BBC News ignores a case of UN anti-Israel bias

Back in March 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel rejects database of settlement-linked firms” that related to a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council the previous day and which was discussed here.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the database will provide a resource for any organisation wanting to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

It will potentially include a number of Israeli and international firms working in industries from banking to construction and security services, our correspondent adds.”

Recently an Israeli communications company received a letter from the UNHRC which has been making local news.

“The UNHRC recently sent a letter to the CEO of Bezeq, a major Israeli telecoms firm, accusing it of promoting settlement activity in Israel and of providing cellular services to areas that the Council believes are Palestinian territory. […]

The UNHRC threatens to add Bezeq to its database of companies operating in what it claims are Israeli settlements and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Bezeq owns approximately 40 real estate properties in the West Bank used for telecommunications infrastructure, and operates antennas throughout the West Bank,” the UNHRC wrote in its letter.”

“Bezeq provides landline, cellular, internet, and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank,” according to the UNHRC, which considers this activity a violation of its accords.”

Apparently some 150 such letters have been sent by the UNHRC.

“The United Nations reportedly sent letters to some 150 Israeli and overseas companies, threatening to add them to its blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. […]

An unnamed western diplomat told Haaretz that more than half of the companies that received the warning letter were Israeli, about 30 were from the US and the remainder from countries including Germany, Norway and South Korea. The diplomat added that [UN Human Rights Commissioner] Hussein also sent copies of the letter to foreign ministries of several countries who are home to companies which may be added to the blacklist.”

Despite the fact that numerous international companies do business in additional locations  categorised as occupied territories (e.g. north Cyprus, Western Sahara), the UN Human Rights Council has not passed resolutions mandating the creation of a database of businesses operating in any location other than those it views as being occupied Israel.

In recent days BBC audiences have seen and heard a number of reports concerning the UN (for example here, here and here) in which the phrase anti-Israel bias was placed in scare quotes and that bias was described in qualifying terms such as “perceived”.

The BBC, however, has ignored the story of the letters sent by the UNHRC that demonstrate clear anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. 

Related Articles:

BBC fails to tell the whole story of UNHRC anti-Israel resolution

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article 

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during September 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 103 incidents took place: 74 in Judea & Samaria and 29 in Jerusalem.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 85 attacks with petrol bombs, 17 attacks using explosive devices and one shooting attack.  

Two civilians and one member of the security forces were murdered and an additional civilian was wounded during September.

The BBC News website reported the fatal attack in Har Adar on September 26th without identifying the victims. None of the additional attacks received any BBC coverage.

During the first nine months of 2017 the BBC News website has reported 0.7% of the total terror attacks that took place and 93.75% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC editorial policy on terror continues in Har Adar attack report

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2017 

The BBC’s terror definition of convenience

The double standard evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting terror attacks in differing locations is regularly discussed on these pages and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the BBC.

In April of this year the BBC responded to one such complaint by stating that:

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

Regrettably, that response subsequently received endorsement from the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM.

The cynical approach behind the BBC’s policy came into full view last week in an interview with an Israeli guest in the September 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ that was described as follows in the running order:

“The leader of one of the world’s most conflict-ridden cities has questioned official UK police advice to “run, hide, tell” during terror attacks and has suggested Britons should take on jihadists to save lives. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said people should “engage” the enemy directly. He joins us on the program.”

In his introduction to that item (from 01:12:17 here) presenter John Humphrys made it perfectly clear that he (and his organisation) knows perfectly well that both Israel and the UK suffer from terror attacks.  

Humphrys: “The official advice to people in this country if they get caught up in a terrorist attack is ‘run, hide, tell’. But that, according to Nir Barkat, is wrong and he’s the mayor of Jerusalem which has seen more attacks than pretty much any other city on the planet and he’s on the line.”

In other words, when it is convenient for a particular purpose the BBC is perfectly happy to acknowledge both the existence and the scale of terrorism against Israelis. But when the corporation reports on (some of) those attacks in Israel, it deliberately refrains from describing them as terror because it is concerned about its own image and does “not wish to appear to be taking sides”.   

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

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

BBC bias on terrorism highlighted again in reports from Spain 

 

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

For almost two years the BBC News website has been using maps credited to UNOCHA and/or the political NGO B’tselem which purport to inform audiences about the geo-political status of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, those maps describe the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City along with many other locations of pre-1948 Jewish habitation as ‘Israeli settlements’ and – as regular readers are aware – the BBC consistently steers its audience towards the view that such neighbourhoods and communities “are considered illegal under international law”.

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

Among the inaccurate features on those maps is the portrayal of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus as “Israeli settlements”.

Map as it appeared on the BBC News website between February – September 2017

The Hebrew University (established in 1925) and Hadassah Hospital (established in 1938) were both built on land purchased by Jews in 1914 and the Mount Scopus enclave remained Israeli territory throughout the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. Interestingly, B’tselem’s own map does not mark Mount Scopus as a ‘settlement’.

Map produced by B’tselem

Earlier this month BBC Watch submitted a complaint raising that specific topic and others (including the portrayal of the Jewish Quarter as a ‘settlement’), as well as the general issue of the compromise of impartiality caused by the use of partisan maps sourced from a foreign funded political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel.

The response received includes the following:

“We have rectified our map of the area of the Hebrew University/Mount Scopus. The source map had incorrectly identified it as an Israeli settlement and we have now corrected this.

The issue of Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem is obviously contentious and given the different political positions held on the matter, no map can be considered strictly neutral.

The BTselem map corresponds with the position of the UN, which considers the Jewish Quarter a settlement in occupied territory, as it does all the Jewish communities beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire line, and for this reason we do not consider it a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.”

In other words, the BBC would have us believe that its impartiality is not compromised by the use of maps that it admits are not “strictly neutral” which it sourced from an interested party because they reflect the non-legally binding position of a body which is neither a legislature nor a court. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to meet its editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing its audiences with maps reflecting any alternative views.

The amended map now looks like this:

After amendment

Related Articles:

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’ 

BBC’s inconsistent follow-up reporting on terror trials continues

Earlier this year we noted the BBC’s inconsistent follow-up reporting on terror incidents. While audiences have seen reporting on related legal proceedings months or years later in cases when the perpetrators were Israelis, arrests, trials and convictions relating to attacks carried out by Palestinians very rarely receive follow-up coverage.

Last week three of the perpetrators of an attack that was reported by the BBC nearly two years ago were convicted of manslaughter.

“The Jerusalem District Court convicted Muhammad Abu Kaf, Walid Atrash and an additional unnamed minor of manslaughter for the killing of Alexander Levlovitz on Rosh Hashanah eve two years ago, in an attack marking the beginning of the lone-wolf wave of terrorism.

After the holiday meal, Levlovitz drove two guests home, and was later killed when Palestinians pelted his car with rocks.”

As was also the case when another member of the group that carried out the attack was sentenced last year, the BBC has not produced any coverage of that story.

Reports around the time of the attack which are still available on the BBC News website describe it as follows: [emphasis added]

“Alexander Levlovitz died in a car accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem. […]

Mr Levlovitz died and two passengers were reportedly injured after their car was pelted with stones on Monday. Police are investigating the incident.” (BBC News website, September 16th, 2015)

“An Israeli motorist died earlier in the week in an accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem.” (BBC News website, September 19th, 2015)

Although the circumstances of the attack have since been proven in court, the BBC has once again not shown any interest in providing its audiences with follow-up reporting which would clarify those ambiguous statements and bring its “historical record” up to date.

Related Articles:

BBC’s public purpose remit compromised by failure to report on incitement

BBC’s ‘historical record’ compromised by absence of follow-up reporting

Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

 

 

CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

CAMERA’s new Arabic department has prompted an amendment to an article published last month on the BBC Arabic website.

Although the arrest of the leader of the banned northern Islamic Movement – Raed Salah – on August 15th did not receive any BBC coverage in English, the corporation’s Arabic language website published both a report on that story and a profile of Salah.

In that profile, readers were told that Israel often arrests members of the northern Islamic Movement for protesting against archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Temple Mount.

As CAMERA has previously noted, the Waqf has in fact repeatedly carried out unauthorised excavations at the sensitive site.

“The 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law mandates prior agreement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs or Ministry of Education and Culture in order to carry out excavations in or near a holy site. A 1978 Antiquities Law stipulates that where such a site is used for religious reasons, paving, quarrying, and interment and other actions can only be carried out with the written agreement of the Director of the Department of Antiquities.

The Muslim Waqf, however, consistently refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty or the laws governing holy sites. Attempting to change the status quo of the Temple Mount, the Waqf has repeatedly flouted these laws with excavations and construction of new mosques. Many believe that under the guise of renovations on the Temple Mount, the Waqf is deliberately destroying archaeological evidence of the site’s Jewish history.”

Original version

CAMERA’s Arabic department contacted BBC Arabic requesting a correction and pointing out that, contrary to the BBC’s claim, none of the legal action against the northern Islamic Movement or its leader has been related to protests against archaeological excavations: rather the group has been outlawed since late 2015 due to its links to Hamas, incitement and provocation of violence.

Although no reply was received, that part of the report was subsequently amended and readers are now informed that “the Israeli authorities accuse the Islamic movement of incitement, instigating rioting and misleading the public”.

However (as is all too often the practice at the BBC) the article does not include a footnote alerting audiences to the fact that it has been amended.

Related Articles:

The Battle Over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount  (CAMERA)

BBC ignores another Northern Islamic Movement story – in English

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

 

BBC Teach to edit inaccurate educational video

Readers may recall that last month we noted some inaccuracies in BBC produced educational videos. Using BBC Watch’s post, Mr Dennis Levene contacted BBC Teach to raise the problematic points.

In the response received, BBC Teach’s producer denied that in the video titled “J is for Jesus“ viewers are told that the Jews “…turned against him [Jesus] and had him executed by the Romans; nailed to a cross.”

BBC Teach stated:

“We don’t […] say that ‘The Jews’ turned against Jesus and had him executed.  The script says: “Eventually, many of the religious teachers and the people… turned against [Jesus] and had him executed by the Romans’.  This is fair reflection of widely-accepted events.”  [emphasis added]

Apparently it is not sufficiently clear to BBC Teach that – like Jesus himself – those “religious teachers and the people” were Jews or that the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ calumny has been at the root of Christian antisemitism for centuries.

The video titled “T is for Temples” tells viewers that:

“Centuries later the Jewish people were able to rebuild, only to have the Second Temple destroyed by the Roman as punishment for a rebellion. But a small part – the Western Wall – still stands and it is the most sacred place for Jewish people.”

And:

“It’s [Jerusalem] also where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The rock he ascended from was incorporated into the Islamic shrine the Dome of the Rock. It’s built where the Jewish Temple used to stand and is sacred to both Jewish people and Muslims.”

BBC Teach’s response to Mr Levene’s email states:

“The Western Wall formed part of the second temple complex.  It was a section of the retaining wall of the temple plaza.  Because the terms ‘temple complex’ and ‘temple’ can be, and are, used interchangeably, the Western Wall could reasonably be described as part of the temple.” [emphasis added]

However, BBC Teach did concede two other points.

“The Rock is sacred to the Jewish and Muslim faiths.  But, as ‘BBC Watch’ points out, the Dome of the Rock isn’t sacred to Jewish people.  I don’t believe the script writers intended to say it was, but I can see how the phrasing of the sentence could give that impression.”

And:

 “‘BBC Watch’ is right to say that Temple Mount is the most sacred place for Jewish people, not the Western Wall. The Western Wall should have been described as the most sacred place where Jewish people can pray.”  

BBC Teach producer Sam Datta-Paulin added:

“The producers of this content consulted with specialist educational consultants throughout the film-making process.  The mistake about the most scared [sic] place was made in good faith and we apologise.

We are having the film edited to correct errors and confusion, and ensure it is correct in future.”

At the time of writing the film remains available in its original form and has not yet been edited.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during August 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 110 incidents took place: 83 in Judea & Samaria, 24 in Jerusalem, one inside the ‘green line’ and two originating from the Gaza Strip.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 82 attacks with petrol bombs, 21 attacks using explosive devices, one stabbing attack, two shooting attacks and one arson attack. Within the ‘green line’ one stabbing attack (in Yavne) took place. Also recorded were two missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.  

Two civilians were wounded during August – both in stabbing attacks.

One of the two recorded attacks from the Gaza Strip was a missile attack on August 8th which – like all the incidents of missile fire from either the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula that have taken place since the beginning of 2017 did not receive any coverage from the BBC’s English language services.

Among the additional incidents which did not receive any BBC coverage were a serious stabbing attack in a supermarket in Yavne on August 2nd, a petrol bomb attack in Jerusalem on August 6th and a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on August 12th.

In conclusion, the BBC did not report any of the 110 terror attacks that took place during August. Between January and August 2017 inclusive, the BBC News website reported 0.69% of the total terror attacks that took place and 92% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

Another Gaza missile attack and BBC silence continues

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2017  

Political NGOs and dissonance in BBC report on Jerusalem eviction

On September 5th an article titled “Israel evicts Palestinians after East Jerusalem legal battle” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, along with a video relating to the same story titled “Palestinian family loses East Jerusalem home“.

Of the written report’s 491 words, one hundred and eleven are used to describe the events themselves and a further 136 are given over to brief explanation of the legal background to the story, but without clarifying that the property was supposed to be vacated by the Shamasneh family long ago.

“In 2013, the Shamasneh family lost their appeal of the case in the Supreme Court, after lower courts ruled that the land should be restored to its Jewish owner.

But the Supreme Court also deferred any eviction of the Shamasneh family at the time on humanitarian grounds, stating: “It is not easy to evict someone from their residence, particularly when it involves someone elderly who has lived at the property for many years.”

Two and a half years after the eviction date set by the court, legal proceedings against the family were renewed and the family was served with an eviction order.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s report includes a rare mention of the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

“Under Israeli law, Jews can reclaim property lost when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem in the war of 1948-9.” [emphasis added]

However, that sentence is followed by a reference to another ‘occupation’ of the exact same location and the BBC fails to provide any explanation for that dissonance.

“Israel has occupied the area since driving Jordan out in a war in 1967.”

Readers find a 21-word reaction from a member of the evicted family and a thirty-six word long comment from the political NGO ‘Peace Now’. The article does not include any response from or on behalf of the property’s owner.

The report correctly explains that the property in question – which is actually located in the Shimon HaTsadik neighbourhood rather than in Sheikh Jarrah as stated – was originally owned by Jews.

“The land in Sheikh Jarrah was originally owned by a family among the thousands of Jews who fled or were expelled from eastern Jerusalem by Jordanian forces in the 1948-9 war.”

The purchase of the land upon which the property was built was made in 1876.

“…in 1876 the cave [of Shimon HaTzadik] and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees. The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.

Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik. […]

After 1948 the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.”

However readers are – as usual in BBC content – encouraged to view Jewish presence on land legally purchased over 140 years ago as ‘illegal settlement’ and the BBC offers no explanation for its promotion of that incongruous and partial politically motivated narrative.

“The issue of control in East Jerusalem is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

About 200,000 Jewish settlers and 370,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. Some 2,500 of the more hardline settlers live in buildings bought inside Palestinian neighbourhoods, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The article also promotes a partisan map credited to the political NGO B’tselem that has been seen many times before in BBC content and which similarly promotes the notion that places such as the Old City, Neve Ya’akov and even parts of Mt Scopus are ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in such areas long before they were expelled by the invading Jordanian army in 1948.

Further encouragement of audiences to view this as a story about ‘settlements’ is evident in the ‘additional reading’ accompanying this article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and at the bottom of the article itself. The promoted reports include a BBC backgrounder on ‘settlements’ that first appeared in December 2016 and was subsequently amended four times.

The article closes with the unquestioned promotion of Palestinian messaging:

“Palestinians say the Israeli law allowing Jewish property reclamation is discriminatory since no such law exists for Palestinians, some 800,000 of whom fled or were expelled from what became Israel in the 1948-9 war.”

Not only does the BBC not provide any source for the debatable claim that 800,000 Palestinians became refugees around 1948 but it also fails to inform readers that a larger number of Jews fled or were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries (most of whom found refuge in Israel) and that they have never received compensation for the lands and property they were forced to abandon.  

This report propagates the BBC’s usual simplistic narratives on ‘settlements’ and ‘East’ Jerusalem. Inevitably, readers find the standard BBC insert on ‘international law’ – which makes no attempt to inform them of legal views on the topic that fall outside the corporation’s chosen political narrative – and interested parties in the form of campaigning NGOs are repeatedly given uncritical amplification. As ever, that editorial policy fails to contribute to the enhancement of audience understanding of these complex topics.

Related Articles:

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

Standard BBC ‘international law’ insert breaches editorial guidelines

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

BBC Monitoring is the partially licence fee funded department that translates open source traditional and new media from around the world and describes its mission as being “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions”.

Earlier this year BBC Monitoring advertised some vacancies in its Jerusalem office, including a position titled Digital Journalist that was described as follows:

“On a day-to-day basis, you will contribute to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East by monitoring local media for key developments, coming up with new angles, ensuring accuracy and adding context as well as integrating video, images and data into BBCM’s output.” [emphasis added]

The successful applicant for that position is apparently called Vera Sajrawi.

A native of Nazareth, Sajrawi has in the past worked for BBC Arabic, Reuters and Al Jazeera among others.

Sajrawi has claimed that “AIPAC is the American group lobbying for more weapons for Israel to kill Palestinians” and is apparently at ease with the notion that ‘the occupation’ commenced in 1948.

That obviously does not bode well for BBC Monitoring’s commitment to “ensuring accuracy”, for consumers of supposedly impartial BBC Middle East related content or for clients (including the UK government) relying on the information it provides to help them make “well-informed decisions”.