Weekend long read

1) NGO Monitor reports on ‘EU Funding to NGOs Active in Anti-Israel BDS Campaigns‘.

“The European Union (EU) is the single largest donor to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, accounting for NIS 28.1 million in 2012-2014 to politicized Israeli NGOs alone.

Indeed, NGO funding is a central component of EU foreign policy, claiming to promote peace, cooperation, and human rights. In contrast to the stated objectives, the EU funds a number of highly biased and politicized NGOs that exploit the rhetoric of human rights to promote anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and lawfare campaigns, inflammatory rhetoric, and activities that oppose a two-state framework.”

2) During the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas the BBC World Service broadcast a particularly egregious interview with an ISM activist called Joe Catron who also writes for an outfit called Mint Press News. As our colleagues at CAMERA recently noted, a document that purports to be a guide to help readers discern reliable and unreliable news sites and is promoted on the Harvard University Library website includes incorrect classification of Mint Press News.

“The lengthy document lists various websites, either news sites or sites designed to look like news sites, and rates each site using a combination of labels including (among others):

Fake News (tag fake): Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports. … 

Extreme Bias (tag bias): Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts. …

Proceed With Caution (tag unreliable): Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification or to be read in conjunction with other sources.

Political (tag political): Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.  

Credible (tag reliable): Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information). … 

Two listings on the site stand out as mislabeled. Dr. Zimdars lists the Alternet site as “political” but “credible,” and MintPress as simply “political.” Both of these sites are extremely biased, and have published false assertions concerning Israel and the Middle East. MintPress, moreover, appears to have affiliations with hate sites.”

Read the whole report here

3) Vimeo has an interesting video of a discussion between Dave Rich and Nick Cohen at Jewish Book Week.

“In his thought-provoking new work, The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism, Dave Rich offers a judicious analysis of the Left’s increasingly controversial ‘Jewish problem’. He examines the widening gulf between British Jews and the anti-Israel left and, based on fresh academic research, demonstrates that while the election of Jeremy Corbyn may have thrown a harsher spotlight on the crisis, it is by no means a recent phenomenon. In conversation with journalist Nick Cohen.”

4) Ahead of Yom HaShoah Rabbi Sacks has produced a new video titled ‘The Mutation of Antisemitism’.

The BBC Gaza interviewee and the dead terrorist conspiracy theories

Towards the end of February a fugitive Palestinian terrorist who had been hiding in the Palestinian Authority mission in Sofia, Bulgaria, died.

“Bulgarian radio reported that Omar Nayef Zayed, 51, had fallen from the fourth floor of the embassy. He died later in the hospital.

A senior Palestinian Authority official said he “was discovered with serious torso injuries and died before emergency services arrived,” official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported. PA officials said they were investigating the circumstances of his death.” […]

In 1986 Zayed was convicted in the murder of yeshiva student Eliyahu Amedi — whom he stabbed to death in Jerusalem’s Old City — along with two other Palestinian assailants. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Four years after beginning his sentence, Zayed began a hunger strike and was moved to a Bethlehem hospital facility, from which he managed to escape. He fled to Bulgaria in 1994 and married a local woman with whom he had three children.

In December of 2015, Israel submitted a request to Bulgarian authorities to extradite him. Late last year Bulgarian authorities agreed to examine the Israeli request but a December 14 hearing was postponed because Zayed was not at his address, the Bulgarian interior ministry said.

He had fled to the Palestinian Embassy to seek sanctuary there, and had been staying there ever since.”

Predictably, conspiracy theories soon sprang up.

“Zayed, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), had been living in Bulgaria for the past 20 years. Even though the body bore no bullet wounds, the PFLP claimed he had been shot in the head.

Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed al-Madbuh told reporters Friday that the death was murder and said it was “a result of the continuing persecution by Israel.” He added: “Omar is one of the Palestinian fighters who led the struggle against the occupation and fulfilled his duty to his land and his people.””

Almost a month later, the Bulgarian Prosecutor dismissed the claim of murder.

“Bulgarian Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov on Monday dismissed suggestions that Omar Zayed, a Palestinian man whose dead body was found in front of the Palestinian Embassy in Sofia, might have been murdered.

He told reporters that the post-mortem examination of Zayed’s body had shown no signs of violence.

Instead, the man fell off a balcony on the third floor of the Embassy and it was that incident that cause his death, Tsatsarov explained.”

Prior to that announcement from the Bulgarian Prosecutor, a series of events were (and still are being) organized by a plethora of anti-Israel activists worldwide who had no need of an official investigation in order to determine what had happened to Omar Zayed – and who was to blame.

For example, an Iran linked website (which has recently been in the news in the UK for other reasons) promoted the image below on its Twitter feed and held some sparsely attended events in London.

In minds tweet

The day after Zayad’s death the US-based ‘Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’ issued an appeal to members of the European Parliament in which it was claimed that Israel had murdered him and the day before that Samidoun’s New York based ‘organiser‘ Joe Catron had put out a statement in which – just hours after the event – he claimed that Zayad had been ‘assassinated’ by Israel.Tweet Catron

It was of course not in the least bit surprising to see ISM member and professional anti-Israel activist Joe Catron propelling the bandwagon of unproven defamatory smears against Israel.

It is however worth remembering that on two occasions during the summer of 2014, the BBC promoted content based on claims made by Catron without making any effort to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate that the agenda and ‘standpoint’ of interviewees should be made clear to audiences.Guerin ISM report

On July 31st 2014 the BBC World Service aired an interview with Catron in which he told BBC audiences that Hamas was not using Gaza hospitals for military purposes.

On August 13th 2014 BBC News aired a report by Orla Guerin which showcased an unsubstantiated video produced and promoted by Catron under the heading “Allegations of war crimes”.

As the story above shows, it is from time to time worth reminding ourselves of the types of sources the BBC considers legitimate and the agendas which are sometimes concealed behind ‘news gathering’.

 

Orla Guerin’s parting shot breaches BBC editorial guidelines

“We apologize for this and would like to assure you that the matter has been raised with the relevant editorial staff at the BBC News Channel, who have been reminded of the need to clearly describe the ideology of such organizations in our coverage.”

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem, the above words appeared in an email from the BBC in response to a PSC complaint to the effect that the organization to which an interviewee on BBC News belongs was not adequately described to viewers as stipulated in the BBC’s editorial guidelines and reaffirmed by the BBC ECU in October 2013. However, the BBC’s commitment to the need to “clearly describe the ideology” of organisations to which interviewees are linked obviously lacks consistency – as yet another recent example shows.

On August 13th Orla Guerin filed her parting shot just prior to her departure from the Gaza Strip. That filmed report for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes” and was promoted on Twitter by its producer Nicola Careem.

The bulk of Guerin’s report is based on a video put out by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) last month which has of course not been authenticated by the BBC. Guerin opens with a euphemistic description of the ISM as “international activists” which of course in no way informs viewers of that organisation’s ideology: a particularly relevant topic seeing as Guerin’s claims are based on the ISM’s claims.

“This is one of many cases Palestinians want the UN to investigate. International activists searching for the dead and wounded during a brief ceasefire. In the green T-shirt a 22 year-old local man Salem Shemali – looking for relatives. A shot rings out – apparently from an Israeli sniper. Salem was hit but was still calling out, still alive. After two more shots he was dead.”

Guerin of course has no proof (for example, ballistic evidence) that whoever shot Shemali was “an Israeli sniper”, but she also has no qualms about amplifying the ISM’s allegations. The video was filmed in Shuja’iya on July 20th; a neighbourhood which, as readers no doubt recall, civilians had been advised to evacuate several days previously and which was the location of the entrances to cross-border tunnels and considerable Hamas infrastructure.  After hours of fierce fighting there, Hamas requested a short ceasefire via the Red Cross and medical teams and journalists – including the BBCmoved in.Guerin ISM report

Guerin goes on to interview Rina Andolini with the caption on screen reading “International Solidarity Movement”. Again, no effort is made to inform viewers what that organization is or of its close ties to Hamas.

Guerin: “British activist Rina Andolini is the woman in the video – an eye-witness to the killing.”

Andolini: “I mean I’ve never seen anyone pretty much just shot dead in front of me. Erm…and no reason, you know, no reason whatsoever. A young lad, just wanting to look for his family, clearly distressed, as anyone would be in that situation, you know. You go to find your family and you end up dead. Where’s the justice?”

Guerin continues with more amplification of unverified, context-free claims.

“In hospital we found Salem’s uncle Nasser who was injured a week later. He told us Israeli soldiers forced their way into his home and an officer shot him at close range. ‘His face was painted’ he says, ‘but I’d know him anywhere from his eyes’.”

Guerin then goes on to join the ranks of her Middle East Editor in the department of denial of Hamas’ use of human shields.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

What Guerin’s obviously inadequate understanding of the term human shields does include is not made apparent to viewers, but she then goes on to describe just such a case – although without expanding on the topic of how 20,000 Hamas terrorists firing well over 3,000 missiles managed to “avoid the cameras” for over a month.

“During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time. But you can see that just across the road there are people living in these apartments. These images were filmed by Indian TV just up the road. They appear to show militants firing rockets near their hotel.”

The footage which Guerin tells BBC audiences ‘appears’ to show missile fire from a residential area can be seen here. She continues:

“Hamas is accused of breaking international law by firing its rockets indiscriminately into Israel. Hamas says it’s fighting Israel’s occupation.”

Guerin makes no effort to inform viewers that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip nine years ago or that what Hamas actually says it is fighting is Israel’s existence. She closes:

“Back in the rubble Salem’s mother is calling on Hamas to avenge her son who was about to graduate from college. The Israeli army told us it cannot verify any of the circumstances in the video but is reviewing the case. It says it does not target civilians in any circumstances.”

But by that time of course, Guerin’s amplification of this ISM story has left its impression on BBC viewers who, in contradiction of BBC editorial guidelines, are still none the wiser with regard to the ideologies of the organisation which made, broke and promoted the video. 

They have no idea, for example, that one of the people involved in producing and publicising the video upon which her report is based is Joe Catron of the ISM who was given equally opaque promotion on the BBC World Service on July 31st when he was interviewed about his role as a human shield at Gaza hospitals. They have no idea that one of Catron’s fellow human shields at Wafa hospital was the 32 year-old optical dispenser from the West Midlands Rina Andolini and that both Catron and Andolini have peviously lied to the media about Hamas’ use of that hospital. Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global (featured by the BBC in the past in connection to convoys to Syria) which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.

And of course most importantly, as a result of all Guerin’s gross omissions viewers are unable to grasp that what she is actually doing in this report is promoting and amplifying the agenda of an organization which since the early days of the second Intifada has been providing financial, logistic and PR support to terrorist organisations which attack Israeli civilians. That information is obviously critical to viewers if they are to be able to put Guerin’s none too veiled accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’ into objective perspective.

This report’s serious omissions, however, would suggest that neither Guerin nor her producer were keen to allow BBC audiences the privilege of making up their own minds.