BBC’s Donnison again conceals source of UN Gaza casualty figures

The August 5th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 00:45:00 here) that was introduced by presenter Jon Donnison as follows:

Donnison: “The tension on Gaza’s boundary with Israel continues to simmer, as it has done now for months. Doctors in the Palestinian territory say a 15 year-old boy shot by Israeli soldiers is the latest to die. Muadh al-Suri was among thousands of Palestinian demonstrators who gathered at the border on Friday to protest Israel’s occupation.”

Unsurprisingly, Donnison did not bother to inform listeners that what he described as protests by “demonstrators” were actually violent riots with some 8,000 participants that included a breach of the border fence as well as arson attacks and attacks with IEDs and petrol bombs. Neither did he bother to clarify that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago and in this context “Israel’s occupation” means Israel’s existence. Listeners were not told that Muadh al-Suri was photographed wrapped in a Hamas flag and headband at his funeral.

Donnison went on:

Donnison: “The Israeli military says Hamas miltants seeking to launch attacks across the border use the regular mass demonstrations there as cover. This year, the United Nations says more than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the clashes, with thousands more injured, putting enormous strain on Gaza’s hospitals. But as Paul Adams discovered on a recent visit to Gaza, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental health of the area’s nearly two million people.”

As we see, Donnison yet again cited “United Nations” figures without clarifying to listeners that they are sourced from the same terror group which organises the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop and hence has a vested interest in amplifying casualty figures.

The report by Paul Adams that Donnison was introducing is actually the same one that was aired on BBC Radio 4 on July 25th and which was discussed here.

Related Articles:

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

 

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BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

As noted in a previous post, an item relating to incidents which began the previous afternoon which was aired in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 07:56 here) with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that interview thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “…we want to hear from Hamas. Are they trying to provoke another war in Gaza? Ghazi Hamad is Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in the Strip.”

Hamad: “No, I think that we are not interested in a new war. We try to avoid this. I think we have kind of understanding with all Palestinian factions to avoid any escalation or tension but you know that the source of the problem is the occupation. The problem is the blockade imposed by Israel. So it creates a lot of problems in Gaza.”

Donnison did not bother to clarify to listeners that “the blockade imposed by Israel” is a counter-terrorism measure made necessary by the dramatic rise in attacks on Israelis after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup eleven years ago. Neither did he inform audiences that when Hamad refers to “the occupation” he means Israel’s presence in Israel rather than the Gaza Strip from which Israel disengaged completely 13 years ago.  

Donnison: “You say you want to avoid an escalation but these cease fires are meaningless – aren’t they? – if your snipers are shooting at Israeli soldiers.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Donnison, listeners then heard Hamad repeatedly – and inaccurately – describe the Hamas organised, funded and facilitated ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “peaceful” and a “protest”.  

Hamad: “Look…ahm…I can say that regarding the ‘March of Return’ [it] is a peaceful march. We [are] controlling the situation very well. This march is as I said is a protestingpeaceful protesting – but sometimes you find some problems [unintelligible] we try to control this. But Israel try to use some mistakes or some things done by individual in order to punish people, in order to target the different sites in Gaza, to try to kill people as yesterday – they kill four people and injure more than 60 or 85 people. It is not the first time that Israel try to use some excuses to increase the number of victims in Gaza.”

Donnison: “What do you expect them to do if Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are continuing to fire rockets out of Gaza into Israel indiscriminately?”

Hamad: “We never started to fire rockets. I think we respect that…”

Donnison’s notably weak response to that blatant lie came in three words:

Donnison [interrupts]: “That’s not true.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. We respect the ceasefire approved in 2014 but you know that if it…why you forget now, since the beginning of the March of Return which [is] a peaceful march, we have about 160 people were killed? There is no [not] one, no [not] one Israel soldier were injured or killed. And we have more than 15,000 people were injured. Many of them were amputed [sic – amputated]. Many of them are [unintelligible]. This [is a] bigger crisis, this bigger tragedy among the Palestinian people. Now because one Israeli soldier was killed all the world they will criticize and say that the problem on the shoulder of Hamas. You should not forget the high numbers of victims among the Palestinians.”

Donnison: “Hamas has been in power in Gaza now for more than ten years. Three wars during that time. Close to 3,000 Palestinians killed in those wars. Unemployment at 44%. Youth unemployment at 60%. Only 3 to 6 hours of power a day. Hamas has failed as a government and failed the Palestinian people living in Gaza, hasn’t it?”

Hamad: “The question [is] why Hamas failed. Because Hamas is [in] a big prison which is called Gaza. Gaza is about 360 kilometers. It’s closed from all sides by the Israeli occupation. They prevent export, import, free access. Prevent us from even having fresh air, fresh water, electricity. Everything is closed. So after that you come and blame Hamas that they are responsible for this. Now if Israel, now if the occupation, if Israel end that blockade, if Israel give the Palestinians a freedom of access, I think the situation is getting better in Gaza. Now if you ask now international organisations including UN, UNRWA, UNDP – these people will say very frankly that who is responsible for the blockade in Gaza is Israel. Israel is still controlling all the borders around Gaza. Now we ask people now to give us chance now to establish airport or sea port or to open the crossing around Gaza but Israel they don’t want. They want to punish people; to punish Hamas and to punish also the ordinary citizen.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the claim that Israel ‘controls all the borders’ is untrue because the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt, failing to clarify that goods and people enter and exit the Gaza Strip on every working day and refraining from challenging even the supremely absurd lie that Israel prevents Gazans from having “fresh air”, all Jon Donnison had to say after that tirade of falsehoods was:

Donnison: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad.”

Apparently the BBC World Service believed that those four minutes of barely challenged lies and propaganda from a terrorist organisation could be passed off as “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards“.

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BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

Long-time readers may recall that during Operation Protective Edge four years ago, BBC Watch investigated the source of Gaza casualty figures cited by the UN and quoted by the BBC. As documented here, we discovered that one of several dubious sources used by the UN was the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

The BBC never conducted any independent verification of the figures it quoted and promoted both throughout that conflict and in the following four years and it continues to cite UN data despite its obviously problematic sourcing.

That issue recently arose again in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘. The lead item in that programme concerned incidents which began the previous afternoon when Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced the item (from 00:00:52 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “But first, if you’re a ten year-old child living in Gaza or southern Israel you will have already lived through three wars in your short life. This weekend there are fears we [sic] could be on the brink of another one.”

Listeners then heard the sound of explosions before Donnison told them that Israel was “bombing Gaza” rather than conducting pinpoint strikes on military facilities belonging to an internationally designated terrorist organisation. He also failed to clarify to listeners that “health officials in Gaza” means Hamas.

Donnison: “That’s the sound of Israel bombing Gaza overnight after an Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian gunfire at the border. It’s the first soldier to be killed since the last war between Hamas and Israel in 2014. Health officials in Gaza say four Palestinians – including three Hamas fighters – were killed in the latest Israeli air strikes. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed. Israel has yet to comment on that. This is what the UN envoy for the Israel-Palestinian conflict Nickolay Mladenov had to say: ‘Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week, not tomorrow – right now‘.

Donnison then introduced his first interviewee – journalist Noga Tarnopolsky – with whom he discussed the situation and past failed cease fires.

At 03:45 Donnison introduced his next interviewee – IDF spokesperson Lt Col Jonathan Conricus – whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly during their four-minute conversation.

As Conricus was explaining the various threats facing Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted:

Donnison: “The UN says…the UN says…the UN says that this year, in 2018, more than 160 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by your soldiers and more than 14,000 wounded.”

Listeners were not informed that the majority of those killed during the regular violent rioting at the border since the end of March have been shown to have links to the various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

Conricus: “Well I don’t think these are UN figures. I think those are Palestinian figures from Hamas controlled Gaza…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “No, they’re UN figures. They’re the United Nations figures.”

Conricus explained that Israel is defending its border from a variety of different kinds of attacks perpetrated by “a globally recognised terrorist organisation that is trying by every means they have to attack Israel” before saying:

Conricus: “We are not going to allow anyone to get in and we are adamant that we continue to defend our sovereignty and Israeli citizens. We have been very limited in our use of force, despite the fact that Hamas has been firing rockets…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “How do you end up with 14,000 people being injured if you’re limited with your force?”

Conricus disputed the figures before going on to say:

Conricus: “We have a terrorist organisation on the other side which is very cynically using civilians, pushing them forward in order for the civilians to try to break through our defences so that Hamas terrorists can infiltrate into Israel. That has been the under-reported story of what so many people around the world have come to know as the ‘Great march of Return’.”

Donnison then cited an op-ed by an Israeli suggesting that “Israel has to talk to Hamas” before asking a soldier in uniform for a political opinion which he is obliged to refrain from giving. Conricus did however point out that a Hamas leader had recently spoken at a rally in Gaza about the organisation’s goals, noting that “they are not anything that includes the existence of the State of Israel”.

Donnison interrupted him at that point once again in order to close the interview and introduce the next one: “we want to hear from Hamas”. That interview will be discussed in a separate post.

Following his four-minute interview with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Donnison returned (at 11:36) to Noga Tarnopolsky, who tried to make an important point.

Tarnopolsky: “I want to just clarify some of what we’ve heard. You asked about the number of wounded because it sounds so horrific and that’s – it’s a really important question – it’s one of the things that confuses matters here. The Hamas ministry of health reports anybody – a very wide range of people – as wounded. Someone who suffered from tear gas inhalation to somebody who has a leg amputated and they do this in order to have very large and frightening figures. Now in no way do I wish to diminish the suffering of Gazans – which is huge – but those figures are…”

Her explanation was interrupted by Donnison.

Donnison: “They…those figures…those figures I quoted were from the United Nations.”

Tarnopolsky: “Yes, I understand that. The figures that the United Nations is using are taken from the Hamas ministry of health. And I’m just explaining the background on where those figures came from.”

At that point in the reality check, Donnison swiftly closed the item.

Donnison: “We’re going to have to leave it there I’m afraid.”

As we have noted here on several occasions since the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop began, BBC reports have repeatedly quoted and promoted Palestinian casualty figures provided by the “health ministry” without clarifying that it is controlled by Hamas – the terror group co-organising the ‘Great Return March’ – and thus obviously not an impartial or reliable source.

Now – just as it did during the 2014 conflict – the BBC has apparently moved on to quoting ‘United Nations’ figures which it presents as being reliable, even though UN OCHA clearly states that they are sourced from the same ‘health ministry in Gaza’ run by Hamas.

Moreover, in this item Jon Donnison materially misled BBC World Service audiences by repeatedly insisting that his “UN figures” are different to those provided by the terrorist organisation that perpetrates the violence in the first place. 

 

 

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Readers may recall that four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported on the death of a Palestinian man while concealing the fact that he was a member of a proscribed terror organisation and portraying him instead as a ‘charity worker’.

In his July 2014 filmed report for BBC News Donnison told audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

While Donnison did not state the name of that “children’s charity”, as was noted here at the time Abu Maria worked for the political NGO Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-P or DCI-Pal). 

However, he was also described as a “fighter commander” in an obituary published by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and as a “commander” in a poster put out by the terror group on social media.

The longstanding links between the PFLP and the ‘children’s charity’ DCI-Pal were noted in a recent article at Tablet Magazine concerning donations made to a Palestinian coalition that includes proscribed terror groups via an American non-profit organisation that supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“As publicly available resources in Arabic show, the DCIP has had several previous board members and staffers who have been involved with the PFLP. They include DCIP board member Hassan Abed Aljawad, a PFLP leader representing the terrorist organization at public events as recently as 2016; DCIP board member Mahmoud Jiddah, a former PFLP member who had been jailed for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968; DCIP board secretary and attorney Fatima Daana, who is the widow of Raed Nazzal, former commander of the PFLP’s armed wing in Qalqilya; DCIP former board member Shawan Jabarin, who was convicted of recruiting members to the PFLP in 1985 and identified in 1994 by Israel to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights as being a senior member of the PFLP; DCIP former board member Hashem Abu Maria, identified by the PFLP as one of its “deputy comrades” and a “fighting commander” in an obituary published on the PFLP website in Arabic and killed during a violent clash with IDF forces (the DCIP’s 2014 report is dedicated to Abu Maria); DCIP former board member Nassar Ibrahim, the former editor in chief of the PFLP weekly publication, El Hadaf; and DCIP former board member Dr. Majed Nassar, the deputy director of the Union of Health Work Committees, which was identified by USAID as a PFLP affiliate in 1993.”

An article also published earlier this month at the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a major American foundation that contributes to many pro-Palestinian causes, gave grants to organizations which funnel money and support to terrorist groups, and continued to do so after being told about the NGOs’ activities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The two organizations are Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, also known as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Defense for Children International-Palestine, which received grants of $60,000 and $25,000, respectively, from the RBF in March 2017. [….]

In addition to the RBF, DCI-P receives money from UNICEF as an “implementing partner” for the UN agency’s projects, even though it violates both UNICEF and UN guidelines for partners to be “neutral, impartial and independent from all parties to the conflict.””

Readers may recall that in July 2017 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur cited a UNICEF report based on information produced by DCI-Pal that he described to BBC audiences as “saying the ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system in the West Bank appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

The article continues:

“DCI-P employee Hashem Abu Maria was hailed as a leader of the PFLP, after he was killed by the IDF in a violent confrontation in Beit Umar in July 2014. DCI-P director Rifat Odeh Kassis spoke at Abu Maria’s memorial service, surrounded by PFLP flags and posters.

The PFLP wrote on its website that Abu Maria “was in the ranks of the national liberation struggle and the PFLP from an early age, arrested several times, and was a model for a steadfast struggler and advocate for the rights of our people through his work in Defense for Children International.””

Four years after its initial appearance, Jon Donnison’s 2014 filmed report – “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger” – is still available online. No effort has been made to amend it in order to clarify to BBC audiences that the man sympathetically described only as a charity worker was also a member of a terror organisation.

Given that last year the BBC pledged that “complaints about online material more than 30 days old will be dealt with appropriately”, obviously that amendment is long overdue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

 

 

 

BBC ‘Newshour’ presenter Donnison decides an Israeli’s identity

According to a study carried out last year by the Israel Democracy Institute just 14% of the Arab citizens of Israel define their primary identity as Palestinian. However, even in the contemporary era of race and gender self-identification, one BBC World Service radio presenter appears to have granted himself the prerogative of deciding how Israel’s Arab citizens should be defined.

On June 3rd an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview with the Program Director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Presenter Jon Donnison introduced the item (from 19:34 here) as follows:

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

Donnison: “To Germany now and at the Jewish Museum in Berlin a kippa – the skullcap worn by many religious Jewish men – has gone on display. Nothing too unusual about that you might think but this is a specific kippa. It was worn by a young secular Palestinian Israeli man Adam Armoush in Berlin who put it on to show solidarity with his Jewish friends. Things went badly though. He was violently set upon in the street by a Syrian refugee in an anti-Semitic attack. Video footage of the attack went viral on social media and led to widespread demonstrations with thousands of people of all faiths or none wearing kippot in support of Adam Armoush. His kippa is going on display in the Jewish Museum’s new ‘rapid response’ gallery which aims to highlight contemporary issues in the news.”

As Adam Armoush explained in interviews given to German and Israeli media after the attack, the reason he walked down that Berlin street wearing a kippa was not the one given by Donnison.

“The 21-year-old victim of an anti-Semitic attack on the streets of Berlin has told German media that, despite the fact that he was wearing a traditional Jewish skullcap, he was not Jewish, but an Israeli Arab wearing the kippa as an experiment.

“I’m not Jewish, I’m an Israeli, I grew up in Israel in an Arab family,” the man told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. 

He was conducting what he termed an “experiment” in response to a warning from a friend that wearing a kippa in Germany was unsafe, saying he refused to believe this. […]

Armoush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he himself is an Israeli Arab, not Jewish, and that he wore the skullcap to make a point to a friend who said it was risky to do so in Germany.

“I was saying it’s really safe and I wanted to prove it, but it ended like that,” he said.”

The BBC itself reported at the time that:

“In a twist to the story, the Israeli victim later told German media that he had grown up in an Arab family in Israel and was not himself Jewish. He had been given the kippah a few days before by a friend from Israel who had told him it was dangerous to wear one in Berlin and he wanted to see if that was true.”

In addition to Donnison’s inaccurate portrayal of the reason why Armoush wore the kippa, he presented the subsequent rallies in Germany as being “in support of Adam Armoush” when in fact they were advertised as having a broader aim:

“As a sign against anti-Semitism, people in several German cities have taken to the streets with the traditional Jewish headgear, the Kippa. Jews and non-Jews gathered on Wednesday in Berlin, Cologne, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Potsdam for solidarity rallies.”

And despite there being no record of Adam Armoush having self-identified as a “Palestinian” in the various interviews he gave to the media, Jon Donnison took it upon himself to portray him as such to BBC World Service radio listeners.

All that in just one hundred and thirty-seven words.  

 

 

 

 

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Five years ago this week the BBC was very busy promoting a story about the tragic death of the son of one of its employees in the Gaza Strip.

As readers may recall:

“On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here

On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:

On the day after the incident – November 15th – the [then] head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.

As BBC Watch documented […] Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites. 

On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website […] 

Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.”

Four months later, in March 2013, a report issued by the UN HRC stated its investigation had found that Omar Masharawi’s tragic death had in fact been caused by “a Palestinian rocket that fell short”. 

The corporation’s first response to that finding came five days after the UN report was issued when the BBC News website published a ‘damage control’ article by Jon Donnison which did nothing to address the real problem underlying the story: the fact that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with its chosen political narrative.

Six days after the publication of the UN report, the BBC added footnotes to two of its original reports – both of which are still available online.

However, some of the media outlets that amplified the BBC’s original story blaming Israel for the infant’s death failed to subsequently add clarification and so some reports  – for example from the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the Sun – still remain online in their original form.

Obviously no footnote can erase that inaccurate BBC story from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it at the time. Significantly, however, the BBC has never offered its funding public a satisfactory explanation as to why that unverified story was not only allowed to run but deliberately given exceptionally extensive coverage and how the editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality to which the BBC professes to adhere were so egregiously breached. 

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After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

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Event touted by BBC as ‘non-political’ bans UK participant on political grounds

Four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison (who was based in the region at the time) promoted a marathon run in the PA controlled territories as a ‘non-political’ event – despite very clear evidence to the contrary.

“The Israelis should look at this purely as a sporting event. It has nothing to do with politics,” says Samia al-Wazir, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian Olympic Committee.” [emphasis added]

This year that marathon is taking place on March 31st and British comedian (and marathon runner) Eddie Izzard had planned to take part.

The event’s organisers had other ideas:

A BDS campaign linked website that received promotion from BBC Music just last month put out a press release:

“British comedian Eddie Izzard cannot run for freedom this Friday if he entertains in Tel Aviv on Thursday, say Palestine Marathon organisers.

“We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard’s whitewashing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid” Palestinian campaigners commented.

Eddie Izzard, who ran 27 marathons in tribute to Mandela in 2016, and who is a UNICEF ambassador, should be consistent and stand against Israeli Apartheid, say Artists for Palestine UK. […]

The Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel [PACBI – Ed], commented:  “Eddie Izzard is not welcomed in the Palestine marathon after he has crossed our boycott picket line. Today, performing in Tel Aviv is equivalent to performing in Sun City during the time of apartheid, and there is no balancing act that can justify violating the Palestinian boycott call. We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard’s whitewashing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid.””

Jon Donnison’s 2013 article is still available online. In light of the stance taken by the marathon’s organisers and BDS supporters, the BBC clearly needs to rethink its promotion of the event as having “nothing to do with politics”.

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Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

Christmas is coming and with it – if the BBC’s record over the past five years is anything to go by – the usual politicised reporting from the Middle East.

Christmas Eve of 2011, for example, saw Jon Donnison piling on the pathos in a reworking of the well-worn ‘Bethlehem shepherds’ theme on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  

“There are still shepherds in Bethlehem 2000 years on from the nativity but as our West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison reports, Jewish settlement expansion there has made the life of the shepherd increasingly limited.”knell-2011-nativity

On the same day the BBC News website published a particularly egregious example of campaigning propaganda produced by Yolande Knell under the transparent title of “Bethlehem’s modern-day nativity characters“. 

In 2012 Kevin Connolly reported on Christians in the Middle East while managing to omit any mention of the one country in which they thrive and Jon Donnison produced a politically opportunistic report from Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was also the location for a 2013 report from Yolande Knell in which she promoted inaccurate information about the anti-terrorist fence.

“In the Bethlehem Governorate there are more than twenty Pal..err…Israeli settlements and now Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. It appears as a high concrete wall around Bethlehem and the people here complain that it has strangled their economy. Israel says of course that it was built for security but the Palestinians view it as a land grab.”

A multi-platform item promoted a smear from a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.Knell Bethlehem main

Political messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence also dominated a Christmas 2014 report on the BBC News website and Yolande Knell produced an audio report and a written report from Bethlehem in which she blamed “the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land” on “Israel’s occupation”.

Reporting again from Bethlehem in 2015, Yolande Knell revisited the ‘nativity characters’ theme in a multi-media feature focusing on politicised messaging concerning the anti-terrorist fence. An audio report by Knell broadcast on the BBC World Service was notable for its adherence to PLO media guidance.

Let’s hope that this year the BBC Jerusalem bureau can resist the temptation to exploit Christmas for the promotion of opportunistic politicised messaging and perhaps even come up with some original reporting about the Middle East’s beleaguered Christians. 

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

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Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

On September 2nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Arafat poisoning inquiry dropped by French prosecutors” and a similar report appeared on the BBC Arabic website.

Although this report is about the closure of an inquiry opened three years ago in August 2012 after Suha Arafat filed a civil suit at a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre claiming that her husband had been murdered, the caption to the main photograph illustrating the English language article continues to infer foul play.Arafat art 3 9 15  

“Swiss tests found abnormal levels of polonium on Yasser Arafat’s body”

That theme is also promoted in the body of the report:

“Arafat died in Paris in 2004, aged 75. His wife says he was poisoned, possibly by highly radioactive polonium.

The claims were seemingly backed up by tests carried out in Switzerland.”

Later on readers are informed that:

“Three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators were allowed to take samples from Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah.

But, earlier this year, one French prosecutor said the polonium samples were of an environmental nature.”

Readers are not told that the Russian investigation also ruled out poisoning.

As we know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that its content must achieve both “due accuracy” and “impartiality over time“. The BBC’s coverage of this story over the past three years presents an opportunity to examine its adherence to those editorial standards.

The story began in July 2012 when an Al Jazeera ‘documentary’ claimed that Swiss experts had found “significant” traces of Polonium 210 on some of Arafat’s personal effects provided by his widow.

In August 2012 Suha Arafat filed her suit in Paris and BBC coverage at the time informed audiences that:

“…many Palestinians continue to believe that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied any involvement.”

In November 2012 Arafat’s remains were exhumed. The BBC’s Jon Donnison had already prepared the scene with two reports on Arafat’s ‘legacy’ – here and here – and a filmed item in which he promoted the notion that Arafat was “killed at the hands of Israel”. Additional filmed and written coverage by Richard Galpin also promoted the PA’s conspiracy theory of Israeli involvement in Arafat’s death. The exhumation itself prompted no fewer than five reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, three of which again promoted conspiracy theories about Israel.

A year later, in November 2013, the appearance of a Swiss report with findings described as “moderately” supporting the poisoning theory prompted the BBC news website to produce no fewer than thirteen different reports, nine of which amplified conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death.website 6 to 8 11

In December 2013 a leaked French report stating that Arafat was not poisoned was covered in two reports on the BBC News website, both of which included repetition of Palestinian conspiracy theories which accuse Israel of being responsible for Arafat’s death.

Later on in December 2013, the Russian team also announced that its findings ruled out foul play and that news was covered in one report on the BBC News website, which again promoted Palestinian conspiracy theories concerning Israel. By this time the website had promoted four times more reports promoting the Swiss report which “moderately supported” the poisoning theory than it had devoted to the French and Russian findings which determined that Arafat died of natural causes.

In January 2015 the BBC’s flagship interview programme ‘Hardtalk’ produced a special programme to “mark the anniversary” of Arafat’s death in which Suha Arafat was provided with a platform to further promote the notion that Arafat was murdered.

In March 2015 French experts officially announced that they had ruled out foul play and that “the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature”. There was no coverage of that announcement on the BBC News website.

In July 2015 the French prosecutor “said there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. The BBC News website’s one report on that announcement promoted the ‘Israel killed Arafat’ conspiracy theory no fewer than three times.

In August 2015 the BBC found it appropriate to rebroadcast its January 2015 ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Suha Arafat despite the fact that it was obvious that the case was heading towards closure.

In this latest article concerning the French authorities’ decision to close the case from September 2015, the Swiss results are once again promoted as noted above.

So has the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” covered this story with “due accuracy” and “impartiality over time”? Well, for a start, the fact that the BBC’s backgrounder on the topic has not been updated since December 2013 does not enhance the impression of commitment to accuracy.

The repeated – if not obsessive – amplification of a baseless conspiracy theory even after two teams of experts had ruled that Arafat died of natural causes certainly cannot be said to contribute to the impression of accuracy in BBC reporting and licence fee payers may well be asking themselves how the BBC can possibly justify the use of resources, air time and column space to repeatedly propagate fact-free myth-cum-folklore and why it has spent three years lending an air of plausibility to this particular conspiracy theory.

As for impartiality, the volume of coverage of the Swiss results which “moderately” supported the poisoning theory has clearly been much greater than the BBC’s reporting on the results produced by the other two teams and their continued amplification even in this latest report suggests that “impartiality over time” was not a priority in coverage of this story.

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