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

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

At the end of that article readers were told that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC’s Western Wall report fails to provide adequate information

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

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

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

No surprises in BBC News website report on US Consulate closure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readers of this report also found the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

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

BBC ‘Global Questions’ from Jerusalem rescheduled

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

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

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

The Future for the Israelis and Palestinians

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

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

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

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

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

Registration and further details here.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

Countering Propaganda: Focus on Diana Buttu  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

 

BBC WS ‘Heart and Soul’ discusses internal Israeli affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

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

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi provides an interim assessment of Operation Northern Shield.

“This display of IDF intelligence and operational capabilities strengthens Israeli deterrence somewhat, evident in Hezbollah’s “thunderous silence” over the past month and the lack of any significant response by its fighters or leadership, be it a public announcement or activity on the ground, except for the limited effort to show its presence along the border. Moreover, it made no attempt to disrupt the IDF activity, despite the impact of this activity on the Lebanese side (the sound of explosions and flow of liquid concrete poured into the tunnels). One way to explain Hezbollah’s restraint is the caution taken by the IDF to operate solely on the Israeli side. However, the restraint also strengthens the assumption that Hezbollah, like Israel, is not interested in an all-out conflict at this time. It appears that Israel’s cognitive and public diplomacy campaign surrounding the operation also had an impact, as it presented a clear picture regarding the IDF’s goals and activity, including updates given to UNIFIL and through it to the Lebanese army. This in turn reduced the possibility of military conflict, miscalculations, and escalation.”

2) At the CFR Elliot Abrahams takes the pulse of Palestinian democracy.

“On January 9, 2005—exactly 14 years ago today—Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. For a four-year term.

Today Abbas begins serving the fifteenth year of his four-year term.

That 2005 election was actually a milestone for Palestinians. Yasser Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas. […]

As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has outlawed any criticism of the corrupt Fatah rule and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future.”

3) At the FDD Saeed Ghasseminejad and Tzvi Kahn take a look at Iran’s new budget. 

“Iran’s military spending will significantly decrease while its domestic security expenditures will modestly increase, according to a draft of the 2019-2020 budget that President Hassan Rouhani submitted to parliament in late December. The new figures suggest that reimposed U.S. sanctions, which intensify the pressure on a regime already rocked by ongoing nationwide protests, have forced Tehran to prioritize its stability over its expansionary ambitions. […]

To be sure, Iran’s military establishment, especially the IRGC, does not depend solely on the state budget for its funding. The military establishment controls a fifth of the market value of companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and owns thousands of other companies, all of which generate revenue for the armed forces. Additionally, the IRGC controls a significant portion of Iran’s underground economy.”

4) The Times of Israel carries a story about a new shopping mall that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear.

“The parking lot is open, but the escalators aren’t working yet at Atarot Mall, a new, two-floor, NIS 200 million ($54 million) mall built by supermarket king Rami Levy on the seam between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem. […]

Officially, the mall will open for business on January 29, Levy said. For now, about one-third of the stores were open, while others were still stocking inventory. Some 35 percent of the store owners in the mall are Palestinian and some of the branches of chain stores are owned by Palestinian franchisees.

Customers, a mix of Palestinians and Israelis, were drinking coffee and eating pastries at Cafe Neeman, and wandering in and out of the stores that were open. […]

The Cafe Neeman chain opened its 56th outlet in the mall, said Yaniv Neeman, scion of the family, who was working the sandwich counter on Tuesday morning. The manager is Amjad Awadalla, who franchised this branch.

“That’s how we always do things,” said Neeman. “Jews and Arabs always work together at every Cafe Neeman.””

BBC News continues to ignore a Palestinian Authority legal story

Over the past couple of months we have documented several stories linked to the subject of property sales by Palestinians – a topic that the BBC has so far managed to avoid.

Two stories that fall outside BBC framing

BBC again passes up on Palestinian affairs reporting

Since then new developments have emerged in connection with the same topic – one, as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, on December 23rd:

“The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that its security forces have thwarted attempts by Palestinians to sell lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to Jewish buyers, and the PA’s Preventive Security Service said in a rare statement that it has arrested 44 Palestinians suspected of involvement in the alleged real estate transactions. […]

In recent weeks, Palestinian religious authorities have repeatedly warned Palestinians against engaging in such deals and said that anyone who violates the law would be accused of “high treason.” The warning came in the aftermath of a number of cases in which east Jerusalem residents either sold their houses to Jewish organizations or were suspected of acting as middlemen in the real estate transactions. […]

The purported transactions were supposed to take place in the areas of Ramallah, el-Bireh, Hebron, Salfit, Nablus and Kalkilya, the statement said, adding that 44 Palestinian suspects have been arrested.

The suspects have been referred to the PA prosecutor-general so they could face legal measures, the statement said. Three of the suspects, who were not identified, have been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor, it added, while the remaining suspects are currently standing trial.”

On December 31st a development emerged in the case of a US/Israeli citizen who has been in Palestinian Authority custody since October.

“A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah sentenced… [Issam] Akel, a resident of East Jerusalem and in his 50s, to life in prison for attempting to sell land to Israeli Jews in Jerusalem, an official in the PA judiciary’s media office said. […]

Issam Akel, a resident of Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, is a holder of a blue Israeli identification card. The official in the PA judiciary’s media office said the PA arrested him October and has since held him in its custody.”

The fact that BBC audiences have to date seen no coverage of this topic does not come as much of a surprise given that only very occasionally do we see reporting on Palestinian affairs which is not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and BBC reports on internal issues within Palestinian society are few and far between.