Framing the topic in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?

The synopsis to the July 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?‘ reads as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Jonathan Dimbleby presents political debate and discussion from Westminster Synagogue in London with the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party responsible for Women Maria Caulfield MP, the crossbench peer Baroness Deech, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com Martin Lewis and the Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Together they discuss the recent apparent second Novichok poisoning, Sadiq Khan’s approval of an inflatable in the shape of a baby Trump, a second referendum on Brexit, whether the UK should move its embassy to Jerusalem, whether the legalisation of recreational cannabis will follow the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby is of course on record as saying that the BBC’s decision to uphold parts of complaints made concerning Israel-related reporting by Jeremy Bowen would “cause serious damage” to the corporation’s international standing, while describing those complaints as “lies and distortions”.   

His interventions during discussion of that highlighted question are hence noteworthy.

The question from the audience member concerning the UK embassy in Israel – actually worded “why doesn’t the UK move its embassy to Jerusalem?” – came at 17:50 minutes into the programme (available here) and was immediately followed by a remark from Dimbleby:

Dimbleby: “As of course the US government has done – or Donald Trump has done…”

As was clearly stated at the beginning of the announcement concerning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the decision was based on the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

“The Congress, since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104– 45) (the ‘‘Act’’), has urged the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate our Embassy to Israel to that city. The United States Senate reaffirmed the Act in a unanimous vote on June 5, 2017.

Now, 22 years after the Act’s passage, I have determined that it is time for the United States to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This long overdue recognition of reality is in the best interests of both the United States and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As the second panelist – Baroness Deech – was giving her answer to the question, Dimbleby interrupted. 

[21:51] Dimbleby: “Do you, do you, Ruth, do you not see that there is a big diplomatic – to put it mildly – dilemma when the city is divided between two communities – two groups that are both national groups – and that until you have managed to solve the Palestinian issue, it’s very difficult not to be sending the message that it’s more important to us that Israel has the capital in Jerusalem than it is that the Palestinians have an equal right to part of Jerusalem as their capital?”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel, the status of Jerusalem is one of seven ‘permanent status’ issues yet to be negotiated. Jonathan Dimbleby is obviously in no need of such negotiations, having already decided for himself on the question of ‘rights’ to the city. However Radio 4 listeners heard him frame his own opinion as fact.

When the third panelist to speak – Maria Caulfield – had a slip of the tongue, Dimbleby quickly jumped in, putting words in her mouth.

Caulfield: “…you know some of the demolition of settlements doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours and so there’s a lot of work to be done…”

Dimbleby: “Sorry: some of the demolition of settlements?”

Caulfield: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Dimbleby: “The creation of settlements.”

Caulfield: “Sorry – the creation of settlements and the demolition of some of the Palestinian…”

Dimbleby [interrupts] “Palestinian homes.”

Caulfield: “…homes…doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours.”

As the BBC itself reported a year ago, no Israeli government has ‘created’ new ‘settlements’ in well over two decades. Dimbleby’s pursuit of accuracy did not however include informing his audience of the vital context of the absence of building permits in cases in which “Palestinian homes” have been demolished.

At the end of that item (28:19) Dimbleby chose to read out two listener responses of the same stripe.

Dimbleby: “Quite a lot of tweets. This from Jonathan Ross: ‘People in power like to throw their weight around. That’s why Israel and its supporters want Jerusalem as their capital’. But – or and – Steve Brooks: ‘Jerusalem is a city that belongs to a whole series of people. Israel cannot reasonably claim it all’.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s efforts to frame the impressions taken away by audiences on this topic are embarrassingly obvious.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during June 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 220 incidents took place: 88 in Judea & Samaria, 6 in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and 125 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 77 attacks with petrol bombs, fourteen attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two shooting attacks, and one vehicular attack. One stabbing attack took place in Afula.

Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 78 attacks with petrol bombs, five shooting attacks, 8 attacks using IEDs and three grenade attacks. 29 separate incidents of rocket fire were recorded, with 76 launches.

Five people were wounded in attacks that took place throughout the month. A high-school student was stabbed in Afula on June 11th. The BBC did not produce any reporting on that attack. A member of the security forces was wounded by a petrol bomb on June 5th in Jerusalem and three members of the security forces were wounded in a vehicular attack on June 23rd near Bethlehem. Neither of those incidents was covered by the BBC News website.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during June is listed below.

June 2nd: “Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic” – discussed here.

“Later on Saturday rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel reportedly responded with air strikes. […]

Israel’s military said its troops along the border had been attacked by militants with gunfire and a grenade on Friday. […]

Hours after the funeral two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, the IDF said, triggering air raid sirens in Israeli villages near the border.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system and the other apparently landed inside Gaza, a statement said.”

June 20th: “Gaza rocket barrage triggers Israeli air strikes” – discussed here.

“Twenty-five targets linked to the Hamas movement were hit overnight in response to a barrage of about 45 projectiles. […]

Israeli officials say six rockets fired from Gaza landed inside populated areas, causing damage to buildings and vehicles but no casualties. One rocket exploded just outside a kindergarten.”

Additional rocket attacks earlier and later in the month did not receive BBC coverage.

As we see BBC reporting mentioned one shooting incident and one grenade attack as well as rockets fired on two separate days. At the very most it can therefore be said that BBC News website audiences saw coverage of 21.8% of the terror attacks which took place during June.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18.7% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

Terror attack in Afula ignored by BBC News

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first half of an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis‘ titled ‘The Middle East Conundrum’ provided listeners with a long list of Israeli prime ministers who failed to make peace – while deliberately ignoring the role played by the Palestinian leaders with whom such agreements were supposed to be made.

Having erased post-Oslo Palestinian terrorism and the planning of the second Intifada from audience view entirely and with no reference whatsoever to foreign funding of Hamas terror, presenter Edward Stourton likewise presented three rounds of conflict sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as something that simply ‘erupted’.

Stourton: “There have been repeated eruptions of conflict between Israel and Gaza and those who try to mediate in the region have seen trust between the two sides steadily eroded by violence.”

He then introduced his next contributor – Gabrielle Rifkind – as someone who “has been involved in conflict resolution in the Middle East for two decades” but without clarifying (as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) the “particular viewpoint” of the organisation – formerly part of the Oxford Research Group – with which she is associated and without mentioning that her “Palestinian colleagues” included the PLO’s Husam Zomlot

Rifkind: “Well I think post-Oslo there was a moment of hope and even some of my Palestinian colleagues would say things like they threw olive branches to the Israelis. There was a belief that things could change and the two sides could live together. But since then there’ve been so many wars…ahm…three rounds of war in Gaza, we’ve had the Lebanon war.”

The Hizballah-initiated second Lebanon war of course had nothing to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and while conjuring up “olive branches”, Rifkind erased the post-Oslo terrorism in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered just as Stourton had previously done.

Stourton also managed to erase the 2008 peace offer made to the Palestinians by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert from his account before going on:

Stourton: “There was a flutter of hope that the peace process could be revived in the aftermath of Barak Obama’s arrival in the White House. In 2009, with an eye to Israel’s ever important American relationship, Benjamin Netanyahu – newly elected as prime minister for a second time – gave a conditional acceptance to the idea of a two-state solution.”

Stourton is of course referring to the Bar Ilan speech – which listeners then heard described thus:

Pfeffer: “It was very much a pragmatic rhetorical compromise made because he was dealing with the Obama administration which at the time was putting a lot of emphasis on trying to solve the Palestinian issue and therefore he had to make that concession. If you read those speeches then – the entire speeches – in the fine print you’ll find that he made so many conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state as to render it almost impossible to ever exist.”

With no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table throughout most of the 2009-10 freeze on new construction in Judea & Samaria, Stourton’s portrayal continued:

Stourton: “The last real peace-making push came during Bara Obama’s second term when John Kerry was Secretary of State.”

Martin Indyk then told listeners that “neither Netanyahu nor Abu Mazen [Abbas] believed that the other was actually serious about making peace and neither of these leaders was being pressed by their publics to make peace because their publics didn’t believe in it.”

Listeners were not however told the real reasons for the collapse of that particular round of talks – including the announcement of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which is relevant to Stourton’s next statement.  

Stourton: “On the Palestinian side the stalemate has been attended by a collapse of confidence in the two-state solution and political chaos. The divisions between the Hamas hard-liners and Mahmoud Abbas’ once dominant Fatah movement have become more intractable than ever.”

Listeners heard Gabrielle Rifkind tell them that “the level of kind of tensions and rivalry there is very problematic” and that Palestinians have “lost faith in their leadership and so they’re no longer believing in the idea of a two-state solution” and “they talk about one state, a binational state”. She did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the relevant fact that Hamas – which garnered the majority of support from the Palestinian public last time elections were held in 2006 – has never pretended to support the two-state solution.

Stourton then introduced Dr Khalil Shikaki “director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah” who told listeners that:

Shikaki: “Most Palestinians are highly pessimistic about the chances of creating a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. A lot of those who used to support the two-state solution have now shifted to supporting a one-state solution.”

Those interested in a rather less superficial view of Shikaki’s research can find it here.

Stourton: “What do they envisage?”

Shikaki: “Well to be honest we don’t know exactly what they envisage. […] they want a one-state whereby current Israeli Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights. The state itself would have no national or religious identity. [….] some believe in a bi-national state where the two groups would remain, would maintain their national identities…”

Stourton: “So the idea of a state that is both Jewish and democratic, which has been at the heart of the whole project of Israel, that doesn’t really survive either of those scenarios, does it?”

Shikaki: “No absolutely not.”

Stourton then turned to the subject of demography, claiming that “even if you take Gaza out of the equation, the population percentages in what might be described as a greater Israel present a real challenge – not least because the Palestinian population is growing faster.”

Dennis Ross next told listeners that “Israel and the West Bank….60% Jews to 40% Arabs” and went on:

Ross: “…I think that the issue of Israel becoming a bi-national Jewish-Arab state is one that is quite real. Most Israelis are not addressing it now because they’re looking at the region. They see how terrible the wars in the region are where there’s no limits, where civilians are fair game, where hospitals are a natural target and they say why should we take the risk, especially when we don’t see any opportunity. The danger with that is that it maintains this kind of drift towards a new reality which raises basic questions. Will this be one state with two peoples and if so, how are you going to manage that?”

Stourton: “One way of managing a bi-national state would be to relegate Palestinians to second class citizens without full rights which would sit uneasily with Israel’s proud claim to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The alternative would be to accept that the State of Israel will no longer be a Jewish state.”

Listeners heard Yossi Beilin’s comments on that issue, including “in the Holocaust no country in the world was ready to absorb Jews including Palestine because it was under the British mandate. And the most important notion of a sovereign Jewish state is that it will allow Jews to immigrate to it without restrictions”.

Stourton: “On the Israeli side one party in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government has put forward a radical solution of its own. Naftali Bennett – one of his ministers – has proposed what he calls the Israel stability initiative.”

A recording of Naftali Bennett speaking was heard before Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Under his plan Israel would hand over Gaza to the Egyptians unilaterally, annex most of the West Bank and allow the Palestinian Authority to run what remained with, however, Israel retaining control of security. Mr Bennett is opposed to any kind of Palestinian state.”

Stourton did not bother to clarify to listeners that what he described as “most of the West Bank” is actually Area C and that Bennett’s proposal is to offer “full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there”.

Stourton: “Mr Bennett is one of those we wanted to talk to for this programme but his office never responded to our request. On the Palestinian side the Hamas movement also has a radical vision. It has now expressed a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within those 1967 boundaries but it’s still, in the long term, committed to the liberation of all Palestine which would of course mean the end of Israel.”

After a recording of part of the US president’s announcement concerning the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Stourton continued:

Stourton: “President Trump has taken two steps which reduced the pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognising the city – to which the Palestinians also make a claim – as Israel’s capital. And he pulled out of his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran: a step that’s been taken as an endorsement of the Netanyahu view that Palestinians can be relegated to a lower place in the diplomatic running order.”

Listeners were not told who exactly takes that view besides those making the statements they then heard supporting it.

Rifkind: “I think on the Israeli side, certainly among the leadership, it’s quite easy to keep your head in the sand. You can think you’re in quite a strong position. You just need to look at Netanyahu who’s very good friends with Putin and Trump and the relationships have never been better with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and you can think well maybe we can just manage this conflict.”

Pfeffer: “Even the major Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem of have got tired of even paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So yeah; he feels that his vision is winning.”

Stourton: “That means the stalemate and the violence associated with it are likely to continue.”

Once again the Iranian part of the story of shifts in the stances of Middle East states was erased from audience view.

With less than three minutes of the programme left, listeners next heard Dennis Ross make the most realistic and relevant comment in the entire discussion.

Ross:  “…I’ll tell you I don’t see – even if we could agree to a two-state outcome – I don’t know how you implement that because right now Hamas is in Gaza and I don’t see anybody moving Hamas out. The Israelis are not going to move them out. Egypt is not going to move them out. The Palestinian Authority is incapable of moving them out. And so even if you could agree to a two-state outcome – which is itself a leap at this point – you couldn’t implement it.”

Stourton: “In Israel that realism has led to a certain resignation and many Israelis now talk about managing the problem.”

Audiences then heard two negative views of that approach:

Beilin: “I hate this idea of managing conflicts”

Pfeffer: “Well you know it’s a dreadful phrase…”

Pfeffer went on to claim that “..there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight; certainly not with the current Israeli and with the current Palestinian leaderships” before Stourton returned to his context-free presentation of the violent rioting and terror attacks along the Gaza border:

Stourton: “So incidents like the shootings in Gaza become just something one has to accept according to that strategy.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, it’s the equivalent of a bad news day really.”

Stourton closed the programme by bringing up the topic of the Trump administration’s “new peace plan”:

Stourton: “Mr Trump is something of a hero in Israel. When America moved its embassy to Jerusalem his picture went up on posters all over the city. Among Palestinians hopes for a new Trump initiative are – to put it mildly – on the low side. According to Dr Shikaki’s data 90% of Palestinians believe no good can come from a Trump administration.”

As Stourton admitted early on, this programme did not even try to give audiences an objective and balanced view of the reasons why the ‘peace process’ has failed to make inroads after so many years and that editorial decision in itself is a topic for discussion. The quaint view that only Israel needs to have “a long-term strategy” because it is “a fully functioning state with military superiority” clearly deliberately ignores the very relevant fact that no such process can succeed without leaders on both sides being committed to its aims.

But even given the programme producers’ bizarre decision to present a one-sided narrative, crucial elements of the story were omitted. The history – which of course includes three full-scale wars initiated by Arab countries attempting – unsuccessfully – to eradicate the Jewish state – is highly relevant to audience understanding of the background to the conflict, as are decades of Palestinian terrorism that peaked when peace seemed to be on the horizon.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is also a crucial part of the picture, as is Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorism. And no less relevant of course are the proposals put forward by Israeli prime minister Olmert and US president Clinton which the Palestinians refused.

While this Radio 4 portrayal presented Palestinians as being in favour of the two-state solution but turning to the one-state option out of disillusion, notably it failed to inform BBC audiences of the crucial context of the Palestinian Authority’s continued rejection of the demand to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – and thus bring an end to any future claims.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has produced an assessment of “Hamas’ new policy towards Israel“.

“On March 30, 2018, the period of three and half years (since Operation Protective Edge) of relative quiet along the Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip came to an end. That period was characterized mainly by a drastic reduction in the scope of rocket fire attacking Israel, unprecedented since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. […]

In ITIC assessment, Hamas’ policy of restraint was the result of a series of strategic considerations which had influenced the Hamas leadership over a long period of time. […]

In retrospect it appears that during the second half of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 the influence of those considerations on the Hamas leadership lessened: the deterrence Israel achieved in Operation Protective Edge continued to exist, but eroded over time (a process that occurred after other large operations in the Gaza Strip); Hamas’ motivation to gain time to construct a tunnel system penetrating into Israel weakened in the face of Israel’s operational and technological solutions; the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip, to which the PA sanctions contributed, created the need to find a direction for the Gazans to channel their rage and frustration. In addition, the attempts to effect an internal Palestinian reconciliation failed and the relations between Hamas and Egypt did not significantly improve. Apparently all of the above led Hamas to the conclusion that its post-Operation Protective Edge policy had exhausted itself and was increasingly less beneficial.”

2) At the INSS Yoel Guzansky and Oded Eran take a look at “The Red Sea: An Old-New Arena of Interest“.

“The Red Sea, and particularly its southern section surrounding the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, has in recent years become the site of competition and struggle among regional actors and superpowers alike. In addition to the states along the coast of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, the US, China, Turkey, and Iran – which is involved in the war in Yemen – have a presence there. Sub-state actors, such as the Islamic State organization, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Houthi rebels, and al-Qaeda in Yemen, are also active in the region. In the meantime, there have been no disruptions to Israeli shipping and flight paths, which connect Israel to the Indian Ocean, the Far East, and Africa.”

3) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari documents how “Erdogan’s Turkey Intensifies Involvement in Gaza and Jerusalem“.

“Turkey, under the charismatic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intervening in many places throughout the Middle East. In each locale, it takes care to unfurl the Turkish flag literally.

However, Turkey’s public involvement in Jerusalem appears to be more public and striking because Jerusalem is more important to Turkey than other places in the region.

Turkey has shown great interest in both Gaza and Jerusalem. It is interested in Gaza because Gaza is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hamas, which Turkey wishes to bring under its wing, and it is interested in Jerusalem to facilitate the “saving of al-Aqsa.””

4) Matthew Brodsky explains why he supports the recent US decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council.

“Of course, it is easy to conclude that the problem with the clown car isn’t the car; it’s the clowns riding in it. Sure enough, the current clowns on the UNHRC don’t bode well for the protection of human rights. They include Qatar, Congo, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Burundi. If that isn’t mind-bending enough, the UN’s forum for disarmament, which produced the treaty banning chemical weapons, is currently headed by none other than Syria. So it is possible to blame both the clowns and the cars that enable their behavior.”

 

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners sold short by Knell’s portrayal of Jerusalem

The BBC’s domestic coverage of the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority controlled territories continued on June 26th with no fewer than three items aired on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

In addition to reports from the corporation’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond at 0:12:30 and during the news bulletin at 2:08:38, listeners also heard a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell at 1:20:40.

During that report Knell – like Jeremy Bowen in the previous day’s programme – brought up the topic of the objection of an Israeli minister to the wording of the itinerary put out by the Royal Household.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

1:22:26 Knell: “On his solo trip the prince will watch Jewish and Arab Israeli children playing football. But political differences here aren’t always so easy to overcome. Israeli politicians are criticising his schedule for presenting Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Obviously if the BBC’s domestic audiences are to understand the reason for the objection to that description of the Old City of Jerusalem as ‘occupied Palestinian territory’ they would 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 would also need to be informed of the belligerent British-backed 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.

However in typical BBC style, Yolande Knell erased all the history prior to June 1967 from her simplistic account:

Knell: “Israel captured the east of the city in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move that’s not internationally recognised. It sees all the city as its capital but Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital.”

Knell then went on to provide listeners with an overtly partisan view of the issue from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi:

Knell: “Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi says the Palace is using the right descriptions.”

Ashrawi: “The only country that has violated international law openly and admitted Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the US…is Trump. And the UK has not changed its position. It still considers Jerusalem as occupied territory. You cannot expect the royal visit to come and become complicit in land theft and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.”

Not only did Knell not bother to challenge Ashrawi’s inaccurate and deliberately provocative claim of “land theft” or to clarify that her selected contributor’s claims concerning “international law” are a matter of opinion, she did not even make the effort to inform Radio 4 listeners that – as she doubtless knows, because their embassies are located in the same Jerusalem complex as the BBC’s own offices – in addition to the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay have also recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

Instead, Knell simply changed the subject and moved on with her report.

While it is standard BBC practice to avoid informing audiences of the history and status of Jerusalem before June 1967 – including the internationally unrecognised 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of parts of the city – obviously that practice does not contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose obligation to provide its funding public with “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”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ forces Brexit and Gaza into royal visit report

BBC News website adopts selective history in royal visit article

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ forces Brexit and Gaza into royal visit report

h/t GB

As readers are no doubt aware the Duke of Cambridge is currently on a visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority controlled territories. Although his itinerary does not include a trip to the Gaza Strip, BBC audiences have nevertheless repeatedly seen the promotion of faux linkage between the royal visit and recent events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip in the corporation’s related coverage.

An article which appeared on the BBC News website on June 24th – “Prince William makes historic visit to Middle East” – informed readers in its fourth and fifth paragraphs that:

“The trip comes as Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its foundation, and amid a rise in tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.

Israeli forces launched air strikes on Palestinian militant positions in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after rockets and mortars were fired into Israel.”

A report about the Jordanian leg of the visit which appeared on the BBC News website on June 25th under the title “Prince William visits ancient city in Jordan during royal tour” closed by telling readers that:

“The trip comes as Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its foundation, and amid a rise in tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.

There has been an upsurge of violence across the Israel-Gaza border in recent weeks, with more than 100 Palestinians killed during protests and dozens of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.”

In fact over 150 rockets and mortars – rather than “dozens” – have been launched at Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists in recent weeks. As has been noted here on numerous occasions – and as the BBC is well aware – the majority of the people killed during the ‘Great Return March’ pre-planned violence that the BBC euphemistically portrays as “protests” have been linked to various Gaza-based terror groups. The BBC, however, continues to systematically sideline that relevant information in its reports.

An additional example of context-free references to casualties resulting from Hamas’ pre-planned agitprop being gratuitously shoehorned into a report ostensibly about Prince William’s tour was found in the June 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme.  Presenter Martha Kearney introduced that item and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen as follows (from 02:45:30 here):

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

Kearney: “Prince William’s visit to Israel today is coming at a very tense time for the region. More than a hundred Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in recent protests in Gaza. We’re joined now by our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. […] And the trip obviously filled with sensitivities.”

Bowen: “Well the thing about the place where he’s going is that everything is political and I think the Palace and the general messaging coming out of the British government as well is that this is a non-political visit like all royal visits. But, you know, Jerusalem is a city – and he’s going to be staying there – it’s a city where, you know, even the public transportation routes are political. Everything is political and almost everything comes as well through the prism of the conflict and so, yep, it’s a…it’s full of bear traps.”

Kearney: “And the people and the places that he’s going to have obviously been very carefully chosen.”

Bowen: Yes, he’s going to be on the Palestinian side. He’s going to the West Bank. He’s going to see the Palestinian president. He’ll also see Mr Netanyahu the Israeli…ah…prime minister among others and he’ll be seeing…you know it’s a carefully calibrated package certainly but, you know, even when the announcement was made about the programme, it was said in the announcement – the official British announcement – that he would be in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem and then the Israeli minister of Jerusalem said ‘wait a minute, that’s not occupied: that’s part of Israel’. You know that is just a small sign of the kinds of things which will inevitably come up and everything that he says, the way he looks and where he goes – all of it will be deeply scrutinised.”

The prince’s itinerary also includes a meeting with the President of Israel but Jeremy Bowen apparently did not find that worth mentioning. Martha Kearney then found it appropriate to amplify a curious and unsupported claim.

Kearney: “And interesting how some of the various groups have been greeting the visit. The Palestinian diplomatic representative in London said – referring to the Balfour Declaration – said that this is…eh…considered to be an act of indirect apology.”

The British Consul-General in Jerusalem had already been questioned on that topic by reporters.

“Over the last year, the Palestinians have called on Great Britain to apologize for its role in the creation of the State of Israel, including for issuing the Balfour Declaration.

When asked about this issue, Hall responded: “I don’t expect the Duke of Cambridge to be apologizing for Britain.””

The BBC’s Middle East editor – of all people – then gave listeners an ‘explanation’ of the Balfour Declaration that included the inaccurate and misleading claim that it had been issued when Britain “was the colonial power in Palestine”. Britain’s WW1 ‘Sinai and Palestine Campaign’ in fact only came to an end on October 30th 1918 – almost a year after the Balfour Declaration was issued – when an armistice agreement was signed with the Ottomans.

Bowen: “Yes. Balfour Declaration of course being the decision by Britain when it was the colonial power in Palestine to say that they supported the establishment of a Jewish state – that was about 100 years ago. So for the Palestinians it’s as if it happened yesterday: they’re very, very angry about it still. So yes, that’s what I mean by saying that everything there is…is going to be political. And there’ve been some slightly carping pieces as well written in the Israeli press saying well, poor old Britain, you know, with Brexit coming along, they’re doing this finally – ‘cos there’ve been loads of invitations in the past which haven’t been taken up – they’re doing this finally because, you know, they need to make trade deals so here’s one way perhaps of trying to make things a little bit better with Israel is to deploy the royal family.”

Kearney then reintroduced the unrelated topic of Gaza.

Kearney: “There’s a Brexit angle on everything. But as I was saying in the introduction, I mean this comes – doesn’t it – at a very tense time given the recent protests in Gaza?”

Bowen: “Yes things are heating up in and around Gaza. There’s absolutely no question about it. And there’ve been a number of…ehm…all-out wars between Hamas in Gaza – the militant Palestinian organisation there – and the Israelis in the last – what? – seven, eight years and the thing about the situation there is that until the whole political context changes, it will always boil up and eventually – I would always argue – spill into war unless something changes in terms of, you know, the status quo. Now nothing is changing and so that old cliché about a long, hot summer – that’s certainly going to be happening and the tension is rising there. There’ve been many casualties on the Palestinian side and there is nothing really to look…to say at the moment which would suggest that things are going to get any better and I…my personal analysis is that there will be more flare-ups of deadly violence.”

BBC audiences have of course heard similar analysis from Bowen in the past and in this case too, the person charged with making “a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” elected not to inform them of the involvement of Hamas and other terror groups in the planning, organisation and financing of the recent violence along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Once again he avoided reminding audiences of the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip almost thirteen years ago – relinquishing all territorial claims to it – and failed to make any mention of Hamas’ existential commitment to Israel’s destruction as expressed in its founding charter, in the ‘rationale‘ behind its ‘Great Return March’ and in its continued employment of terror against Israeli citizens.

In other words, not only does the BBC continue to promote its politically motivated account of the latest chapter of Hamas-initiated violence while erasing essential context, it even does so in reports on an unrelated royal visit because, for the BBC, there’s a Gaza “angle on everything”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Middle East editor ‘explains’ Gaza violence

 

BBC’s Jerusalem backgrounder for young people breaches style guide

In September 2017 the BBC World Service launched a new project aimed specifically at younger audiences.

“Stephen Titherington, Sr Commissioning Editor of BBC World Service English, says: “BBC Minute has turned News on its head. Young people are information hungry, but only if it’s done in a way which matches their own energetic curiosity. With new BBC Minute Video, partners can now share vision as well as sound with their audience. We are delighted to have two new partners in Egypt and Jordan, bringing BBC Minute’s fresh sounding news coverage to more audiences in the region.”

Broadcast in the English language, BBC Minute bulletins are vibrant audio summaries of the news headlines and topical stories delivered in a high-energy style that entertains as much as it educates and informs. It is broadcast twice an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a team of young journalists in London. The team also produce BBC Minute On… which focus on a single subject or key story in more detail and is broadcast twice daily.”

Those ‘BBC Minute On’ backgrounders – billed as “making sense of the news” – are available online and hence potentially the subject of editorial complaints.

In early December 2017 one edition appeared under the title “BBC Minute: On Jerusalem“. Its synopsis states:

“The US President Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians said it would be a “kiss of death” for the Middle East peace process, but an Israeli minister urged other countries to follow the US lead. But how did the city become so politically important for both sides? The BBC’s Yolande Knell and BBC Arabic’s Hadya Al-alawi explain.”

The ‘explanation’ given to the target audience of “young people” around the world is as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Presenter: “This is BBC Minute on Jerusalem. The city’s holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. But why is it politically significant for Israelis and Palestinians? Here’s the BBC’s Yolande Knell.”

Knell: “Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city. But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured East Jerusalem and then later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally.”

Presenter: “Now about a third of the people of Jerusalem are Palestinians. But what do Palestinians in general want? Here’s BBC Arabic’s Hadya Al-alawi.”

Al-alawi: “So Palestinian authorities have been negotiating a two-state solution which means returning to the 1967 internationally recognised borders. Also they want East Jerusalem to be their capital. However Palestinians on the ground might not agree. They want the whole of Jerusalem and also returning to the historical Palestine.”

As we see, the BBC’s audiences around the world – including in Middle Eastern countries – are not given any information concerning either the status of Jerusalem before 1948, the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of the city or the circumstances that caused Jordan to enter the Six Day War and loose its hold on that territory.

Worse still, BBC audiences are presented by Hadya Al-alawi with a partisan portrayal of the two-state solution which promotes and amplifies the PLO’s interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Moreover, Al-alawi promotes the inaccurate notion that the 1949 armistice lines are “internationally recognised borders” when in fact the armistice agreement that created them specifically states that they are not borders – as does the BBC’s ‘style guide’.  

“The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. It is properly referred to as the 1949 Armistice Line – the ceasefire line of 1949. […]

In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.” 

Given Al-alawi’s subsequent use of the politically loaded term ‘historical Palestine’ and promotion of the notion of ‘return’ without clarifying to listeners that what that actually means is the destruction of Israel, it is hardly surprising that her portrayal of the 1949 ceasefire lines is likewise intended to promote a specific political narrative and agenda.

Nevertheless, one would obviously expect a BBC journalist participating in a project declared to be aimed at “making sense of the news” for young people around the world to stick to the BBC’s style guide as well as its supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 365 incidents took place: 139 in Judea & Samaria, 34 in Jerusalem and 192 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 153 attacks with petrol bombs, eleven attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), four shooting attacks, four arson attacks and one attack with a stone slab. Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 118 attacks with petrol bombs, twelve shooting attacks, 12 attacks using IEDs, one grenade attack and two arson attacks. Forty-five separate incidents of projectile fire were recorded (41 involving rockets and 4 involving mortars) with 188 launches.

One soldier – Staff Sgt Ronen Lubarsky – died two days after being critically injured when a marble slab was thrown at his head on May 24th. The BBC News website did not produce any reporting at all on that incident or on an earlier one in which one member of the security forces was wounded in an IED/stoning attack on May 9th in Abu Dis. Three additional members of the security forces and one civilian were wounded by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip on May 29th with the BBC mentioning three of those four injuries.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no reporting at all on any of the incidents in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during May is listed below. [emphasis added]

Kerem Shalom crossing May 11. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

May 5th: “Gaza explosion leaves six Palestinians dead

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.”

May 14th: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

May 15th: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years

“They burned tyres, and threw stones and incendiary devices.”

[Israeli spokesman] “…people throwing mortars, and bombs, and placing IEDs…”

May 15th: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

“Palestinian protesters have hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence, which Israel has declared a no-go zone, on foot.”

May 15th: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

No mention of Palestinian actions.

May 15th: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence.” 

May 17th: “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?

“Despite the warnings, thousands of Palestinians approached the fence during the protests. A number threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers deployed on the Israeli side of the border, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material intended to start fires on Israeli territory. […]

The [Israeli] military has said it also foiled a number of “terrorist attacks” orchestrated by Hamas during the protests and killed people trying to plant bombs at the fence or break through it.”

May 18th: “Israel’s Gaza response ‘wholly disproportionate’ – UN rights chief

“While most Palestinians have demonstrated at a distance from the border, others threw rocks and incendiary devices towards the fence and tried to break through.”

May 22nd: “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’

No mention of Palestinian actions

May 29th: “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years

“In Israel, an empty kindergarten was hit when militants fired more than 30 mortars earlier in the day. […]

The Israeli military said the biggest volley of mortar shells was fired at several sites in Israel in the early hours, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. […]

More shells were launched in subsequent attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Three Israelis were wounded, media reports said. […]

Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicles in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said. […]

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

May 31st: “Gaza violence: Red Cross sends surgeons ‘to help health crisis’

“On Tuesday, Israel attacked militant sites in Gaza after it came under a heavy barrage of mortar and rocket fire.”

As can be seen, in six of the BBC’s articles audiences were told of stone-throwing (which is not recorded by the ISA) and incendiary devices – i.e. firebombs – with one mention of incendiary kites. The only mentions of explosive devices (IEDs), shooting and arson attacks were found in quotes or descriptions of statements from the IDF/Israel. BBC audiences were given an account of the mortar and rocket attacks on May 29th/30th which did not reflect the full number of projectiles launched.

Even if we count the six BBC references to firebombs as covering the full amount of attacks with such devices, count the BBC’s presentation of “more than” 30 mortar attacks as portraying the full number of projectiles fired and include the four mentions of IEDs, one reference to “machine gun fire” and one mention of an arson attack, we still see that more attacks went unreported than reported and that at the very most, BBC audiences saw coverage of 46.3% of the terrorism that took place during May.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2018

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News and BBC Sport ignore FIFA’s Jibril Rajoub disciplinary

As was documented here earlier this month, the BBC News website’s framing of the reason for the cancellation of a football friendly between Israel and Argentina was glaringly apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Using the same tag the BBC News website also promoted a report by ‘BBC Minute’ that framed the story in the same way.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup friendly against Israel that was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem. It’s apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Listeners to that edition of “the dynamic 60-second news bursts aimed at younger audiences around the world” were told by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell that:

“…if the Argentinians played their game here in Jerusalem then they would be ignoring Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city and also those deadly protests that have been taking place along the Israel-Gaza border.”

Beyond that context-free presentation, in common with the BBC News website article the BBC Minute report failed to make any mention whatsoever of the threats received by the Argentinian team members – even though the BBC was obviously aware of that part of the story.

As numerous media outlets (for example here and here) reported a week after that story broke, FIFA has since announced the opening of related disciplinary proceedings against the head of the Palestinian football association.

“FIFA said Thursday it has started disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian Football Association’s chief, after he called for protest against Lionel Messi and his plan to play with Argentina in Jerusalem.

“The FIFA disciplinary committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub,” a spokesman for the world body said in a statement to AFP.

Its decision, he wrote, “came as a result of his statements, widely reported in the media, with respect to the international friendly match that was scheduled to take place on 9 June 2018 between Israel and Argentina.””

Interestingly, neither the BBC News website nor the BBC Sport website has to date seen fit to inform audiences of that development in a story it previously reported on multiple platforms.

Related Articles:

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

 

 

BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

As we saw yesterday, a BBC News website report concerning the Argentinian Football Association’s cancellation of a friendly match with Israel framed the background to the decision as being about “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” and/or the fact that “Palestinians […] were angered by a decision to relocate the game” to Jerusalem.

Although the article was later amended to include the full quote from Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain rather than the truncated version used in earlier editions, the BBC News website still avoided telling its audiences about the threats received by Argentinian players and their families which were – according to the head of the Argentinian Football Association and the Argentinian foreign minister – the real reason for the game’s cancellation.

In contrast, listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on June 6th heard a more accurate version of the story (from 45:05 here) than the one presented by the BBC News website.

Presenter Tim Franks asked his interviewee – an Israeli journalist “with the Argentinian team at their training camp in Barcelona” – why the match was cancelled.

Franks: “The Argentinian team itself; ehm…why did they decide in the end – or why did their football association decide in the end – that they couldn’t go ahead with this friendly game?”

Emmanuel Elbaz-Phelps replied that “the official explanation was that the association – the football association of Argentina – doesn’t want to take any risk for the players” and also noted that:

Elbaz-Phelps: “But we also heard that the decision came yesterday afternoon [Tuesday, June 5th]  after the players were having a training session in the morning and there were some protesters and they heard them, they saw them and then they read everything going on in the news about the demonstrations also happening in Argentina and the players had this meeting; they had this talk and they decided they won’t go ahead with the game. Some actually told us that Messi was the person who first made the decision and – as the captain – so everybody was behind him. Another version says that he’s the captain but it was a group decision.”

Franks: “Because Lionel Messi himself was singled out by the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub, saying if Lionel Messi plays in Jerusalem, we will make sure that he is boycotted, he is targeted around the world.”

Elbaz-Phelps: “Yeah and even more there are reports that threats were made to Messi’s family and to the families of the players.”

Elbaz-Phelps reported having been told that “there were threats on the social media, they got letters and that the players were actually scared about the situation”.

Obviously there are BBC journalists who know that the reason for the cancellation of the match has nothing to do with “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza”. The question that therefore arises is why the BBC News website’s report – which, unlike the Newshour report will remain permanently available to the public – has not been amended accordingly.  

Related Articles:

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story