BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

On May 10th an article credited to Lamia Estatie appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Trending blog. At the bottom of the article readers are told that it was produced “By the UGC [user-generated content – Ed.] and Social News team; Additional reporting by BBC Monitoring in Cairo”.

Titled “Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad“, the article relates to a story that emerged on the same day.

“Arabs on social are calling for a boycott of the popular pizza chain and franchise after one of its Israel branches posted a Facebook advert said to “mock” Palestinian hunger strikers.

Pizza Hut has apologised for the now deleted post, saying it was “completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand” and added that “the relationship with the agency that posted it was terminated”.

Israeli prison authorities had earlier released an [sic] video of Marwan Barghouti – who is leading a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons – allegedly secretly eating cookies. Mr Barghouti’s wife has said the prison service footage was “fake”.

But Pizza Hut used a screen grab of the video with a Photoshopped pizza box in the cell. The post in Hebrew read: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?””

Nowhere throughout the entire article are BBC audiences informed that Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in lethal terror attacks and neither are they told that additional “Palestinian hunger strikers” are also serving time for acts of terror. As in previous BBC reports concerning the ‘hunger strike’ (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences are not told what the “jail conditions” that the prisoners are supposedly protesting actually are or what they are demanding. Neither are readers given any insight into the political background of the strike.

“Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April to protest against Israeli jail conditions, relying on an intake of saltwater.” 

“Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour has said that more than 6,500 Palestinians are imprisoned or arbitrarily detained by Israel.”

Another noteworthy aspect of this article comes in the following paragraph:

“The BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – is a self-described human rights organisations [sic] which supports a boycott of Israel as a form of pressure. Support for the campaign has grown on UK university campuses and has been criticised by some Jewish students.” [emphasis added]

The link in that paragraph leads to an article by Jon Ironmonger that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th and was discussed here. There too BBC audiences were inaccurately led to believe that the BDS campaign is a “human rights” group.

“The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.”

As we once again see from this latest BBC Trending article, when inaccurate information is promoted by the BBC it not only misleads the corporation’s funding public, but also its own staff. The result is that myths such as the claim that the BDS movement promotes human rights are recycled and spread even further.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

 

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BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

For years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Nevertheless, one might have expected that in two reports specifically relating to the issue of support for the BDS campaign from student unions in British universities, the corporation would have made an effort to get the facts right.

On April 27th BBC Two’s current affairs programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included a report by Jon Ironmonger (available here or here) about a Charity Commission investigation into 17 student unions that have endorsed the BDS campaign.

Having told audiences that Israel is “one subject” that “bitterly divides” students, Ironmonger went on to inform them that:

“The Jewish state of Israel is deeply controversial; accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and provoking anger around the world.”

He of course provided no evidence for that “human rights abuses” smear.

Audiences were later told that: [emphasis added]

“Students’ unions in increasing numbers have been voting to adopt strict anti-Israel policies under the banner of a global movement called BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. […]

BDS pressures Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands by calling for the boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.”

Obviously the use of such partisan terminology to describe disputed territory is not consistent with supposed BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

That report included two appearances by Sai Eglert who was described on screen as a “student teacher” and portrayed by Ironmonger as “a member of the Palestine Society at SOAS”. Viewers were not told that Eglert – who has appeared in BBC content before – is a BDS supporter and anti-Israel campaigner.

While interviewing a Jewish student about his experiences, Ironmonger appeared to question the existence of antisemitism at some UK universities.

“What’s fueling this antisemitism – if you like – on campus?” [emphasis added]

In addition to the filmed report, Ironmonger also produced a written article which was published on the BBC News website’s UK page on April 27th under the headline “Concerns raised over students’ unions’ anti-Israel stance“.

The portrayal of the BDS campaign in that article was no better. 

“Seventeen student bodies have endorsed the BDS movement – which calls for an international boycott of Israel over the way it treats Palestinians. […]

The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”

Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.

The subject matter of Jon Ironmonger’s two reports is important and serious. It is therefore all the more regrettable that BBC audiences were not provided with the full range of information critical for proper understanding of this story.