BBC News website corrects Western Wall report following complaints

Earlier in the week we noted that a BBC News website report published on March 8th inaccurately claimed that “the Israeli authorities in 2017 scrapped plans to create a mixed-gender prayer area at the wall”.

As we observed:

“…the average reader would obviously understand from that statement that no such “mixed-gender prayer area” exists at the Western Wall because the Israeli authorities “scrapped (i.e. discarded) plans” to create one two years ago. That, however, is not the case.”

Complaints submitted by BBC Watch and Mr Stephen Franklin received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that thousands of young ultra-Orthodox Jews have clashed with a liberal Jewish women’s group at one of Judaism’s holiest sites, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-47496456).

You raise a fair point and we’ve since amended the article’s text to make clear that these plans related to an existing mixed-gender area.

We’ve also added a correction note at the bottom of the article outlining this change.

We hope you will find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The article’s final paragraph has indeed been amended.

Before

After

The added footnote reads:

However the continued absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website means that readers who read that report when it was first published on March 8th are highly unlikely to have revisited it four days later when it no longer appeared on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page and hence remain unaware that the information they were given was inaccurate.

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BBC WS radio tries to do Arab-Israeli conflict demographics

During her recent visit to Jerusalem the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi found time to produce a report for the BBC World Service radio edition of the programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

Aired on March 10th, the item was described in the programme’s synopsis as follows:

“Zeinab Badawi’s been to Jerusalem – and heard from carers and parents at a mixed pre-school where Palestinian and Jewish children grow up together and learn to talk out their differences.”

However the introduction (from 06:59 here) given by host Pascale Harter went beyond the topic of Badawi’s afternoon at the YMCA’s bilingual Peace pre-school, with listeners steered towards the facile and downright false view that the only obstacle to “peace in the Middle East” is the Arab-Israeli conflict. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Harter: “Peace in the Middle East is a dream which diplomats have struggled to make a reality for decades now. The question of how Israelis and Palestinians can best live together has tormented the world. With so much bitterness and suffering inherited from the past, how does one begin to sow the seeds for peace in the future? Even though it’s small, one initiative Zeinab Badawi visited recently in Jerusalem is not to be dismissed.”

In among her portrayal of the Jerusalem pre-school, Badawi also chose to give listeners a superficial portrayal of the topic of demographics.

Badawi: “Having a baby in Israel is strongly encouraged by the authorities. There are all sorts of tax incentives and other benefits for new mothers. And the more children you have, the more the benefits accrue.”

Indeed Israeli parents are eligible for tax credits and child allowances similar to some of those received by parents in the UK. Whether or not Zeinab Badawi believes that the British government also “strongly” encourages people to have children by means of such financial benefits is unclear but she does not appear to have considered the possibility that the governments of many countries similarly support their citizens’ life choices. She went on:

Badawi: “Fertility treatment like IVF is made easily available, even to same-sex couples.”

Israel does indeed lead the world in IVF treatment. Badawi however neglected to point out that the treatment – like the financial benefits – is of course available to all eligible Israeli citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity. She went on to present her main point:

Badawi: “The demographics of Israel and the occupied territories feed directly into the debate about the future. The Jewish population in these lands is about six and a half million, with an equivalent number of Palestinians.”

At the end of 2018 the population of Israel was made up of 6,668,000 Jews, 1,878,000 Arabs and 426,000 others. The most recent figures (2017) from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cite a population of 4,952,168 in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip while the CIA Factbook suggests a lower figure. In other words, in order to present her portrayal of “equivalent” numbers of Jews and Palestinians in “these lands”, Badawi has added the entire Israeli Arab population to the Palestinian population, regardless of whether they identify as such or not.

Making no effort to explain the obviously relevant issue of the hereditary refugee status given to descendants of Palestinian refugees, Badawi went on:

Badawi: “If you add the Palestinian refugee population in neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria then even by the lowest estimates the Israeli view is that any right of return for these people would pose a threat to Israel because Palestinians would far outnumber Jews. The birth rate is still high by global standards among both Jews and Palestinians here. In my afternoon at the Peace pre-school I spotted no fewer than four pregnant women.”

Notably, Badawi refrained from clarifying that the core aim of the demand for ‘right of return’ is to eliminate the Jewish state and that such a move would also eliminate the two-state solution that is supported by the international community.

And so, what BBC World Service radio audiences heard in Zeinab Badawi’s account of her brief visit to Jerusalem was in fact a context-free, simplistic and predictably jejune portrayal of a complex conflict which contributed nothing to audience understanding of the issue.

BBC claims a place it reported from last year does not exist

An article relating to an incident which had taken place earlier in the day at the Western Wall appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the afternoon of March 8th under the headline “Western Wall: Jewish women clash over prayer rights”.

At the end of that article readers were told that:

“For 30 years, the Women of the Wall group have been fighting rules that bar women from wearing prayer shawls, praying and reading from the Torah (Bible) collectively and aloud at the site.

According to Orthodox Jewish tradition, women should not perform these religious rituals. Under pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, the Israeli authorities in 2017 scrapped plans to create a mixed-gender prayer area at the wall.”

That link leads to an article produced by the BBC News website in June 2017 which failed even then to provide readers with clear background information that would enable the proper understanding of the story.

Now the BBC claims that “the Israeli authorities in 2017 scrapped plans to create a mixed-gender prayer area at the wall” and the average reader would obviously understand from that statement that no such “mixed-gender prayer area” exists at the Western Wall because the Israeli authorities “scrapped (i.e. discarded) plans” to create one two years ago.

That, however, is not the case. What was “scrapped” – or more accurately, frozen – in 2017 was a plan to create a new and unique entrance to the Western Wall plaza and the formation of a joint committee to oversee the mixed prayer area.

Non-traditional prayer services have been taking place at the southern section of the Western Wall since the year 2000 and the facility was expanded in 2013. That mixed-gender prayer area still exists – as the BBC apparently knows because earlier on in the same report it stated that:

“The group [‘Women of the Wall’] was later escorted to another area of the wall that allows non-traditional prayers to take place.”

In July 2018 – the year after the BBC claims that plans for a mixed-gender prayer area were “scrapped” – it reported on the falling of a stone from the Western Wall in that very prayer area.

Obviously the inaccurate claim made in this latest article is misleading to BBC audiences both in general and with regard to this specific story and requires correction.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Western Wall report fails to provide adequate information

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during February 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 162 incidents took place: 89 in Judea & Samaria, eight in Jerusalem and 65 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 80 attacks with petrol bombs, eleven attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one stabbing attack, two attacks using grenades and one attack using a gas cylinder placed inside a burning tyre. 

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 27 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 pipe bomb attacks, 7 attacks using IEDs, four shooting attacks (including one by a sniper), one grenade attack and four attacks using improvised grenades as well as two rocket launches and one mortar attack.

Throughout February one person was murdered and two were wounded in terror attacks.

The BBC News website did not produce any reporting whatsoever on the murder of Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem on February 7th.

A member of the security forces was injured by a pipe bomb on February 15th and another was injured by an IED on February 17th. Both incidents took place in the Gaza sector.

The BBC did not cover those or any of the additional incidents and the rocket and mortar fire that took place during February also went unreported.

Since the beginning of the year the BBC News website has reported 0.31% of the Palestinian terror attacks that have taken place and the first fatal attack of 2019 was ignored.

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

No surprises in BBC News website report on US Consulate closure

A move that had been anticipated since October 2018 was reported on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 4th in an article headlined “US consulate general in Jerusalem merges with embassy”. The story was summed up in the article’s opening paragraphs:

“The US has closed its consulate general in Jerusalem, which covered Palestinian affairs, folding its operations into the new embassy to Israel in the city.

The state department said the merger was made for efficiency reasons and did not signal a change of policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza.

The consulate had acted as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.

A Palestinian official called the move “the last nail in the coffin of the US administration’s role in peacemaking”.”

That unnamed “Palestinian official” was the PLO’s Saeb Erekat, who is of course rather fond of the ‘nail in the coffin‘ metaphor.

In addition to a 146-word section quoting (and linking to) the US State department deputy spokesman’s statement on the merger, readers found an unquestioning 126-word account of the less extreme parts of a statement from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi, with a link provided.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said: “The Trump administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law.”

“Merging the US consulate in Jerusalem with the US embassy to Israel, which is now illegally located in Jerusalem, is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.”

Ms Ashrawi said such actions “preclude any possible positive role for the current US administration in seeking peace and stability” in the region.”

Ms Ashrawi and her colleagues have of course been boycotting the US administration since December 2017 and have repeatedly expressed their opposition to a peace proposal which the US has not even yet made public. Apparently though the BBC did not see the irony in the second quote from Ashrawi which it chose to highlight.

Readers of this report also found the following:

“The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says the merger marks a significant downgrade of the US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians.”

Bateman did not however clarify why any foreign “diplomatic mission to the Palestinians” should be located outside territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in a place to which the Palestinians ostensibly do not lay claim.  

Unsurprisingly, the recycled background history presented in BBC’s article made no mention of the unrecognised Jordanian occupation of the city between 1948 and 1967.

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.”

Obviously if the BBC’s audiences are to fully understand the background they need to be told of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. They likewise need to be informed of the belligerent Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews who had lived in Jerusalem for generations from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, as well as the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders.

Readers also found the BBC’s usual partisan mantra on ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Since the BBC began covering stories concerning the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2016 – and particularly since the US announcement concerning its embassy’s relocation in December 2017 – the comprehensive background information which would enable BBC audiences to fully understand these stories has been serially withheld. As we see in this latest report, that editorial policy continues.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

BBC ‘Global Questions’ from Jerusalem rescheduled

Readers may recall that last November the BBC invited members of the public to take part in an edition of ‘Global Questions’ to be broadcast from Jerusalem the following month. That broadcast was however subsequently cancelled.

Now the BBC is advertising that event – and another in Arabic – once again.

“Global Questions is your chance to put questions to a high-level panel of politicians and decision makers. Moderated by Zeinab Badawi, one of the BBC’s most respected journalists, the discussion is shaped by questions from the audience.

The Future for the Israelis and Palestinians

The Middle East awaits President Trump’s much vaunted peace plan – billed as the ‘deal of the century’. But the Palestinians say it was dangerously provocative to declare the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital, and to move the American Embassy there. A quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords, what chance is there now of the ‘two-state solution’, where an independent Palestinian state sits alongside Israel?

Having marked the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Israel to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, the country has been mired in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours. Is further conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war

BBC Global Questions will record a debate in English on Wednesday 27 February followed by a debate in Arabic on Thursday 28 February. You are welcome to join one or both programmes.

On the panel:
Naftali Bennett Israel’s Minister of Education
Diana Buttu Palestinian lawyer and former PLO spokesperson
Jake Walles Former US ambassador and peace negotiator
Jawad Anani Former Deputy PM of Jordan”

Registration and further details here.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newsday’s one-sided ‘peace process’ reporting – part one

Guardian op-ed by Diana Buttu claims Palestinians are arrested for ‘criticising Israel’  (UK Media Watch)

Diana Buttu is at it again, Harvard Edition  (CAMERA)

Countering Propaganda: Focus on Diana Buttu  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC correspondents based in Jerusalem could not fail to be aware of the murder of a nineteen year-old Israeli on February 7th that has been widely reported by local media.

“Ori Ansbacher, 19, from the West Bank town of Tekoa, was named Friday as the murder victim whose body was found a day earlier on the outskirts of Jerusalem. […]

On Thursday evening, Ansbacher’s body, with “signs of violence” on it, was found in woodland at Ein Yael to the south of Jerusalem, police said.

She had been reported missing since early Thursday. […]

Ansbacher was carrying out a year of national service at a youth center in Jerusalem at the time of her death.”

The following day an arrest was made in Ramallah and the suspect was later identified.

“The Palestinian suspect in the murder on Thursday of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem was identified Saturday as Arafat Irfayia, a 29-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron who was in Israel illegally. A Channel 12 news report quoted Israeli security officials saying he had confessed to the killing.”

The murder was categorised as a terror attack on February 10th.

“On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced that the murder was a nationalistically motivated terror attack. […]

The Shin Bet said that Irfaiya reenacted the murder in front of interrogators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.” […]

Citing the suspect’s account under questioning, the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet said Irfaiya had spent time in prison for security-related offenses and that he had crossed into Israel without a permit before carrying out the murder. Hebrew media reported that the suspect is affiliated with Hamas, though neither the terror group nor others have claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Last month the BBC News website published three articles concerning the murder of a young Israeli woman in Australia. In contrast, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting whatsoever on the terror attack in which Ori Ansbacher was murdered.

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during January 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 160 incidents took place: 116 in Judea & Samaria, 22 in Jerusalem and 22 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 112 attacks with petrol bombs, 15 attacks using pipe bombs, four shooting attacks, four stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one attack using a gas cylinder placed inside a burning tyre

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 2 attacks with petrol bombs, 3 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, two grenade attacks and three rocket attacks.  

Throughout January three people were wounded in terror attacks. A civilian bus driver was wounded in a shooting attack on a bus on January 5th. On January 9th a civilian was wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. A member of the security forces was injured in a shooting attack at the border with the Gaza Strip on January 22nd. Neither those incidents nor any of the others which did not result in injuries received any coverage on the BBC News website.

A rocket attack on January 7th was briefly mentioned in a report on another topic but another attack on January 12th was ignored.

In short, the BBC News website reported 0.63% of the Palestinian terror attacks which took place during January 2019.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

 

BBC WS ‘Heart and Soul’ discusses internal Israeli affairs

In recent months the BBC World Service radio religious programme ‘Heart and Soul’ has aired several editions described as ‘Gatherings’ involving a panel and audience discussion to “explore questions of faith shaping futures around the world”.

In September 2018 the programme visited the United States, asking “What role do black churches have in the fight for social justice today?”. A November 2018 edition of the programme was billed “Nuala McGovern is in Rome with young Catholics from across the globe to discuss issues such as sexuality, leadership in the Church, and the role of women”.

On January 12th the programme’s latest edition – titled “Marriage in Israel” – was broadcast from Jerusalem.

“Many young Jewish people living in Israel feel religion has too big an influence over their private lives. Numerous aspects of life are governed by a council made up of orthodox rabbis called the Rabbinate. They decide who is and isn’t Jewish and by extension who can and can’t marry.

Supporters of the organisation say this helps preserve Jewish identity. Critics say it means thousands of people who are not deemed ‘Jewish enough’ can’t marry each other, forcing couples to leave the country to have a ceremony that will be recognised by the authorities when they return home.

The religious monopoly on marriage also means Jews cannot marry non-Jews and as the council of orthodox rabbis rule on divorce for every married couple in Israel, many say this disadvantages women.

Tim Franks is with a live audience and a panel of guests to discuss whether the Rabbinate should be stripped of its monopoly, or whether the current rules protect the identity and values of the Jewish faith.

This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the third programme in a series of faith-based community discussions.” [emphasis added]

Obviously debate on that topic is of relevance solely to Israelis and more specifically – given that the discussion was conducted in English with contributing members of the panel and the audience mostly coming from the very small proportion of Israelis for whom English is a native language – to any BBC World Service radio listeners among roughly half of the Israeli population who describe their English language skills as fair or good.

Readers can hence judge for themselves the objectives and value of the worldwide broadcast of a nearly hour-long English language discussion of internal Israeli affairs involving a presenter and production team flown in for the occasion.  

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 155 incidents took place: 118 in Judea & Samaria, 20 in Jerusalem and 17 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 103 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one arson attack, three shooting attacks, four vehicular attacks, two stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 6 attacks with petrol bombs, 4 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, five grenade attacks and one incident of rocket fire.  

Throughout December three people were killed and fourteen wounded in terror attacks.

A shooting attack at Ofra Junction on December 9th in which seven civilians were wounded and which resulted in the death of a newborn baby initially did not receive coverage on the BBC News website.

A shooting attack near Givat Asaf on December 13th in which two members of the security forces were killed and one wounded was reported in an article that also included a brief mention of the earlier Ofra Junction attack.

Also on December 13th two members of the security forces were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and a soldier was wounded in a vehicular attack outside Ramallah. Both those incidents were mentioned in the same report on the attack near Givat Asaf.

On December 14th a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Beit El and two days later a civilian was wounded when her car was pelted with rocks. No coverage of those two incidents was seen on the BBC News website and a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on December 29th was also ignored.

In summary, four out of 155 terror attacks – 2.6% – which took place during December 2018 were reported on the BBC News website.

Throughout 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

More BBC reporting on terror against Israelis without use of the word terror

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018