The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part two

In part one of this post we saw examples of the BBC’s framing of Palestinian violence as being caused by the US president’s recent announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those engaging in that violence – in two BBC radio programmes. Both those programmes however also promoted some additional and no less interesting linkage.

Listeners to the 8 a.m. news bulletin in the December 9th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme also heard (from 01:05:16 here) the newsreader say that:

“President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem has cast a long shadow over the annual Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain. The defence secretary Gavin Williamson is there as part of the British delegation. From Bahrain: our security correspondent Frank Gardner.”

Gardner: “Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, was due to deliver the keynote speech. Instead she stayed in the US and accused the UN of having an anti-Israel bias. Here in the Gulf there is widespread concern that the US president’s announcement will embolden both Iran and the jihadists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al Faisal, who ran his country’s intelligence service for 24 years, told the conference the US announcement is oxygen and nutrition to radicals. ‘They will be active again’ he warned ‘and will be difficult to handle’.”

The December 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’ also promoted similar messaging. In her introduction (from 00:07 here) presenter Jackie Leonard told listeners that:

“There’s new concern in the Gulf that Mr Trump’s announcement will embolden radical groups.”

Later on she asked Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher about that topic.

Leonard: “Now there is a large security conference going on in Bahrain at the moment and President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been a topic of discussion. What has been said?”

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Usher: “Well essentially we’ve been hearing from representatives from Saudi Arabia and from the UAE that this is deeply unhelpful in the context not just of the status of Jerusalem – of its position between the Palestinians and the Israelis – but also in terms of fuelling extremism, fundamentalism: all the forces that Mr Trump and the US has essentially said they’ve been focusing on recently. The warnings have been coming from foreign ministers, from security officials, that this is going to give a new boost to the extremists in the Arab world who will see it as an insult and will use that to try and rebuild support, much of which has been leaking recently because of the way that IS – the Islamic State group – has been pushed back.”

After referring to the statement from the Iraqi prime minister pronouncing that “they have entirely defeated ISIS”, Usher went on to say:

Usher: “So in that context, these Arab officials are saying this is not helpful. We’ve just about pushed them onto the ropes – this is giving them a lifeline to come back fighting and inspiring new people to join.”

The BBC News website published an article by Frank Gardner promoting the same theme on December 8th. Titled “Trump Jerusalem shift puts counter-terror efforts at risk“, the article tells BBC audiences that:

“The recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has triggered more than just criticism from America’s allies.

Here in Bahrain, at the annual Manama Dialogue security conference, there is an almost universal concern that the announcement will be a gift to the region’s twin adversaries – Iran and the jihadists of al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS).

“The president has lit a fire and left his Arab allies to deal with the blaze,” said Elisabeth Marteu, Consultant Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

A former UK Special Forces officer, who asked not to be quoted, compared the announcement to “throwing a hand grenade into a room with the pin removed”.”

Readers also find the following:

“The first is the risk that people who might not be well disposed towards the West but were not planning to translate this into violent action may now think again.

Hediya Fathalla, an expert on Gulf security and a former Bahrain government official, told the BBC: “There are dormant jihadist mentalities who are sitting there thinking ‘I’m not operational but I have jihadist feelings’ so will this push them over the fence?””

So there we have it: in addition to the BBC’s already much promoted narrative according to which the US administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the cause of violence on the part of people who have engaged in exactly the same sort of violence for decades, will plunge a notoriously unstable part of the world into ‘instability’ and will be the “kiss of death” to a peace process that has been on life-support for 24 years, the BBC would now have its audiences believe that Trump’s announcement is going to kick-start ISIS and other jihadist groups.

While there is no doubt that the US announcement will have caused serious annoyance and ‘insult’ to a great number of people, there is of course a vast difference between being angered and taking violent action. The BBC, however, apparently does not believe that those who throw rocks at children in cars, stab random people in the street, launch missiles at civilian communities or sign up to a murderous jihadist terror organisation have any agency whatsoever or bear any responsibility for their choices.

Rather, the BBC’s soft bigotry of low expectations causes it to promote the notion that an announcement from Donald Trump triggers inevitable and irresistible reactions in followers of a particular religion – people the corporation apparently would have its audiences believe are not capable of making choices of their own.

Related Articles:

The BBC, violence and promotion of linkage – part one

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

 

 

Cherry picking terror and ‘explaining’ radicalisation at the BBC

h/t RS

On August 30th the BBC News website published an updated version of a commissioned backgrounder which first appeared in June of this year. Titled “Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?“, the backgrounder is based on a study analysing 63 terror attacks in the 28 EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and North America over the past three years.

“A series of attacks in Europe over the summer months has raised the number of people killed in the West by jihadists during the past three years to more than 420, writes Dr Lorenzo Vidino.

The deaths of 16 people in Barcelona and Cambrils earlier this month highlighted the continued threat posed by Islamist militants.”

Along with many other countries, Israel does not fall into the geographic area covered by the study concerned and readers are told that:

“Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number have taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called Islamic State, in June 2014.”

The first link in that paragraph leads to a feature published on the BBC News website in December 2014 under the title “Jihadism: Tracking a month of deadly attacks”. Israel was not included in that study either for reasons discussed here at the time.

The BBC’s narrow focus on what it terms ‘jihadist attacks’, together with its long-standing refusal to classify attacks against Israelis as terrorism, means that while audiences are provided with a backgrounder concerning 63 terror attacks that resulted in 424 deaths in geographical areas with a combined population of some 883 million, a country with less than 1% of that population that saw over 70 people killed in acts of terror during the same time period (September 2014 to August 2017) remains off the radar.

At the foot of this backgrounder readers are provided with a link to the study upon which it is based. That paper includes analysis (from page 78) that does not appear in the backgrounder but is relevant in light of the BBC’s standard portrayal of the topic of radicalisation.

“…it is not uncommon for many voices within the media, the policymaking community and the general public to make sweeping statements about what causes radicalization, often attributing the phenomenon to one causal factor. Arguably the most common factors utilized in these mono-causal approaches is integration – or, more specifically, the lack thereof – and socio-economic deprivation. While variations of this argument abound, at its core the theory argues that radicalization is simply the byproduct of the marginalization that plagues large cross-sections of Muslim communities, particularly in Europe. The theory argues that a lack of access to opportunities education, and jobs, alongside a general level of disenfranchisement, that drive young Muslims to lash out at the societies in which they were born and embrace an ideology that enables them to avenge their frustrations and offers new meaning to their lives.

This theory applies the broader axiom that extremism and terrorism are byproducts of poverty and exclusion to the specific case of Western Muslims. The issue has been debated for decades and has polarized both the academic and policymaking communities. While it is not this report’s aim to enter this debate, it can be safely said that a large body of evidence has refuted the existence of a clear and linear link between poverty and terrorism. Rather, many studies analyzing radicalization dynamics throughout the world have shown that contrary to commonly made assumptions, higher degrees of sympathy for extremist ideas and involvement in terrorist groups are found in individuals with higher degrees of education or economic success.” [emphasis added]

Following last month’s attacks in Spain, the half-hourly news bulletin ‘BBC Minute’ told audiences around the world that:

“The factors pushing people towards groups advocating violence are familiar. Unemployment, a feeling of exclusion from Spanish society, a certain degree of racial prejudice. There is a class that feels it’s excluded from normal society.”

Similar messaging was seen at the time of the 2015 attacks in Paris when the BBC heavily promoted the message that the terror attacks were attributable to radicalisation prompted by socio-economic factors and alienation.

On the BBC Teach website, a video titled “E is for Extremism” (intended for pupils aged 11 to 14) answers the question “what causes extremism?” as follows:

“…when someone becomes an extremist later in life, it’s called radicalisation. Why does this happen? Well, life can be hard. Complicated problems to do with politics, economics, culture, jobs, environment, jobs, government, can overwhelm us. When life feels unfair extremists attract other angry people by giving them someone to blame.”

Obviously the BBC’s presentation of the issue of radicalisation is rooted in a chosen political narrative rather than being based on the evidence found in studies such as those cited in Dr Vidino’s report and elsewhere. 

 

Weekend long read

1) It is not rare for BBC audiences to be told that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the central issue behind jihadist violence in the Middle East and beyond. At the JCPA, Dr Dore Gold examines that claim.

“There is one area in which many European diplomats connect the terror against Israel and the activities of the jihadist movements like ISIS. For decades it has been broadly assumed that if Israel would only solve the Palestinian problem, then one of the grievances driving the jihadi movements would be removed and the West would be more secure. This thesis has been proven to be false time and time again.

Looking back at the 1990s, the first major breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians was reached with the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Accords. In the years that followed, a series of implementation agreements were signed like the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the 1995 Interim Agreement, the 1997 Hebron Agreement, and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum.

But looking in the same parallel period, there was no correlation between Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and the reduction of the hostility from the jihadist threat. For in those very years, al-Qaeda’s threats on the West seemed to only worsen: in 1993, the first World Trade Center attack took place; in 1995 was the first al-Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia; followed in 1998 with the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in 2000, the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen; and finally in 2001, the United States was struck in the 9/11 attacks.”

2) At the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt provides a view of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ post JCPOA involvement in the country’s economy.

“The Revolutionary Guards’ expanded involvement in infrastructure and development projects throughout Iran is highly evident. However, the lifting of the economic sanctions following the implementation of the JCPOA provides an opportunity to reduce Revolutionary Guards involvement in the economy by means of encouraging foreign companies to invest in Iran once again. Indeed, the corps is well aware of the challenges it faces following the nuclear agreement that endanger the organization’s economic interests. However, it feels the need to control the state economy not only to finance its own activities in Iran and beyond, but also to solidify its political status, and hence the group’s increased efforts to entrench its involvement in development and infrastructure projects.”

3) In late February and early March we noted that the BBC had not covered two stories relating to the suspensions of UNRWA employees following allegations of their election to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip. The ITIC has now produced a report concerning Hamas opposition to proposed changes to the curriculum in UNRWA-run elementary schools.

“Hamas recently attacked UNRWA for its intention to introduce changes in the curriculum of the lower grades of elementary schools in the Gaza Strip operated by the agency. Hamas claimed the proposed changes served Israel and were intended to have a negative effect on the national identity of young Palestinians. In several refugee camps, “popular” protests were held against UNRWA. One was also held near UNRWA headquarters in the Gaza Strip during events marking Land Day (March 30, 2017).

During the protest near UNRWA headquarters calls were heard to reinstate Dr. Suhail al-Hindi, suspended by UNRWA after he was elected to Hamas’ new political bureau in the Gaza Strip. Sabri Sidam, Palestinian minister of education, and the Palestinian ministry of education in Ramallah stated their objection to any change UNRWA might make in its curriculum.”

4) Writing at the New York Times, Benjamin Pogrund explains why the ‘apartheid’ smear so frequently amplified in BBC content is invalid.

“The idea that Israel is an apartheid state is a staple of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which has made the South African comparison practically the lingua franca of anti-Israel activism. It’s a grave charge: If the accusation is valid, Israel deserves the censure, boycotts and isolation that the B.D.S. movement demands. But announcing it loudly and ceaselessly, as the movement does, doesn’t make it true.

Here’s why the apartheid comparison does not stack up.

Apartheid in South Africa maintained privilege for the white minority and doomed people of color to subservience; it determined every aspect of life — the school you attended, the work you did, where you lived, which hospital and ambulance you used, whom you could marry, right down to which park bench you could sit on without facing arrest.

I know this because I lived it.”

The BBC, jihadists and Islamists

Back in December 2014 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “What is jihadism?” which included the following section:

islamists-vs-jihadists-backgrounder

In other words, audiences can apparently conclude that when the BBC uses the term ‘jihadist’ it is telling them that the group described as such uses violence and that when the term ‘Islamist’ is employed, they can understand that those described in that way are non-violent.

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how an article published on January 26th under the headline “Syria war: Rebels unite after attack by Idlib jihadists” describes differing factions in Syria. [all emphasis added]ahrar-al-sham-art

“Insurgent factions in Syria have joined together to fight off an assault by a powerful jihadist group which launched an attack on rebels this week.

Several militias formed an alliance with key Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham amid some of the worst inter-factional clashes in recent times.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has accused the rebels of conspiring against it at peace talks in Kazakhstan this week. […]

JFS has been involved in clashes with rebels in Idlib and neighbouring west Aleppo since Tuesday.

Ahrar al-Sham, which has rejected calls by outside powers to dissociate itself from JFS, blamed the jihadists for starting the fighting. […]

On Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham said JFS had rejected its attempts to mediate. The Islamists warned JFS that any attack on its members would be considered a “declaration of war”, according to Reuters news agency.”

The Reuters article also provides more detail:

“Rebel factions Alwiyat Suqour al-Sham, Fastaqim, Jaish al-Islam’s Idlib branch, Jaish al-Mujahideen and al-Jabha al-Shamiya’s west Aleppo branch said in a statement they had joined Ahrar al-Sham.

The Ahrar al-Sham statement also mentioned a sixth group, the Sham Revolutionary Brigades, and said “other brigades” had joined.”

In other words, based on the information previously provided in the BBC’s backgrounder, audiences are encouraged to believe that while Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nusra) is a jihadist group that uses violence, Ahrar al-Sham is an ‘Islamist’ group which – by the BBC’s definition – does not. That is clearly not the case at all and obviously the terminology used by the BBC in this report is not sufficiently accurate.

Meanwhile, since that January 26th BBC report was published, Reuters and other outlets have reported the formation of another ‘coalition’ in Syria.

“An online statement issued by the Islamist factions announced the formation of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Committee).

It said the alliance was formed to mend splits among insurgent groups and strengthen opposition to the Damascus government.

The signatories were Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the Nour al-Din al-Zinki group, Liwa al-Haqq, Jaish al-Sunna and Jabhat Ansar al-Din.”

The FDD reports that the leader of that new coalition – which the BBC would presumably have described as ‘jihadist’ had it reported on the topic – was previously the head of the group it portrays as ‘Islamist’.

“In a statement released online, the joint venture partners say they have merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, or the “Assembly for Liberation of the Levant.” It is led by a jihadi known as Abu Jaber (also known as Hashem al Sheikh), the former head of Ahrar al Sham, which continues to operate under its own name in Syria. […]

Some reports have identified Abu Jaber as a former member of al Qaeda in Iraq. […]

The establishment of Tahrir al Sham comes after weeks of reported clashes and fierce disagreements between different jihadi factions and other insurgents in northern Syria. It is difficult to discern how the situation unfolded, but JFS and Ahrar al Sham have reportedly disagreed over the direction of the insurgency, leading to some clashes. The two groups have long fought side-by-side against the Assad regime and others. Indeed, Ahrar al Sham has its own links to al Qaeda and openly models itself after the Taliban.”

Clearly audience understanding of this complex topic is not enhanced by the BBC’s use of inaccurate and confusing labels.

Related Articles:

Is the BBC’s report of Jabhat al-Nusra ‘split’ from al Qaeda too simplistic?