s consistent with what we’ve seen.”

As we see, in that two and a half-minute conversation, listeners heard two references to “settlements” in “Palestinian territories”. The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Obviously there are no Israeli ‘settlements’ in those areas and so the use of such inaccurate terminology misleads listeners.

Israeli communities do exist in Area C and in parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan for nineteen years. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords no limits are placed on construction in those regions and their final status is to be determined in negotiations. Listeners to this item, however, were not provided with that all-important context and the language used by Plett Usher and Coomarasamy clearly endorses and promotes the Palestinian side’s political claims and narrative, thereby compromising BBC impartiality.

Listeners also heard several references to “settlement building”. Just last September the BBC News website amended similarly misleading language – which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – houses being built in existing towns and villages – most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

Plett Usher’s claim that “this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building” does not stand up to scrutiny and does not clarify to audiences the existence of what Ha’aretz earlier this year termed “an informal construction freeze”.

It is by no means surprising to see the BBC continuing to push its well-worn but unabashedly partisan mantra on the topic of ‘settlements’ – the corporation has, after all, embraced that editorial line for years. However, as this report once again demonstrates, that editorial policy hinders audience understanding of both this specific story and the issue in general.

Related Articles:

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

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

 

 

 

 

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part one

The September 28th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service current affairs programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Shimon Peres: The World Remembers“.peres-newshour-28-9

Starting from 54 seconds into the programme, listeners first heard a recording of the Israeli prime minister talking about the former president who had passed away just hours earlier. Presenter James Coomarasamy then read statements from various world figures and that was followed by an item from former Jerusalem correspondent Kevin Connolly and a conversation with the Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

The programme then took a different turn with presentation of reactions from the Palestinian street in Ramallah such as “he [Peres] killed many Palestinians” and “he has a lot of Palestinian blood on his hands”. After that, Coomarasamy introduced the frequent BBC guest Mustafa Barghouti who was given an unchallenged platform from which to exploit Peres’ death for the promotion of nearly four minutes of falsehoods and propaganda.

Barghouti: “The most important issue is that his name is very much related to Oslo Agreement. I know that many people see Oslo as the peace agreement that ended the conflict. In reality it wasn’t and in my opinion Oslo was a big mistake that allowed Israeli settlements to continue to be built and in a way allowed the continuation of the process of killing the two states option. I think Mr Peres probably used his intelligence to deceive the Palestinians but at the end of the day, through Oslo Agreement, he deceived the whole cause of peace. And err….”

Coomarasamy: “But he did argue for a two state solution right to the end, didn’t he?”

Barghouti: “Theoretically, but in fact he never – nor any Israeli leader – ever accepted up till now that a Palestinian state can be a sovereign one; that Palestinians can control their borders; that East Jerusalem could be a capital of the Palestinian state and that Palestinians would have their share in Jerusalem. He never accepted that. Of course his positions on the issue of refugees were very clear, like all Israelis. So saying that they accept the two state solution was never translated into a real acceptance and the question is why didn’t he push for instance for recognising the Palestinian state when you are president of Israel and in all other political positions he had before.”

Coomarasamy: “So when he’s remembered as a man of peace by Israelis and beyond, for you that is not how you’ll remember him?”

Barghouti: “I cannot deny that he’s definitely not as radical as [former PM Ariel] Sharon – that’s for sure – but I think he undermined – unfortunately I have to say that on this day – he undermined the cause of peace so much by creating a false agreement that is called Oslo Agreement. By not allowing a real agreement to take place: an agreement that would have ended occupation, would have allowed Palestinians to have this little tiny state in the West bank and Gaza Strip and that would have allowed coexistence on the base of peace and justice. Unfortunately after all these years – after 23 years of Oslo Agreement – the number of settlers have increased from one hundred and eleven thousand to more than 700 thousand. After 23 years we are witnessing the continuation of an occupation that has become 50 years: the longest occupation in modern history.”

Coomarasamy: “You don’t accept that there were forces within Israel working against him – in opposition to him; that he himself may have wanted things to be different?”

Barghouti: “No. In my opinion he had a very good chance – he and Itzhak Rabin – in ’93 to conclude an agreement; to finish the issue by allowing Palestinians to have an independent state by ending the occupation and this would have obstructed extremists like Sharon and Netanyahu today and Naftali Bennett and many others from taking over. If the cause of peace was fulfilled; if what even Israeli people who demonstrated for peace then demanded was fulfilled; if they had allowed a real agreement that would have ended the occupation we would not be in this situation today. In my opinion he was intelligent for sure. He used his smartness, his connections, to squeeze the Palestinians in an agreement that was unjust and eventually that is hurting now both Palestinians and Israelis because the situation is still there; the conflict is still there and the occupation is still there.”

Coomarasamy: “And that was Dr Mustafa Barghouti – a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.”

At the beginning of this item, Coomarasamy told listeners “we’re going to start though by looking back at the life of Shimon Peres…”. Clearly Barghouti’s long – and entirely predictable – rant did nothing to contribute to that aim. Neither did it enhance audience understanding of the Oslo Accords or why they failed to bring an end to the conflict because Coomarasamy’s weak interjections did not include clarification of the fact that the Palestinians signed the agreements as full and willing partners or that the continuation of the process intended to lead to the formation of a Palestinian state was crippled by Palestinian terror.

The editors of this World Service programme undoubtedly knew exactly what they were going to get from Barghouti in this item and as we will see in part two of this post, they were not alone in reaching the bizarre editorial decision to provide an untimely platform for his tirade of falsehoods and propaganda.

BBC coverage of Choudary conviction ignores his BBC appearances

Like many other UK media organisations, the BBC produced considerable coverage of the story of the conviction of British Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary which broke on August 16th.

BBC audiences heard reports on Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News‘, ‘The World Tonight‘ and ‘PM‘. Listeners to the BBC World Service heard a report on ‘Newshour‘. Television audiences also saw reports on the story – for example here and here. Visitors to the BBC News website found reports on its UK page – for example here and here – and an article by the BBC’s home affairs correspondent titled “How Anjem Choudary’s mouth was finally shut” appeared in its magazine section.Choudary magazine

As is the case in some of the other reports, in that article Dominic Casciani referred to Choudary’s relationship with members of the media.

“He would greet the journalists with a smile, and some guile, dressed up as charm.

One day outside Regent’s Park Mosque (he was banned from ranting inside its premises) he told the crowd he was honoured that I had turned up to hear him speak. He liked playing games. It gave him a sense that he was winning.” […]

“Choudary loved the limelight and revelled in media attention.” […]

“He [Choudary] tried in vain to get the Supreme Court to stop the prosecution. He asked some journalists if they would act as character witnesses (I wasn’t one of them).”

In the Newshour report, presenter James Coomarasamy remarked:

“And in Britain he’s been a fairly ubiquitous sort of figure. This is not someone – for listeners around the world – this is not someone who’s only reached…ehm…supporters via Youtube or via other social media. He’s been on mainstream news programmes quite regularly, hasn’t he?”

But in none of the above reports did BBC journalists acknowledge that their own corporation repeatedly provided Choudary with a platform. Following an interview with Choudary on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme in December 2013 in which he controversially refused to condemn the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, we noted here that:

“Of course there can be no doubt that the BBC editors who decided to interview Choudary for that programme knew in advance exactly what kind of responses they were going to get from him. After all, like the proprietors of some Victorian freak-show seeking to attract audiences by way of the ‘shock factor’, the BBC has been wheeling out Choudary and his template propaganda for over a decade, including a ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2003 in which he refused to condemn the Mike’s Place suicide bombers, another ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2005 in which he likewise refused to condemn the London terror attacks, participation in ‘The Big Questions’ and ‘Newsnight’ and an appearance on ‘Newsnight’ in May 2013 (also promoted on the BBC News website) in which his stance on the brutal murder of Lee Rigby was made amply clear. 

Beyond his tawdry ‘shock factor’ which is exploited to the full by the BBC, Anjem Choudary does not represent one of those “significant stands of thought” which the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines pledge to reflect and represent. His bigoted rants and apologist attitude to terrorism reflect the views of no more than a minuscule proportion of British citizens and such views certainly are not embraced by the vast majority of people who share his faith. And yet, following the latest round of criticism in December, the BBC felt the need to defend its amplification of the abhorrent views of an anti-democratic supremacist.

“A BBC spokeswoman said: “We have given great consideration to our reporting of the Woolwich murder and the subsequent trial, and carried a wide range of views from across the political and religious spectrums.

“We have a responsibility to both report on the story and try to shed light on why it happened. We believe it is important to reflect the fact that such opinions exist and feel that Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”Choudary Newshour

In both the ‘Newshour’ report and in his written article, Dominic Casciani describes Choudary as having “used his megaphone to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of Britain”. If the BBC now recognises that, one must of course ponder the question of why it saw fit to so frequently provide him with a microphone no less pernicious than his megaphone.

It is of course precisely that factor which has over the years prompted repeated criticism of the BBC’s frequent showcasing of Choudary. A recent article in the Telegraph notes that:

“…Choudary became a regular on many of the corporation’s flagship news programmes including Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today.

During his trial Choudary described how he would “bait” the media with controversial statements and relished appearing on air.

The court heard how he had hundreds of media contacts who he would tip off before high profile demonstrations and stunts, including 31 journalists from the BBC.

Last night Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “The BBC has given this man hours of airtime down the years providing him with a platform to express his views.

“It was never with the intention of adding to the debate but simply for shock value. “Choudary TV news

But if the BBC’s funding public is under the impression that this case will perhaps prompt some overdue introspection on the topic of the corporation’s provision of platforms for extremists, a response from a BBC spokesman which appears in a Daily Mail article may indicate that such hopes are premature.

“A BBC spokesperson said: ‘This interview took place 3 years before today’s court ruling. It is important to acknowledge that such opinions exist within the UK, throughout the segment Anjem Choudry’s views were robustly challenged by our presenter and countered by Lord Carlile, the government’s former anti-terrorism adviser.'”

Obviously some at the BBC still don’t get it.

Related Articles:

Anjem Choudary’s BBC appearances ignored in reports on his arrest

BBC interviewee’s group noted in terrorism study

The BBC, ‘democratic principles’ and the Jihadist recruiter

BBC WS Newshour erases perpetrators from item about hijacking

The March 29th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item concerning the same day’s hijacking of an EgyptAir plane. Following a report on the incident, the item turned to a more general topic, introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 34:50 here) as follows:Hijacking item on Newshour

“Well let’s hear now from someone who knows a thing or two about hijacking; he’s 85 year-old Uri Bar Lev. He’s a retired Israeli pilot and back in 1970 when he was flying an El Al plane from Amsterdam to New York he became the first and possibly the only pilot to foil a hijacking in mid-air.”

The ensuing conversation with Uri Bar Lev was also promoted separately on social media but remarkably, one rather relevant piece of information was omitted from the entire item.

At no point were listeners informed that the plane piloted by Bar Lev was the target of an attempted hijacking by the Palestinian terrorist organisation the PFLP. Especially when one considers that over the past two and a half years the BBC has produced at least three items of content concerning that story and has repeatedly portrayed one of the hijackers on Bar Lev’s flight – Leila Khaled – as an ‘icon’, that is quite an omission.

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ cuts number of Har Nof terror attack victims by a third

The January 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a discussion (from 44:43 here) about punitive demolitions of the houses of terrorists.Newshour 10 1

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item as follows:

“Now…eh…one response by the Israeli authorities to the recent raft of so-called ‘lone-wolf’ attacks by Palestinians wielding knives, guns, even cars has been to reintroduce a policy of demolishing the homes of family members of those who perpetrate violence. It’s a divisive tactic; it was condemned by many Western governments as collective punishment and in 2005 a report by the Israeli Defence Forces concluded it wasn’t an effective one. That led to an almost total halt in demolitions for nearly a decade. So, has anything changed? Well in a moment we’ll hear from two Israelis with differing points of view. First let’s hear from someone directly affected by the policy. Muawiya Abu Jamal is a Palestinian construction worker. His brother and cousin killed four Israelis in an attack on a synagogue in November 2014. Although he has never been investigated in connection with that crime, his home was among those belonging to the family that were destroyed last October.”

Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal in fact murdered six Israelis in their attack on the synagogue in Har Nof – not four as Coomarasamy inaccurately states.

Coomarasamy’s final sentence in that introduction clearly leads listeners to believe that Muawiya Abu Jamal’s house was deliberately – and unjustifiably – demolished and his interviewee’s account supports that allegation.

Muawiya Abu Jamal (voiceover): “After the operation by my brother Ghassan and cousin Uday on the 18th of November 2014 an order was issued to destroy their houses. This was implemented in October 2015. The Israeli forces used large enough quantity of explosives not only to destroy Ghassan and Uday’s houses but to destroy my own house nearby as well, plus the homes of my two other brothers.”

Let’s take a closer look at the facts behind that portrayal. The demolition orders for the houses of Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal were issued in November 2014 and the family exercised its right of appeal, leading to a temporary court injunction on the order. The High Court of Justice eventually rejected the appeal. Contrary to the impression given in this item, the order on Uday Abu Jamal’s house was not carried out at the same time as that on the house of his cousin and explosives were not used when, on July 1st 2015, the house was sealed.  

On October 6th 2015 the demolition order on the house of Ghassan Abu Jamal was carried out. What is not clarified by the interviewee is that his own house is situated next door to that of his brother and in the same building as the apartments of additional members of the family. Whilst unintentional damage did apparently occur to those adjacent structures during the demolition process, James Coomarasamy’s inference that Muawiya Abu Jamal’s house was intentionally demolished despite his “never [having] been investigated in connection with that crime” is inaccurate and materially misleading.

Muawiya Abu Jamal continues:

“What can you say to a child when he asks you where is my toy? Where is my book? By demolishing homes they think other people will be scared. Also the Israelis think that demolishing homes is a deterrent but on the contrary; people have increased their attacks. I give you an example in my own family. After destroying the houses of Ghassan and Uday and the other houses nearby, my cousin Alaa Abu Jamal was there. He watched what the Israelis were doing – the force they were using – and then he went out a week later and committed another attack against the Israelis.”

Listeners are not informed that Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky was killed and five other people wounded in the terror attack carried out by Alaa Abu Jamal on October 13th 2015.  Interestingly, when Muawiya Abu Jamal was interviewed by Jeremy Bowen just days after that attack, he provided a different ‘explanation’ for his cousin’s actions, claiming that he was “ground down by the occupation”. No mention is made of the fact that following the terror attack at the Synagogue in Har Nof carried out by his relations, Alaa Abu Jamal publicly praised their acts as being:

“…”something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.

 “This act was carried out because of the pressure placed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government in Jerusalem, as well as the continued acts of aggression against al-Aqsa,” he continued.

Following the axe attack that killed four worshipers and a policeman, Abu Jamal said: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.””

Neither are audiences told about the wider Abu Jamal family’s approach to the terror attack at the Synagogue – including Uday’s father’s claim that “this is a religious war” and his mother’s praise for the attackers – or about the reaction from broader Palestinian society. Listeners are hence left with the highly questionable take away message that the only possible and relevant background to Alaa Abu Jamal’s actions was the demolition of his relative’s house. 

The item continues with a conversation between Yisrael Medad and Jerusalem council member Laura Wharton. Surprisingly, Dr Wharton did not tell listeners about the recently published study by some of her colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which shows that “punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks.”

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details