BBC World Affairs editor misleads on women’s rights in Iran

This week Freedom House published its ‘Freedom in the World’ map for 2019. Once again the vast majority of the Middle East is ranked ‘not free’ with the only country that is ranked ‘free’ being Israel.

The full reports on individual countries are not yet available but here are some excerpts from the Freedom House 2018 report on Iran – which last year too was ranked ‘not free’.

“Women remain significantly underrepresented in politics and government. In 2017, Rouhani appointed two women among his several vice presidents but failed to name any women as cabinet ministers. No women candidates were allowed to run for president.”

“Women do not receive equal treatment under the law and face widespread discrimination in practice. For example, a woman’s testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man’s, and the monetary compensation awarded to a female victim’s family upon her death is half that owed to the family of a male victim.”

“The penal code criminalizes all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage, and Iran is among the few countries where individuals can be put to death for consensual same-sex conduct. Members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community face harassment and discrimination, though the problem is underreported due to the criminalized and hidden nature of these groups in Iran.”

“Freedom of movement is restricted, particularly for women and perceived opponents of the regime. Women are banned from certain public places, such as sports stadiums, and can obtain a passport to travel abroad only with the permission of their fathers or husbands.”

“Women are denied equal rights in inheritance matters.”

“Women are subject to obligatory rules on dress and personal appearance, and those who are deemed to have inadequately covered their hair and body face state harassment, fines, and arrest. Men are subject to less strict controls on personal appearance. Although Tehran’s police chief announced in December 2017 that city authorities would no longer make arrests for breaching rules on personal appearance, instead mandating education sessions by police officials, the change apparently applied only to the capital, and repeat offenders could reportedly still face detention.”

“Women do not enjoy equal rights in divorce and child custody disputes.”

“The government provides no protection to women and children forced into sex trafficking…”

In contrast, here is an excerpt from an article by the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson which appeared in the ‘features’ section of BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st under the title “The plane journey that set Iran’s revolution in motion”.

“Today, Iran is a lot more easy-going than most outsiders imagine.

The rules about women’s dress are sometimes enforced harshly, but the Islamic Republic has never clamped down on women’s rights in the way you see routinely in Saudi Arabia.

Iranian women run businesses, own property, drive cars and play an important part in politics.

The present government is probably more liberal than any other since the revolution.” [emphasis added]

The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ which ranks countries in terms of women’s economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. The 2018 report put Iran in slot 142 out of 149, with Saudi Arabia one place higher. Despite Simpson’s claim that “Iranian women…play an important part in politics”, the WEF’s sub-index on political empowerment ranks Iran 141 out of 149. Saudi Arabia is ranked 127th.

This is by no means the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC has whitewashed the specific issue of women’s rights in Iran as well as the general picture of human rights in that country. But this is not some junior reporter dashing off a report: this is the BBC’s highly paid world affairs editor – no less – writing a feature, with time to check facts in order to avoid misleading audiences.

Yet again we see just how seriously the BBC takes its constitutional 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”.

Related Articles:

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

 

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More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

h/t DG

In recent weeks BBC audiences – and in particular listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – have heard repeated misrepresentation of the chronic problems with utilities and services facing the population of the Gaza Strip.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

BBC audiences have repeatedly been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis have been downplayed or airbrushed from the story. The latest chapter in that serial misrepresentation came on January 25th when listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an item introduced by presenter Nick Robinson at 47:13 minutes into the broadcast.

Robinson: “If you work on this programme you often hear the complaint that we and the news are so dominated by Brexit and Trump that the news agenda from abroad gets crowded out. […] Here’s our world affairs editor then, John Simpson, with an alternative news bulletin.”

That “alternative news bulletin” was also promoted separately as a podcast in which at 1:46 listeners heard the following: [emphasis added]

Simpson: “A brand new Israeli politician, Benny Gantz – a former military chief of staff who’s emerging as a major threat to the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has produced a number of campaign videos praising Israel’s war against Palestinian militants. One shows aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins, saying that six thousand targets were destroyed. Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age, says the commentary approvingly.”

Simpson refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. The video that Simpson describes as showing “aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins” does not in fact show “Gaza” as a whole but one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.  

Simpson continued:

Simpson: “That may be right in one particular aspect. An investigative report just out says that after more that 25,000 people in Gaza were injured by Israeli forces last year, doctors have been battling a superbug epidemic in Gaza which is disturbingly resistant to antibiotics.”

The ‘investigative report’ to which John Simpson refers was published on December 31st and – while devoid of any empirical evidence – its portrayal of the background to the state of the healthcare system presents an inaccurate picture.

“Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been crippled by years of blockade and antibiotics are in short supply. Even though doctors know the protocols to prevent the rise of drug resistant bacteria, they do not have supplies to follow them.” [emphasis added]

As our colleagues at UK Media Watch pointed out when that report first appeared in the Guardian:

“The rest of the 1000 plus word piece follows this pattern of suggesting that Israel is largely to blame for the shortage of vital medicines in Gaza, a shortage that is putting the lives of countless Palestinians at risk. 

But, this is a lie. The import of antibiotics, and almost all other important medicines, are not in any way impacted by Israel’s blockade. As a CAMERA prompted correction at the NY Times noted, “the import of medicine” to Gaza “is not restricted” by Israel.

It’s actually the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – and not Israel – that’s responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza. But, the PA, as part of the sanctions they imposed on Hamas in 2017 related to their ongoing political dispute, often fails to send such vital drugs to Gaza. The PA-imposed sanctions also includes a major reduction in Gaza’s overall healthcare budget, and a frequent refusal to issue permits to Gaza patients to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.

As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported earlier in the year, “the escalation in internal Palestinian divisions in March 2017 led to a decline in deliveries from the West Bank and the gradual rise in the percentage of essential medicines at zero stock”. Even the pro-Palestinian NGO Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) blamed the PA for the shortage of medicine and medical supplies.

In fact, even before Fatah’s sanctions against Hamas, the Islamist group was complaining that Ramallah was sending only a small fraction of the medicine to Gaza it was required to send under existing agreements.”

Following his context-free caricature of ‘militaristic’ Israel and his airbrushing of the fact that the vast majority of those “injured by Israeli forces” were engaged in violent rioting at the time, Simpson tried to create linkage between an alleged epidemic of resistant bacteria and Israeli actions and in order to do so, completely erased the Palestinian Authority and Hamas from his framing.

Apparently Radio 4’s “alternative news bulletin” means an alternative to factual, accurate and impartial reporting.  

 

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

In part one of this post we documented BBC News website coverage of the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge. Part two relates to the next ten days: July 18th to 27th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 18th:Chart Jul 18

Written:

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive

Israel ready to widen Gaza ground offensive – PM  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: UN says number of displaced almost doubles   (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza-Israel: ‘We don’t want civilians to die’

What drove Hamas to take on Israel?  Dr Jeroen Gunning

Gaza: What does Israel’s ground offensive aim to achieve?  Jonathan Marcus

Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line  Paul Adams (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel conflict: Journalists evacuated from Gaza hotel  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Gaza City resident: ‘Continuous bombing’  Gaza

Gaza conflict: UN says number of displaced almost doubles  Lyse Doucet in Gaza & Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

With Israel’s ground operation having commenced late the previous night following the terrorist infiltration via cross-border tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa (scantily covered by the BBC), much of the BBC’s coverage on that day related to that topic, but with a notable lack of information on the subject of the tunnels themselves. 

July 19th:Chart Jul 19

Written:

Gaza conflict: Obama warns Israel amid rising death toll   (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Casualties mount amid fresh violence   (discussed here)

July 20th: (discussion here)

Live page:

As it happened: Gaza conflict intensifies

Written:

Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict  (discussed here)Chart Jul 20

Features:

In pictures: Gaza conflict intensifies

Filmed:

Hamas ‘defiant’ as Gaza casualty toll rises   Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: 87 Gazans and 13 Israeli soldiers killed Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers and 87 Gazans killed  Chris Morris in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘Families are on the run again’  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

With fierce fighting having commenced in the neighbourhood of Shuja’iya the night before, the BBC focused its attentions on that topic on July 20th. Themes which appeared early on in the extensive reporting included the vigorous promotion of second-hand claims of a ‘massacre’, the failure to film or adequately inform audiences of the presence and actions of terrorists in that district and the failure to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties. As was the case in previous reporting, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields was ignored and the prior warnings issued to residents of Shuja’iya to evacuate the neighbourhood played down. 

July 21st: (discussion here)Chart Jul 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers, scores of Gazans killed

Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500

Features:

Gaza crisis: Shejaiya assault defines grimmest day  Lyse Doucet

Filmed:

Ron Prosor: ‘Only by demilitarising Hamas can we move on’  interview Israeli Ambassador to the UN

Gaza crisis: Israeli soldiers’ funerals take place  John Simpson in Israel

Middle East crisis: BBC on deserted streets of Sha’af  Paul Adams in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Five dead at hospital hit by Israeli strike  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Israel releases ‘Gaza tunnel footage’  (discussed here)

Clashes go on as Israel holds funerals for the dead  John Simpson in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Kerry Israel air strike remarks caught on mic

‘Israel united’ on Gaza offensive to eliminate militants’ tunnels  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Coverage of the fighting in Shuja’iya continued in the same vein as the previous day and with continued promotion of unverified Hamas-supplied casualty figures which failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. It is worth noting that to date, BBC audiences have not yet been provided with a comprehensive picture of the circumstances of the fighting in Shuja’iya. Three days after the commencement of the ground operation, the BBC produced a very unsatisfactory filmed ‘guide’ to the topic of cross-border tunnels. 

July 22nd:Chart Jul 22

Written:

Gaza conflict: Five dead at hospital hit by Israeli strike

Gaza conflict: Diplomats push for ceasefire

Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban urges end to fighting

US and European airlines suspend Israel flights

Features:

Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew  Dr Eado Hecht

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel: John Kerry and Sameh Shoukry hold news briefing

Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Airlines halt flights into Israel   Samira Hussain in New York

Gaza-Israel: Casualties mount as violence continues  Paul Adams in Gaza

Relatives mourn Israeli soldier deaths as clashes go on  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?   Frank Gardner (discussed here)

John Kerry in Egypt in push for Gaza-Israel ceasefire

$47m in aid to Gaza “to alleviate the immediate humanitarian crisis”  Kerry

Notable on this day was the appearance of the first real effort to inform audiences with regard to cross-border tunnels; some four days after the ground operation their use prompted began. Also notable was the continued amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions and the misrepresentation of those restrictions, along with their inaccurate description as a “siege”: a theme which flourished in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 23rd:Chart Jul 23

Written:

Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands  (discussed here)

UN’s Navi Pillay warns of Israel Gaza ‘war crimes’

Features:

Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign  Gil Hoffman

What is it like to be blind in Gaza and Israel?  Emma Tracey

Filmed:

Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Red Cross van attacked by civilians in Gaza   Paul Adams in Gaza

UN human rights boss: Israeli action ‘could be war crimes’  Navi Pillay

Middle East crisis: Israel holds funerals for soldiers  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Middle East crisis: Airlines suspend flights to Ben Gurion, Israel

#BBCtrending: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies

Along with renewed promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’, reporting on this day continued with promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands, misrepresentation of the border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel and continued amplification of unverified casualty figures.  

July 24th:Chart Jul 24

Written:

Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire (discussed here)

UN: Gaza humanitarian situation ‘dire’

Gaza UN school shelter hit, ‘killing 13’

Europe lifts ban on flights to Tel Aviv airport

Features:

Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger   Yolande Knell (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Rescue mission to reach Gaza wounded Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Save the Children: Gaza shelter attack ‘shocking’

Gaza’s hospitals struggle with civilians  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Gaza UN school shelter hit, ‘killing 13’  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Gaza family on living in warzone   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel ‘knew building was UN shelter’ – UNRWA  Chris Gunness

Middle East crisis: UN criticism ‘a travesty’ – Netanyahu

Gaza: What are the obstacles to peace?  James Robbins (discussed here)

BBC exclusive interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal   (discussed here)

Much of the day’s coverage was devoted to the incident in Beit Hanoun which the BBC immediately promoted as an Israeli ‘attack’ on a UN school, revealing much about its own impartiality. Also notable was James Robbins’ ‘backgrounder’ which provided one example among many of BBC content which downplayed or erased Hamas’ terror designation.

July 25th:Chart Jul 25

Written:

Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel rejects truce ‘as it stands’

Features:

Israeli and Palestinian women on Gaza conflict

#BBCtrending: Sexy selfies in support of IDF

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel crisis: UNRWA ‘not informed’ before shelter attack  Chris Morris in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Israeli government on Gaza shelter deaths  Mark Regev (full interview discussed here)

Gaza-Israel: ‘You can hear the bombs and missiles’ – Israeli family  Bethany Bell in Israel

Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march  Nawal Assad in Qalandiya (discussed here)

Gaza baby rescued from mother killed by Israeli airstrike Ian Pannell in Gaza

Ban Ki-moon and John Kerry news briefing in Cairo

Gaza and Israel brace for ‘day of anger’  Jon Donnison in Jerusalem

Coverage of the Beit Hanoun incident continued, along with problematic reporting on riots in PA-controlled areas.

July 26th:Chart Jul 26

Written:

Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900

Hamas fires rockets into Israel after Gaza truce bid

Features:

Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza (later amended and date changed to September 1st)

Filmed:

Clashes as diplomatic efforts continue to secure Gaza truce Orla Guerin in Jerusalem (discussed here)

Mark Regev: Israel ‘wants peace and quiet’

Gaza truce: ‘Smell of destruction’ in the air  Chris Morris in Gaza

Israel and Hamas agree 12-hour truce  Chris Morris in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Bodies recovered amid ceasefire  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Philip Hammond on ceasefire: ‘Stop the loss of life’    UK Foreign Secretary

 July 27th:Chart Jul 27

Written:

Israel rejects Gaza school shelter attack blame

Israel resumes Gaza offensive after Hamas rockets

Hamas announces new 24-hour Gaza ceasefire with Israel

Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues (discussed here)

Features:

No place to hide for children of war in Gaza and Syria  Lyse Doucet

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Dubai’s huge humanitarian aid mission  Mark Lobel

Israeli military: Hamas ceasefire ‘an opportunity perhaps’   Peter Lerner

Hamas announces new 24-hour Gaza ceasefire with Israel  Osama Hamdan

Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues  Ian Pannell in Gaza (discussed here)

Rockets lands in Israel after ceasefire stalls  Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

Middle East: Ed Miliband on Israel and Gaza violence

Prominent on this day was misleading coverage of the ceasefire and Hamas’ violations of that agreement.

Between July 18th and July 27th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was written news reports and a live page on the topic of the fighting in Shuja’iya was introduced for the first time on July 20th.

Foreign-based Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with five interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The majority of footage of interviews or press conferences with others (not Israelis or Palestinians) focused on the diplomatic efforts of the US Secretary of State, with two additional ones from UN representatives Navi Pillay and Chris Gunness and two with British politicians.

The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those ten days of the conflict was once again more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel and continued to focus on emotive coverage of the effects of the conflict on the civilian population. Three additional filmed reports related to the topic of violent rioting in PA-controlled areas and Jerusalem.

Chart 18 to 27 Jul

By July 27th, visitors to the BBC News website had seen twenty-four filmed reports depicting the situation in Israel compared to fifty-three filmed reports depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Chart 8 to 27 Jul

Themes which dominated initial BBC coverage of the conflict such as the promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ and attacks on civilians carried out by Israel continued, as did the failure to report adequately on Hamas’ use of human shields and the amplification of unverified casualty figures. The theme of border restrictions became more prominent, together with misrepresentation of the reasons for those restrictions and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘siege’ on Gaza. 

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

 

 

 

 

Some BBC bright spots and the remarkable reaction of a presenter confronted with reality

They may be few and far between, but there are some bright spots among the BBC’s reporting of Operation Protective Edge.

After its initial failure to provide audiences with any sort of comprehensive background on the subject of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels (see here and here) and following the distinctly inadequate “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” video report, the BBC News website finally got round to publishing a proper backgrounder on the topic on July 22nd titled “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew“. Television and radio audiences – the majority – are obviously in need of a similar backgrounder.Simpson filmed 21 7

Some BBC journalists have suggested in their recent reports that the rising number of soldiers killed is changing Israeli views of Operation Protective Edge. In a filmed report from July 21st, for example, John Simpson opined:

“Israel’s losses are mounting sharply. Nothing remotely like the losses on the Palestinian side, but deeply disturbing for Israelis all the same. […]

Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale and pictures like these are starting to have a powerful effect on public opinion.”

How Simpson reached that conclusion (or the sadly incorrect notion that “Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale”) is unclear.

It was therefore helpful to see some properly informed analysis of the Israeli mood on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the form of an article by Gil Hoffman titled “Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign“.

Among the subjects still missing from the BBC’s coverage is some in-depth coverage of the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and the way in which that deliberate policy contributes to the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Without that essential knowledge, BBC audiences will still be unable to reach informed conclusions regarding this particular international issue. One attempt to shed some light on that issue was made by Barak Seener of the Royal United Services Institute in an interview with BBC World News on July 21st – with a remarkable reaction from the presenter when presented with an expert opinion (which is presumably what the BBC sought when it invited the specific interviewee) on the realities underpinning Hamas strategy.

“That is obviously a very…ah…controversial thing to say and many people will refute that the leadership of Hamas want to see their own people, supporters, women and children killed…ah…unnecessarily…”

BBC’s Simpson admires Hamas engineering ‘feat’ and ignores its intended victims

A filmed report for BBC television news from July 21st – supposedly one of the BBC’s never abundant but now increasingly rare ‘Israeli point of view’ pieces – was presented by John Simpson and it appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes go on as Israel holds funerals for the dead“. Simpson, we are told in the synopsis, “sent this report from Sderot on Israel’s border with Gaza”.Simpson Sderot 21 7

Kibbutz Nir Am – which was the target of the attempted terrorist infiltration addressed at the beginning of Simpson’s report –  is within easy walking distance of Sderot but nevertheless, Simpson apparently saw nothing newsworthy in going to talk to any of the people there who have been living under the terror of missiles for well over a decade and who now face the new threat of underground terrorist infiltrations – literally in their own  backyard.

Simpson opens his report with a statement which provides a good example of what happens when journalists are ‘parachuted in’ to Israel to provide extra manpower in times of a major event. No-one with even the slightest awareness of what preceded the current escalation and life in the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip during the past decade could possibly talk in terms of a “quiet landscape”.

JS: “Beneath this quiet landscape between Gaza and Israel, Hamas has been working away for months – sometimes years – digging tunnels. At six this morning an Israeli team watched from hiding as Hamas infiltrators dug their way to the surface and opened fire. But they didn’t stand a chance. At least ten members of the Hamas team were killed.”

Simpson makes no attempt to inform viewers of what the aim of that infiltration was, ridiculously downplaying its lethal intention with his flippant “they didn’t stand a chance” quip. Having apparently decided that the intended civilian victims of that infiltration are of no interest, he goes on to admire Hamas’ engineering skills, but fails to inform audiences of the schools, housing and hospitals Hamas fails to construct for its population instead or of where the materials and money for these “feats” comes from.

“These tunnels are impressive: a real feat of engineering. The BBC was allowed to film inside this one recently after it was discovered. The Israelis afterwards make sure the tunnels can’t be used again.

A few hours after this morning’s operation against the Hamas infiltrators, a top government minister came to congratulate the soldiers who’d carried it out. Tsipi Livni is the most dovish member of the Israeli cabinet; plainly worried about the casualties on both sides.”

In a remarkable display of the worth of that famous BBC commitment to ‘impartiality’, Simpson then says to Livni:

“I have to say it to you in these terms: are you going to carry on killing civilians – including women and children in quite large numbers – until you get what you want?”

Livni: “We are not looking for civilians to kill. We are trying to avoid this. And if you think that we want to send our soldiers – our children – to Shuja’iya or all these places in which they’re being killed, you are mistaken.”

Simpson continues with more downplaying of the effects and results of Hamas terror, invoking that frequent media theme of ‘not enough dead Israelis to count’.

“This is one reason why casualties on the two sides are so out of proportion. Israel has developed the world’s most effective anti-missile defence. The Iron Dome system’s abilities to knock Hamas missiles out of the sky has been a remarkable achievement for Israel during this crisis. The success rate is quite phenomenal. Even so, there are missiles which get through. One of those landed close by here this morning. But the family had taken shelter and scarcely any damage was done. They take it all stoically.”

Woman: “We’re here to stay, you know, it’s our home.”

Simpson quickly returns to his real agenda:

“As she spoke, death and destruction were raining down in Gaza only twenty miles away, but a different world.”

Death and destruction also rained down on the al Wadj family from a Bedouin village near Dimona on July 19th. Thirty-two year-old Ouda al Wadj was killed and his wife, his sister, his four year-old son and three month-old daughter were injured. Little Aya al Wadj is still in hospital in Be’er Sheva recovering from the shrapnel injuries to her head caused by the missile fired from the Gaza Strip. No BBC team has covered that story.

Simpson closes with a perfunctory nod to supposed BBC impartiality by saying:

“All the same, there are funerals of soldiers every day here now. Thirteen killed yesterday, seven more today. Here they were burying Moshe Malko – an Israeli of Ethiopian origin. The scale of Israeli and Palestinian deaths may be utterly different but Israel is paying a heavy price as well.”

For well over a decade the Western media – BBC included – has ignored the story of the people who live in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the children who have grown up under the threat of constant missile attacks. From time to time, when the situation escalates, reporters are ‘parachuted in’ and the world gets a brief view the story as they chose to frame it.

In John Simpson’s case that means downplaying the thousands of missile attacks carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, erasing the all-important topic of Hamas’ use of the people of Gaza as human shields and failing to enable BBC audiences to hear the voices of the Israelis now facing the threat of underground terror attacks.

Dana Bar-On is from Nir Am – the kibbutz which on July 21st had a very lucky escape from the terror attack which Simpson fails to adequately report in this item. Here is a five-minute glimpse of how she and her family – and thousands of other residents of the same area – live.

 

 

The numbers behind BBC promotion of the ‘Israel lobby’

As readers may recall, we have posted here a few times about the BBC’s unsatisfactory responses to complaints which have arisen due to its journalists having employed the loaded term ‘Jewish lobby’ – see for example here and here.Capitol

BBC employees are no better at dealing with their interviewees’ promotion of the notion of an all-powerful ‘Israel lobby’ either, as we noted in this recent post, perhaps because the BBC itself does not shy away from using either term – as shown for example in a 2007 article still available on the BBC News website titled “US storm over book on Israel lobby” which opens with the words:

“The power of America’s “Jewish lobby” is said to be legendary.”

Now a study on lobbying of the US government has been published which might be of help to members of the public making similar complaints in the future and, as Yair Rosenberg explains, the results are very interesting.

“If you estimated the amount of money a country spends on lobbying the United States based on critical media coverage of that lobbying, you’d probably put Israel at the top of the list. But a new study by the Sunlight Foundation reveals that not only isn’t Israel a big spender, it practically doesn’t even make the list. Of the 84 countries surveyed, Israel ranked 83rd, spending just $1,250 to lobby America in 2013. (The only country that ranked lower was Mali, which spent nothing at all.) By contrast, other key American allies unloaded massive sums to influence the U.S. government. Topping the list is the United Arab Emirates with $14.2 million. It is followed by Germany ($12 million), Canada ($11.2 million), and Saudi Arabia ($11.1 million).”

Readers may be interested to learn too that the eternally cash-strapped, donor supported Palestinian Authority spent $1,110,769.59 on lobbying the US via the PLO in 2013.

As Jeff Dunetz points out:

“Some of you may be thinking, “nice trick Jeff what about AIPAC? (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee)”. If one includes AIPAC, then other groups such as the American Iranian Friendship Council must be included. So asking about AIPAC is making demands of the Israel numbers that aren’t being made of other countries.

But I will bite anyway. According to Open Secrets, AIPAC spent $2,977,744 in lobbying in 2013, when the $1,250 is added it brings Israel’s total to $2,978,994 which puts Israel in eighth place between South Korea and the Republic of Srpska.

Even when AIPAC spending is included Israel’s lobbying dollars is only 21% of what the UAE spends, about a quarter of Germany’s spending, 26.5% of Canada’s, 26.8% of the Saudi’s, 48.6% of Mexico’s and about three-quarters of both Morocco and South Korea’s lobbying spending.”

If anyone comes across a BBC reporter or interviewee talking or tweeting about the UAE lobby, the Morocco lobby or the Canada lobby “taking control of a foreign government“, or perhaps the BBC’s World Affairs editor John Simpson writing that ‘the Mexican tail usually seems to wag the American dog’, please do be sure to let us know. We’ll pop out and buy a lottery ticket. 

 

BBC Arafat binge continues to promote conspiracy theories

The BBC’s recent Arafat overdose – which began on November 6th when no fewer than six reports were placed on its website within hours – continued the next day with the appearance of additional items. 

Those included a written article titled “Arafat polonium findings confirmed by Swiss scientists“, a filmed report by Yolande Knell titled “Palestinians react to Arafat report“, a filmed item by John Simpson who apparently now remembers that “Yasser Arafat death ‘was always suspicious’” and another filmed report by Nick Childs titled “Swiss scientists confirm polonium in Yasser Arafat remains“. All three of the filmed items appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website. 

Also on November 7th, at the same URL as a previous item originally titled “Arafat widow’s ‘shock and anger'” (and hence replacing it), a filmed piece entitled “Widow: Yasser Arafat ‘had many enemies’” appeared.

Like most of the articles of the previous day, the written report amplifies evidence-free speculations of Israeli involvement in Arafat’s death.

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat. There have also been allegations that he had Aids or cancer. Israel has consistently denied any involvement.”

Once again too, the article downplays the scale of the role of Al Jazeera in the manufacturing of this story.

“France began a murder inquiry in August 2012 after the preliminary findings of polonium by the Lausanne scientists, who have been working with an al-Jazeera documentary crew.”

The synopsis to Knell’s filmed report states:

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat but Jerusalem has consistently denied any involvement.”

Knell provides a platform for the promotion of ‘man in the Ramallah street’ conspiracy theories regarding speculations of Israeli involvement and then embellishes them with her own narrative.

Simpson’s report presents an over-simplified view of the Swiss laboratory’s findings and also amplifies the Israel-related Palestinian conspiracy theories on the subject. 

In Nick Childs’ report he erroneously describes Arafat as “a guerilla leader”. As we noted here a year ago when Jon Donnison also whitewashed Arafat’s terrorism by describing him as a “guerilla fighter”:

“A guerrilla fighter, by definition, “acts as a member of an irregular usually politically motivated armed force that combats stronger regular forces, such as the army or police”.

In other words, guerrilla fighters act against official security forces – not against civilians. […]

Yehuda Ohayon (aged 10), Yafa Batito (8), Mimon Biton (7), Haviva Biton (7), Chana Biton (8), Shimon Biton (9), Shulamit Biton (9) and Aliza Petretz (14) were not soldiers or policemen. They were pupils on their way to school on May 22nd 1970 when two bazooka shells were fired at their school bus by the PLO – under Yasser Arafat’s command.

Neither were the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by the PLO’s ‘Black September’ group at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 a military target.

The 25 Israelis killed in the Ma’alot massacre – 22 of them children – in 1974 were not soldiers or policemen either. The 38 Israelis – including 13 children – murdered in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre carried out by the PLO under Arafat were also not a military target.”

On November 8th the BBC News website added two more reports to its collection of Arafat-related items:  a written article titled “Palestinian officials: Israel only suspect in Arafat death” and a filmed report titled “Yasser Arafat forensic studies ‘will continue’“, both of which relate to the press conference given on that day by Tawfik Tirawi and amplify the PA’s unfounded accusations against Israel.

To sum up, in a period of less than 48 hours the BBC News website promoted thirteen different reports (shown below) on the subject of the publication of the Swiss findings and related subject matter, with nine of those items amplifying conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death. None of the items attempted to propose any other explanation for the as yet unproven poisoning theory. 

website 6 to 8 11

Related articles:

BBC goes into Arafat overdose mode – again

 The BBC’s Arafat overdose

BBC’s Simpson mainstreams trope used by anti-Israel campaigners

On September 30th the BBC News website published two items by World Affairs Editor John Simpson. One of them was a filmed report titled “Has the world order changed?” which was broadcast on the BBC 1 programme “The Editors” and also appeared on the website’s Middle East page.

Simpson filmed

On the same date, a written version of that report – titled “September 2013: The month America’s ‘moral mission’ ended” – was also published on the BBC News website. 

Simpson written

In that article Simpson writes: [emphasis added]

“Have we, perhaps, just witnessed a moment like that in 1975, when the Americans evacuated Saigon and their power in South East Asia was brought to a close?

That may be going too far. As the international protector of Israel, the US will still have a major part to play in the central dispute in the region, even though the Israeli tail usually seems to wag the American dog.”

Simpson 3

As has already been pointed out, there is something very revealing in the fact that Simpson – and presumably his editors – are still pushing the line that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the “central dispute in the region” after nearly three years of turmoil in the Middle East.

No less notable is the fact that the country Simpson describes as “the international protector of Israel” has – along with its British allies – recently opted for a policy on Syria which halts the decline of the Assad/Iran/Hizballah conglomerate in that country – and legitimizes it – as well as taking the pressure off an overstretched Hizballah in Lebanon. 

But what of Simpson’s totally unnecessary use of the ‘tail and dog’ phrase?  That of course has undertones of classic “Jewish lobby” antisemitism. Taking a look at who else uses that idiom we find it, for example, on websites such as the Iranian regime’s ‘Press TV’ by antisemitic conspiracy theorist Mark Glenn of the ‘Crescent and Cross Solidarity Movement’. 

We also find the same phrase used on the Far-Left website ‘Solidarity‘, by anti-Israel campaigners Kathleen and Bill Christison, on the anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss‘ and on Russia’s government radio station ‘The Voice of Russia’.

Is that really the sort of ideological company the ‘impartial’ BBC thinks its World Affairs Editor should be keeping?

Related articles:

Antisemitic Dogs and Denying Antisemitism

BBC’s Simpson misleads on potential US targets in Syria

A BBC template response to complaints

 

BBC’s Simpson misleads on potential US targets in Syria

A filmed report from August 28th titled “Syria crisis: Military intervention cases explained” which appeared on BBC television news, as well as among the extensive Syria coverage on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, purports – according to its title – to clarify the opposing arguments for audiences. The BBC has even brought in the big guns in the form of its veteran World Affairs Editor John Simpson to do the job. 

Simpson filmed report

But if audiences were anticipating an impartial, accurate and informative presentation of the cases for and against Western military intervention in Syria, they would have been sorely disappointed by Simpson’s ill-disguised attempts to make parallels with the Iraq war, presented in facetious tones and with barely concealed disdain.

At 01:53, following a short interview with William Hague talking about the “responsibility on chemical weapons”, Simpson says:

“But does this responsibility involve lobbing missiles at President Assad’s chemical weapons?”

Modern Western armies of course do not “lob” missiles – that term deliberately implies a casual, imprecise and irresponsible approach.  Simpson continues:

“Well from what President Obama says, it sounds like it. We’re starting to hear all those phrases like ‘quick, clean, surgical action’ – just like before.”

Simpson’s attempt to persuade BBC audiences that the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles are to be the target of missile strikes is obviously inaccurate and misleading. No such intention has been declared – quite the contrary in fact. 

An article published in the New York Times the day before Simpson’s report states:

“A wide range of [US administration] officials characterized the action under consideration as “limited,” perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.” [emphasis added]

The LA Times reports:

“With an estimated 50 storage sites, many situated in or near urban centers, any attempt to destroy or degrade the Assad government’s supply of poison gases and nerve agents would require a massive invasion of ground forces that no nation considered part of the emerging “coalition of the willing” would be likely to support.

Even if U.S. and allied intelligence have precisely located some of the stores of sarin, mustard or VX gas, analysts say, the likelihood of a successful airstrike is slim because of Assad’s powerful air defenses and the risk of bombed chemical stores unleashing their deadly gases.

As the United States and other nations weigh the appropriate response to Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons in an attack last week that killed hundreds of Syrian civilians, Western military strategists have reportedly concluded there is no way to target the weapons of mass destruction with airstrikes.”

And as the Military Times reported on August 27th:

The Pentagon will probably avoid targeting stockpiles, which could send toxic gases into the air and cause civilian casualties.

“We don’t want to hit actual chemical weapons because of the dangers,” said Jeffrey White, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Defense Intelligence Agency official.”

Regardless of one’s view of the merits – or lack of them – of a limited scope strike on the Syrian regime’s facilities, BBC audiences’ understanding of the issue is obviously not enhanced by invented factors.  John Simpson’s misleading promotion of the notion that Western forces intend to target “President Assad’s chemical weapons” clearly lacks supporting evidence and breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy. The reasons behind the employment of that inaccurate claim should also raise questions about this report’s impartiality. 

A BBC template response to complaints

On November 7th 2012 an edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme featured a conversation between the presenter and the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, relating to the re-election of Barak Obama. The relevant portion of the programme can be heard here

At 03:13 Simpson says: [all emphasis added]

“And anyway, Obama has taken a rather different line towards Israel – a more hostile line towards Israel. And he’s still won the election in spite of everything the Israeli Prime Minister could do to discourage Americans from voting for him…”

Later, the presenter says:

“A message of sup…I was going to say support…not a message of support – a message of congratulations (laughs) from Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli (laughs) Prime Minister. But..erm…I wonder what, briefly, will be going through his mind.”

Simpson replies:

“Oh, I should think he’s really disappointed. Err…he threw everything that he could, including calling..err…Mr Obama – effectively calling him weak in dealing with Iran. Including saying …err…more openly that he wasn’t the kind of friend that Israel would have chosen. Ahm..he didn’t use those words, but that was very clear. Ah..so he must feel that he’s got the wrong president there.”

Several members of the general public have informed BBC Watch that they made complaints to the BBC regarding Simpson’s claim in this programme that attempts were made by the Israeli Prime Minister to influence the US elections. Interestingly, all those who submitted complaints received exactly the same reply from the BBC. 

Dear ******

Reference ***********

Thanks for contacting us about Radio 4’s Today broadcast on 7 November.

Firstly we’d like to apologise for the delay in replying. We realise correspondents expect a quick response and we’re sorry you‘ve had to wait on this occasion.

We understand you believe John Simpson made inaccurate and slanderous comments about the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, during a discussion on the 2012 US Presidential election.

We forwarded your concerns to the Today programme who pointed out that John Simpson specifically said:

”Obama has taken a…more hostile line towards Israel and still won the election despite everything the Israeli PM could do to discourage Americans from voting for him.”

Later he amplified that by saying:

“He (Netanyahu) threw everything that he could including…effectively calling him weak in dealing with Iran including, saying more openly that he wasn’t the kind of friend Israel would have chosen – he didn’t use those words but that was clear – so he must feel he got the wrong President there.”

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the relationship between the two leaders is poor and this has been reported elsewhere in the media. Reuters has referred to “long-strained ties” between the two, while the Telegraph has referred to difficulties between the two:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilegardiner/100180493/barack-obama-refuses-to-meet-benjamin-netanyahu-on-his-us-visit-a-rude-snub-to-7-million-israelis/

Meanwhile in the Guardian it was reported how the relationship was dysfunctional:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/10611303

And how, in a story about Netanyahu’s appearance in a political ad produced by a fringe non-profit group to criticise President Obama, that:

“The ad is the latest in a series of appearances by Netanyahu in the heated US presidential election. The prime minister made a point of being photographed with Republican challenger Mitt Romney on his visit to Israel in July and praised the candidate’s views on Iran. In a Jerusalem press conference on the 9/11 anniversary, Netanyahu criticized the Obama administration’s refusal to notify Iran of a ‘red line’ that would trigger an attack on its nuclear facilities. Complaints by the prime minister’s office about Obama declining a meeting at the UN next week have been eagerly used by Republicans in attacks on the president.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/20/netanyahu-us-political-ad-obama

(Please note that the BBC isn’t responsible for the content found on any external websites.)

The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen also spoke of how: “As expected, Israel is being supported from the United States – despite the poor relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20346981

The programme added, in closing, that the poor relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is an open secret and has been widely reported and commented upon. And it’s part of John Simpson’s job as World Affairs Editor to offer analysis of this kind for our audience.

Nevertheless, we appreciate your concerns about John Simpson’s comments and we’d like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Stuart Webb

BBC Complaints

The most striking thing about this response is its utter failure to answer the substance of the complaints. Readers did not complain about Simpson’s portrayal of the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, but about his claim of attempts by the Israeli Prime Minister to influence the US elections. 

Of the four references the response provides as evidence for the rejection of the complaints, one is from the BBC itself: a one-line quote from Jeremy Bowen which merely reflects his own subjective assessment of the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Another reference comes from the Daily Telegraph and two others from the Guardian – the first actually being a reproduction of an AP article which quotes a representative of ‘Americans for Peace Now’.  Interestingly, the BBC apparently finds it legitimate to use articles from other sources (including even the Guardian – singled out on more than one occasion by the CST in its annual report on antisemitic discourse) as ‘evidence’ for its stance, whilst simultaneously stating that “the BBC isn’t responsible for the content found on any external websites”. 

The second of those Guardian links refers to a video made by a third-party in which publicly available footage of Netanyahu speaking about the Iranian nuclear operation was used. Neither it, nor any of the other links provided by the BBC, show evidence of the direct – and massive – intervention which Simpson claimed had occurred. 

As a supposed response to numerous complaints on the same subject, this reply from the BBC is sorely lacking in both substance and respect for its audiences’ intelligence.