BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ and Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ were commended in the recent BBC Trust review of the impartiality of the corporation’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. Those two programmes recently came together with BBC Monitoring to produce a multi-platform feature on the subject of deaths resulting from terrorism in Western Europe.Newsbeat terror

Terror deaths in Western Europe at highest level since 2004” Newsbeat

“The start of 2016 saw the highest number of terrorism deaths in Western Europe since 2004, BBC research has revealed.

The first seven months of the year saw 143 deaths, which is also the second worst start to the year since 1980.”

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC Radio 4

“Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually [sic] deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.”More or Less R4 terror

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC World Service Radio

“With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world?”

The research underlying all those reports used a “working definition” of terrorism described as follows in the radio programmes:

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Since the surge in terror attacks against Israelis began last September, the BBC has provided its audiences with a variety of explanations for the violence. The preferred explanation proffered by the corporation’s Middle East editor has been ‘the occupation’.

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal.”

Another ‘explanation’ repeatedly offered to audiences goes along the following lines:More or Less WS terror

“The recent rise in violence is blamed by Palestinians on the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and the failure of the Middle East peace process.”

In addition to those political factors, the BBC has frequently cited a religious factor as context to the surge in violence.

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site.”

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course.”

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

But despite having cited political, social and religious factors as explanations for the Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent months, as has been documented here on countless occasions the BBC nevertheless universally refrained from describing those attacks as terrorism or their perpetrators as terrorists. 

With the corporation now having finally found a working definition of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology when covering Palestinian attacks on Israelis clearly becomes even more egregious.  

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

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

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

The resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

 

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

Over the past fourteen months we have documented several cases in which the BBC has amplified the messaging of what it labels an “Israeli activist group” but failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the agenda and ideology that lies behind the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.BtS written

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

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

Last week Channel 10’s investigative journalism programme ‘HaMakor’ presented an interesting report on ‘Breaking the Silence’ in which the issue of the reliability of the NGO’s ‘testimonies’ was examined.

Our colleague Gidon Shaviv has now translated the results of that investigation in an article titled “Breaking the Silence Gets Failing Grade in Channel 10’s Fact-Check“.

 The findings of Channel 10’s investigation show that the BBC’s repeated unquestioning and uncritical amplification of ‘Breaking the Silence’ is not conducive to meeting its public purposes and yet again underscore the urgent need for the corporation to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when quoting and promoting that – or any other – political NGO. 

Comparing BBC reporting on English and Israeli football hooligans

Last month the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen found it appropriate to respond to an Israeli spokesman’s statement concerning the very real problem of incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organized by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah by promoting an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between that and the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans. 

“The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman told me that “teaching Palestinian children to hate is one of the primary causes of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians today… their impressionable minds should not be poisoned with hatred by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

Previous BBC reports concerning a group of Beitar Jerusalem fans (of which there have been far more than necessary) have also alleged a connection between certain political ideologies and racism.

“Beitar Jerusalem is traditionally seen as the club of Israel’s political right wing.

Many politicians, past and present, from the conservative Likud party are lifelong fans.”

BBC audiences have also been told that the actions of a specific group of fans from one particular club prompt general “Football racism fears in Israel”.Davies Beitar

Interestingly, the not entirely novel behaviour of a group of English football fans in Marseille this last week were not deemed by the BBC to prompt ‘football violence fears in England’ or ‘football inebriation fears in England’.

None of the plethora of BBC articles and reports on the topic alleged a link between the rioting fans and any particular UK political party and neither did they suggest linkage between the violent fans’ political views and their actions. And of course no BBC reporter tried to paint the behaviour of a few hooligans as being representative of English society as a whole.

In fact, BBC audiences were told that “there is a small minority who drink too much and get involved in some anti-social behavior”, that “only a “handful” of England fans had been involved” and that “the England fans had done nothing wrong”. In addition, BBC audiences learned that “reports of England football fans being involved in fights in Marseille have been “blown out of proportion” and that “it’s just a small minority who go to cause trouble really”.

Compare and contrast.

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

For years a dominant and recurrent theme in BBC coverage of Israel has been construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and certain districts in Jerusalem which is regularly portrayed as an ‘obstacle to peace’.

Just recently BBC World Service audiences have been told by the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen that:

“….that idea of a two state solution is in great danger […] because of the colonisation of the occupied territories by the Israelis; the fact that settlements have been growing apace.” [source]

And:

“Lots of people these days say that because of the growth of settlements – Israeli settlements on occupied land which is in defiance of international law; it’s illegal – it’s just physically going to be very difficult for the Palestinians to set up an independent state.” [source]

Audiences could therefore be forgiven for assuming that there has been something exceptional about the recent pace of construction in Judea & Samaria and they are obviously being steered towards the view that peace negotiations cannot be conducted if Israelis are building houses in places the BBC thinks they shouldn’t. The trouble with that politically motivated framing is that it conceals a whole host of relevant facts from audience view.

Via the Central Bureau of Statistics website it is possible to learn that the Palestinians were perfectly able to conduct negotiations on numerous occasions in the past even though Israelis were building in Judea & Samaria at the time.

In 1991 – the year that the Madrid Conference took place – 2,140 building projects were completed in Judea & Samaria and the following year 6,870 units were completed. In 1993, as the Oslo Accords were being negotiated, 4,440 building projects were finished and the year after that, 2,120.

The Oslo Accords – to which the representatives of the Palestinian people are of course willing parties – do not place any restrictions on construction in Israeli communities in Area C and the future of that territory is defined in those agreements as being subject to final status negotiations. As Israel and the PLO negotiated ‘Oslo II’ in 1995, 1,625 building projects were completed in Judea & Samaria and in the following two years, 2,154 and 2,443 respectively.

In the year that the Wye River Memorandum was negotiated – 1998 – there were 2,068 building completes in Judea & Samaria and the following year, as final status negotiations commenced, 3,995. The year 2000 saw the Camp David Summit taking place and 3,769 construction completes. In 2007 and 2008 as Ehud Olmert’s government negotiated with the Palestinians, 1,748 and 1,601 building completes were seen respectively in Judea & Samaria.

So has there been any dramatic change in the number of building completes since the days in which the Palestinians were able to come to the negotiating table even though construction was taking place and is Jeremy Bowen’s claim that “settlements have been growing apace” fact based?

The statistics for building completes in Judea & Samaria during the last five years are as follows: 2011: 1,682, 2012: 1,269, 2013: 1,351, 2014: 1,077, 2015: 1,273 (sources here and here). A look at the statistics for 1990 to 2015 inclusive shows that – in contrast to the impression given by the BBC’s Middle East editor – construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria has certainly not taken place in recent years at levels any higher than was the case over the last twenty-six years.

Construction completes

Moreover, the bulk of construction completes in Judea & Samaria in recent years have taken place in towns such as Modi’in Ilit, Beitar Ilit and Ma’ale Adumim which under any realistic scenario (e.g. such as those laid out in the Clinton plan or the Olmert plan) would remain under Israeli control in the event of a negotiated agreement. One of course assumes that the BBC’s Middle East editor has taken the trouble to familiarise himself with that fact and is hence aware that his claim that Israeli construction precludes the establishment of a Palestinian state does not hold water.Modiin etc

The BBC’s framing excludes from audience view the fact that during the first nine months of a ten month freeze on construction in 2009/10, the Palestinians failed to come to the negotiating table. It also of course avoids the inconvenient fact that the evacuation of every last ‘settlement’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005 did not advance the two state solution and certainly did not bring peace.

The editorialising which lies behind the framing of building in Judea & Samaria by the BBC in general and its Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in particular is glaringly obvious. Obviously it is not the BBC’s job to amplify a particular politicised view of this or any other topic but to provide audiences with the full range of information which will enable them to reach their own informed conclusions. That is clearly not the editorial approach that has been adopted with regard to this particular issue.

Related Articles:

BBC cites ‘large increase’ in Israeli building but fails to provide context

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

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

 

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

Following on from his reporting on the conference hosted by the French government in Paris on June 3rd on the BBC News website and on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen also appeared on the June 5th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The World This Week’, hosted by Peter Hunt.TWTW 5 6

In that item (from 00:41 here) Bowen repeated some of the themes and messaging promoted in his previous reports as well as introducing new ones.

Listeners yet again heard exaggeration of the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Just because events between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been largely overshadowed by the war, chaos, tumult elsewhere in the Middle East doesn’t mean that the conflict still isn’t very poisonous. And President Hollande as well said that because of the way that – as he put it – terrorism is spreading around the world, that other countries have a legitimate interest in trying to bring some peace and stability to one of the most troubled places on earth.” [emphasis added]

Once more promoting PLO talking points as he did in his ‘Newshour’ report two days earlier, Bowen again steered audiences towards the view that the main obstacle to a peace agreement is Israeli construction, citing “lots of people” whose identities – and relevant expertise – he declined to share with listeners. 

“The idea of making peace by setting up an independent Palestine to exist alongside Israel – the two state solution – lots of people these days say that because of the growth of settlements – Israeli settlements on occupied land which is in defiance of international law; it’s illegal – it’s just physically going to be very difficult for the Palestinians to set up an independent state.”

The Middle East editor made no effort to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences that the legal view he promotes is just one interpretation of ‘international law’ and that other views also exist.

Despite the wealth of evidence of incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources, Bowen presented that issue using the “Israel says” caveat as he also did in the ‘Newshour’ item. It is of course worth remembering that BBC audiences have not received any serious coverage of the topic of Palestinian incitement since the surge in terrorism began nine months ago and so listeners lack relevant background information on that topic.

“Ah…the Israelis say it’s nothing to do with building houses, as they put it: really the problem is that the Palestinians are brainwashed from early life to hate Israelis.”

A ‘question’ from the presenter gave Bowen the cue for the presentation of a cherry picked view of Israeli politics.

Hunt: “And Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last year at the UN said ‘I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples’ – do people believe him?”

Bowen: “Well, it’s a question of which Mr Netanyahu turns up because he’s also said that there’ll never be a Palestinian state on his watch.”

The statement to which Bowen refers was made during the 2015 election campaign and – as noted here at the time – it included additional comments.

“When asked if it was correct to say that “…if you are prime minister a Palestinian state will not be established”, Netanyahu replied “indeed”. Before that, however, he gave context which this BBC article does not provide to readers.

“I think that anyone today going to set up a Palestinian state – anyone going to evacuate territory – is simply giving extremist Islam territory for attacks against the State of Israel. That’s the reality which has emerged here in the recent years. Whoever does not understand that is simply putting…burying his head in the sand. The Left does that – it buries its head in the sand time after time.” [translation: BBC Watch]”

Erasing from audience view both the recent failed negotiations to bring the centre-Left Zionist Union into the coalition government and that party’s reappraisal of its stance on the two state solution earlier in the year, Bowen continued:

“He’s [Netanyahu] also put into his government people who are from the far right in Israeli politics which means people who are least likely to make concessions to Palestinians. You know, politically it’s difficult to see how the Israelis could go that way and it’s also difficult to see how Palestinians could make any kind of agreement that meant anything when they continue – politically – to be as split as they are between the two main movements Hamas and Fatah.”

As was the case in the written report which appeared on the BBC News website on June 3rd, audiences were not informed that Hamas is among the Palestinian factions that completely reject the concept of the two state solution and that Fatah is increasingly weakened by internal division.

The most remarkable aspect of this report from Bowen came in the form of a clear Apartheid analogy. [emphasis added]

Hunt: “And is that [Hamas-Fatah] split one of the many challenges facing negotiators like the French?”

Bowen: “Yeah, it’s one of the many, many challenges that are out there. One angle to look at is to say the Israelis are being intransigent. The Israelis don’t want to have a Palestinian state that is anything other than a Bantustan next to them.”

Bantustans were of course a mechanism imposed by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Analogies between Israel and Apartheid South Africa are employed by anti-Israel activists seeking to delegitimise the Jewish state by signalling that it is a moral travesty of the same order which the world similarly cannot tolerate.

Jeremy Bowen’s job description should mean that he is familiar with the context in which the term Bantustan is used in relation to Israel – and by whom. It should also mean that he is aware of the fact that previous offers of peace agreements such as the Olmert plan in 2008 (rejected by Mahmoud Abbas) and the Clinton parameters in 2000 (rejected by Arafat) proposed a contiguous Palestinian state – not ‘Bantustans’. Despite ostensibly being bound by BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, Bowen nevertheless chose to use that inaccurate and politically motivated term in his report.

Bowen continued with more use of the “Israel says” caveat to describe what the BBC should be capable of telling its audiences in its own words: that Fatah rejects recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, thus refusing to bring an end to future claims and that the PA rejects direct negotiations.

 “Ahm…and the other way of putting it – as many Israelis would say – is that the Palestinians haven’t been straight with the outside world; that they’re not prepared to accept a primarily Jewish state alongside them and that eventually they’d want all the territory.”

He closed the item with promotion of the notion of equivalence between the sides.

“When this whole peace process started there were basically two largely secular leaderships talking to each other but on both sides now, religion is more influential and the problem is that when you have people on either side who think that they’re doing the will of God, it’s very hard to make a deal with them.”

As was the case when the last round of talks collapsed in April 2014, BBC audiences have been provided with selective information on the subject of the Paris conference and the wider issue of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians which has passed through the Jeremy Bowen filter. In those two years, Bowen has gone from second-hand amplification of the ‘apartheid’ trope to direct use of apartheid analogy. Little wonder then that BBC audiences are being sold short on the corporation’s pledge to enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue”.

Related Articles:

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

What is missing from the BBC’s ME peace process narrative?

 

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

From the outset, the French government’s announcements concerning its recently held one day conference on the Middle East peace process made it perfectly clear that neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives would be invited.

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. He told the international press, however, that Israel and the Palestinian officials would not be invited to the meeting, which will take place in Paris.” (Times of Israel & AFP, 21st April 2016)

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday.

In an interview with four newspapers including Israel’s Haaretz and pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al-Arabi, the minister said however that Israel and the Palestinians would not be invited to the meeting in Paris.” (France 24, 22nd April 2016)

“Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discuss the peace process which has been effectively frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited.” (France 24, 17th May 2016) [all emphasis added]

However, when Jeremy Bowen reported on that conference to BBC World Service radio listeners in the June 3rd edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) he presented a markedly different picture.Newshour 3 6

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the item as follows:

“He’s beset by flooding and strikes at home but President François Hollande has nevertheless taken time to host talks in Paris with the aim of reviving Middle East peace talks. But surprisingly, neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending. Jeremy Bowen, our Middle East editor, is in Paris; so why aren’t they there?”

Bowen: “Well the Israelis don’t wanna come. They think that having an international meeting like this is completely the wrong way to proceed. They say there should be one-on-one negotiations between the two leaders of the Palestinians and of the Israelis. Ah…the Palestinians welcomed the conference but I think the fact that the Israelis aren’t coming meant that they decided to go ahead without either of them.”

In other words Bowen promoted two falsehoods in those four sentences: rather than telling listeners that Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the meeting, he falsely attributed Israel’s absence to a refusal to attend and then ‘explained’ Palestinian non-participation by means of the myth he has created.

Later on Bowen – who has been the gatekeeper of information provided to BBC audiences on the topic of this conference – once again promoted the notion that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the lynchpin of strife in the Middle East and beyond.

“What this is about is trying to get the international community to talk again about the need to have peace between the Israelis and Palestinians because it’s really rather slipped off the agenda in the last few years. There’s no peace process whatsoever and it’s been somewhat eclipsed – their own conflict has been somewhat eclipsed – by the tumult and war and chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.”

“Ah…what President Hollande, the French president, said today was that just because there are dramatic things happening elsewhere in the region, it is no reason to ignore the real dangers of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he also said that at a time – as he put it – when terrorism was spreading everywhere in the world, then people are…I think essentially he was saying that people, outsiders, had a legitimate interest in what was happening there and in trying to settle it because his belief would be that’s one of the drivers for the violence that is spreading.”

Regardless of whether or not Bowen’s paraphrasing of the French president’s “belief” is accurate, it is noticeable that he made no attempt to relieve listeners of the mistaken impression that a prime cause of terrorism in France, Belgium, Turkey, Syria or elsewhere is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He then went on to promote a theme increasingly seen in BBC content:

“What the French foreign minister said in his closing remarks was that that idea of two state solution is in great danger – he said because of the colonization of the occupied territories by the Israelis; the fact that settlements have been growing apace.”

Apace of course means swiftly or quickly and that is the term Jeremy Bowen apparently thinks is an accurate description of fewer than fourteen hundred completed construction projects annually in existing communities throughout the whole of Judea & Samaria in the three years between 2013 and 2015 inclusive. Neither of course did he bother to advise listeners of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

Bowen closed his report with some by now standard promotion of PLO talking points.

“Now the Israelis say that the problem is the fact that there is incitement against them; that Palestinians are brainwashed into hating them. The Palestinians essentially say that their people – after getting on for 50 years of occupation – are at their wits’ end, at the end of their tether and if violence happens, that’s the reason: because of those frustrations and anger and humiliation.”

An additional report by Bowen on the topic of the Paris conference will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Related Articles:

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

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

An article which first appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 3rd under the headline “Middle East peace talks to start in Paris” underwent amendments and changes no fewer than seven times in the hours that followed and it now appears under the title “Israel-Palestinian two-state solution ‘in serious danger’“.Paris conf art 

The caption to the image currently appearing at the head of the report presents readers with some clear framing, invoking anonymous “experts” but failing to provide information which would enable them to assess the relevance or validity of the claims made by those sources.

“Violent attacks and ongoing settlement activity are a big obstacle to the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian talks, experts say”

All versions of the report include a highly selective and superficial portrayal of the collapse of the last round of talks between Israel and the PLO.

“There have been numerous rounds of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the early 1990s, with the most recent collapsing in acrimony in April 2014.

The Palestinians accused Israel of reneging on a deal to free prisoners, while Israel said it would not continue negotiations after the Palestinians decided to bring the Islamist Hamas movement into a unity government.”

The actual sequence of events was of course much more complex and as has been noted here before:

“…the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of the negotiations.”

All versions of the article include the following statement:

“Some of the most intractable issues include the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian statehood.”

Notably, no less crucial issues such as the insistence upon the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian refusal to relinquish any future claims by recognising Israel as the Jewish state are not brought to the attention of readers.

From its third version onwards the article included ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s Middle East editor which was altered in the last version. The earlier comments from Jeremy Bowen promoted the often seen theme of aggrandizement of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

“The French President, Francois Hollande, said that with terrorism spreading around the world it is essential to push once again for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Hollande delivered a stern warning. Violence is rife, he said, and hope is diminishing. People should not fool themselves that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has become a peripheral issue just because of the turmoil elsewhere in the region.

The president is right. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is as full of poison as ever and can still create new international crises.”

The version of Bowen’s analysis found in the latest version of the report includes curious speculation and irrelevant – but nevertheless revealing – messaging.

“The Israeli foreign ministry called the conference a missed opportunity. It said pressure should have put on Mr Abbas, to talk one on one with Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

That suggests the Israeli government feels under pressure. Mr Netanyahu has also been criticised for appointing a controversial hardliner, Avigdor Lieberman, as defence minister. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the move showed the seeds of fascism had infected Israel.”

Incredibly, over some sixteen hours BBC News devoted publicly funded resources to producing eight different versions of this report about an at best symbolic ‘conference’ (described even by the New York Times as an “extended photo opportunity”) that lasted the grand total of three hours.

Whilst it did seize the opportunity to communicate one-sided politicised framing of the topic to audiences, bizarrely the BBC had nothing to tell them about the prime factor behind the message in the article’s headline and opening paragraph.

“Hopes of a “two-state solution” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in “serious danger”, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has warned.”

Apparently the BBC’s Middle East ‘experts’ did not think it necessary to “enhance audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” by informing them of the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions – including Hamas – completely reject the concept of the two-state solution.

Related Articles:

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

BBC claims final tranche of prisoner release included “hundreds” – reader secures correction

 

Arrest of terror cell highlights BBC News’ faulty framing

On May 29th the Israeli Security Agency announced the arrests of members of a Hamas cell from the Bethlehem district in connection with the terror attack on a Jerusalem city bus the previous month in which 19 passengers were injured.

“Members of the cell, who also planned to carry out an additional car bombing and shooting attacks, were arrested in recent weeks in a joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and Israel Police operation. According to the Shin Bet, the cell had accumulated additional explosive materials and weapons for the planned attacks.”

That terror attack was the only one covered by the BBC during the month of April.  In addition to the initial report, a follow-up article was published three days later when Hamas announced that the bomber was one of its members. In early May, two reports (written and filmed) by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen featured interviews with the mother of the bus bomber.Bowen art 4 5

In his written report Bowen quoted the terrorists’ mother as follows, after having noted that her son’s attack was claimed by Hamas:

“But said she was proud that her son had chosen what she called “the resistance”.

“Not just Abed [Abdul], I think all the people here now prefer the resistance. Because for them peace is a hopeless case.””

However, he went on to tell BBC audiences that:

“… hundreds of conversations with Palestinians over many years here have convinced me that the biggest factor that shapes their attitudes to Israel is not the incitement to hate but the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that started after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

When Palestinians who agitate against Israel find an audience, it is because of the way that the occupation, which is inherently violent, has overshadowed and controlled Palestinian lives for almost 50 years.

The issues here do not change much. Two peoples have been fighting for generations about one piece of land. That is still the core of the conflict.”

That messaging is consistent with the BBC’s usual framing of terrorism against Israelis as being ‘explained’ by the outcome of the Six Day War. The implication is of course that if there were no “occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem”, there would be no conflict and no terror.

The flaw in that framing – at least for members of the BBC’s audience hoping to enhance their understanding of the topic – is that the terrorist organisation to which the suspected planners and the perpetrator of the April 18th bus bombing belong does not share Jeremy Bowen’s view that the events of June 1967 are the root of all problems.

Hamas (along with additional terror organisations) makes it amply clear in both words and actions that Israeli disengagement from land taken in a defensive war against Arab countries (which previously occupied the same territory themselves) does bring about an end to terror and conflict because for them – as currently noted in the corporation’s profile of Hamas – the whole of Israel is ‘occupied’.

“Hamas’s charter defines historic Palestine – including present-day Israel – as Islamic land and it rules out any permanent peace with the Jewish state.”

The BBC rarely – if ever – produces any follow-up reporting on the subject of arrests of terrorists’ co-conspirators or the subsequent trials of terrorists arrested during or after the act and audiences are hence deprived of information concerning the motives and affiliations of Palestinian terrorists. But at the same time as it continues to avoid any serious reporting on the topic of the ideology and aims behind Hamas terrorism such as the April 18th bus bombing in Jerusalem, the corporation – and in particular the man charged with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – repeatedly and exclusively frames the story in terms of “the occupation”.

That, of course, is political activism rather than journalism. 

Jeremy Bowen’s annual reminder of why BBC coverage of Israel is as it is

h/t GB

The May 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item (from 22:55 here) described in the synopsis thus:FOOC 28 5

“And the news media may love an anniversary, but some of its senior correspondents have dates they’d sooner forget …”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the piece as follows:

“Anniversaries are a regular feature of news coverage these days. Words like ‘it’s 12 months since’ or ‘100 years ago today’ preface many a tale. This can be useful for editors: it provides not only an opportunity to revisit and reassess a story but also, of course, a way to fill up space and airtime. But some anniversaries – as Jeremy Bowen knows – are marked more quietly, away from the public gaze.”

There is nothing “away from the public gaze” about the anniversary Jeremy Bowen chose to mark by broadcasting this particular item on national radio and – as can be seen in the examples in the related articles below – Bowen does not mark that anniversary “quietly”: he in fact makes a point of recounting the story annually.

But whilst the story and its yearly narration by the BBC’s Middle East editor are not novel, it does provide some insight into why the corporation’s coverage of Israel is as it is because it reveals what lies behind the long-standing approach to that country adopted by the gatekeeper of BBC Middle East content.

JB: “Sixteen years ago this week my friend and colleague Abed Takkoush was killed by the Israeli army. Abed was Lebanese from Beirut. He’d worked for the BBC since the [Lebanese] civil war started in the 1970s. Abed was in his early 50s with three boys and a wife. His business card said ‘driver producer’. He was a fixer: the kind of person without whom foreign correspondents could not function. We rely on people like Abed around the world, though he was exceptional because of his experience, his sense of humour and his bravery. He used to pick me up in his battered Mercedes taxi when I arrived at Beirut airport and accelerate away into the traffic, boasting that he was a better driver than Michael Schumacher. Istill miss him when I arrive at the airport and he isn’t there. I’ve never had the heart to delete his phone number from my contacts book.

On the day Abed was killed the Israelis were ending a long occupation of southern Lebanon. They were driven out by Hizballah – the Shia militia that also became a political and social movement. We kept a safe distance from the Israeli forces as they retreated. My big mistake was deciding to stop to do a piece to camera near the Lebanese border with Israel. I didn’t think they’d shoot from the other side of the wire. I asked Abed to pull over. He stayed in the car making a phone call while the cameraman Malek Kenaan and I got out. A couple of minutes later an Israeli tank about a kilometer away on their side of the border fired a shell into the back of the car. Somehow Abed forced his way out of the window and then dropped down onto the road. Malek told me not to go up to the remains of the car, which was on fire, because Abed was dead and the Israelis would kill me too. A colleague on the Israeli side heard the tank crew saying they’d got one of us and they’d kill the other two with a heavy machine gun. When I stuck my head out of the place where Malek and I had taken cover, they opened fire as they said they would. I’m as certain as I can be that the Israelis would have tried to kill me too if I’d gone up to find him. But I still feel guilty that I didn’t.

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

A few weeks later when I was back in Israel where I was based at the time, I went to see a General in Tel Aviv whom I’d been promised would explain their version of events. He said they’d thought we were terrorists about to attack them. Hizballah did not drive Israel out in 2000 by sauntering along a road in the midday sun of South Lebanon. They’re way cleverer than that. When I said that to the General he shrugged and said there were frightened boys in the tank who’d been warned they might be attacked.

 I believe the soldiers in the tank could see us clearly for what we were – harmless civilians. It was a bright, blue sky day and the optics in Israeli tanks are excellent. I think, for them, Lebanese lives were cheap and they assumed we were a Lebanese news team – not the BBC. […] Reporting wars is a dangerous business, obviously. I think it’s more dangerous now than it was when I went to my first war in 1989 or in that dreadful week in 2000. The reason is the 24/7 news cycle. Killing journalists is a good way of sending a message about power and ruthlessness.

I gave up going to wars for a while after the awful few days sixteen years ago. But it would be impossible to report the Middle East as it is now without accepting a degree of risk. I try to stay away from the front lines but sometimes they’re part of the job. Many of my working days in the Middle East involve men with guns. If I get an easier job I won’t regret saying goodbye to them. But for now they’re part of my working life and of increasing numbers of journalists in our troubled world.”

In short, the BBC has allowed Jeremy Bowen to use this item to once again promote the unsupported, unproven and unfounded allegation that Israel deliberately targets and kills journalists/civilians. And yet, for the last decade (since the creation of the position of Middle East editor in 2006) the man shooting that accusation from the hip at every opportunity has also been the person entrusted with ensuring that BBC coverage of Israel is accurate and impartial.

That, sadly for the BBC’s reputation, says it all.

Related Articles:

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Jeremy Bowen: “The Israelis would have killed me too”

Jeremy Bowen’s pink shirt

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen