BBC Radio 4 fails to give the full picture on new Labour MP

Following the announcement of the result of the Peterborough by-election on June 6th listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment on one aspect of that story on several programmes.

‘Today’, 7/6/19:

During an interview with Labour MP Andy McDonald, presenter John Humphrys asked (from 2:23:00 here):

“Quick word about antisemitism: are you entirely comfortable that your new MP had to apologise for approving a post on social media…”

Listeners were not told what it was about that post that made an apology necessary.

‘Six O’Clock News, 7/6/19:

[08:50 here] Newsreader: “The election of Lisa Forbes in Peterborough has not been universally welcomed inside the Labour party. A number of MPs have expressed misgivings and some in the party have already called for her suspension over allegations of antisemitism, which Miss Forbes strongly denies. Here’s our political correspondent Chris Mason.”

Mason: “….Miss Forbes had liked a Facebook post which said the prime minister had a Zionist slave masters agenda alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terror attack. Labour said she hadn’t read the text accompanying the video. Lisa Forbes said antisemitism was something she condemned completely. Last summer the new MP signed a letter calling on Labour’s National Executive Committee to resist calls to adopt all eleven examples accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct. The letter said this could silence free speech on Israel. Labour later did accept the full definition and say Lisa Forbes now accepts this too. […] Peterborough’s new MP has repeated that she believes antisemitism is abhorrent.”

‘The World Tonight’, 7/6/19:

[18:12 here] James Coomarasamy: “Well Labour’s new MP for Peterborough hasn’t enjoyed much of a honeymoon period. Lisa Forbes has been criticised by some of her new colleagues for liking social media posts with antisemitic content. She had for example given the thumbs up to one Facebook post which said that Theresa May had a – quote – Zionist slave masters agenda, alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terrorist attack. The Jewish Labour Movement has already called for the whip to be removed from her and that explains why Lisa Forbes’ interviews this morning sounded at times more like an apology talk than a victory lap. Here she is speaking on Sky News.”

Listeners heard Forbes claim in reference to that video that she “hadn’t paid much attention to the text above it”.

‘Today’, 8/6/19:

[09:00 here] Martha Kearney: “Labour’s relief at winning the Peterborough by-election may be tempered by the arguments over its new MP Lisa Forbes.”

Kearney then brought in BBC political reporter Peter Saull, saying “and this is all over a Facebook post”.

Saull: “Yeah, that’s right. So Lisa Forbes liked a Facebook post which said that the prime minister had a Zionist slave masters agenda and that line of text was alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terrorist attack and Labour said that she hadn’t actually read that text that was accompanying the video. That’s one thing. The second is that she signed a letter…you remember at the time Labour was going through a conversation about whether it should adopt the full international definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She signed this letter saying that the party shouldn’t adopt all eleven examples of antisemitism because it could silence free speech on Israel.”

So do those homogeneous portrayals of the controversy surrounding the new Labour MP for Peterborough tell the whole story?

The letter urging the party not to adopt all the examples accompanying the IHRA definition of antisemitism was circulated by the anti-Zionist fringe group ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ but BBC audiences were not given that relevant information. As the Jewish Chronicle reported:

“The letter appeared to call for the dismantling of the state of Israel, which is suggested was not “democratic” but an “apartheid state” and suggested instead a one state solution “in the form of a democratic state that grants equal rights to everyone lawfully residing within its borders.”

Ms Forbes backed the claim that: “Claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavour is not the same as denying Jewish people the right to self-determination.

“It is denying such self-determination at the cost of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. It is denying self-determination in the form of an ethno-nationalist state.”

The letter added: “Our Palestinian members must be able to speak freely about the Nakba and about the current system of apartheid and ongoing ethnic cleansing just like our Jewish members must be able to speak freely about the Holocaust.”

It also expressed support for the Boycott Divestment, Sanctions movement, saying: “To endorse the BDS movement or to suggest that the State of Israel in its historic and current form is a racist endeavour are not expressions of antisemitism.””

Obviously the BBC’s domestic audiences were not given the full picture as to why Lisa Forbes’ signing of that letter caused controversy.

As for the social media post that the Labour party claims Forbes did not read, claiming that “Theresa May had a Zionist slave masters agenda” (or, if one arrives at the conclusion that its writer does not know how to use a possessive apostrophe, that Theresa May is controlled by ‘Zionist slave masters’) – here it is:

Forbes also commented on another post by the same Facebook user in which he claimed that the CIA and the Mossad created ISIS but that went unmentioned by the BBC.

Clearly domestic BBC audiences were not given the full range of information which would allow them to understand why some members of Lisa Forbes’ own party “have expressed misgivings” and some “have already called for her suspension over allegations of antisemitism”.

 

 

Advertisements

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

Listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th.

The March 29th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included a pre-emptive report (from 1:14:55 here) by Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which utilised the standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’ to which BBC audiences have been exposed for an entire year.

That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of returnand lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Listeners heard presenter John Humphrys introduce the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Tomorrow marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s fence with Israel. Hamas – the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip – is marking the anniversary calling for a million-person march at the fence.”

Audiences then heard an audio version of Bateman’s context-free report from a clinic in Gaza City which included the following:

Bateman: “22-year-old Iyyad who was shot at Gaza’s perimeter fence last May. He tells me he nearly lost his leg. He’s been coming here to the clinic for months to learn to walk again. Some seven thousand Palestinians have been injured by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman last summer. As tomorrow’s anniversary looms, tensions have been ratcheting up.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify what his interviewee was doing at the time he was shot and while citing numbers of Palestinian casualties, erased both the terror affiliations of most of those killed and the violence in which they were participating from audience view.

That formula was again evident the next day in two news bulletins aired during the March 30th edition of ‘Today’. At 05:48 listeners were told by newsreader Chris Aldridge that:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time while one Israeli soldier has died and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning. The leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a million people to join today’s action.”

In an additional news bulletin at 1:06:35 Aldridge told audiences:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning.”

Audiences were not told that the man “shot dead this morning” was participating in violent rioting at the time and was apparently a member of the so-called ‘night disturbance units’ active along the border fence during darkness. Aldridge’s claim that “Palestinians are gathering” was shown to be premature in a third item aired at 1:57:30 which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

Robinson: “All this week we’ve been hearing about the mounting tension ahead of the first anniversary of protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There’s reports this morning that Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian man at that border. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent. What do we know Tom?”

Bateman: “Well we know that a 20-year-old man has died already this morning. That was announced by the ministry of health here in Gaza. The circumstances are unclear. We don’t know if it was at one of the protest sites. It doesn’t appear to have been actually and it was very early in the morning. But already it adds to the tension and in the next hour or so after noon prayers there will be thousands of Palestinians who’ll make their way in buses and on foot to five protest sites at the perimeter fence with Gaza. On the other side of the fence the Israeli military build-up…ah…has led to there being around 200 snipers positioned all around the fence and three extra brigades of Israeli forces there.”

Robinson: “The Palestinians who go know the risk they take. The Israelis know the condemnation they will get if they open fire. Nothing seems to change.”

Bateman: “Well this will certainly be I think the biggest protest in months because of that first anniversary. The protests have actually…the numbers have really been dwindling over the weeks as they began a year ago, leaving a sort of hard-core of protesters who were going once a week. But I think the sense in Gaza is that people want to go to the fence to demonstrate. Now Hamas have called for these to be peaceful after some intensive negotiations…ah…indirect negotiations between the two sides. That of course remains to be seen. Israel is saying it is prepared for any eventuality with that build-up of troops. It comes at a time of elections in Israel – a very sensitive moment – and I think we’ll see as we enter the afternoon just how…just how that tension continues, just how it mounts and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said they are prepared for any eventualities.”

Listeners were then told that the upcoming Israeli election is a two-horse race.

Robinson: “Tom Bateman our Middle East correspondent thank you very much indeed. Yes, that election between the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the former military chief Benny Gantz is in just a few days.”

As we see listeners to the ‘Today’ programme heard a one-sided and highly sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ which adhered to the editorial policies that have been in evidence throughout the past twelve months. In part two of this post we will see whether Radio 4’s subsequent programmes throughout the day provided audiences with a more comprehensive picture.

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

 

 

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

The BBC’s public purposes – set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement – include the obligation to:

“…provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

In coverage of the May 10th Iranian missile attacks on Israel on both domestic and international radio stations, we learned that the BBC apparently believes that public purpose can be met by providing its audiences with unchallenged Iranian propaganda.

The May 10th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included several items relating to that story. At 0:62 listeners heard a news bulletin with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and at 10:26 Knell gave another rather garbled report. At 01:08:53 co-presenter Nick Robinson introduced an interview with Maj Gen Yaakov Amidror with promotion of false linkage between the missile attacks and the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA announced by the US president a day earlier.

Robinson: “Has it begun? The wider Middle East war which many said was presaged by the decision of Donald Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. A decision celebrated by Israel which has long warned that Iran is terrorising the region. Last night Iranian missiles based in Syria hit Israel for the first time. The residents of one town in the Golan Heights were instructed to go to bomb shelters. In response Israel launched one of its heaviest barrages in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. Syrian state television broadcast footage of air defences and played patriotic songs.”

In fact, some 24,000 residents of ten communities in the Golan Heights – rather than “one” – had to rush for shelters shortly after midnight.

Amidror pointed out to Robinson that there is no link between Iranian aggression against Israel and the US president’s decision, reminding him that an armed drone was sent by Iran into Israeli territory three months before that decision was announced. In response to Robinson’s reference to “Iranian forces that are in Syria to support President Assad”, Amidror clarified that there is no need for long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles or Republican Guards units in order to fulfil that mission.

At 02:36:51 the programme returned to the topic, with co-presenter John Humphrys telling listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Israel has carried out a wave of airstrikes on Syria aimed at what it says were Iranian targets. The Israeli military said it was because Iranian forces inside Syria had been attacking its positions in the Golan Heights. The former head of the Israeli national security council Major general Yaakov Amidror says his country will not let Iran get a foothold in Syria. Well, Professor Mohammad Marandi of the Tehran University, who is close to the Iranian regime, is on the line. […] Your country will not let…the Israelis say your country will not get a foothold in Syria. Is that what you’re after – a foothold in Syria?”

Marandi: “No of course not. The Iranian presence in Syria is due to the fact that since 2011 the Saudis and unfortunately Turkey and others, along with US support, they started supporting extremists in the country, taking advantage of the unrest. And they helped create this civil war. I think if your listeners read the US defence intelligence agency document of 2012 which was partially released – this is the largest military intelligence organisation in the world; it’s in the Pentagon – they pointed out that from the very…almost the very beginning in Syria the extremists had the upper hand among the opposition. And the Iranians since 2015 began to become increasingly involved, only after tens of thousands of foreign fighters – including unfortunately many thousands of European fighters – came into Syria.”

Humphrys: “But whatever the motives for going into Syria in the first place were, we now know – don’t we? – that Syrian [sic] forces have been attacking Israel, attacking positions in the Golan Heights, from within Syria.”

Marandi: “Yes because in…the Israelis have struck Syrian positions over a hundred times over the past few years in support of the extremist groups. We know…you know that ISIS is alongside the Israeli border as we speak. The Israelis never strike ISIS. The Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda in Syria, they are on another part of the Israeli border with Syria and the Israelis admittingly [sic] have helped them.”

Humphrys: “Is this…sorry…I do beg your pardon. I’m going to have to shorten; we’ve very little time. But could this be the opening shots in a sense of a new war between Iran and Israel and perhaps then ultimately including many others – in other words a Middle East conflict?”

Marandi: “Well we have to see because it depends on the Israeli regime. The Israelis have already murdered seven Iranian soldiers who were there fighting Al Qaeda. The Iranians have not struck Israel. So you know it’s just…the Israelis are looking for a provoke…to provoke just like what we saw with regards to the JCPOA and the nuclear deal with the show that Netanyahu put on display. Remember just a few years ago Obama and the former French president Sarkozy, they were having a private conversation which there was a hot mike and they were both saying that Netanyahu is a serial liar and a very unpleasant person…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Marandi: “This is you know…so I don’t think you should really trust the Israeli narrative.”

Humphrys: “Professor Marandi; many thanks for talking to us.”

While obviously one would not expect anything other than such blatant propaganda from a regime apologist such as Mohammad Marandi, notably John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to relieve Radio 4 listeners of the multiple false impressions given by his interviewee including the inaccurate claim that “the Israelis never strike ISIS” and the lie that Israel ‘helps’ the group known as Jabhat al Nusra. Likewise, Humphrys refrained from informing listeners that the seven “Iranian soldiers” Marandi described as having been “murdered” by Israel were actually members of the IRGC located at the T4 airbase from which the armed drone was launched in February.

Apparently though the BBC believes that such blatant but completely unchallenged propaganda meets the corporation’s supposed standards of accuracy and impartiality and that it enhances audience understanding of this story because this was not Marandi’s last appearance on BBC radio on May 10th.  

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

 

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

As was noted here last week, an article published on the BBC News website on January 1st failed to inform BBC audiences that, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Among the charges against Ahed were aggravated assault of a soldier, threatening a soldier, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, disturbing the public peace and stone throwing.

Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

That video can be seen here.

However, an item (from 17:55 here) broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on the same day – January 1st – shows that the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.

After having told BBC audiences that Tamimi is a “star on social media”, seen as “a symbol of resistance”, “a Palestinian hero” and that she is “very brave, it seems”, Knell stated:

Knell: “Now there are 12 charges against Ahed Tamimi. She’s appeared before a military court. These relate to six different incidents. She’s charged with 5 counts of assaulting soldiers, also with throwing rocks, incitement to violence…”

Two days later, on January 3rd, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme also aired an item on the same subject. Presenter Carrie Gracie opened the item (from 02:32:15 here) by telling listeners that:

Gracie: “A 16 year-old Palestinian girl who has a history of protesting against Israel has been charged with assaulting Israeli soldiers near her home in the occupied West Bank and she has appeared in a military court.”

No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.

On January 8th BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired yet another item (from 45:16 here) on the same topic. Presenter John Humphrys introduced it as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers are almost daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank but since last month one case has been the subject of intense public debate. Ahed Tamimi, who is 16, was filmed slapping and kicking two soldiers outside her home. She has now been charged with five counts of assault. Today she’s going to appear at an Israeli military court for a remand hearing. As Yolande Knell reports, many Palestinians see her as a new hero of their nationalist struggle while Israeli politicians accuse her family of staging anti-Israeli propaganda.”

Listeners were not told that the video concerned was filmed and distributed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother. After describing the video, Knell again told listeners that:

Knell: “Last month Ahed was arrested. She’s been charged with assault.”

Listeners then heard from the girl’s lawyer, Gabi Lasky, who ascribed extra significance to the case.

Lasky: “Not only is this a regular criminal case in the occupied territories but it has a lot of weight on it regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Notably, that theme that was repeated by Knell when she later closed the report:

Knell: “Their case will be watched closely – not just for its legal outcome but for all that it’s seen to symbolise.”

After the interview with Lasky, Knell brought in a recording from a television programme in Hebrew.

Knell: “On Israel’s Channel 10 the presenter asks if the soldiers hit by Ahed were cowardly or showed exemplary restraint. A military expert points out that they were in her village to deal with Palestinians throwing stones. An Israeli peace activist explains how Ahed’s cousin had just been badly injured – shot in the face with a rubber bullet.”

So who is that “peace activist” and is he a reliable and objective source that can be unquestioningly amplified by the BBC?

The interviewee concerned is Yonatan (Jonathan) Pollak – a founder of ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’, a BDS campaign supporter and a regular participant in the weekly rioting in Nabi Saleh organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father.

Knell continued:

Knell: “But this isn’t the first time Ahed’s actions have sparked debate. Two years ago she was the blonde curly-haired child filmed biting an Israeli soldier trying to detain her brother. In an earlier video she threatens to punch a soldier.”

Knell of course did not bother to tell listeners that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time. She then went on to say:

Knell: “While Palestinians liken her [Ahed Tamimi] to Joan of Arc, Israel’s media calls her Shirley Temper.”

In fact the bizarre Joan of Arc comparison was first made by Israeli activist Uri Avinery in an article published in Ha’aretz.

Following an interview with Israeli MK Anat Berko, Knell went on to present Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem – inserting the BBC’s standard partisan interpretation of ‘international law’ along the way.

Knell: “Making coffee at his home in Nabi Saleh in the hills north of Ramallah, I meet Ahed’s father – a political activist who’s been jailed by Israel many times. For years he’s organized protests in which villagers try to march towards land taken by an Israeli settlement. Settlements are considered illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

She continued:

Knell: “Usually the marches lead to clashes with Israeli soldiers. But Bassem Tamimi always allowed his daughter to join them and be filmed.”

Tamimi: “I am proud of my daughter. I am happy that she became the spirit and the example of the new generation for resistance.”

Knell: “Those criticising you say that these videos are like set-ups, you know, that they are staged.”

Tamimi: “Francis Bacon say how the other evaluate my method is their problem, it’s not mine. They said it’s a movie or it’s a theatre. How we can bring these soldier to our home to make this play?”

The answer to that question of course is – as Bassem Tamimi well knows – by organising violent rioting to which soldiers will have to respond but Yolande Knell refrained from pursuing that issue.

Knell’s final interviewee was Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch and BBC audiences – who, significantly, have not seen the video in which Ahed Tamimi urged viewers to carry out “stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones” were told that her call is “alleged”.

Knell: “A few hundred Palestinian children are prosecuted in this system each year. Maurice Hirsch used to be the IDF chief prosecutor for the West Bank. He says the more serious charges against Ahed involved her alleged online call for more action to support the Palestinian cause – from protests to what she calls martyrdom operations.” [emphasis added]

Knell did not bother to tell listeners that “martyrdom operations” means suicide bombings even though that information is relevant to audience understanding of Maurice Hirsch’s comments.

Hirsch: “Many minors that come before the courts are suspected of committing predominantly violent crimes similar to that of Ahed. Attacking a soldier is a crime of violence but I think that’s really one of the sidelines of the indictment. One of the main counts of the indictment is really incitement – publicly calling for others to commit other terrorist attacks.”

While once again failing to clarify to listeners that Ahed Tamimi’s mother filmed the video concerned, Knell then told listeners that:

Knell: “The other women seen in this video are both charged with assault and her mother with incitement after it was live-streamed on her Facebook page.”

As we see the BBC’s promotion of this story is on the one hand generous and on the other hand inconsistent. Some reports have included mentions, to one degree or another, of the charge of incitement while others have whitewashed it – and additional relevant information – from the picture. Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.  

Related Articles:

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the December 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an interview with the mayor of Jerusalem concerning a statement – which at the time had yet to be made – by the US president announcing recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Later on in the same programme listeners heard another segment relating to the same topic which began (from 02: 10:16 here) with presenter John Humphrys telling audiences that:

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

Humphrys: “The world has grown used to Donald Trump making provocative comments since he became president of the United States – usually in his endless flow of late-night Tweets. What he’s planning to say today will not be in a spontaneous Tweet but in a scripted speech and it has the potential to change the course of the peace process in the Middle East – many say to bring it crashing down. He will announce that Washington will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

After listeners had heard a report from Jon Sopel, Humphrys introduced (at 02:14:56) his next interviewee. Not for the first time ‘Today’ listeners heard a presenter upgrade the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Humphrys: “Well I’ve been talking to Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to this country. He’s effectively the Palestinian ambassador. What does he think of the speech?”

Hassassian: “If he says what he is intending to say about, you know, Jerusalem being the capital of Israel it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution. I think, you know, such a statement means a breach to the international conventions and to all UN Security Council resolutions concerning East Jerusalem as being, you know, an occupied city. I think it’s going to have big repercussions; not only in Palestine but it will be in the Arab and Islamic world. I think this could be the beginning of another compulsive violence that all parties need to avoid. I think, you know, this could be detrimental to the entire peace process. I think the United States will discredit himself as an honest broker of peace. I think by doing that it will show and portray to the entire world that the US is unequivocally supporting Israel and cannot really broker peace in the Middle East.”

Humphrys: “Presumably your leader Mahmoud Abbas has said all of this to Mr Trump.”

Hassassian: “Yes, he’s said that. He said that the repercussions will be very detrimental to the entire region. That it will create instability and insecurity again. It will put us back into the zero sum conflict. Violence will be inevitable and the end result is total chaos.”

Humphrys: “How did President Trump respond to Mr Abbas when he said that?”

Hassassian: “Basically he did not respond but he was trying to beat around the bush by explaining to him that we will give you this instead and that instead. You know; all gibberish talk that leads to nothing except to the escalation of tension and violence. At the time when the entire Middle East and the Palestinian, Israelis need a certain breakthrough in a re-engagement in negotiations, here he comes, you know, to start a whole new episode of confusion, anarchy, distortion to the concept of a two-state solution. And by, you know, announcing that, he’s declaring war in the Middle East. He’s declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept their holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, let alone that East Jerusalem has always been known as, you know, the future capital of Palestine, let alone that it is under occupation.”

If listeners expected to hear Humphrys question Manuel Hassassian further on the interesting topic of what the Palestinians had been offered “instead”, they would have been disappointed.

Humphrys: “Well that’s very strong language; declaring war in the Middle East. What he says he’s doing is making the case that he’s settling the question of the American embassy and could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.”

Hassassian: “If he seriously wants to bring the parties together he doesn’t start with a total violation in such a decision of moving the embassy. That is a total breach to the international conventions, let alone it is a breach basically to the arrangements and to the…to all the negotiations that we have been engaged with the Israelis about how East Jerusalem could be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem could be the capital of Israel. But by doing that he is preempting the entire process, you know, into a fait accompli and that in itself is going to have really a bad and violent reaction.”

Humphrys: “And you talk about declaring war and a violent reaction. What will actually happen? Because the Palestinians don’t have the wherewithal to [laughs] declare war on the United States of America, let alone in Israel.”

Hassasian: “What I mean by declaring war means that, you know, the Palestinians will go down to the streets and complain. And of course the entire Middle East will be on its feet because such a decision is going to be, you know, detrimental to the entire stability and security in the Middle East. Definitely this reaction is going to be different than any other reaction. Let us not forget what happened in the summer, you know, in Jerusalem when the Israelis tried to close down, I mean, the al Aqsa Mosque to the prayers and, you know, almost an intifada could have broke out. No, if we don’t take this issue seriously, what is left? I mean Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state. If that is gone, what do we mean by a two-state solution when there is no geographic contiguity anymore? This is the last straw that will break the camel’s back. I don’t mean war in terms of conventional war. I mean war in terms of diplomacy. We are basically going to go to the international courts. We will do all our utmost diplomatically and politically to put pressures on the United States to rescind from such a decision because this would definitely kill the entire peace process and will take us back to square one where convulsive violence will be inevitable.”

Humphrys: “Manuel Hassassian – thank you very much for talking to us.”

That interview lasted five and a half minutes and as we see, Humphrys refrained from interrupting his interviewee at all (in contrast to the five interruptions in his earlier interview with Nir Barkat) and asked just four questions.

While Humphrys spent over 30% of the time allotted to the interview with Barkat speaking himself, in this interview he spoke for just 13% of the time, giving Hassassian an uninterrupted platform from which – inter alia – to disseminate a false account of the events in Jerusalem last July that followed the introduction of security measures after the terror attack near Temple Mount.

Equally revealing are the BBC’s subsequent actions concerning these two interviews. While nothing was done at all with the interview with the mayor of Jerusalem, an edited version of the interview with Hassassian was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme “The Newsroom” (from 00:05 here) on the same day (with Hassassian again upgraded to ‘ambassador’).

The BBC also chose to make a video version of part of the interview and that was promoted on the BBC News website under the headline “Jerusalem as capital is ‘declaring war'”. A link to that video, along with quotes from Hassassian, also appeared in a BBC News website article that was published on December 6th under the headline “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace“.

It is once again abundantly clear that even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem, the BBC – including the ‘Today’ programme – had elected to frame the story for its audiences in line with the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

Related Articles:

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

 

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

The December 6th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included several items relating to what was at the time an anticipated announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the transfer of his country’s embassy to that city.

In addition to reports from the BBC’s own Yolande Knell, Barbara Plett-Usher and Jon Sopel, listeners heard two interviews conducted by presenter John Humphrys in which very different styles of interviewing were evident.

The first interview (from 01:34:40 here) was with the mayor of Jerusalem and in his introduction Humphrys erased the religious significance of that city to Jews from the picture presented to listeners.

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

Humphrys: “There is no more sensitive issue in Middle East peace negotiations than the status of Jerusalem. The Israelis claim it as their capital and treat it as such but it’s alone in that. For the Palestinians and every Arab country it is a sacred city. Every foreign country has its embassy not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv. That may be about to change. Today President Trump is going to make a speech which will, it seems, reverse decades of American policy by announcing that the American embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and thus effectively recognise the ancient city as Israel’s capital. I’ve been talking about that to the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat who welcomed what Mr Trump is going to say.”

Barkat: “I applaud the president of the United States, President Trump. Indeed he said in his campaign that he will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy and for us to see him take action on his campaign promise is meaningful and it’s a very important day for Jerusalem today.”

Humphrys: “Well it may be an important day for Jerusalem but for the Middle East as a whole it’s highly provocative, isn’t it?”

Barkat: “I don’t think so. I think we have a brave president that understands the Middle East. He understands that in any peace scenario Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people for the last three thousand years and the Bible says so. We recognise that and for us to see a world leader like the president of the United States come and look forward and understand that, if anything, this will contribute to the peace process, to very…to stability, for the world to understand that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people regardless of any peace process or it’ll help the peace process, I think is meaningful.”

Humphrys: “Well so long as you believe that that’s fine but that is not what the rest of the world believes and your own Brigadier General Michael Herzog who, as you will know, serves in…served in very senior positions in the IDF and he’s been an Israeli peace negotiator – he says he is worried that extremists – Hamas etcetera – will use this as a rallying cry and Mr Trump should think very carefully about the impact his statement will have.”

Barkat: “Well I recognise that there are people that have different thoughts on the issue; that’s very clear. But I want to tell you one more thing: Israel would never exist if we would be afraid of threats made by our neighbours. Now we have to recognise…do the right thing. We’ll align interests with our partners around the world like the United States and others – and there are many, many others – and no deter from doing the right thing because of [the] threats of terror and other organisations. I have to tell you; about two years ago we had a round of violence for no reason. So the point is that you’ve got to make [do] the right thing and defend ourselves if, God forbid, they try to deter the decision – the terrorists – from doing the right thing we will overcome.”

Humphrys [interrupts] “Well there is no doubt…there is no doubt that they will try to deter you [sic] from doing this because for them there is no more sensitive issue and it isn’t just the Palestinians saying this, is it? It’s the Arab league talking about dangerous measures that would have repercussions. Saudi Arabia: ‘detrimental to the peace process’. Jordan: ‘it will provoke Muslims and Christians alike’. Turkey: ‘we may cut off diplomatic relations with Israel’. The consequences will be massive, won’t they?”

Barkat: “I don’t think so but I understand why people…”

Humphrys [interrupts]: “You don’t think so?”

Barkat: “No. I think that we have to do the right thing period. Look, if somebody threatens you and you deter he will continue threatening you and you’ll never get anywhere.”

Humphrys then managed to erase Hamas and additional terror organisations from the story:

Humphrys [interrupts]: “But you’re not being threatened over Jerusalem as we speak, are you? Nobody is trying to throw you out of Jerusalem.”

Barkat: “Well that’s the absurdity. I think what you’re basically saying to me [is] that there are people that are threatening us – extremists, radical Islam and others and maybe other people that have [unintelligible] opinions about Jerusalem are threatening in all ways…in all kinds of ways…”

Humphrys [interrupts] “No. What….”

Barkat: “If you’re asking me if we should deter from doing the right thing, the answer is definitely not.”

Humphrys then presented the Palestinian Authority’s narrative on this issue a fact:

Humphrys [interrupts]: “They want…what…yeah, but what they want is…is…is a two-state peace process and this will destroy that process – completely.”

Barkat: “I don’t think so. I think recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not…is not saying anything. But as a matter of fact, the opposite. In any scenario Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people period. Now if you don’t recognise that and you don’t want to have peace it will be very unfortunate. But that is something that is not negotiable from the Israeli side and, you know, hopefully people will understand and accept…and accept that historic fact and thank God if everything goes right it’s the reality and the future.”

Humphrys: “Nir Barkat – many thanks for talking to us.”

Leaving out the introduction, this interview lasted just over four minutes, during which Humphrys interrupted his interviewee on five occasions and spent well over a quarter of the time (1 minute and 14 seconds) speaking himself – including lengthy statements .

Later on in the same programme Humphrys conducted a longer interview with a Palestinian official and in part two of this post we will see how the interviewing technique used differed and what the BBC chose to do with both those interviews.

 

 

 

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 

 

Trump visit coverage on BBC Radio 4 promotes unchallenged inaccuracies

The BBC’s coverage of the US president’s visit to Israel included two items broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ on the morning of May 22nd.

The first item (from 2:05:36 here) was part of the 8 a.m. news bulletin and listeners were told that the proposal to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem is a “break with decades of US policy” while the existence of the 1995 US Embassy Relocation Act was not mentioned.

Newsreader: “President Trump will arrive in Israel this morning on the second leg of his first overseas tour. He’s due to meet both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and visit a number of holy sites. It’s unclear if Mr Trump will repeat a previous aim to break with decades of US policy and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Amplifying the Palestinian narrative by referring simplistically to “occupied territory” rather than informing listeners that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria are all located in Area C and that the final status of that area is – according to agreements already signed between Israel and the Palestinians – to be determined in negotiations, Bowen told listeners:

Bowen: “During the US election candidate Trump expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, favouring expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied territory and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence. But in office, President Trump has been more nuanced so there’s been some nervous speculation on the Israeli right that he might demand concessions from their side. During the visit he’ll meet both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reports in the Israeli press quoting White House sources say that President Trump will ask them to undertake confidence building measures to try to improve the climate enough eventually to resume direct talks.”

The second item in the same programme (from 2:50:24 here) was introduced by presenter John Humphrys – using a highly questionable claim:

Humphrys: “Donald Trump says he can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s the ultimate deal, he says, and today he goes to Israel to prove it – or not. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Tom Bateman’s report commences in Eilat with the space-filling and rather pointless story of a proposed visit by Trump to that town in 1989 which did not materialise. Echoing his ME editor’s previous statements, Bateman went on to tell listeners that:

“Trump’s campaign energised many on the right of Israeli politics who felt shunned – betrayed even – by President Obama. Candidate Trump could close the gap, they felt, by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, by giving a green light to settlement building in the West Bank.”

Having interviewed an Israeli who ran the Trump election campaign aimed at Israeli-American voters and after visiting a church in Bethlehem and speaking with two ‘man on the street’ Palestinian interviewees, Bateman went on introduce his final contributor.

Bateman: “Majed Bamya is a Palestinian diplomat acquainted with the view from Washington. It was noticeable of course at President Trump’s press conference with President Abbas that Mr Trump never used the expression ‘two-state solution’; it was notably absent. Does that concern you?”

Majed Bamya (who, despite the claim in his Twitter handle to be ‘from Yaffa’ was actually born in the UAE) was then given an unhindered platform from which to mislead BBC Radio 4 listeners.

Bamya: “We are hoping that President Trump will be able to shape his message and his positions – including during his upcoming visit – on things as important as the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, which is enshrined in international law, on the two-state solution – and the two-state solution means ’67 borders – on settlements. We believe that’s an important issue as well and we hope that his feeling of the ground will reveal to him that we are facing an occupation that is annexing land instead of withdrawing from it, which is the basis of peace.” [emphasis in bold added]

Rather than explaining to listeners that (as the BBC well knows) there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, that the two-state solution does not necessarily mean the establishment of a Palestinian state according to 1949 Armistice lines and that land is not being ‘annexed’, Bateman instead encouraged listeners to believe that it is all about “narrative”:

“Donald Trump will not only have to deal with the competing narratives in this conflict but attempt to restart talks with the two sides deeply polarised”

While narratives undoubtedly exist, so do facts. It is the BBC’s job to help it audiences distinguish between narratives and facts –as defined in its public purposes.

“The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

The failure to challenge inaccurate claims promoted as part of politically motivated messaging actively hinders that public purpose.

Related Articles:

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution