BBC WS radio’s Newshour invents an Israeli ‘ban’

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on September 2nd heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce an item (from 18:56 here) as follows:

Coomarasamy: “When a classical music radio station plays the music of Richard Wagner it’s not usually a problem – unless, that is, the radio station is in Israel where Wagner’s music is banned from broadcast or being played in public because of the composer’s links to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. On Friday night a programme on Israel public radio broke that boycott, playing part of Wagner’s Goetterdaemmerung opera and the complaints inevitably flooded in. Israel public radio has now apologised and said that it won’t happen again.” [emphasis added]

That highlighted claim from Coomarasamy is inaccurate: there is no ‘ban’ on playing Wagner’s music in public in Israel.

In 1938 the Palestinian Symphonic Orchestra (which later became the Israel Philharmonic) decided to exclude Wagner’s works from its repertoire following the Kristallnacht pogroms. That evolved into a long-standing and broad consensus that public performances of the composer’s music would offend many members of the public – especially Holocaust survivors – and so radio stations and orchestras generally refrain from playing Wagner’s works.

In the rest of the programme’s coverage of that story listeners heard one perspective: that of the founder (in 2010) of a group called the ‘Israel Wagner Society’.

The same Jonathan Livny was quoted in a BBC News website report on the same story which appeared on September 3rd under the headline “Israel public radio apologises for playing Richard Wagner music“. That article, however, managed to present the story to audiences accurately:

“In its apology, the broadcaster said the editor had erred in his “artistic choice” and Wagner would not be played.

The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation added that it recognised the pain such a broadcast would cause among Holocaust survivors. […]

Wagner’s music is not banned in Israel but is not played due to widespread public opposition.”

Oddly, the same minor domestic Israeli story was also featured (from 2:06:33 here) in a news bulletin aired in the September 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. In contrast to the BBC World Service, reporter Steve Jackson managed to accurately describe a “long-standing convention that his [Wagner’s] music is not played in Israel”.

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Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

As documented here previously, after the IDF announced on July 22nd the completion of the overnight evacuation of hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ personnel and their families from southern Syria, through Israel and into Jordan, the BBC News website published two articles amplifying Syrian regime and Russian propaganda concerning that group.

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

Yet more amplification of that propaganda was seen in one version of an article on a different topic published two days later.

Similarly, listeners to the July 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce its lead item (from 00:01:01 here) as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria where the rescuers – or some of them at least – have been rescued. According to the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, an international operation has managed to evacuate hundreds of members of the volunteer civil defence force known as the White Helmets and some of their family members from the country. The White Helmets have become a familiar presence at the scene of attacks in Syria but the Assad government and its Russian allies have condemned them as terrorist sympathisers.”

Coomarasamy then went on to report that Western diplomats had been commenting on the rescue operation and read out a Tweet from the British foreign secretary, before introducing (at 01:57) journalist Paul Ronzheimer of ‘Bild’ who had witnessed and reported the event.

Following that conversation Coomarasamy introduced (at 06:30) the founder of the ‘White Helmets’, James Le Mesurier, who explained that the group’s members “are under extraordinary threat” because “they have been – and continue to be – witnesses to the regime and Russian atrocities on the ground”.

When Mr Le Mesurier mentioned “the evacuation of fighters in buses, including those terrorist organisations that the regime claims to be fighting”, Coomarasamy interrupted him (at 10:58):

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Mr Le Mesurier explained the different conspiracy theories promoted by the Assad regime and Syria.

Le Mesurier: “Inside Syria they very much push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are a Western organisation, that they are a front for the intelligence services, to create divisions inside the country and to make life more difficult for them. And at the same time externally in Europe they push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are Al Qaeda and are terrorists. And at the same time they say that the ‘White Helmets’ don’t exist, that all of the rescues are filmed and so on. This is clearly propaganda.”

Coomarasamy nevertheless persisted with his theme (11:51):

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

The same story was also the lead item in the later edition of the same programme (from 00:00:57 here) and was introduced by Coomarasamy as follows:

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria and a rare example of international cooperation successfully coming to the aid of people apparently under threat from the Assad government. They are people who are used to coming to the aid of others – members of the civil defence force known as the ‘White Helmets’: Western backed and Western trained volunteers who help civilians in rebel held areas. Well overnight more than 400 ‘White Helmets’ and members of their family were brought out of southern Syria in an Israeli-led operation.”

After listeners had heard a voiceover translation of a statement from the Israeli prime minister on the operation, Coomarasamy continued:

Coomarasamy: “The ‘White Helmets’ are viewed by Western governments as life-saving humanitarians but the Syrian authorities and their Russian allies insist that they are a front for terrorist groups.”

Listeners heard (from 02:10) an edited version of the previously aired interview with the ‘Bild’ journalist Paul Ronzheimer and (from 06:14) an edited version of the interview with ‘White Helmets’ founder James Le Mesurier. The editing included repetition of Coomarasamy’s prior amplification of Assad propaganda.

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

Although in the previous edition of the programme Le Mesurier had clarified that the operation was led by the UK, Canada and Germany and supported by the US, Israel and the UN, at 08:58, Coomarasamy next chose to focus on just one of those countries, posing the following bizarre question:

Coomarasamy: “So, what does Israel get out of its role in this rescue operation?”

Notably, the person brought in to answer that question – described by Coomarasamy as “Joshua Landis…a Syria expert who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma” – is renowned for his portrayals of the Assad regime as ‘the good guy’ in the enduring conflict (and before it) and has himself amplified propaganda pertaining to the ‘White Helmets’. It therefore came as little surprise to hear Landis – unhindered by Coomarasamy – promote some Assad-style propaganda in his own more subtle style.

Landis: “They’re doing a big favour for the United States and for the European powers in carrying out important humanitarian work and we’ve noticed that throughout the war, Israel has taken in a number of Syrian rebels as well as their family members and civilians who’ve been wounded, treated them in its hospitals, has tried to do humanitarian work in Syria. Of course Israel has been bombing Syria at the same time, attacking Iranian emplacements, Syrian emplacements, shooting down the odd Syrian plane. But for Israel this is about doing a good deed.”

Failing to clarify to audiences that Israeli strikes have targeted Iranian weapons transfers to the terror group Hizballah, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But as you allude to, it’s something that’s happening on Israel’s doorstep and is very much a military conflict that Israel is getting involved in as well.”

Landis: “Yes, Israel has increasingly become involved in the Syrian civil war. It has supported a number of rebel groups, helping to build a small buffer zone. That has collapsed now, so Israel is going back to dealing with the Assad government and particularly through the Russians and this means that the rebels are collapsing and some of them are seeking asylum, through Israel, to the West.”

Landis’ roundabout portrayal of the ‘White Helmets’ as “rebels…seeking asylum” unsurprisingly went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy as did his false claims that Israel is “involved in the Syrian civil war” and “has supported a number of rebel groups”.

As we see, the UK’s publicly funded public service broadcaster continues to amplify conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

Ever since the BBC began covering the media-orientated ‘Great Return March’ at the end of March it has avoided providing its audiences with a clear picture of the bodies behind its conception and organisation.

BBC audiences have however heard repeated promotion of the theme of Palestinian ‘ancestral lands’ and that was again the case in the introduction given by presenter James Coomarasamy to a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was aired in the May 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 14:08 here). [emphasis in italics in the original]

Coomarasamy: “Protests along Gaza’s border with Israel are expected to reach their peak in the coming week as Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of what they call the catastrophe – the displacement of more than 700 thousand people following the creation of the State of Israel. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed and thousand [sic] injured during five weeks of demonstrations. Israel says that many of the dead were members of armed groups. Palestinians want the right to return to their ancestral homes which are now in Israeli territory. Israel rejects that demand, saying that it is a threat to its Jewish majority. Well, in the first of three reports about the key issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell considers the future of Palestinian refugees.”

Coomarasamy’s use of the euphemism “armed groups” obviously did not adequately clarify to listeners that some 80% of those killed during the six weeks of violent rioting to date have been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

Knell’s opening description of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop severely downplayed its violent nature.

Knell: “A young Gazan man is shot by an Israeli sniper and raced to hospital. Palestinians have been hurling stones at soldiers across the border here and launching kites carrying fire bombs. Israel’s army says its troops open fire to stop anyone trying to cross the perimeter fence illegally and to protect Israelis living nearby from possible attacks. I’ve come to find out what’s driving these deadly demonstrations.”

Obviously after making that latter statement any serious journalist would have clarified the involvement of various Gaza Strip based terror factions in the organisation of the weekly rioting but Yolande Knell instead uncritically painted precisely the picture that the agitprop’s organisers wish to promote.

Woman: “We want to go back to our land. Those are our lands that the Jews took and this is our right.”

Knell: “In the protest camp I meet Najla. Like most of Gaza’s 2 million residents, she’s a refugee.”

Woman: “We have to return to al Aqsa Mosque and all our lands. All of the land is Palestine.”

Failing to explain which party initiated the “Arab-Israeli war” or why, so many decades later, Palestinian refugees are deliberately kept in that status and in refugee camps, Knell went on:

Knell: “In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes as the Arab-Israeli war began. Today many of their descendants still live in refugee camps. Past peace deals promised a fair solution but there are questions about what President Trump will now put forward in his promised peace plan. Another protester, Mohamed Rantissi, says this Gaza action sends a message.”

Rantissi: “It came in the critical time when the world neglected our rights of return back. They are trying their best to dissolve this Palestinian issue by what is called the Trump [unintelligible].”

Listeners then heard a relatively rare mention of the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab lands

Knell: “Well I’ve moved now to Jerusalem’s bustling Mahane Yehuda market to get an Israeli perspective. Long before the country was founded this was a popular spot for Jewish stall holders who’d come from other parts of the Middle East but many more arrived in 1948 and the years that followed. They were Jewish refugees escaping persecution.”

Man: “We have the Kubeh soup which is sort of dumplings stuffed with meat in a vegetable soup. This is the most popular food because you have many Jewish Israelis that come from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds Jewish; this is the traditional food.”

Knell: “Moshe Shrefler works in his father’s restaurant Azura.”

Man: “My father was born in Turkey and was having a problem with the Turkish people because they didn’t like their Jewish neighbours and my mother she came from Iran with all the family. They left everything over there and they came here just to save their lives.”

Knell: “Jewish refugees left behind land and property in Arab countries and were absorbed into the new Israeli state along with Holocaust survivors from Europe. Like many Israeli politicians former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon argues that Arab states must now assimilate Palestinian refugees, making them citizens – as most aren’t at present – and he questions the way the refugees have inherited their status.”

Ayalon: “If really there is an earnest and honest will to bring about peace in the Middle East, I think there is only one humane, fair and logical solution for the Palestinian refugees and this is either to absorb them where they are – remember, we are talking about second, third, fourth generation, you know, so they should be Lebanese, Syrians or whatever – or, if there is a Palestinian state, these refugees, if they want to leave their host countries, should go into this Palestinian entity.”

Knell then revisited a subject that was covered very generously by the BBC back in January and February but yet again BBC audiences heard no in-depth reporting on the issue of UNRWA’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

Knell: “Here in Amman there’s a rally in solidarity with the protesters in Gaza. Across the Middle East there are 5 million Palestinian refugees supported by the UN agency UNRWA. This year UNRWA’s biggest donor, the US, cut the donations it planned to give, saying it needed to make reforms and now in Jordan there’s concern about what that could mean financially and symbolically. Muhammad Momeni is the information minister.”

Momeni: “We have more than 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan and hundreds of thousands of students in UNRWA schools.”

Knell: “So how worried is Jordan about this big hole in UNRWA’s finances?”

Momeni: “We’re very worried. Not only because it will immediately reflect on the type of services but also because it’s a political commitment by the international community to resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees. If you stop financing UNRWA, basically you are telling the world that you are not committed to this issue any more and according to international resolutions, this is a final status issue and it must be dealt with through negotiation and in a way that will bring justice to them.”

Knell refrained from making any effort to clarify to listeners to which so-called “international resolutions” Momeni was referring – and whether or not they actually exist.

Knell: “Back at the Gaza protest camp there’s traditional Palestinian dancing. Here the case for right of return is uncompromising but Israel rejects that demand, pointing out it would destroy its Jewish majority. Leaks on previous peace talks suggest they focused on compensation for Palestinian refugees and return for just a token number. It remains to be seen what Washington will propose on one of the most painful issues in this long-running conflict.”

As we see, notwithstanding that rare mention of Jewish refugees, Knell’s report was essentially superficial. She failed to clarify that the whole point of the demand for ‘right of return’ is the destruction of the Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees have for decades been used by their leaders as pawns to further that aim. UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.  

While giving the impression of balance with her visit to Mahane Yehuda and interview with Danny Ayalon, Knell nevertheless managed to both avoid the real issues behind the topic she ostensibly set out to ‘consider’ and promote a portrayal of the topic that amplifies the messaging of the ‘Great Return March’ organisers.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

As previously documented, BBC News website reporting on the violence and rioting on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 30th failed to provide audiences with a clear view of what the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means in terms of the two-state solution, that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state or what the non-binding UN GA resolution upon which that demand is supposedly based actually says.

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

Seeing as the agitprop organised by Hamas and other terror factions such as the PIJ and DFLP that is dubbed ‘the Great Return March’ uses that issue as its justification, it is obviously necessary for BBC reporting on the topic to provide audiences with that essential context and background.

So did BBC radio programmes do any better than the corporation’s website?

Among the BBC Radio 4 programmes covering the story on March 30th was ‘The World Tonight presented by James Coomarasamy.

In the news bulletin at the start of the programme (from 01:34 here) listeners heard the following from newsreader Kathy Clugston: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Clugston: “Palestinian officials say at least 15 people have been shot dead and hundreds wounded during a mass protest on the border between Gaza and Israel. Thousands of demonstrators gathered for the start of a six-week campaign for the right to return to homes that are now in Israel. The Israeli military said it had fired weapons to disperse rioters. The UN Security Council is meeting tonight to discuss the situation.”

Later on (from 07:42) listeners heard Coomarasamy claim that Israelis will be celebrating Independence Day in May – rather than on April 18/19th as is actually the case – and give a context-free portrayal of the circumstances under which Palestinians became refugees when Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state while portraying (as he also did right at the top of the programme) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the Middle East conflict”.

Coomarasamy: “When Israelis celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of their state in May, Palestinians will be commemorating what for them is known as the Nakba or catastrophe: the point in history when hundreds of thousands of their forefathers became refugees. Today marked the beginning of six weeks of protests across the Palestinian territories in the lead-up to that date with thousands of people heading towards Gaza’s border with Israel chanting slogans on what is known as Land Day – the anniversary of the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces in 1976. The demonstrators said they wanted to send a clear message that they have a right to return to what used to be Palestinian land: one of the major issues of contention in the Middle East conflict.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the words of an unidentified (and severely factually challenged) speaker, with no clarification of the fact that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for nearly 13 years.

V/O: “We need to change the way we deal with the Israeli occupation. Every peaceful and non-peaceful way has failed. We must find a way to go back to our homeland. It’s been 100 years now and Palestinians are stranded while all other nations of the world are enjoying peace and democracy.”

Coomarasmay: “Well despite calls for today’s protest to be peaceful it ended with some of the bloodiest confrontations in recent years. As the marchers moved towards the fortified fence separating Gaza and Israel, Israeli forces fired tear gas and bullets at the crowds just across the border after what they described as riots broke out. By nightfall at least 15 Palestinians had died and hundreds of others were injured and in the last hour the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the deaths of the demonstrators and called on the United Nations to provide protection to the Palestinians.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures he quoted come from the same terror group which organised the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt.

Coomarasamy: “Well Issam Hamad is the vice-chair of the international coordinating committee of the ‘Great Return March’ – the six-week series of protests.”

Hamad: “We have been waiting 70 years for the right of return to be implemented and also the Palestinian-Israeli issue and we have to rise up for our rights and try to draw a new line in the Palestinian era requesting the rights to be implemented.”

Coomarasamy: “But what has been achieved today is the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinians. That could have been avoided, surely?”

Hamad: “They have shoot by snipers 16 people; unarmed civilians as declared their intention earlier that they are going to be peaceful. It just ensures again towards the international community that this country [Israel] is working above the law.”

Coomarasamy: “The Israelis insist that amongst civilians there were armed members of Hamas who were using the civilians as cover.”

Hamad: “Today Gaza has received hundreds of journalists and has media coverage, satellite coverage, that has never been in Gaza since the day of the prophet Adam. Also we are in 2018: people have their mobile phones. If there is a single seen between those hundreds of thousands of civilians there was a rifle or a gun or anything, that can be easily seen. We have not seen today any arms – only civilian people.”

Failing to challenge Hamad’s inflated portrayal of the number of people taking part in the publicity stunt Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But amongst those crowds there were many children. Surely that was irresponsible to bring children to a march like this when you could have foreseen what was the expected Israeli response?”

Hamad: “We will continue calling on the Palestinian refugees to be present in these camps over the coming weeks and it is the responsibility of Israel to keep their safety and not use these tools and snipe the people and kill them because this is not in accordance with the international law and the camera can look…”

Coomarasamy [interrupts]: “So just to be clear, what’s happened today is not going to stop these marches: they’re going to continue for several more weeks.”

Hamad: “Today is a celebration [sic] of Land Day. This Great Return March will start tomorrow and it will continue until we go back to our lands and homes and property that was confiscated from us and we were expelled out of Palestine in 1948.”

Coomarasamy: “When the Israelis hear that they hear a threat to their security.”

Actually, when Israelis hear that they understand that the intention of Issam Hamad and his fellow march organisers is to destroy the Jewish state but Coomarasamy did not clarify that point to Radio 4 listeners.

Hamad: “This is our land. We are going to go back to our land no matter who is ruling, no matter who’s in the political parties or leading the country.”

Coomarasamy: “But you have to deal with the leadership of the country, don’t you? You can’t simply demand this right in a vacuum.”

Hamad: “This debate you are talking about, this is a political debate. This is we are not interested in. We the refugees have been thrown in the diaspora. Now in Gaza is not suitable for dogs to live so why should we stay in Gaza while we have a resolution calling that we return to our land? Why if we are registered by the United Nations and we carry registration number and each one has his name written on it and the place he should return to – why should we wait? Why should the people in Syria now suffer from the war – the Palestinian? Why should they? They were thrown in 1948 and the resolution say they must be allowed to return. So they should return. It’s the problem of Israel how to manage this return journey.”

Making no effort to relieve listeners of the erroneous impressions created by Hamad’s deliberate misrepresentation of UN GA resolution 194, Coomarasamy changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “But at the moment Israel is adamant that what’s happening is sponsored by Hamas and it is a threat to the Israeli state.”

Hamad: “They say this. The cameras have seen, have shown today hundreds of thousands of people coming: children, babies, pregnant women, elderly, men, youth, girls. Every kind of the society today were. There was not a single flag of Hamas. There’s only the Palestine flag.”

Coomarasamy: “The other thing that is said by the Israeli army is that people were throwing stones, firebombs and that there was rioting.”

Hamad: “Today they used snipers to kill people and to injure them. If this is according to the international law, then they can claim this. But today the Palestinians are talking peace and law. People did not like rockets, did not like war, did not like that way. Now we are showing a new way. This is our right. It’s a legal right. It’s a humanitarian right. They cannot deny it. They have accepted. The only thing they can do now is implement it. It’s over. The Palestinian people have taken their decision. If we want to create a third World War now we can go ahead and do it. But halass [enough] it’s over. The people have decided. We are fed up now. It’s over.”

Coomarasamy ended that five-minute long interview at that point and went on to speak to former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s events. However, the item closed without listeners being informed that UN GA resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

Neither did Coomarasamy bother to clarify to listeners that the vast majority of the people his interviewee termed ‘refugees’ are in fact descendants of refugees condemned to that status by the fact that the UN agency responsible for their care does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside (even if that is under Palestinian rule) nor resettlement in third countries.

Once again we see that while the BBC provides a platform for exactly the type of media coverage that this publicity stunt was intended to garner, it fails to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for full understanding of this latest Hamas campaign to delegitimise Israel. 

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of Iranian activity in Syria – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the lead story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on February 18th focused on the Israeli prime minister’s speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier in the day, with listeners hearing remarkably little about the relevant topic of Iranian activities in Syria and the broader Middle East while contributor Laleh Khalili promoted a grotesque caricature of Israel.

The evening edition of the programme also led with that same story.

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a stinging verbal attack on Iran, telling a Munich Security Conference Iran is the “greatest threat to our world”.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the first item on the subject (from 00:45 here), yet again implying to listeners that the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on February 10th is a matter of opinion: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “We begin though at the Munich Security Conference – a forum for discussing global security threats – where the talk today came with added props and the sense that a conflict between Israel and Iran could be getting closer. A week after the Israelis lost their first fighter jet in more than a decade, in military action which followed what they say was the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his appearance at Munich to deliver a message to Tehran. And it was a none too subtle one: here he is, prop in hand, sending his rhetoric hovering over his fellow conference participant the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.”

Listeners once again heard recorded excerpts from the Israeli prime minister’s speech and the Iranian foreign minister’s speech at that conference before Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “So, how does Israel’s closest ally the United States stand on this issue? Well just have a listen to the US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster speaking during Saturday’s question & answer session in Munich.”

Recording McMaster: “What Iran is actually doing is applying the Hizballah model to the greater Middle East in which they want weak governments in power. They want the Arab world to be perpetually weak and they have weak governments in power that are dependent on Iran for support while they grow terrorist organisations, militias, other illegal armed groups that are outside of that government’s control, that can be turned against that government if that government acts against Iranian interests. So that the time is now, we think, to act against Iran.”

Coomarasamy then introduced his contributing guest: a conspiracy theorist who has in the past suggested that chemical weapons used against civilians in Syria may have been an Israeli “false flag” operation aimed at implicating Bashar Assad’s regime.

Coomarasamy: “Now we’re joined now by Lawrence Wilkerson: retired US army colonel who was Chief of Staff to the US Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. And you see echoes in what Colin Powell said and did in the run-up to the Iraq war and what you’re seeing and hearing now.”

Wilkerson: “Yes I do and I kind of chuckled to myself when H.R. said what he said because – let’s face it – he was describing Saudi Arabia far more precisely than he was describing Iran. And I had to chuckle when Netanyahu said what he said to Zarif about the drone because as the Lebanese foreign minister said recently – I’m sorry: the Lebanese defence minister said recently – he has an Israeli drone over his head almost 24/7.”

Coomarasamy: “So when you see what the Israeli prime minister did in Munich and hear what he said, what sort of intent do you think is behind it?”

Wilkerson: “This is all propaganda. It’s all bombast, it’s all bellicosity on Netanyahu’s…Netanyahu’s part at least aimed at deflecting some indictments that might remove him from office at any time, reminding me of a mantra that’s going around in the rumour channel inside the Beltway right now here in Washington: will Trump start a war to save his presidency? I think there’s some of that; that’s the political aspect of it. But I understand Prime Minister Netanyahu – just like Israeli prime ministers from the past – has to seem as if he is ten feet tall in order to dissuade those who are arrayed around him from testing him.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that no indictments have been issued against the Israeli prime minister to date or that even if they had, the notion that they would be ‘deflected’ by a speech made at a conference is just plain ridiculous. Neither did the BBC’s presenter bother to point out the relevant fact that the source of ‘rumours’ concerning the US administration’s supposed intention of starting a war with Iran is Wilkerson himself and that he published an op-ed promoting such claims (which has been called out for its antisemitic undertones) in the New York Times less than two weeks before this ‘Newshour’ appearance took place.

Coomarasamy: “But the presence of Iran and the influence of Iran in the region; that’s a real concern – isn’t it – to those countries?”

Wilkerson’s reply revealed the redundancy of soliciting military analysis from a former soldier in an army that does not fight wars on its own territory and does not have to defend its own civilian population at such a time.

Wilkerson: “Well it is a concern to the Arab countries to be sure. It should not really be of much concern to Israel because the Israel Defence Force, as I well know, is competent sufficiently to defeat all of them in combination were it to have to do so. Now I’m sure Mr Netanyahu doesn’t want to have to exhibit that competence but he’s gonna play with it as much as he can. If you put the Quds Force, the IRGC, the Syria regular army and every other element that Iran and Syria could marshal, Israel would still outdo it and if that weren’t true it has 200 nuclear weapons to back that up. So this is really a lot of bombastic rhetoric to try and get the other side scared, try to get the other side to do what you want it to do. The real issue here is what are the United States’ interests in this area? And I’m really worried because I see absolutely – and this includes McMaster’s just now uttered statements – I see absolutely no real strategy from the United States. I see a muddling through and I see remarks by H.R. McMaster and others in the administration to be demonstrative of that lack of a strategy.”

Coomarasamy: “Isn’t muddling through better though than all-out confrontation?”

Wilkerson then promoted – as he has done in the past – a context-free caricature of prior conflicts:

Wilkerson: “Well it just depends on what you mean by all-out confrontation. I don’t think…I don’t think we’re looking at an all-out confrontation here. If we’re looking at anything we’re looking at Israel getting ready to do what it does about every six to ten years and that is bomb the bejesus out of Lebanon and maybe bomb the bejesus out of Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon and maybe a few other things. And it feels like it has to demonstrate once again that it can obliterate the rest of the region should it chose to do so.”

Coomarasamy: “But it has lost a fighter jet over Syria [sic] and you know that hasn’t happened for some time.”

Wilkerson: “That actually hadn’t happened for about thirty years but I mean you do lose implements of war when you fight.”

Coomarasamy closed the interview at that point but Wilkerson’s baseless claim that “Israel getting ready to do what it does about every six to ten years and that is bomb the bejesus out of Lebanon” was aired again later on in the programme when Coomarasamy returned to his “top story” at 44:00. Listeners also then heard a repeat broadcast of much of the interviews with Giora Shamis and Laleh Khalili which had been aired in the earlier edition of the programme, including the allegation of “constant fear-mongering” by Israel and the redundant linkage between this topic and the domestic issues facing the Israeli prime minister.

It is of course abundantly clear that when ‘Newshour’ invited Lawrence Wilkerson to comment on this story its producers knew exactly what kind of ‘analysis’ they were going to get. That of course raises the same question that was posed by Liel Leibovitz when the New York Times recently published Wilkerson’s op-ed:

“Why the paper of record would give such a man a spot in its vaunted op-ed page is anybody’s guess, though it’s hard to believe that kooks of other stripes would’ve been welcomed so warmly.”

The answer of course is disturbingly obvious. ‘Newshour’ did not seek to meet its obligation to provide audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the background to this highly promoted story. Instead it invited a discredited conspiracy theorist and an activist academic to advance narratives of Israeli ‘aggression’ and ‘expansionism’ and promote the baseless notion of linkage to domestic Israeli politics, all the while downplaying Iran’s actions in the Middle East to the level of a sideshow that distracts from what ‘Newshour’ would have its listeners believe is the ‘real’ story.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of Iranian activity in Syria – part one

BBC’s Bell finds conspiracy theorist “interesting”

By His Own Admission, Wilkerson Cannot Be Trusted (Gatestone Institute)

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of Iranian activity in Syria – part one

The lead story in the February 18th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was described as follows in the synopsis:

“Israel’s prime minister launches a stinging attack on Iran, telling a security conference in Munich the country is the “greatest threat to our world”. Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would “not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck”.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy opened the item (from 00:45 here) by insinuating that an Iranian drone may or may not have breached Israeli airspace the previous week. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Coomarasamy: “We begin now at the Munich Security conference – a forum for discussing security threats but today it put a case of insecurity very firmly on display. The conference became the backdrop to a rhetorical clash between Israel and Iran a week after the two countries’ militaries came into conflict over Syria. Well Israel lost a fighter jet in that clash which followed what it said was the interception of an Iranian drone which had crossed from Syria into Israeli territory. It was the first time an Israeli war plane had been downed in more than a decade.”

After listeners had heard excerpts from the Israeli prime minister’s speech and the Iranian foreign minister’s speech at that conference, Coomarasamy introduced his two guests – Giora Shamis of the controversial Debkafile website and Iranian-American SOAS professor Laleh Khalili.

So what did BBC audiences worldwide learn about the activities of Iran and its proxies in Syria and the wider Middle East or why Israel views the Iranian presence and influence on its borders as a threat? The answer to that question is not much. Listeners did however hear quite a bit of dubious, politically partisan analysis from Khalili – none of which was challenged by the BBC presenter.

Khalili: “There are obviously three elements about what is going on at the moment that makes it all a bit scary, the first of which is that the Trump administration is in place which is probably more likely to give a green light to conflict by Israel, although the Trump administration itself is quite divided on this issue with some of the higher echelons of the military not wanting to cause further conflict in the region. The second element is of course the major rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf Arab states and especially Saudi Arabia. The third thing which I think makes things particularly dangerous is the fact that Netanyahu has over the course of his entire rule in Israel been accused of corruption a number of times but now the police have referred him to the attorney general in Israel and of course the wag the dog situation [laughs] is extremely relevant here and could potentially result in further conflict, which is what Netanyahu would want: the more conflict there is in the region, the better it benefits the Israeli security establishment if not the Israeli people.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question that ‘theory’ or to remind listeners that it was Iran that sparked the recent clash by infiltrating Israeli airspace. After Giora Shamis had mentioned the establishment of Iranian military bases in Syria and additional factors, Coomarasamy asked Khalili about “events on the ground” – meaning the drone infiltration – but allowed her to avoid the question and instead promote more unchallenged propaganda aimed at downplaying Iran’s activities.

Khalili: “The fact is that there are confrontations, whether by proxy or directly, happening between Israel and Iran for decades now and what Netanyahu does – and in fact actually most of the conservative Israeli security establishment do – is constant fear-mongering. The problem is really not with whether or not there are other threats or real threats or real clashes. The problem is with Israel’s militarist, expansionist policies that have essentially become more and more entrenched and more and more fired up whenever Netanyahu feels his own power domestically threatened.”

After Khalili had referred to Netanyahu as “preening quite a bit and posturing quite a bit”, Coomarasamy asked Shamis for his “response to the idea that what is happening now is in part the prime minister of Israel trying to divert attention from his own domestic challenges”, to which Shamis replied that in his opinion, the current Israeli government will be in power for at least another year.

Coomarasamy next asked Khalili about Javid Zarif’s “dismissive” response to Netanyahu and “how worried are the Iranians?”.

Khalili: “They have to consider this but also I’m sure the dismissiveness comes from the direction of remembering how much Netanyahu is into these kinds of theatrics. I mean we haven’t forgotten his UN presentation which was of course the subject of much mirth and mockery later. […] But it is also really important to know that it’s not just the Iranians that are being dismissive. I just have been looking on Twitter and all the people who are at the actual security conference, a lot of the Europeans who are Tweeting are also being in equal measures concerned about Netanyahu’s posturing and also dismissive of, again, its theatrical elements.”

She went on:

Khalili: “…this conflict has been on a low simmer for decades. It’s not new. I mean the fact that the Israeli security establishment have been assassinating Iranian scientists inside Iran and Iranian military people outside of Iran, it’s not like there’s been all love and roses [laughs] for the past few decades and yet this conflict has been going on. But the fact is that the conflict has been ongoing so its being ratcheted up is perhaps what’s interesting, dangerous and worrying.”

Without questioning or qualifying Khalili’s allegations or even reminding listeners of, for example, the relevant topic of Iranian military activities along Israel’s border with Syria, Coomarasamy closed the item there.

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide 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”. The unchallenged efforts of activist academic Laleh Khalili to frame the story as being about “theatrics”, “fear-mongering” and Israeli domestic politics – while completely erasing Iran’s activities from the picture – are of course not in the least surprising.  However, such blatant propaganda obviously contributed nothing to BBC audience understanding of the serious topic of Iranian expansion and belligerency in Syria and the Middle East in general or of Israel’s position on that issue.

However, Newshour’s partisan framing of that story was not over yet – as we will see in part two of this post.

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

As was noted here last week, an article published on the BBC News website on January 1st failed to inform BBC audiences that, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Among the charges against Ahed were aggravated assault of a soldier, threatening a soldier, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, disturbing the public peace and stone throwing.

Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

That video can be seen here.

However, an item (from 17:55 here) broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on the same day – January 1st – shows that the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.

After having told BBC audiences that Tamimi is a “star on social media”, seen as “a symbol of resistance”, “a Palestinian hero” and that she is “very brave, it seems”, Knell stated:

Knell: “Now there are 12 charges against Ahed Tamimi. She’s appeared before a military court. These relate to six different incidents. She’s charged with 5 counts of assaulting soldiers, also with throwing rocks, incitement to violence…”

Two days later, on January 3rd, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme also aired an item on the same subject. Presenter Carrie Gracie opened the item (from 02:32:15 here) by telling listeners that:

Gracie: “A 16 year-old Palestinian girl who has a history of protesting against Israel has been charged with assaulting Israeli soldiers near her home in the occupied West Bank and she has appeared in a military court.”

No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.

On January 8th BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired yet another item (from 45:16 here) on the same topic. Presenter John Humphrys introduced it as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers are almost daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank but since last month one case has been the subject of intense public debate. Ahed Tamimi, who is 16, was filmed slapping and kicking two soldiers outside her home. She has now been charged with five counts of assault. Today she’s going to appear at an Israeli military court for a remand hearing. As Yolande Knell reports, many Palestinians see her as a new hero of their nationalist struggle while Israeli politicians accuse her family of staging anti-Israeli propaganda.”

Listeners were not told that the video concerned was filmed and distributed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother. After describing the video, Knell again told listeners that:

Knell: “Last month Ahed was arrested. She’s been charged with assault.”

Listeners then heard from the girl’s lawyer, Gabi Lasky, who ascribed extra significance to the case.

Lasky: “Not only is this a regular criminal case in the occupied territories but it has a lot of weight on it regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Notably, that theme that was repeated by Knell when she later closed the report:

Knell: “Their case will be watched closely – not just for its legal outcome but for all that it’s seen to symbolise.”

After the interview with Lasky, Knell brought in a recording from a television programme in Hebrew.

Knell: “On Israel’s Channel 10 the presenter asks if the soldiers hit by Ahed were cowardly or showed exemplary restraint. A military expert points out that they were in her village to deal with Palestinians throwing stones. An Israeli peace activist explains how Ahed’s cousin had just been badly injured – shot in the face with a rubber bullet.”

So who is that “peace activist” and is he a reliable and objective source that can be unquestioningly amplified by the BBC?

The interviewee concerned is Yonatan (Jonathan) Pollak – a founder of ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’, a BDS campaign supporter and a regular participant in the weekly rioting in Nabi Saleh organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father.

Knell continued:

Knell: “But this isn’t the first time Ahed’s actions have sparked debate. Two years ago she was the blonde curly-haired child filmed biting an Israeli soldier trying to detain her brother. In an earlier video she threatens to punch a soldier.”

Knell of course did not bother to tell listeners that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time. She then went on to say:

Knell: “While Palestinians liken her [Ahed Tamimi] to Joan of Arc, Israel’s media calls her Shirley Temper.”

In fact the bizarre Joan of Arc comparison was first made by Israeli activist Uri Avinery in an article published in Ha’aretz.

Following an interview with Israeli MK Anat Berko, Knell went on to present Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem – inserting the BBC’s standard partisan interpretation of ‘international law’ along the way.

Knell: “Making coffee at his home in Nabi Saleh in the hills north of Ramallah, I meet Ahed’s father – a political activist who’s been jailed by Israel many times. For years he’s organized protests in which villagers try to march towards land taken by an Israeli settlement. Settlements are considered illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

She continued:

Knell: “Usually the marches lead to clashes with Israeli soldiers. But Bassem Tamimi always allowed his daughter to join them and be filmed.”

Tamimi: “I am proud of my daughter. I am happy that she became the spirit and the example of the new generation for resistance.”

Knell: “Those criticising you say that these videos are like set-ups, you know, that they are staged.”

Tamimi: “Francis Bacon say how the other evaluate my method is their problem, it’s not mine. They said it’s a movie or it’s a theatre. How we can bring these soldier to our home to make this play?”

The answer to that question of course is – as Bassem Tamimi well knows – by organising violent rioting to which soldiers will have to respond but Yolande Knell refrained from pursuing that issue.

Knell’s final interviewee was Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch and BBC audiences – who, significantly, have not seen the video in which Ahed Tamimi urged viewers to carry out “stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones” were told that her call is “alleged”.

Knell: “A few hundred Palestinian children are prosecuted in this system each year. Maurice Hirsch used to be the IDF chief prosecutor for the West Bank. He says the more serious charges against Ahed involved her alleged online call for more action to support the Palestinian cause – from protests to what she calls martyrdom operations.” [emphasis added]

Knell did not bother to tell listeners that “martyrdom operations” means suicide bombings even though that information is relevant to audience understanding of Maurice Hirsch’s comments.

Hirsch: “Many minors that come before the courts are suspected of committing predominantly violent crimes similar to that of Ahed. Attacking a soldier is a crime of violence but I think that’s really one of the sidelines of the indictment. One of the main counts of the indictment is really incitement – publicly calling for others to commit other terrorist attacks.”

While once again failing to clarify to listeners that Ahed Tamimi’s mother filmed the video concerned, Knell then told listeners that:

Knell: “The other women seen in this video are both charged with assault and her mother with incitement after it was live-streamed on her Facebook page.”

As we see the BBC’s promotion of this story is on the one hand generous and on the other hand inconsistent. Some reports have included mentions, to one degree or another, of the charge of incitement while others have whitewashed it – and additional relevant information – from the picture. Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.  

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BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service

For years we have been documenting on these pages how the BBC has serially failed to provide its audiences with an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR.

The lead story (from 00:51 here) in the January 7th late edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was titled “Israel publishes BDS blacklist”.

“Israel lists 20 organisations whose activists will be barred from entering the country on account of their support for the boycotting of Israel. We hear from an Israeli deputy minister, and a representative of one of the banned groups.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item, providing listeners with an inaccurate description of the BDS campaign’s roots and aims in its opening seconds.

Coomarasamy: “First though, the Israeli government says it has shifted from defence to offence in its attempts to counter the international movement which supports the boycott of the country. It’s drawn up a list of 20 mainly European and American organisations which support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – or BDS – movement and whose activists will now be prevented from entering Israel. Well BDS was launched just over a decade ago with the stated goal of applying non-violent pressure on Israel to comply with international law in its dealings with the Palestinians. So why has Israel taken this decision now?”. [emphasis added]

The BDS campaign’s roots are of course found in the infamous ‘Durban’ conference of 2001 and its goals are not concerned with compliance with “international law”.

Coomarasamy then introduced his first interviewee – Israeli deputy minister and MK Michael Oren – who pointed out that while other countries face security threats: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Oren: “…we are totally unique – indeed the only country in the world that faces threats to its very existence. There could be organisations that seek to change Israeli policies, oppose Israeli policies but we’re dealing with organisations here that actively seek Israel’s destruction and Israel has a right to defend itself against these threats; certainly against existential threats.”

Coomarasamy: “Right but these specifically are groups that are calling for boycotting Israel.”

Oren: “They’re calling for boycotting Israel – not to change Israel’s policies. That’s the difference. When you boycott Israel you’re going to bring Israel down. These are organisations that realise that attempts to destroy Israel by conventional means – the Arab-Israeli wars, which basically ended in 1973, terror against Israel, which continues today but is much less than it was in previous years – those efforts failed. The new effort to destroy Israel is legal and economic and it’s very serious indeed. It is the 21st century version of warfare and it is every bit as dangerous. We take it every bit as seriously as we took previous efforts to destroy us.”

After Oren had clarified why Coomarasamy’s description of the BDS campaign as “propaganda efforts” is not accurate and explained the rationale behind Israel’s compilation of a registry of BDS supporting organisations and ban on entry into Israel for foreign members of those groups who take ongoing, consistent and significant action to promote the BDS campaign, Coomarasamy moved on to his next interviewee.

Coomarasamy: “Well one of the blacklisted groups is Jewish Voice for Peace which supports the BDS campaign. Rebecca Vilkomerson is their executive director based in New York. What does she make of Michael Oren’s assertion that the BDS campaign is intent on the destruction of the State of Israel?”

Vilkomerson: “I would absolutely dispute that. I mean I think of course the tool of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one that’s been used historically across many, many different movements in many, many different times as a tool of citizens to push governments to take action when they are unwilling or unable to. And of course if you think about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the goal of the movement was not to destroy the country. The goal of the movement was to transform the country. Of course there is pressure as part of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions but the aim is to transform the country into one that brings all citizens to full equality and dignity and freedom and that’s of course also the goal with the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s dismal record on reporting on the BDS campaign may have been surprised to learn at that point that at least one the corporation’s journalists apparently is aware of its ‘end game’.

Coomarasamy: “Although there are some supporters of the BDS movement who would specifically say that they want the State of Israel to dissolve itself, to be dissolved.”

However, Vilkomerson was then allowed to downplay the fact that leaders and prominent activists in the BDS campaign openly speak of bringing an end to Jewish self-determination with no challenge whatsoever from Coomarasamy.  

Vilkomerson: “Ahm…cert…you know the BDS movement is a very, very broad movement in the way that anyone can say that they’re a supporter [laughs] certainly. So you can’t say…you know you can’t really give too much credence to that. But I think the purpose of the BDS movement as is articulated by its leadership – the broad…the broadest array of civil rights…civil society within Palestine – is three conditions that the BDS calls…specifically calls for which is the end of the occupation, the dismantling of the wall, full equality for Palestinian citizens and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. And if those three conditions are met, the BDS call will be called off.”

Vilkomerson’s claim that the BDS campaign’s leadership is found in “civil society within Palestine” is of course inaccurate (as has been admitted even by one of its prominent supporters) but Coomarasamy made no effort to challenge that deliberate falsehood. Neither did he bother to clarify to listeners that the BDS campaign’s demand for the so-called ‘right of return’ to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees would – as its supporters know full well – bring an end to Jewish self-determination in the sole Jewish state and it is precisely that ‘condition’ which would “dissolve” the State of Israel.

The conversation continued with Vilkomerson claiming that the Israeli move is “an indicator of the growing power of the BDS movement”. When she stated that the goal of her own organisation is “to change US policy” Coomarasamy refrained from asking her exactly what that entails and so listeners did not hear, for example, that JVP has hosted and lobbied for Palestinians convicted of terrorism or that last year it launched a campaign that aims to “end police exchange programs between the US and Israel”.

Although this item dealt specifically with the subject of the BDS campaign, once again we see that the BBC did not provide audiences with the clear picture of its aims that they have lacked for years. Rather, in addition to providing an inaccurate definition of the campaign’s goals himself, James Coomarasamy allowed his second interviewee to muddy the waters even further by failing to challenge her inaccurate statements and claims.  

In addition, the photograph illustrating the programme’s webpage is inaccurately captioned as follows:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products coming from Jewish settlements.”

BBC Watch asked a professional to translate the Arabic script on that sign. It makes no reference to a selective boycott of “products coming from Jewish settlements” but rather urges:“boycott your occupation…support your country’s produce” and it is credited to “the national campaign for boycott of the occupation and its goods”. 

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‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ Repeats anti-Israel Clichés; Post Provides a Platform (CAMERA)

The BBC WS finds a use for the word terror, misleads on Jerusalem

Listeners to the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ on December 13th heard two items relating to that day’s meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey.

The first item (from 14:05 here) was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy thus:

“Muslim leaders from around the world have been meeting in Istanbul today to formulate a response to President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was convened by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he called Mr Trump’s announcement illegal and provocative.”

Listeners then heard a voiceover translation of Erdogan’s remarks.

V/O: “With this decision Israel – the perpetrator of crimes such as occupation, siege, illegal settlements, demolishing houses, displacement, property and land grabs, disproportionate violence and murder – has been rewarded for all its terror acts. Although he’s alone, this reward is given by Trump.”

That defamation went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy who simply went on to say:

“Well we hope to be speaking to our correspondent in Istanbul a bit later in the programme.”

That indeed was the case, with Coomarasamy introducing the second item (from 18:54 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “And let’s return to that story in Istanbul and the meeting of the heads of government from Islamic countries around the world, meeting to agree a formula about their response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We can speak to our correspondent in Istanbul Mark Lowen now. So Mark, what have they actually agreed?”

Lowen: “Well it was a 23-point statement, Jamie, that was put out by the Organisation for [sic] Islamic Cooperation, calling on countries to recognise Palestine as an independent state and East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine. Other highlights in the statement included rejecting and condemning Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem as null and void and also calling on the UN to reaffirm the legal status of Jerusalem – i.e. as the capital of two future states.”

Mark Lowen’s claim that the “legal status” of Jerusalem is already defined by the UN as “the capital of two future states” is clearly inaccurate and misleading to audiences. Just days before, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process stated that the city’s status depends on negotiations between the parties concerned.

“The United Nations position was clear, he emphasized.  “Jerusalem is a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the two parties and on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and mutual agreements.””

Lowen continued:

Lowen: “So this was an attempt by 57 member OIC to come together to bridge differences and to harden its response to Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The problem is that of course some Muslim leaders are more pro-Trump than others, so for example Egypt and Saudi Arabia only sent ministers to this meeting – not heads of state – possibly to keep the US on board. And really, beyond the kind of tough talk and this call, will there be any kind of hard bite? It’s hard to know really and certainly it is unlikely to change White House policy.”

Coomarasamy: “Yeah, I mean is it simply –as you say – really an attempt to show a united face even if perhaps there isn’t quite one there? And as you say, does this organisation have any sort of track record in influencing global opinion?”

One would have course have expected at this point that listeners would have been told something of the OIC’s persistent anti-Israel activities at the UN and of the relevant aims laid down in its founding charter – but that was not the case.

Lowen: “Not really and you know it’s hard to see this more than a talking shop. I mean yes there will be a call at the UN to…to bring this to the table. The joint communique says that if the UN Security Council does not act to reaffirm the status of Jerusalem, then the UN General Assembly must do so. But when you’ve got the US as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, you know, anything that would kind of go against White House policy is going to be vetoed.”

Lowen did not bother to inform listeners that UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding before going on:

Lowen: “So, you know, the US is fairly isolated on this although of course it’s got the support of Israel and according to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, there are other countries that say they want to follow suit but at the moment none have spoken up. We’ll have to see whether or not this can…the statement today can really give a proper semblance of unity to the Islamic world because up until this conference the Turkish prime minister for example accused some Arab countries of a very weak response and being timid towards the US. So I think there are really certainly divisions among Muslim leaders themselves.”

Coomarasamy: “Do they have any proposals for who might be a broker in a future peace process?”

Lowen’s answer to that question included noteworthy use of the word ‘forthright’ – a synonym for which is ‘honest’.

Lowen: “They’ve called on the UN to replace the US as a peace broker. The protagonists at this conference – Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was very forthright: he accused the US of bullying the rest of the world and said Israel was a state of terror – the Palestinian president, the Jordanian king, all saying that the US has lost its position as a sort of impartial peace broker and that the declaration by Donald Trump has disqualified the US as an impartial player in the peace process, so they’ve called the UN now to take its position. We’ll have to see whether the United Nations can come together and respond to it.”

Coomarasamy: “And interestingly they talk about the potential this decision has to increase terrorism – I guess sort of using the sort of language that Donald Trump, they hope, will resonate with him.”

Lowen: “Yeah, I suppose so. I mean they accuse the Israelis of…Turkey’s accused the Israelis of terrorising Palestinians and Turkey said that by supporting Israel the Americans – or the US – is complicit to terror. So I suppose yeah, they’re kind of taking a tone that Donald Trump might listen to or might hear but probably not heed.”

Remarkably the BBC – which of course serially refrains from describing terror attacks on Israelis as terrorism (supposedly in order to avoid appearing “to be taking sides“) and uses the euphemism ‘militants’ to describe terror organisations such as Hamas, the PIJ and Hizballah – obviously has no problem with unquestioning and uncritical repetition and amplification of the Turkish president’s use of the word terror for the purpose of delegitimisation and defamation of Israel.

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Multiple inaccuracies in BBC WS Jerusalem history backgrounder

Like the BBC News website, BBC World Service radio produced a considerable amount of coverage concerning the US president’s December 6th announcement concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel even before that announcement had been made.

One of the many items broadcast to listeners around the world during that run-up time is of particular interest because it was presented to audiences as an academic account of Jerusalem’s history – and therefore by implication, both accurate and impartial.

The final item in the December 6th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 48:20 here) as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “We’re going to end the programme by returning to Jerusalem ahead of President Trump’s speech and a look at the history of the city and how it’s made it such a revered and contested place. Well Mick Dumper is a professor of Middle East politics at Exeter University here in the west of England. He says that Jerusalem’s status as a holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians makes it highly prized.”

That portrayal of Mick (Michael) Dumper’s job title is indeed accurate. It does not however provide listeners with any insight into his “particular viewpoint” – as required under the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

And so – unaware that Dumper has for example in the past proposed that UNESCO be the “guardian of Jerusalem’s holy sites“, collaborated with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil‘, described visits by Jews to Temple Mount as “settler encroachments” and claimed that Israel is “undermining…the Islamic presence” in Jerusalem – listeners heard him describe the Palestinian Authority as a “country”: a claim the BBC’s own style guide refutes.

Dumper: “It is the centre for the three major religions of the world; very central to Judaism, to Islam and to Christianity. But on top of that it’s then become the capital that both countries aspire to have as the central city of their country. And…eh…they can’t agree on it.”

Coomarasamy: “And in terms of the holy sites; just remind us what we’re talking about.”

Dumper: “For the Jews it’s what they call the Wailing Wall – or sometimes it’s known as the Western Wall – which is supposed to be the original wall of the Second Temple from the biblical period. For the Christians it’s the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and for the Muslims it’s the site where Mohammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven and receive some of the revelations for the Koran.”

Jews of course do not “call” the Western Wall “the Wailing Wall” – that term is a British invention. Neither is the Western Wall “the original wall of the Second Temple”, but part of the retaining wall of the plaza on which the Temple stood. Coomarasamy made no effort to correct those gross inaccuracies before continuing with a bizarre and context-free portrayal of the city’s division in 1948.

Coomarasamy: “And ever since the State of Israel was founded it’s been a divided city.”

Dumper: “Yes, I mean if I take you back a little bit to the period of the British mandate – that’s between 1917 and 1948 – it was the administrative capital of the territory known as Palestine which was a kind of quasi-colony of the British Empire. And Palestine was administered from Jerusalem. And after that in ’48 it was divided by the warring parties. The west side was occupied by Israel and the east side was occupied by the Jordanians and there was a line running through the middle.”

The British mandate of course did not take effect in 1917 but five years later and the assignment of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to British administration did not make the territory a “quasi-colony of the British Empire”. Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that Jerusalem is located in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland and failed to challenge Dumper’s claim that Israel “occupied” – and by inference, still does – the western area of Jerusalem.

Coomarasamy: “And then there was the war of 1967 which changed the situation on the ground.”

Dumper: “Exactly. After 1967 Israel acquired the rest of Jerusalem and a wider area around the edge of Jerusalem and tried to incorporate it into Israel to try and make it as much Israeli as, say, Tel Aviv. But because of Palestinian resistance, because of long historical connections between that area of East Jerusalem and religious authorities – religious endowments and foundations – it was very difficult for Israel to impose itself. So there was this sort of grey area. East Jerusalem was not quite Israeli. It wasn’t treated exactly the same way as other areas that Israel had occupied in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. And the international community refused to accept any change in the status of Jerusalem prior to any negotiations.”

Coomarasamy: “And another change when the settler movement came to the fore as well.”

Dumper: “Yes, about ten years after Israel acquired the rest of East Jerusalem saw a change in the Israeli government between a more secular-minded Labour party and this was replaced with a Likud party which fostered and encouraged a widespread settlement movement which had a lot of religious foundations to it. And Jerusalem became very central to their thinking about what was the future of Israel.”

Failing to challenge Dumper’s inaccurate portrayal of the importance of Jerusalem across the Israeli political spectrum, Coomarsamy steered the subject of the discussion away from its professed subject matter.

Coomarasamy: “A lot of countries in the run-up to this much-anticipated announcement from President Trump are warning him against moving the embassy to Jerusalem. What sense do you have of how things might play out if he goes ahead with that move?”

Dumper: “By moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the United States will be saying that they were no longer interested in a Palestinian state. Ten years ago I would have said there would be a huge reaction with, you know, flag burning in capitals of the region – Istanbul [sic], Cairo etcetera and, you know, a lot of attacks on Israeli embassies around the Arab world. I’m not absolutely sure that this will take place this time. It’s partly because the Arab world is so divided. The Palestinians themselves are very divided and sending out lots of different messages about how seriously they’ll respond to this. And the Islamic world is very divided between Shia and Sunni as well. So I think it’s a mistake what Trump is doing but I think he may have calculated that the response will not be as cataclysmic as it may have been…ah…ten years ago.”

Coomarasamy: “Professor Mick Dumper of Exeter University.”

In addition to its multiple inaccuracies, this ‘backgrounder’ obviously failed to inform listeners of the context to both the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem following the War of Independence and the Jordanian decision to participate in the Six Day War. Listeners heard nothing of Jewish life in Jerusalem before the division of the city in 1948 and nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population from areas including the Old City. The centrality and significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Israelis alike was not clarified in Dumper’s obviously politically motivated – and severely distorted – account of the city’s history.

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