BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ revisits its Eurovision bias

As readers no doubt recall, BBC reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv in May was highly politicised and included months of amplification of the anti-Israel BDS campaign’s calls to relocate/boycott the event.

Some of the most blatantly politicised content was produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – which creates content specifically aimed at 16 to 24 year-olds – with that BBC department’s journalists apparently rather enamoured of the politics behind the Icelandic entry to the competition.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Anyone who had assumed that episode of overtly politicised ‘journalism’ was behind us may have been surprised to find a report tagged ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 14th – two months after the competition had taken place.

Once again produced by ‘Newsbeat’, the report is titled “Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines”. Readers are told that:

“Whether he’s performing in a wedding dress or singing about LGBT issues, Palestinian musician Bashar Murad is used to taking risks.

As an Arab living in Jerusalem, he says he’s constantly challenging many of the conservative elements of his society.”

The article goes on to provide an example of such a “challenge”.

“As an example, he mentions his song Everyone’s Getting Married, which riffs on his society’s traditional view of marriage. […]

“There were some negative comments here and there,” he says. “But people tend to make these assumptions because not a lot of people have tried to take the risks I have.””

As Liel Leibovitz noted at the Tablet last month:

“Murad is a resident of East Jerusalem […] As such, he is free from the rampant persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Palestinian society, a subject he has yet to take on ardently. He was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia, and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

The ’Newsbeat’ report fails to provide readers with any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule but instead goes on to dig up the Eurovision.

“Recently, Israel received a lot of international attention when it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

Organisers will always say the contest is strictly non-political, which Bashar finds “a little ridiculous”.

“It was already political because it was taking place in Tel Aviv.”

There had been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

Once again ‘Newsbeat’ avoids explaining what “Israel’s policies” are and policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. The article continues with a quote from Murad which, given the BBC’s own generous politicised reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest, is obviously inaccurate.

“”The whole Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv went on without any mention of what is happening to Palestinians.”

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel says it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.”

The report goes on to note Murad’s collaboration with the Icelandic entry.

“Shortly after the contest finished, Bashar released a duet with Icelandic entrants Hatari, who gained attention for unfurling ‘Palestine’ scarves during the results show.

“I was proud of the guys,” he says. “They were the only contestants who actually made a statement.”

To many people, the use of the name ‘Palestine’ is contentious because some see it as not just pro-Palestinian, but as an anti-Israel expression too.”

The writer of this report refrains from informing readers that there is no such country as ‘Palestine’ because the leaders of the Palestinian people have turned down numerous opportunities to create one.

As we see ‘Newsbeat’ continues its overtly political ‘journavism’ with yet another report promoting the bizarre idea that a host country’s conflicts and disputes should be part of Eurovision Song Contest coverage. We can of course be fairly confident that any ‘Newsbeat’ reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands next year will not be visiting Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan or showcasing singers from several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Notably, the BBC News website found this item worthy of promotion on its ‘Middle East’ page in a week in which it has totally ignored arson and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the death of a woman injured in a rocket attack in May, a vehicular attack in Jerusalem and Palestinian glorification of terrorism.

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Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lapin takes a look at a story ignored by the BBC this week.

“Since the end of the 2014 conflict, enough cement has entered Gaza to build 16 Burj Khalifa skyscrapers in Dubai—the tallest building in the world. That cement has largely gone underground, feeding Hamas’s war machine.

Gaza’s soft sandstone made it possible for diggers to make rapid progress during the peak days of the tunnel project. The tunnels contained rails, electricity, ventilation, communications lines and oxygen tanks—tanks that were originally sent to Gaza for hospital use.

The tunnels are a symbol of Hamas’s priorities: The military build-up always takes precedent over investing funds in Gaza’s civilian population.”

2) Some background to another recent story which the BBC chose not to cover is provided by the FDD’s Tony Badran.

“The Treasury Department designated Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa on Tuesday, along with two Hezbollah members of parliament. Safa’s activities epitomize Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanese state institutions, illustrating that the supposed distinction between the two is fictional.

Treasury’s announcement of the sanctions identified Wafa as “the head of Hezbollah’s security apparatus” and “part of Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah’s inner circle.” It went on to say that Wafa is “responsible for Hizballah’s coordination with the international community and with Lebanese security agencies.” While true, this description greatly understates his influence.

Safa, who reportedly played a role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, is now the central figure in Lebanese politics and security. As head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Safa is Nasrallah’s troubleshooter. He manages Hezbollah’s relationship with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.”

3) The JCPA provides context to a story reported on BBC World Service radio last week – “The Truth about Jerusalem’s City of David – The Lies about Silwan”.

“Over the years, hundreds of Silwan residents took part in the archaeological digs of the Antiquities Authority funded by the NGO “Elad” (its name is an acronym for “To the City of David”). More than once the digging was done below the houses of these same Arab workers. They would have kept working there until this very day had they not been threatened with violence by emissaries of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem. These threats forced them to leave their work.

Political opponents of the archaeological excavations in the City of David, which have been conducted for almost 50 years, try every few years to impede the work of the Antiquities Authority, often resorting to legal proceedings. Once or twice they have even gotten as far as the Supreme Court, whose justices are known to be particularly sensitive to claims of the infringement of human rights. The petitioners claimed that the excavations endangered the residents of Silwan, and the Supreme Court looked into their allegations and rejected them.”

4) Israel’s public broadcaster Kann recently aired a documentary series about the work of the police force in Jerusalem. All the episodes of ‘Jerusalem District’ are now available on Youtube with English subtitles.

“Jerusalem District: A nine-episode series that provides a rare glimpse into the activities of the intelligence, detective and Border Police officers in the Jerusalem district and exposes the unrecognized sides of the work of the Jerusalem policemen who are fighting crime and do their best to maintain order in the volatile city.”

 

 

Political messaging eclipses context in BBC WS Fourth of July report

Listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 4th heard a report from Yolande Knell in which information and context were side lined in favour of political messaging.

The introduction given by programme host Dan Damon (from 18:08 here) included the claim that there is such a thing as “international policy”.

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

Damon: “As the United States celebrates Independence Day, in Israel local officials and American diplomats are marking what they say are their closest ever ties. For the first time the US embassy to Israel has held its 4th of July party in Jerusalem; this of course after President Trump recognised that city as Israel’s capital – a controversial departure from long-time international policy. Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis have criticised recent actions by US Ambassador David Friedman in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their hoped-for future state. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Listeners heard the sound of fireworks before Knell began with an incomplete and context-free portrayal of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister. While listeners could be forgiven for assuming that Netanyahu had compared “relations with this White House” to those with previous US administrations, he did not. 

Knell: “Off with a bang. The US embassy held its first ever Independence Day party in Jerusalem this week. Watching the fireworks with their wives: the ambassador and Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He celebrated his close relations with this White House.”

Recording Netanyahu: “…and it’s wonderful to have the greatest power on earth not opposing the Jewish state but supporting the Jewish state. What a twist.”

Listeners then heard that archaeology is “an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda”, although it is doubtful that they would be aware of the background to Knell’s reference to the opening of an archaeological site seeing as the BBC has failed to produce any reporting on that story.

Knell: “And breaking past conventions, there’ve also been some unusual shows of US support for an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda. Wielding a hammer, Ambassador David Friedman smashed through an underground wall to open a controversial Jewish archaeology centre in East Jerusalem.”

Recording Friedman: “Why would an American ambassador come to this event and speak at this event? Some people – not necessarily friends of ours – are obsessing about my being here.”

Listeners heard the unexplained sound of some sort of machinery working before Knell continued:

Knell: “Above the site in Silwan, tunneling has badly damaged some Palestinian homes. And the action of the top diplomat was seen as confirmation that the US is recognising Israeli control over East Jerusalem and supports the presence of Jewish settlers here on land the Palestinians want for their own state.”

Knell’s promotion of the claim made by local activists that houses in Silwan have been “badly damaged” by the archaeological dig is not supported by an interview with a local resident which appeared in the Jerusalem Post:

“There are cracks in some walls. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Some residents have hired lawyers to ask for financial compensation to renovate their homes. I heard that some people did receive compensation.”

Knell refrained from informing audiences that the people she dubbed “Jewish settlers” reside in legally purchased properties. Interestingly, the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ is as follows:

“Settlements are residential areas built by the Israeli government in the territories occupied by Israel following the June 1967 war.” [emphasis added] 

That is not the case in Silwan, where some Israelis live in previously existing housing. However Knell steered listeners towards a narrative which characterises the purchase of property in certain areas of a city by people of a specific faith and ethnicity as “illegal” and undesirable. One of course doubts very much that the BBC would encourage its audiences to view neighbourhoods of mixed religion, ethnicity (and perhaps colour or sexual orientation) in any other city in such a light.

Knell also failed to inform listeners that Silwan was also previously known as Kfar Shiloach, that its Jewish residents were expelled by British Mandate forces after waves of Arab rioting and that, like the rest of the area conquered by Jordan in 1948, its subsequent annexation by Jordan was not recognised by the international community.

Knell next inadequately introduced her first interviewee:

Knell: “Jawad Siam lives locally.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, she did not bother to inform listeners that the professional political activist Siam (who has previously appeared in BBC content) has been campaigning against the archaeological dig for years.

Siam: “We are used that the USA supporting Israel but even it didn’t reach this level. He behaved like any other settlers in Palestine. He behaved like the Right wings in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset. He does not see Palestinians have any right neither in Jerusalem nor Palestine.”

Knell continued with a reference to another inadequately presented event.

Knell: “Nearby, a musician plays the oud as the call to prayer rings out from the Al Aqsa Mosque. This gathering was at a sensitive spot by the Western Wall – the holiest site where Jews can pray. It was hosted by a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by a US billionaire who’s also a donor to President Trump and the discussion was about Washington’s latest peace efforts.”

That “sensitive spot” is the Davidson Center and the “gathering” was the ‘Israel Hayom Forum on US-Israel Relations’. Listeners then heard an edited recording of part of a speech made by US special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at that event.

Recording Greenblatt: “We might get there if people recognise that vague terms such as ‘international law’, ‘UN resolutions’ and ‘internationally recognised parameters’ are not always clear-cut…”

Knell: “The president’s advisor, Jason Greenblatt – just back from a workshop in Bahrain.”

Greenblatt: “We might get there if people stop pretending settlements – or what I like to call neighbourhoods and cities – are the reason for the lack of peace.”

Knell then made sure that listeners did not forget the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’.

Knell: “Jewish settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israeli authorities disagree. As Left-wing Israelis worry about changes in US language and long-held policy in East Jerusalem, I meet Hagit Ofran from the NGO ‘Peace Now’.”

Listeners were told nothing of the political agenda of ‘Peace Now – not least the fact that it organised a demonstration against the opening of the ‘Pilgrimage Road’ archaeological site – again despite BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees should be clarified.

Ofran: “This is the most delicate place of our conflict – the volcanic core – a few meters from the Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif, al Aqsa mosque. You cannot come with sledgehammers and say this is Israel sovereignty. You should come with tweezers and settle this place in a way that respects everybody.”

Knell closed her report with more promotion of a specific narrative:

Knell: “Back at the embassy’s Independence Day party, most Israelis are delighted about this White House’s strong backing for their country. But there are warnings too: that by losing credibility as a peace broker with the Palestinians, it could make it harder to resolve the conflict here and that would ultimately go against Israel’s interests.”

While Knell was apparently not interested in reporting on the Second Temple era archaeological discoveries that she portrayed as “controversial”, she clearly was interested in using them to advance an overtly political and completely one-sided narrative on Jerusalem – and the Israelis living in one of its neighbourhoods.

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BBC’s Middle East editor Tweets about ‘attitudes’

On June 30th the Jerusalem Post published an article which included statements issued by the Palestinian Authority concerning the opening of an archaeological site taking place on the same day.

“The PA Foreign Ministry strongly condemned plans by US Ambassador David Friedman and US special envoy Jason Greenblatt to attend the inaugural ceremony of the discovery of “Pilgrim’s Road” in Jerusalem’s Old City. The expected presence of the American officials at the event will be the first time the US will recognize Israeli sovereignty within areas of the Old City Basin.

The PA ministry said their participation underscores the US administration’s support for the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

“This is a new image of American aggression,” the ministry said. “The American presence [in the ceremony] and celebrating Judaization activities in occupied east Jerusalem are an act of hostility against the Palestinians.”

Greenblatt responded to the claims on Twitter, saying that the PA should recognize history and archaeology and “stop pretending it isn’t true.””

Shortly after Mr Greenblatt had sent that Tweet the BBC’s Middle East editor put out one of his own.

The BBC has of course been promoting the PA approved notion that “The Judaisation of Arab East Jerusalem proceeds apace” for over two decades and when Jeremy Bowen visited the City of David in 2014 he came up with the historically challenged idea that Palestinians should appear in a film about Jerusalem as it was three thousand years ago.

“In this 15-minute film for visitors to the City of David archaeological site, Palestinians don’t get a mention.”

The BBC’s record “says a lot about the attitudes” at the ‘impartial’ BBC – as does this latest Tweet from its Middle East editor. 

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BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

A filmed report titled “Is peace between Israel and Palestinians out of reach?” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on June 24th. Narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, the video does not appear to have been filmed recently if the winter clothes worn by Knell and other people appearing in it are anything to go by.

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

Against a background of archive footage from the September 1993 signing of the declaration of principles – Oslo I – at the White House, Knell opened the report by asking:

“How did we get from this…to yet more of this?”

The second “this” was spoken as viewers saw footage of an air-strike in the Gaza Strip.

One answer to that question is the fact that such air strikes come in response to acts of terror by Hamas and other factions which were never included in the Oslo peace process but viewers of Knell’s report were not informed of that fact at any point and she went on to promote the misleading notion that “the Palestinians” as a whole were party to the Oslo Accords, continuing:

“It’s more than 25 years since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to make peace. But right now, as many see it, actual peace seems more out of reach than ever.”

After a heading reading “Why has it got harder to make peace?”, Knell went on:

“Politics has shifted on both sides. In recent years, Israeli coalition governments have been increasingly dominated by right-wing, nationalist and religious parties that are more hard-line and don’t believe giving up land will bring peace.”

Knell made no attempt to explain that such views are the result of Israel’s experiences after having withdrawn from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Neither did she bother to point out that the thirty-third Israeli government conducted negotiations in 2013/14 despite including the types of parties she specifies.

“During the campaign for the last election, won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was little talk of the two-state solution. Public support has fallen for this idea of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Among Palestinians, a deep political split has left the nationalist project in disarray. On one side you have the Islamist movement, Hamas, widely seen as a terrorist group. It doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

Viewers then saw an interesting portrayal of the violent coup conducted by Hamas in 2007 – and its result.

“Hamas won the last Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 but after in-fighting, ended up just governing Gaza.”

Knell went on:

“Then there’s the Palestinian Authority which governs parts of the West Bank. It’s headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the ageing president. He’s led past peace talks with Israel. Nowadays, many Palestinians feel disillusioned with their leaders.”

Viewers were then led to believe that Palestinians have been “promised” a state.

“Palestinians say their promised state is becoming less viable because of a big increase in the number of Israeli settlers living in occupied areas. There were just over 200,000 in 1990. Now the number is three times bigger.”

Next viewers discovered that the BBC’s long-standing and partial mantra on ‘international law’ has been expanded to include not only places but people.

Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.”

Apparently the BBC has no qualms about portraying over half a million Jewish Israelis as “illegal”.

Knell went on:

“Palestinians say they won’t return to peace talks without a freeze on settlement building.”

Knell did not bother to tell viewers that when such a freeze was imposed in 2009/10, the Palestinians refused to “return to peace talks” for nine out of ten months or that they rejected another offer of such a freeze in 2013.

While showing viewers only parts of the mostly wire-mesh anti-terrorist fence constructed from concrete, Knell then promoted the “land-grab” fiction seen in so much past BBC reporting.

“And here’s something else that’s changed since the 1993 peace deal – this wall is part of Israel’s West Bank barrier. Work on it started during the second Palestinian uprising. Israel said it was to protect Israelis against attacks but the Palestinians see it as a land grab as it encroaches on land they want for their future state.”

Knell then promoted equivalence between Israeli victim of terrorism and Palestinian casualties resulting from either responses to terrorism or rioting and attempted attacks.

“Of course violence increases mistrust and thousands of people have been killed in this conflict in recent years. Many weren’t soldiers or militants. Israeli civilians have been killed and injured by Palestinians in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and in stabbings, shootings and car rammings. On the Palestinian side, many civilians have been killed and injured in Israeli air strikes or have been shot by Israeli security forces mostly during operations or clashes.”

Knell did not bother to clarify that the “Israeli air strikes” come in response to the rocket attacks.

“For a long time, the US had the job of peace mediator. But the Palestinians cut off ties with the Trump administration saying it was biased towards Israel. They’re furious at its decision to recognise contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and open this embassy here and with the issue dropping down the agenda for Arab states, there’s now no peace broker trusted by both sides.”

Once again we see that in the run-up to the Bahrain economic workshop, the BBC’s pre-emptive framing of the topic does little to contribute to in depth audience understanding of the issues at hand.

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell recycles her Jerusalem pride report – with a little help

A week after her audio report about the Jerusalem pride march had been broadcast on BBC World Service radio and BBC Radio 4, Yolande Knell recycled the same material in an item aired in the June 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

“As Pride events take place all over the world this month to recognise LGBT communities and to highlight ongoing campaigns for equal rights, Yolande Knell reports on Pride in Israel.”

With listeners once again not informed that the only country in her Middle East patch where Knell could produce such a report is Israel, presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 05:54 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s the month of campaign and celebration for LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender – communities. Equal rights are by no means recognised universally and in Israel tomorrow tens of thousands are expected at the Tel Aviv pride parade. Last week the country appointed its first openly gay cabinet minister but a staged mass wedding for gay couples and trouble at the pride march in Jerusalem highlight unresolved tensions according to Yolande Knell.”

Exactly how Knell defines “trouble” would emerge later on in the report. She began however with an event which took place in the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv on June 4th. Interestingly, Knell’s account included messaging and motifs seen in an AP report about that event.

Knell: “Beaming, Nikita stomps on a glass wrapped in foil to cries of muzl [sic] tov – congratulations. But this isn’t a traditional Jewish wedding: it’s a symbolic one. Nikita and his long-time partner Roy are in a row of 23 gay couples hugging and kissing. All walked down the aisle and took vows at an open-air mass ceremony in Tel Aviv.”

Although the Sarona complex is an open-air venue with no “aisle” to walk down, that phrase was also found in AP’s report.

AP: “Tuesday’s event involved an unofficial wedding ceremony for 23 gay couples, who walked down the aisle, took vows and danced at a banquet, cheered by friends, family and supporters.”

Knell went on:

Knell: “But while same-sex marriages are increasingly recognised around the world, here in Israel they’re still not legal. The state doesn’t permit any civil marriages – only religious ones – and there’s no religious gay marriage option. ‘We participated so everyone would see us and know we exist’ Nikita says. ‘We love each other, we want to be married and have a normal life’.”

As was the case in her earlier report, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that while civil marriage is not available in Israel (rather than not “legal”) for either heterosexual or homosexual couples, ceremonies performed abroad are recognised by the state.

The AP report states:

AP: “The annual pride parade, set for June 14, draws flocks of foreign visitors to Israel, which flaunts itself as one of the world’s most gay-friendly tourist destinations.”

Yolande Knell told Radio 4 listeners that:

Knell: “Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly reputation – which it recently flaunted while hosting the Eurovision Song Contest – draws many same-sex Israeli couples to live here as well as lots of foreign visitors. Every year its pride parade along the beach has a carnival atmosphere. Young and old, gay and straight join the huge party, many dressed in flamboyant outfits or skimpy swimming costumes.”

The AP report goes on:

AP: “Yet political rights for Israel’s gay community lag behind increasingly widespread cultural acceptance.”

Yolande Knell went on:

Knell: “But in Israel rights for the gay community fall behind rising cultural acceptance in society.”

AP readers were told that:

AP: “Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, which wield significant influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and have a monopoly over matters of religion and state, have rejected legislation that condones homosexuality, which they see as defying Jewish law.”

Yolande Knell’s listeners were told that:

Knell: “In the Right-wing coalition governments of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish ultra-orthodox parties have had an influential role. They reject any proposed legislation which they see as condoning homosexuality, saying it defies Jewish law.”

Describing Jerusalem as Israel’s “seat of government” rather than its capital – in accordance with BBC editorial policy – Knell went on:

Knell: “That makes the pride march in Jerusalem – the holy city and Israel’s seat of government – feel more like a protest, although there’s still fancy dress. ‘I can do whatever I want in Tel Aviv and that’s great’ says Shlomit who’s with her gay friend, wearing a unicorn hat. ‘But if I’m not marching in Jerusalem, doing leg-work to demand the rights some people still don’t have, then I don’t have the right to call myself an ally’.

As was the case in her earlier report, Knell made no effort to inform Radio 4 listeners what rights LGBTQ people do have in Israel such as the fact that same sex couples who married abroad enjoy all the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including benefits and survivor rights.

Listeners then learned that Kate Adie’s previous reference to ‘trouble’ in fact means a protest which received an advance permit.

Knell: “Near the start of the parade there’s a reminder of the strong opposition faced by Israel’s gay activists. A small group’s demonstrating against what it calls LGBT terrorism. Its leader Bentzi Gopstein belongs to a far-Right political party which struck a controversial deal with Mr Netanyahu ahead of the last election to shore up conservative votes. ‘This isn’t pride; it’s an abomination’ he shouts over a loudspeaker. ‘It’s not pride if someone can’t contain their lust. Keep Jerusalem holy’.”

In fact, prior to the April election Gopstein’s party ‘Otzma Yehudit’ joined the Jewish Home and National Union parties to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties. 

Knell: “With hundreds of police officers lining their route, the marchers pass the spot where a girl of 15 was fatally stabbed by an ultra-orthodox Jewish man during the parade four years ago. Many like Ronni stop to lay a red rose. ‘It’s very sad. It really shows what happens when you allow hatred to flourish’ she says. This crowd brings together secular and religious activists, all calling for greater tolerance even as they reveal conflicting currents in Israeli society. I meet liberal orthodox rabbis and their followers upset at how Jerusalem’s chief rabbi wrote to the mayor asking him to stop rainbow flags being displayed in the city. ‘Judaism’s a pluralistic religion’ says Ze’ev who wears a kippa or skullcap. ‘We’re here for the alternative’.”

Apparently for Knell, religious and secular people automatically ‘conflict’ rather than being simply diverse and co-existing “currents in Israeli society”. Once again she resurrected the story about the city’s chief rabbi’s letter without clarifying that the Jerusalem municipality rejected his request.

Next we discover that – in contrast to the impression given in her previous report – Knell did see the protests against MK Amir Ohana which took place at the Jerusalem march. She did not however bother to inform listeners which organisation was behind those protests and the pre-prepared placards – or of its political leanings.

Knell: “Then, there’s a decidedly mixed reaction to the appearance of Amir Ohana, the newly appointed openly gay justice minister who’s a loyalist of the prime minister. While some shake his hand, others yell ‘shame’ and ‘go home hypocrite’, accusing him of doing little for the LGBT community.”

As in her previous report, Knell amplified inadequately attributed politically motivated allegations of ‘pinkwashing’.

Knell: “There are also strong differences of opinion among gay Palestinians. Social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality mean they don’t have their own pride events so some with access to the Israeli parades embrace them, like an East Jerusalemite drag queen in a tight black dress and bright red lipstick. Others, like Zizou, choose to boycott. ‘Pride week just helps Israel pinkwash its image’ he complains, accusing the country of presenting itself as progressive, liberal and LGBT friendly to distract from its conflict with the Palestinians.”

Before closing her report Knell managed to get a reference to the ‘peace process’ into an item ostensibly about pride marches in Israel while giving an imaginative portrayal of the country’s current “political climate”.

Knell: “This year pride in Israel takes place in a febrile political climate. After a recent bitterly fought election, Mr Netanyahu looked set to form a new government but failed to do so. Now the country must vote again. The campaign’s unlikely to see much talk of peace with the Palestinians but issues of religion and state will be hotly contested once more. Many of those flying rainbow flags this month will be hoping for political changes but they won’t have to look far for proof of how tough those will be.”

And so, for the second time in a week, Knell’s message to BBC audiences in the UK was that the advancement of LGBTQ rights in Israel is held back by “Jewish ultra-orthodox parties” – with no mention of how Arab parties in the Knesset relate to that issue. Yet again Knell failed to inform Radio 4 listeners what LGBTQ rights in Israel do include, while the issue of “social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality” in Palestinian society and the wider region is obviously of no real interest to the BBC’s Middle East correspondent.   

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BBC’s Yolande Knell reports one pride march protest, erases another

On the evening of June 6th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell was aired on two BBC radio stations. In both cases the item was introduced with a reference to the appointment of MK Amir Ohana to the post of acting minister of justice, with audiences told that the appointment had taken place “today” when in fact it had been announced the previous evening.

On the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presenter Tim Franks introduced the report (from 38:11 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “As gay pride parades take place around the world this month, they don’t just celebrate LGBTQ communities; they also often highlight the struggle that many still face for acceptance and equal rights. Although Israel is proud of its diversity – indeed today [sic] the first openly gay man to become a minister in Israel has been appointed by the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – today the Jerusalem pride march highlighted how deep social and religious differences remain with angry protests along the route. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell joined the crowds.”

On the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ the item was billed “What Jerusalem’s Gay Pride march reveals about Israeli divisions” and presenter James Coomarasamy told listeners (from 26:36 here) that:

Coomarasamy: “Today’s gay pride march in Jerusalem has coincided with a first for Israel’s LGBTQ community. Amir Ohana was appointed the country’s acting justice minister today [sic], becoming its first openly gay cabinet member. As last month’s Eurovision Song Contest showed, Israel likes to demonstrate its diversity but the angry protests at today’s march also highlighted the deep social and religious differences that remain. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell joined the crowds.”

Refraining from clarifying to listeners that the only country in the Middle East where she could ‘join the crowds’ at such an event is Israel, Knell opened her report:

Knell: “It’s late afternoon and thousands of people have already gathered here at Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell park. They’re in high spirits for this march celebrating gay pride and tolerance.”

After a vox pop interview with an unnamed woman, Knell went on:

Knell: “And there are serious messages here. In Israel civil marriages aren’t legal – let alone gay marriages – and making political change is difficult, especially with recent coalition governments made up of Right-wing, nationalist and religious Jewish parties.”

While civil marriage is not available in Israel (rather than not “legal”), ceremonies performed abroad are recognised by the state. Knell then interviewed an unidentified man, asking him:

Knell: “What rights would you like to see for gay people in Israel?”

The man replied that he sees surrogacy and gay marriage as the main issues. Knell failed to remind listeners that gay marriage has only been possible in her own country for the past five years, that it is still not permitted in Northern Ireland or that surrogacy law in the UK is currently under review.  She refrained from informing listeners of the current situation on those issues in Israel, as explained here.

“The institution of marriage within the borders of the state are religious and not civil, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim etc, as it is with most of the Middle East.
These religious bodies hold the monopoly of recognized marriage ceremonies, and, as it stands today, none support civil unions.

That said, same-sex marriages performed outside of Israel are in fact recognized within the State and registered as such with the Ministry of Interior, which affords same sex married couples all the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including benefits and survivor rights.

The second is access to surrogacy, on Israeli soil, by same sex couples.
Again, using surrogacy services outside of Israel, is permitted and children brought to Israel, as a result of surrogacy, receive Israeli citizenship and are recognized as legal children to their parents.”

Knell then brought up the topic of a request refused by the Jerusalem municipality.

Knell: “There are plenty of rainbows drawn on people’s faces all around me. They’re on people’s shirts and there are flags too on display, although Jerusalem’s chief rabbi had asked the local council not to hang them up. But to encounter more vocal anti-gay sentiment, I’ve just got to cross the road. The people here are chanting ‘it’s not pride, it’s obscenity’. This is a protest organised by a far-Right group and there are signs around me ‘Jerusalem is not Sodom’, ‘stop the LGBT terror’.”

Following comment from one of the participants in that protest by a few dozen people, Knell continued:

Knell: “Now the pride march is on the move, we’re advancing up the road led by a drag queen dressed in gold, young and old Israelis. There’s a heavy police presence here – even a helicopter overhead – and this is why: we’re now passing the spot where 15-year-old Shira Banki was stabbed to death just four years ago at the pride parade.”

Knell then proceeded to amplify unattributed politically motivated allegations of ‘pinkwashing’.

Knell: “Now while the anthem of this march is all about celebrating diversity, you don’t see many Palestinian Jerusalemites here. One reason is the social taboo around homosexuality. But some accuse Israel of pinkwashing: highlighting gay rights at events like this while neglecting Palestinian rights.”

Following an interview with an Arab Muslim participant in the march – and while carefully avoiding the topic of the rights of LGBTQ Palestinians – Knell closed her report:

Knell: “It’s the end of the procession now but the pride party is going to carry on here through the evening. It’s eighteen years since the first Jerusalem march and there’ve been big advances for the local gay community in that time. But in this holy city, today’s march is also a reminder of some of the deep divisions that aren’t going away.”

This report’s take-away message for BBC audiences in the UK and around the world is amply clear: the advancement of LGBTQ rights in Israel is held back by “Right-wing, nationalist and religious Jewish parties”, reflecting “deep social and religious differences” and “deep divisions” and the Jerusalem pride march was  the topic of “angry protests” by “a far-Right group”.

Interestingly though, Knell’s portrayal of the event she described as “celebrating gay pride and tolerance” did not include another ‘angry protest’ seen at the Jerusalem pride march.

“[Amir] Ohana walked through the crowds, some of whom booed at him, apparently due to his being a member of the ruling Likud party, seen as to the right of many in the gay community.

“What have you done for the gay community,” some shouted at him.”

Some of those protesting against the newly appointed justice minister gave out pre-prepared signs using his photograph.

Both the purple shirt worn by the person in that photograph and the placards themselves bear the logo of an organisation called ‘Omdim Yachad’ or ‘Standing Together’. That name should be familiar to the BBC because less than two weeks earlier, Tim Franks had interviewed a representative from that organisation in an item about the Israeli Left (from 45:04 here), describing it as “a new joint Arab and Jewish activist movement”. BBC audiences were not told, however, that the foreign funded political NGO was co-founded and is headed by a member of the far-Left party ‘Hadash’.  

So while Yolande Knell’s report included several references to the Right of the political map, a narrative-conflicting demonstration of far-Left intolerance which took place right under her nose was whitewashed from the account of the 2019 Jerusalem pride march heard by BBC audiences.

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BBC News reports on new Israeli justice minister

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 449 incidents took place: 50 in Judea & Samaria, 10 in Jerusalem and 389 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 47 attacks with petrol bombs, four attacks using pipe bombs, one stabbing attack, one shooting attack and seven arson attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 16 attacks with petrol bombs, three attacks using IEDs, two attacks using pipe bombs, one attack using an improvised grenade, one shooting attack, one sniper attack, two attacks using anti-tank missiles and 362 separate incidents of rocket launches.

Four Israeli civilians were killed in missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip on May 5th: Moshe Agadi (58), Ziad Alhamada (49), Moshe Feder (68) and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman (21).

Ten people were injured throughout the month.

Two soldiers were injured by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip on May 3rd. One civilian was wounded when a rocket hit a house in Kiryat Gat on May 4th and another civilian was wounded on the same day when a rocket hit a house in Ashkelon. On May 5th a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack on a house in Ashdod and another civilian wounded in a rocket attack on a factory in Ashkelon. Two people were injured in a rocket attack on Be’er Sheva on May 5th. Two people were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on May 31st which was not reported on the BBC News website.  

A rocket attack on May 2nd did not receive any BBC coverage. The attacks launched between May 4th and 6th were reported in four items on the BBC News website:

‘Ceasefire’ after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel – discussed here

Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza – discussed here

Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify – discussed here

Gaza conflict: ‘Ceasefire’ after days of violence

In those four reports audiences saw coverage of the rocket attacks, one of the attacks using anti-tank missiles and the sniper attack which took place on May 3rd. The four Israeli fatalities were reported but only one person was named, in a photo caption.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported 80% of the terror attacks which took place during May 2019 and all the resulting fatalities.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has reported 33% of the terror attacks which have taken place and 85% of the resulting fatalities.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2019

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

As we have had cause to note in the past, the BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

That guidance was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

On June 3rd visitors to the BBC News website saw yet another example of that BBC adoption of PLO terminology in the synopsis to a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman titled “Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site”.

“Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers broke out at Al Aqsa mosque compound, the holy site also known to Jews as Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

What that synopsis describes as “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers” [sic] was actually violent rioting initiated by people who certainly were not ‘worshipping’ at the time.

“Following the report that Jews will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Sunday, according to the Police Spokesperson’s Unit.

The commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, ordered the police to enter the Temple Mount and take care of the rioters.

As the police attempted to enter the place, Arab worshipers began throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the forces. The forces responded with riot dispersal means.”

The report itself opens with similar terminology promoting the notion that the violence ‘broke out’ all by itself and with no account of what the rioters actually did. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Clashes broke out at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Palestinians were angered by this Jewish visit to the compound. It came on a day of high tensions.”

Audiences were not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism or that under existing agreements, while non-Muslims have the right to visit the site, they do not have equal prayer rights there. The report continued:

“Later in the day, outside the walls of the Old City…

Bateman: “This is a pretty potent mix of religion and nationalism for these Israelis. They’re just passing through Damascus Gate into the Muslim quarter of the Old City, populated with Palestinian shops and homes. The message from these people is that the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Of course the Palestinians they’re about to walk past think very differently.”

Man [voiceover] “What’s happening in Jerusalem today is a robbery of Jerusalem. If this is the capital of Isreal [sic], why do you need all these forces to show everyone that this is your undivided capital.”

The use of the term ‘Isreal’ in the subtitles is either a grave spelling error or promotion of a term which is frequently used by anti-Israel activists to negate the country. The report went on:

“The parade is known to Israelis as the ‘March of Flags’. It celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war of 1967.”

Bateman then showcased one of the participants who presumably gave him the answer he was looking for.

Bateman: “What do you think of these Palestinians here watching people go past?”

Woman: “We don’t have this country, Palestine. Only Israel. The Palestinians can live with us. It’s good but it’s [us] who own the country.”

Bateman’s own retort to the woman was not shown in the subtitles.

Bateman: “You get a real sense of the confrontation at a moment like this. The Israelis dance with flags and the Palestinians are being stopped behind lines of police.”

The report ends:

“The march ends at the Western Wall…the holiest site at which Jews can pray. Israelis couldn’t access it for two decades before the war of 1967.”

Remarkably, this report on the topic of Jerusalem Day – the day marking the reunion of Jerusalem – avoided telling BBC audiences that the reason Israelis couldn’t “access” the Western Wall “for two decades” was because Jordan had belligerently invaded and occupied the area, ethnically cleansing Jews from the Old City in the process.

 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 31st edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme ran an item which included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell ostensibly about Palestinians from the Gaza Strip travelling to Jerusalem for healthcare.

That was followed by an interview with a British MP who had been taken on a four-day paid trip to Jerusalem by the anti-Israel NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ and who falsely claimed that two premature infants born to a mother from the Gaza Strip had ‘died alone’ in a Jerusalem hospital because of “inhumane” Israeli security checks before entry permits are given to Gaza Strip residents.

Not only did presenter Mishal Husain fail to challenge the inaccurate version of the story told by her interviewee Rosena Allin-Khan, but she went on to embellish it with fictions of her own. 

Following that, Husain introduced her final interviewee ( from 01:53:29 here) and in her opening statements, once again promoted the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had woven – this time in the plural.

Husain: “…Sharon Bar-li is Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK. […] What would you say to that point that Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has…has made that the system at the moment means that there are Palestinian children who die alone in hospitals in Jerusalem?

Bar-li: “…the policy is such that no child, no patient, should go into Israel to receive medical treatment by itself. Every patient should be accompanied and when it comes to children, it should be accompanied preferably by a parent, by the mother or by family member…”

Husain continued to inflate her own chimera, using a story from Knell’s report in which one child traveled to Jerusalem for chemotherapy with a grandparent as the base for the unevidenced claim that “often” parents do not get a permit to accompany their child.

Husain: “Yeah. I mean you know that it often doesn’t…from what we’ve heard in that report, often it is not the parent that for whatever reason – a security reason I imagine – the parent does not receive…ehm…the permit to enter Israel. But what kind of security risk is really posed by the parent of a child who’s going for chemotherapy or indeed a mother who’s just given birth to triplets?”

Once again Husain used a strawman argument: obviously the mother of the triplets was not deemed a security risk because she got a permit to travel to Jerusalem for the birth in the first place and later was given another permit to travel to collect her daughter from the hospital.

Bar-li: “As you know, Gaza is controlled by Hamas which is a terror organisation and there’s been plenty of cases in the past where unfortunately Hamas has abused – cynically abused – patients, many times without their knowledge, planting on them explosives, money, other information or devices, in order to instigate terror attacks. There are…”

As is all too often the case when Mishal Husain interviews Israelis, she then became noticeably impatient and proceeded to repeatedly interrupt her interviewee.

Husain [interrupts]: “Parents of children who are going to Israel for chemotherapy?”

Bar-li: “They don’t know. There has been cases in [the year] two thousand…”

Husain [interrupts]: “How many cases?”

Bar-li: “There has been several cases like this. Imagine when you go into hospital carrying a medical tube and this medical tube actually has an explosive in it. Can you imagine what would happen if it will explode in a hospital? And even if there were only…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Sorry, just to be clear: has that actually happened? When did it happen? How many times did that happen?”

Had the BBC bothered to report that story (and many similar ones) at the time, Husain would perhaps have known what her interviewee was talking about.

Bar-li: “It happened in 2017. There was a case of two sisters, one of them was a cancer patient. Her sister accompanied her and without their knowledge they were given medical tubes in which there were explosives. And it was revealed and a great disaster was prevented. There are also interviews with Hamas militants that were arrested in which they are exposing the methods and in which they are testifying to this method. Hence security measures need to be taken and we have to be extra vigilant. It’s important also to mention the role of the Palestinian Authority in…in delaying or preventing some of these permits.”

Husain obviously was not interested in having the deputy ambassador tell listeners about Palestinian Authority policies relevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion.

Husain: “OK yes because it’s a complicated process of getting approvals from different points.”

Bar-li: “Not just…not just because of the complication of the process…”

Husain [interrupts]: “There are many layers of it.”

Bar-li: “Actually recently…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You heard…you heard what we’ve been…it’s just that we understand the process is complicated but we can see from the figures that the approvals for patients who are travelling from Gaza into Israel, the numbers of those have been going steadily down over the years. In 2012, which was after Hamas came to power, it was something like more than 90% and it’s now down to around 65%. There are lives that are being lost in the process.”

Bar-li: “Over the years tens of thousands of Palestinians exit Gaza, entered into Israel to receive life-saving treatment. We of course sympathise with any person in need but at the same time we should remember that there is a complex situation. Actually, when you look at the numbers of [for] 2018, you see a 15% increase in humanitarian permits being issued to Gazans in comparison to 2017.”

Husain: “It’s currently 65% of permits that are approved according to the WHO. Those were the figures from March 2019 which is down from where they were in 2012.”

A closer look at the World Health Organisation data supposedly quoted by Husain shows that while indeed 65% of the 2,004 applications for travel permits for patients were approved in March, it is not the case that – as listeners would naturally have concluded – 35% were refused. In fact 32% of the total requests were delayed and 4% denied.

Husain then indulged herself with some blatantly brash editorialising which once again used the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had earlier cooked up:

Husain: “The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people and no child should die alone.”

As Sharon Bar-li tried to respond, Husain cut her off and closed the item there.

It is of course all too clear that this long item was not news but over twelve minutes of journalistic activism based primarily on a false story irresponsibly promoted by a British MP who was taken on a paid jaunt by an organisation devoted primarily to anti-Israel campaigning for decades.

Not only did the BBC clearly make no effort to check that story and its dubious source, but Mishal Husain deliberately spun it into ‘fact’ in order to influence audience opinion on this topic, thereby providing backwind for existing political campaigning by that anti-Israel NGO and others.

That of course is ‘fake news’ according to this definition:

“Fake news is a problem for different reasons.

The first kind of fake news – deliberate lies – is a problem because it can make people believe things that are completely untrue.

The second kind – when people publish something without checking that it’s completely right – can make people have less trust in the media, as well as make everyone believe something that might be inaccurate.

People also only tend to share things that they agree with. So if people are sharing a lot of fake news, and lots of people believe it, it’s easy to get sucked into a bubble that is actually completely different to the real world – and a long way from the truth.”

That definition was produced by the BBC itself within the framework of its claim to counter fake news. In fact, as we see in this example, the BBC itself contributes to the phenomenon. 

Related Articles:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

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