BBC News again ignores Jordanian misinformation

Last month we noted that a delegation from the Jordanian parliament had held various meetings in London – including with British parliamentarians – while on a visit organised by a group headed by a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Jordanian media outlets reported at the time that:

“MP Yahya Saud, who leads a parliamentary delegation to London, on Tuesday said that Jordan is paying the price of defending the Palestinian cause and safeguarding the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

And:

“The meeting figured high on the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied Jerusalem.” 

We remarked at the time that:

“Had the BBC reported this story it could have performed a useful public service by informing MPs and the public alike that, although Jordan has been trying for some time to promote the notion that it holds custodianship of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as recently documented by our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic that is not the case.”

Earlier this week the Jordanian parliament adopted recommendations proposed by a committee headed by the same controversial MP.

“Jordanian lawmakers on Monday urged their government to kick Israel’s ambassador out of the kingdom and “review” the 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state.

The MPs’ call came during an “emergency” meeting of the country’s House of Representatives in Amman on Monday to discuss the “recent violations, including the storming by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers, of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque/Noble Sanctuary,” the state-funded Al-Mamlaka TV reported. […]

At the meeting, MP Yahya Al-Saud put forward 17 recommendations drawn up by the parliamentary Palestine Committee, which he chairs. The text of the recommendations referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity” and warned against “allowing Jewish settlers to carry out Talmudic prayer” at the Temple Mount.

The recommendations included “expelling the ambassador of the Zionist entity in Amman”; the recall of Jordan’s ambassador to Israel; a “review” of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries; an affirmation that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is 144 dunams in size — that is, that it constitutes the entirety of the Temple Mount area and not just the mosque building, and therefore that no non-Muslims are permitted anywhere on the mount; backing continued custodianship of the holy site by Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy; and rejecting an alleged plot by Israel to divide the Temple Mount into Muslim-only and Jewish-only sections and prayer times.”

The text of the recommendations adopted by the Jordanian parliament also includes a clause:

“…Stressing the importance of the sustainability of the Hashemite custodianship on Christian and Islamic holy places in Jerusalem. This is a historic right that has been guaranteed by international covenants.”

However, the BBC – which in recent years has promoted itself as battlingfake news‘ – has once again chosen to ignore a story about Jordanian propagation of false claims concerning one of the world’s most sensitive locations.

Related Articles:

A story about Labour and antisemitism that the BBC chose to ignore

Sky, AFP, Reuters (in Arabic) declare Jordan guardian of Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites (UK Media Watch)

Sky News Arabia falsely claims Jordan has custody over Jerusalem’s Christian shrines (UK Media Watch)

 

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A story about Labour and antisemitism that the BBC chose to ignore

Since the BBC One ‘Panorama’ documentary about antisemitism in the UK Labour party was aired last week the BBC has produced a considerable amount of multi-platform follow-up content on that topic.

One recent story which the BBC has however not covered is the reaction to a Labour MP’s meeting with a member of the Jordanian parliament.

“A senior member of the UK Labour Party met last week in London with a Jordanian lawmaker who has voiced support for terror attacks against Israelis and called for tearing up the peace deal between his country and Israel.

Yahya al-Saud, a member of Jordan’s House of Representatives, posted a picture to his Facebook account Thursday of himself with Labour MP Fabian Hamilton outside the Houses of Parliament. […]

According to al-Saud, he and other members of the Jordanian parliament’s Palestine Committee met with Hamilton at the House of Commons, where they discussed stopping Israel’s “racist” practices toward the Palestinians, as well other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […]

The Jordanian MP has on a number of occasions backed violence against Israel, including suicide bombings, and said the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement “has brought nothing but disasters to the Jordanian people.”

He has also called to “liberate our holy places from the plundering Jews” and said he is “a slave to whoever takes me to Palestine as a fighter,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute watchdog.”

Following criticism, including from some of his constituents, Mr Hamilton later claimed that ‘he was not aware of Yahya al-Saud’s “appalling and Anti-Semitic remarks” when he met him and other Jordanian lawmakers in London’. One trusts that the same goes for the Jordanian MP’s misogyny and history of brawling.

However a no less interesting part of this story concerns the background to that meeting. One of the photographs posted by al Saud shows him (second from the left) meeting the British MP (third from the left).

Second from the right in that photo is Zaher Birawi and the explanation for that is found in the Jordanian media. [emphasis added]

“MP Yahya Saud, who leads a parliamentary delegation to London, on Tuesday said that Jordan is paying the price of defending the Palestinian cause and safeguarding the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem

The delegation met with Palestinian and Arab community leaders and representatives of media institutions, with the presence of Jordanian Deputy Ambassador to the UK Daifallah Fayez, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

During the meeting, which was organised by the European Communication Forum and the Palestinian British Forum, Saud said that Jordanians stand behind their Hashemite leadership in rejection of the so-called “deal of the century”, adding that they sternly reject turning Jordan into an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians.” 

And:

“MP Yahya al-Sa’ud told the meeting that all Jordanians stand united behind His Majesty King Abdullah II in his rejection of the so-called “deal of the century” and any proposals to make Jordan a substitute homeland for the Palestinians. 

The meeting figured high on the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied Jerusalem. The meeting was organized by the Europal Forum in cooperation with the Palestinian-British Forum.”

While we do not know whether or not the Jordanian delegation similarly brought up the topic of “the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines” in Jerusalem with the MPs and member of the House of Lords that they also met in London, it does seem highly likely.

Had the BBC reported this story it could have performed a useful public service by informing MPs and the public alike that, although Jordan has been trying for some time to promote the notion that it holds custodianship of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as recently documented by our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic that is not the case.

Another service the UK’s public broadcaster could have provided by investigating this story would be to apprise British politicians such as Mr Hamilton of the background to the groups which apparently set up his meeting with the Jordanian MP about whom he now says he was under informed.

The link between the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ – described as “one of the components of the Hamas support network in the UK” – and ‘the EuroPal Forum’ is Zaher Birawi. As previously noted on these pages in connection to his role in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’:

“…in addition to playing a role in convoys and flotillas,  Zaher Birawi was also involved in the organisation of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ and was previously director of the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – an organisation banned in Israel due to its Hamas affiliations.

More recently Birawi has been active in the role of chairman of the London-based EuroPal Forum – an organisation which appears to have replaced the Council for European Palestinian Relations (also banned by Israel) which became defunct after its director – Arafat Shoukri , who was also involved with the Palestinian Return Center – left the UK for Qatar (and a job with Al Jazeera) around 2014.”

The UK Labour party’s connections to Hamas-linked organisations such as the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ and the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (with which Fabian Hamilton met in December 2017) caused some British commentators to ask “when is Labour going to take action in relation to its own extremism problem?” long before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader.

Some in-depth reporting on that meeting on Parliament premises between British politicians and the Jordanian delegation could have contributed significantly to the understanding of the BBC’s funding public as to how the Labour party’s antisemitism crisis was – and continues to be – incubated as well as how foreign interest groups with links to a terrorist organisation have access to their lawmakers. 

Related Articles:

Sky, AFP, Reuters (in Arabic) declare Jordan guardian of Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites  (UK Media Watch)

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

Weekend long read

1) The potential designation of the Muslim Brotherhood – covered by the BBC at the end of last month – is the topic of a discussion held at the FDD available both as a transcript and on video.

“As the administration and Congress consider designating Muslim Brotherhood groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, FDD hosted a breakfast event on May 17 to discuss the options, criteria, and implications of any U.S. government actions. The conversation was be moderated by Nancy Youssef, national security correspondent at The Wall Street Journal, and featured Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at FDD; Samuel Tadros, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; and Amy Hawthorne, deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).”

2) The ITIC reports on the demonstration held two weeks ago in London.

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas- and Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

3) At the INSS Oded Eran discusses “Concerns for Jordan’s Stability”.

“In the first years after the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the common assessment was that the Hashemite Kingdom was able to cope with the challenges it confronted, despite the various internal and external political pressures, including the demographic pressure created by the wave of refugees from Syria. However, cracks in this image of stability have begun to emerge, and there are increasing indications that the developments in the country could lead to a serious undermining of the regime, with long term strategic ramifications. The destabilization process could, for example, be sparked by protracted mass demonstrations, some of them violent, a loss of control over the situation by security forces, and a loss of the palace’s control over parliamentary decisions.”

4) Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld examines “Antisemitic Cartoons in the Anti-Israel Media” at BESA.

“Media that frequently incite against Israel often slip into publishing antisemitic cartoons.  A case in point is a recent cartoon in The New York Times that dehumanized Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by depicting him as a dog. Antisemitic cartoons have appeared in the British Independent and Guardian, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Italian Il Manifesto, the Swedish Dagens Nyheter, the Dutch Volkskrant, and all three leading Norwegian dailies.”

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Among the topics (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’ was that of cuts in US aid to Palestinians – particularly via the UN agency UNRWA.

Nearly two weeks before any official US announcement was made the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was already framing the topic for listeners in an item that purported to examine the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”

January 3rd, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

“As we see, listeners to this item heard three views in all – two from Palestinians and one from a think-tank fellow with a record of being less than neutral. No American or Israeli views were sought by the programme’s producers. Audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.”

On January 16th the BBC News website reported that:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say.

It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 16th, BBC News website:

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background (see also here)

“While…relevant background was withheld, the BBC’s article did amplify reactions from former UN official Jan Egeland and the PLO. […] Obviously BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions on this particular story so long as the BBC continues to refrain from providing them with the relevant background concerning the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that they have been denied for so many years.”

The next morning the top story in the various editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ was described as follows:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say. It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 17th, ‘Newsday’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

The interviewees heard by listeners were as follows:

05:06 edition: Jan Egeland (Norwegian Refugee Council), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

06:06 edition: Antonio Guterres (UN), Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO)

07:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

08:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

09:06 edition: Jonathan Schanzer (FDD), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

10:06 edition: Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

“The majority of the opinions heard…were strongly critical of the [US] decision and the sole exception was in the contributions from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. […] Obviously that imbalance in itself compromises the BBC’s claim to produce impartial reporting “reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion“. Moreover, listeners heard numerous inaccurate and misleading claims from both Gunness and Barghouti that presenters made no attempt whatsoever to challenge or correct. No attempt was made to raise any of the serious issues surrounding UNRWA’s functioning and agenda despite their clear relevance to the story.” 

The BBC News website published two additional reports on the same story:

January 17th & January 26th, BBC News website:

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

Four days later, an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

January 30th, BBC News website:

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

“…just 72 words in Yolande Knell’s 882 word report were devoted to the provision of superficial background information on UNRWA. […]  While content provided by UNRWA staffers Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and (former BBC employee) Chris Gunness makes up nearly half of Yolande Knell’s 882 word article, once again this PR item amplifying UNRWA’s campaign against the US administration’s reduced donation fails to provide BBC audiences with the full range of impartial information concerning the UN agency that is needed for broader understanding of the story.”

In February UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, was given a long slot on BBC WS radio.

February 19th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

“Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.”

In May BBC WS radio audiences heard Yolande Knell interview the Jordanian minister of information.

May 9th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.”

The following month listeners to the same programme heard Nada Tawfik promoting UNRWA PR.

June 13th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

“To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.”

In late August the BBC WS radio programme ‘Newshour’ once again presented preemptive framing of a US announcement that had not yet been made in a long item that included an interview with the Jordanian foreign minister.

August 30th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

“This interview with a senior minister from a country where some 40% of UNRWA clients live could obviously have been employed to provide BBC audiences with much-needed enhancement of understanding of the background to the ‘UNRWA in financial crisis’ story that the BBC has been reporting since January. Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s record on this story, once again that opportunity was passed up.”

The US announcement on August 31st was covered in a written report published on the same day in which readers saw quotes from the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness and the then PLO representative in Washington.

August 31st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

“Once again BBC audiences did not see an explanation of the changes to UNRWA’s mission over the years which have created the situation in which the number of people registered as refugees has grown rather than diminished in 70 years.”

That report was replaced by another one the next day.

September 1st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

“…16.3% of the report’s word count was given over to criticism of the US decision from various Palestinian factions, including the PLO (together with a link) and the Hamas terror group. An additional 48 words were used to describe Palestinian denunciation of previous unrelated US Administration decisions. A further 13.7% of the report’s word count was devoted to amplification of statements from UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness, meaning that in all, 30% of the article was devoted to informing BBC audiences of condemnations of the US move.”

Listeners to BBC WS radio on the same day also heard from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.  

September 1st, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

“…BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged UNRWA messaging together with promotion of Palestinian talking points in a long item which once again did little to contribute to their understanding of the background to this story.”

Also in September an edition of a BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme included an item billed “where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration”.

September 23rd, ‘Sunday’, BBC Radio 4:

More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

“Yet again BBC audiences were denied information concerning UNRWA’s problematic record and were given no insight into the background to its politically motivated perpetuation of the refugee issue. Yet again BBC audiences heard no discussion of why citizens of the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas are classified as refugees and deliberately kept dependent on foreign aid.

However, in this item Radio 4 listeners heard more than an academic discussion. They heard a significant contribution from the “head of marketing and fundraising” at an NGO that is raising money for this particular cause – a cause that was repeatedly portrayed to the Sunday morning audience as the right “moral” choice.”

As the above examples show, the BBC’s coverage of this story was both generous and blatantly one-sided. While repeatedly providing platforms for UNRWA officials and supporters, the corporation made no effort to explain the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that are the context to the story.

In other words, the BBC’s approach to this story, which ran for much of 2018, was to self-conscript to a political campaign rather than to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to reach their own informed opinions on the topic.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

Revisiting another of the BBC’s 2018 campaigns

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin takes a look at a story which long since dropped off the BBC’s radar – Egypt’s campaign against the ISIS branch in Sinai.

“With security threats to Israel from Iran and Hezbollah along the northern borders, and Hamas and other terror elements in the Gaza Strip to the south often receiving the lion’s share of public attention, the activities of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group state in the large Sinai Peninsula are often overlooked.

However, efforts by Egypt, along with quiet reported Israeli support, to crack down on the group appear to be making significant progress. Although a large-scale counter-terrorism operation has not eliminated the threat, it has greatly reduced it, a senior Israeli defense analyst told JNS.”

2) The ITIC provides a “Profile of Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the New Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader“.

“On September 28, 2018, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman Da’ud Shehab announced the election of Ziyad al-Nakhalah as secretary general. Al-Nakhalah, the organization’s third leader, replaced Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who has been in a coma for the past six months (following a series of strokes). The PIJ is Iran’s preferred proxy in the internal Palestinian arena. Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who has strong connections with Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, plays a central role in foster and promoting the PIJ’s collaboration with Iran. Therefore it can be expected that under al-Nakhalah’s leadership the PIJ will continue to promote Iran’s interests in the Gaza Strip and in the internal Palestinian arena in general; and in return the PIJ will profit from generous Iranian financial and military support, which will help it preserve its status as the second most important terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip (after Hamas).”

3) At the INSS Gilead Sher and Mor Ben-Kalifa discuss the “Challenge to the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty“.

“One year prior to the automatic renewal of the annex to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, King Abdullah announced that Jordan would not renew the special regime governing the areas of Naharayim and Zofar for another twenty-five years. Jordan, he said, will impose its sovereignty fully over these areas. The dire socio-economic and demographic situation in Jordan, coupled with the intensifying grass-roots protests throughout the Hashemite kingdom and the political deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has heightened public pressure on King Abdullah to cancel the peace treaty, whether in part or in its entirety. Over the years, Israeli-Jordanian relations have weathered ups and downs, but the parties succeeded in overcoming even the most extreme crises. The profound common interests that Jordan and Israel have shared for decades may help in overcoming the current challenge – provided that the crisis is handled promptly through covert dialogue, far from the spotlight.”

4) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “The Return of ISIS“.

“So IS as an organization has survived the successful US-led destruction of the quasi-state it created in 2014.  It has a leadership structure, money, fighters, weaponry and it is currently constructing a network of support in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq and Syria. These areas take in territory under the nominal control of the government of Iraq, the US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces and the Assad regime.  Small scale attacks have already begun in some areas. The return of the Islamic State in the dimensions it reached in the summer of 2014 does not look likely or imminent.  But the prospects of an IS-led ongoing Sunni insurgency, with roots deep in the Sunni Arab outlying areas of Syria, Iraq and the border between them is an increasingly likely prospect.  The Caliphate may be in ruins.  But Islamic State is back.”

Weekend long read

1) At the FDD, the Institute for Science and International Security documents “New Information about the Parchin Site“.

“A great deal of on-the-ground information about Iran’s Parchin site has publicly emerged.  This site was involved prior to 2004 in high explosive testing related to the development of nuclear weapons.  The new information, mainly in the form of Iranian documents and photos, is from an archive seized by Israel in Tehran, a fact that was publicly revealed on April 30, 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He reported that this archive shows that in 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site, if a political decision was made to test. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.”

2) Dr Shiraz Maher has published an essay titled “The primacy of praxis: clerical authority in the Syrian conflict”.

“A close look at the competing claims, actors, and movements for authority within the Syrian civil war reveals three distinct periods of political and religious influence: that of Syrian scholars, who were the first to inject religious language into the revolution; that of Salafi scholars predominantly from the Gulf; and lastly, that of jihadi organizations like ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, who were active on the ground.

This paper focuses on which figures relied on action—rather than theoretical abstraction—to establish legitimacy and authority on the ground in Syria. Tracing the conflict from the first clerical attempts to coordinate the Syrian opposition to the conflict’s regionalization, and, later, internationalization, this paper demonstrates that the words of actors on the ground are more likely than those of far-off figures—however popular—to resound effectively.”

3) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at the background to a story first reported by the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

“On October 13, 2018, Sheikh Akhram a-Sabri, preacher of the al-Aqsa Mosque, issued a fatwa (ruling in Islamic law) stating that anyone who sells property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jews no longer belongs to the Islamic religion.

“We will not accept his repentance, and he will not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Sabri declared. […]

On October 20, 2018, the Jerusalem police and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) apprehended Adnan Gheith, the PA’s Jerusalem governor, and Jihad al-Faqih, director of the PA’s intelligence office in east Jerusalem, both of whom are supporters of Gen. Majid Faraj. They were arrested on suspicion of abducting a Beit Hanina resident (whose name is known to the author), a known realtor dealing in land and property, whom they suspected of selling a property in the area of Herod’s Gate in the Old City.

The realtor is an Israeli citizen who also holds a U.S. passport.”

4) Also at the JCPA, Nadav Shragai discusses a Jordanian request.

“Jordan has asked Israel to allow it to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, on the eastern wall of the Mount, facing the Mount of Olives. The Jordanian request is not new, and as far as it is known, at least at this stage, Israel does not intend to allow it. This issue has again been put on the public agenda, along with other matters relating to the ties between Jordan and Israel on the Temple Mount, in light of Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease agreement for land in Naharayim and the Arava, which Israeli farmers have been working for the past 25 years.”

BBC News employee breaches social media editorial guidelines

Meet Majd Yousef. Hailing from Jordan and now living in London, she is currently employed as a YouTube editor at BBC News and two years ago, described her job at the time as follows:

“Majd Yousef is an Online Editor at BBC World Services and a YouTube Editor at BBC Arabic. Majd specializes in online videos in general, and news in particular. At BBC, Majd is responsible for creating publishing strategies for news and programs, pulling analytics and feedback, and keeping an eye on what is trending in the Arab region. Having worked previously in the same position at Al Jazeera English in Doha, her passion for digital media and online publishing goes back to her days at Kharabeesh, an online entertainment network where she worked as a Publishing Manager for over 2 years. […]

I am responsible for everything BBC Arabic publishes on its YouTube channel; I set the online strategy for our different programs and make editorial decisions of what to publish, based on our ongoing analysis of the audience’s behavior.”

Ms Yousef has also contributed to written BBC content.

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media state that:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

And:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […] Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

And:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

When, on October 21st, the king of Jordan announced that he will not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan concerning territory leased to Israel, Majd Yousef nevertheless made her opinion on the issue very clear in a Tweet sent from a Twitter account identifying her as a BBC employee.

Ms Yousef also sent several additional problematic Tweets concerning the same topic, including one using the terms “we” and “our” – i.e. Jordanians.

“It’s important to recall the appendix to the agreement, this is a one year notice prior to the execution, i.e. we must make sure it’s being carried out next year, then according to the agreement the two sides enter a stage of consultations after the notice – let’s see who is “consulting” on our behalf before we celebrate…”

Apparently someone at the BBC recognised that Majd Yousef’s Tweets breach BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media because two days after they were sent, her Twitter account was deleted.

But at least we now have some insight into the opinions behind the “editorial decisions” that go into making videos for BBC News.

Related Articles:

Omissions in BBC account of background to Jordan land lease story

‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

 

 

Omissions in BBC account of background to Jordan land lease story

On October 21st the BBC News website ran a report titled “Jordan seeks to end Israel land lease” which relates to the Jordanian king’s announcement on the same day that he will not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan concerning territory leased to Israel.

“Jordan says it plans to end a lease of two areas of land to Israel that was agreed in annexes to the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

The areas are Naharayim in the north and Tzofar in the south, known as Baqura and Ghamr in Arabic.

The lease governing them was for 25 years and had been due for renewal. […]

Under the terms of the annex to the peace deal, the lease would be extended automatically unless one party gave notice a year before the lease ended, leading to talks on the matter.”

While the first part of the article gives readers a reasonable account of the story, the later part – under the sub-heading “Why would Jordan want to end the lease?” – provides an incomplete account of the story’s background.

“King Abdullah has been under pressure from Jordanian MPs and the Jordanian public not to renew the lease for the two areas. Eighty-seven Jordanian MPs have signed a petition urging an end to the lease.

Last Friday protesters in the Jordanian capital Amman called for the lease to be ended and campaigns have also taken place on social media.

It follows recent strains in the relationship between Jordan and Israel over issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The BBC chose not to inform its audiences that – as the Jerusalem Post reports – there are elements in Jordan that would like to see an end to more than just the lease on the two specific areas of land.

“In very general terms, it’s fair to say that the 1994 peace agreement did not filter down to Jordanian masses. The Jordanians might already be drinking Israeli water, are scheduled to be heating their homes with Israeli natural gas in 2020, and benefit in numerous ways from security cooperation with Israel, but, for the most part, they don’t like Israel.
And this is something that King Abdullah II has to take into account.
Jordan’s announcement on Sunday regarding the Naharayim (Baqura) area near the Kinneret and part of Zofar (al Ghamar), in the Arava, did not knock anyone off their chair in Jerusalem. There has been talk for months inside Jordan of the need to regain those two areas. There have been debates in parliament, and even protests on the streets – much of it led by Islamic elements inside the Hashemite Kingdom.
Abdullah is in vice. While he needs the peace treaty with Israel for the security of his regime, he has domestic Islamic elements to deal with and at times placate.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Additionally, an economic crisis that struck the kingdom over the past year may also have pushed Abdullah not to renew this portion of the treaty, in an effort to appease hardliners and prevent a potential coup, veteran regional analyst Ehud Yaari told Hadashot news on Sunday night.

Jordan has struggled with a sluggish economy, including rising unemployment, in the wake of regional conflicts, including in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Earlier this year, largely peaceful demonstrations, which led to a change of prime ministers, erupted over rising prices and proposed legislation to increase income tax, in line with IMF-driven austerity measures.”

Obviously internal Jordanian affairs – about which BBC audiences hear comparatively little – are no less relevant to the understanding of the background to this story than “the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians”. BBC audiences, however, were denied that information.

Related Articles:

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BBC framing excludes important aspects of Amman embassy story

BBC’s Yolande Knell promotes Muslim Brotherhood messaging

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The JCPA has a report on part of the background to a story covered by the BBC last week.

“Deadly riots in Iraq’s southern city of Basra erupted following protests waged by the local population that have been going on since early July 2018. The turmoil worsened after the governor of Basra ordered troops to use live bullets against the protesters. Rioters stormed the provincial government building on September 4, 2018, and set it ablaze.

The cause of discontent is the crumbling and obsolete state of the local infrastructures. Today, the blame is directed mainly against the failing water infrastructure, which is causing plague-like conditions in the local population: according to the news from Basra between 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases. Some 17,000 intestinal infection cases due to water contamination were recorded, according to Basra health authorities. Hospitals are unable to cope with the flow of the sick, nor do the authorities know how to deal with the spreading diseases and the threat of cholera.”

2) At the INSS Oded Eran takes a look at “The Idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation, Revisited“.

“In the quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation/confederation, which has been raised from time to time, has recently resurfaced. In a September 2, 2018 meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and a group of Israelis, the Palestinian leader said that the idea was raised by the US team engaged in the effort to renew the negotiations between the parties and formulate a proposal for a settlement. Beyond the major question regarding the Palestinians’ political and legal status in the American proposal, a confederation model, particularly one involving Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel, creates a possibility for “creative solutions” to issues related to economies, energy, and water. A trilateral framework of this nature may also facilitate solutions that include relinquishing elements of sovereignty for the sake of the confederation.”

3) Jonathan Spyer discusses the situation in northern Syria.

“Before the civil war, Syria’s Kurds were among the most severely oppressed, and among the most invisible minorities, of the Middle East. Numbering between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the pre-war Syrian population, they were prevented from educating or even naming their children in their native language. A section of the Kurdish population was deprived of travel and passport rights. Some, the so-called maktoumeen (unrecorded), lacked even citizenship and access to education.

The emergence of a de facto Kurdish enclave following the withdrawal by the Assad regime from a swath of the county’s north in 2012 changed all this. The enclave successfully defended itself against an early attempt by the rebels to destroy it. In 2014 the Kurds formed a de facto alliance with the US and the West in the war against Islamic State. This war, along with the regime’s (and Russia and Iran’s) war against the rebels, now is in its closing stages.”

4) The ITIC reports on recent violent power struggles in eastern Syria.

“In August 2018, several cities in the Euphrates Valley witnessed violent clashes between the Syrian army and Syrian militias affiliated with it on the one hand, and Shiite militias handled by Iran on the other. The clashes took place in the region between Albukamal and Deir ezZor, and both sides sustained dozens of casualties. In the background, there were violent power struggles and conflicts on the extortion of money from local residents, mainly by collecting “crossing fees” in return for the use of crossings between the two banks of the Euphrates River. During the clashes, attempts were made to find local solutions to defuse the situation: the militias were supposed to stop running the crossings and the Russian Military Police was supposed to take their place. However, since late August 2018, the clashes stopped and a reconciliation committee was convened in the city of Albukamal, to resolve the conflicts.”

 

 

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the August 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ led with a very long item described in the synopsis as follows:

“Jordan’s foreign minister has warned that cuts to the funding of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, could be “extremely destabilising”. Ayman Safadi reacted to reports that the United States had decided to cut all funding it gives to UNRWA. The US had already announced a big reduction of contributions earlier this year.”

Following an introduction by presenter Julian Marshall and a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, Marshall introduced his interviewee (from 04:13 here).

Marshall: “And the head of UNRWA has today been visiting Jordan – home to 2 million Palestinian refugees – where he’s been having talks with the Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi and after that meeting we spoke to Mr Safadi. I asked him first what are his thoughts on UNRWA’s funding crisis.”

Readers may recall that back in May Yolande Knell also interviewed a Jordanian minister on the same topic. Then as now, no effort was made to explain to BBC audiences how that country’s decision to attack the nascent Jewish state in 1948 contributed to the creation of the Palestinian refugee situation.

From 04:31 listeners heard (on a bad phone line) Ayman Safadi claim that UNRWA’s budget deficit “is threatening its ability to continue to offer vital services to over 5 million Palestinian refugees in its 5 areas of operation” and that “failing UNRWA would ultimately translate into depriving 560 million [sic] Palestinian kids from their right to education, millions other from very, very important services that UNRWA provides in terms of health services and other emergency services”.

[05:28] Marshall: “And would you hope that other states will come forward to make up the shortfall?”

Safadi mentioned his country’s role in “putting together the Rome conference” and resulting and subsequent contributions from other countries before claiming that:

Safadi: “It’s not only in terms of financial responsiveness […] but also the political message is that UNRWA is linked to the refugees issue and I think this support we’re seeing translates [into] political support that UNRWA should continue to fulfil its mandate and that the refugees [issue] is a final status issue that should be addressed on the basis of UN resolution.”

Choosing not to expand on the issue of the exploitation of refugees for political leverage, Marshall changed the subject:

Marshall: “Why do you think the United States is doing this?”

Having stated that “we have recognised the logic of the argument the US has made about burden sharing”, Safadi went on to say:

Safadi: “In Jordan we have 122,000 kids that go to UNRWA schools. The pressure therefore is enormous.”

Marshall could at that point have enlightened listeners by asking Safadi why UNRWA is providing services to nearly 2 million people who hold Jordanian citizenship but instead he continued to pursue his previous line of questioning.

[08:44] Marshall: “Ahm…you said that you accepted the US logic about the need for more burden sharing and yet President Trump has made it quite clear in public statements and Tweets that he thinks that the Palestinians are ungrateful and he’s hoping that this might push them back towards the negotiating table.”

Safadi’s response to that question included:

[09:07] Safadi: “There is a humanitarian dimension to UNRWA that cannot be ignored and there’s also a political dimension that also must be emphasised because given the stalemate of the peace process, given the loss of hope, given the despair that has developed as a result of failure to get any traction [on] peace efforts, I think we need to be careful what message we send to the people. To make sure that we send a message of hope, that their livelihoods, their rights, are not forgotten and [unintelligible] to receive due attention by the international community.”

Once again Marshall chose to sidestep the issue of refugees deliberately kept in that status for political reasons. Apparently referring to reports from earlier in the month, he went on to ask:

[10:04] Marshall: “Has the United States discussed with Jordan at all the possibility of giving the money directly, that it might otherwise given [sic] to UNRWA, to you the Jordanian government to help with your 2 million Palestinian refugees?”

Safadi: “That’s a non-starter for us. That’s an issue that we will never accept again because…”

Marshall: “But has…has the United States proposed it?”

Safadi: “Some ideas have been floated and our answer was – it was probably the shortest conversation – such discussions the answer is no. We cannot do that. That will be a destabilizing factor because that will give the message that the right of refugees are being compromised so that’s something that we will not accept. It is not the right thing to do because it can only destabilise people. It will only send the wrong message about where we’re going. Palestinian refugees are under a UN mandate. That mandate has to continue until the refugees issues is dealt with as a final status issue – again, in accordance with the resolution. Jordan will never step in to shoulder the responsibilities UNRWA is shouldering. That said, I need to just state that over and above the services that UNRWA delivers in Jordan, Jordan is the largest contributor to Palestinian refugees. Our budget, our government budget, includes about $1.7 million that we spend on supporting services to Palestinian refugees in Jordan.”

Safadi repeated his “not the right thing to do” and “destabilising” themes yet again before Marshall closed the interview there – choosing once again to sidestep the important question of why UNRWA – financed as it is by donations sourced from tax-payers in other countries – should have to provide services for some 2 million people who – remarkably – audiences were not informed throughout this whole 11 minute long item are actually Jordanian citizens.

This interview with a senior minister from a country where some 40% of UNRWA clients live could obviously have been employed to provide BBC audiences with much-needed enhancement of understanding of the background to the ‘UNRWA in financial crisis’ story that the BBC has been reporting since January. Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s record on this story, once again that opportunity was passed up.

Related Articles:

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues