BBC News website misleads on construction plans

As documented here last week, early on the morning of July 27th a report concerning a terror attack that had taken place the previous evening in the community of Geva Binyamin (Adam) was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Middle East page 27/7/18

On the evening (local time) of the same day, a follow-up report was published but by the next morning it no longer appeared on the website’s Middle East page, although the first report was left standing.

Middle East page 28/7/18

That follow-up report – titled “Israeli defence minister calls for West Bank settlement expansion” – was, like the earlier article, bizarrely tagged “Gaza border clashes” even though the location of the incident that is its subject matter is nowhere near the ‘Gaza border’.

Readers of that follow-up report were told that:

“Israel’s defence minister says the best way to stop more attacks on Israeli citizens in the occupied West Bank is to expand its settlements.

Avigdor Lieberman announced 400 new homes would be built in Adam, near Ramallah, where a Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli man on Thursday. […]

The West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. […]

The Israeli army also said it is “reinforcing the defence” in the settlement of Adam, but Mr Lieberman suggested a longer-term strategy was needed.

“The best answer to terror is a settlement expansion in the West Bank,” he tweeted [in Hebrew].”

So did – and can, as this report clearly leads readers to believe – Israel’s defence minister at the drop of a hat order the construction of 400 “new” residential units in Geva Binyamin (Adam) in response to the terror attack that took place the previous evening? As explained at the Times of Israel – the answer to that question is no.

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday announced that he had directed his ministry to advance plans for the construction of 400 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Adam, in response to the deadly terror attack that took place there overnight. […]

The 400 homes would be part of an already existing plan which will add 1,000 houses in the settlement, 150 of which are already under construction.

Liberman’s directive likely means the plan will be prioritized by the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that convenes once every three months to approve West Bank construction.

The plan still requires several approvals by planning authorities before ground can be broken — a process that sometimes can take years.” [emphasis added]

As we have seen in the past, BBC audiences often receive misleading impressions about the scale of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem because the BBC covers – often repeatedly – announcements of building plans, planning approvals and issues of tenders, regardless of whether they actually come to fruition.

In this report we have yet another example of the BBC presenting residential units that are part of an existing plan as though they were an announcement of “new” building.

Related Articles:

BBC practice of repeat reporting of Israeli planning permits continues

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

 

 

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BBC’s dual standards on terror attacks continue

On the evening of July 26th a terror attack took place in the community of Geva Binyamin (Adam), north of Jerusalem.

“The regional council spokesman said the terrorist climbed over Adam’s security fence. He then walked deeper into the settlement, crossing a playground area, where he encountered the 31-year-old resident, and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso. A second resident, the 58-year-old, came out of a nearby home and was also stabbed. A third resident, hearing the disturbance, went outside and, realizing that an attack was occurring, shot the Palestinian terrorist three times, killing him.”

Doctors were unable to save the life of the first victim, who was later named as Yotam Ovadia – a father of two young children.

Early on the morning of July 27th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli stabbed to death by Palestinian in West Bank attack” on its Middle East page.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis (but not when reporting attacks in the UK or Europe), the BBC refrained from describing the attack as terrorism, with the only reference to terror coming in a direct quote from an Israeli official.

“An Israeli civilian has been stabbed to death in a settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The 31-year-old victim was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries, a hospital spokesman said.

Two other Israelis were wounded in the attack in Adam on Thursday. One, aged 50, is in a critical condition and the other suffered minor injuries.

The Israeli army says the attacker was shot and killed, reportedly by a civilian who was passing by.

It says troops will be sent to nearby Kubar village, where the 17-year-old Palestinian attacker is reported to have lived.

“The terrorist infiltrated the community of Adam, north of Jerusalem, and stabbed three civilians,” the army said in a statement. “Troops arrived at the scene and are searching the area.””

The BBC did not bother to update its article after the victim’s identity was made public.

Readers were also given the following piece of context-free information:

“Palestinian militant group Hamas said the attack was an act of heroism and revenge for three fighters who were killed in Gaza on Wednesday.”

The BBC however had not reported that previous incident, meaning that audiences were unaware of the fact that it began when:

“Soldiers patrolling the southern part of the Gaza Strip border came under fire Wednesday evening from a sniper within the Hamas-controlled territory, according to the IDF.

The Israeli military later said an officer was moderately wounded by the sniper fire. It said he was taken to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba for treatment.”

Neither do BBC audiences know that Hamas used a group of children to draw the patrol to the area.

“According to the IDF, the sniper fire came as a group of IDF soldiers arrived at a part of the fence that saw a group of 20 minors rioting on the other side. The minors were used as a decoy by the sniper to fire on the soldiers. […]

Military sources told Army Radio late Wednesday…that Hamas had encouraged the demonstration by young Gazans at the fence, drawing an IDF patrol, and then its snipers opened fire on the soldiers.”

Israel responded to the incident with strikes on Hamas military installations in which the members of the terror organisation described by the BBC as “three fighters” were killed. BBC audiences have also not been informed that during the same incident, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched nine rockets at Israeli civilian communities.

The latter part of the report was given over to what was clearly intended to be background information. Despite the number of terror attacks having declined over the past year, the BBC told its audiences that:

“There has been a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings of Israelis predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.

Dozens of Israelis have been killed in nearly three years of mainly lone-wolf attacks.

Some 300 Palestinians – most of them assailants, Israel says – have also been killed in that period, according to news agencies. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.” [emphasis added]

As we see, “in nearly three years” the BBC has still not bothered to independently confirm that information itself.

An old mantra was once again recycled:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

It is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what “Israel says” is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

The report closed with the BBC’s standard one-sided presentation of ‘international law’:

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

There are also some 100 outposts – small settlements built without the government’s authorisation.”

Related Articles:

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Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

 

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, after over six months and three complaints, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) finally acknowledged that a claim aired in the BBC Two commissioned programme ‘Alternativity’ in December 2017 was “materially misleading”.

However two additional points made in the same complaint by BBC Watch were rejected by the ECU. As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received on those points.

The second point raised concerned a claim made by Danny Boyle while being filmed in Hebron. As was documented here at the time:

“Standing on Emek Hevron street, Boyle then (22:40) presents pure conjecture as ‘fact’.

Boyle: “And the Star of David on the doorways which is declaring that obviously the…that in these circumstances, declaring that this is…this will become a settlement home…is shockingly reminiscent of something we all…one of the worst horrors of the world. That’s a bit mind-boggling.”

BBC Watch contacted a resident of that area and was informed that the Stars of David painted on those buildings are actually graffiti painted by unknown parties. […]

The doorways mentioned by Boyle are in fact entrances to small Arab market shops that were closed during the second Intifada due to Palestinian violence. Not only are those shops unsuitable for conversion into “a settlement home” – they have never even been considered for that purpose.

As we see, therefore, Danny Boyle – who earlier on in the programme admitted that the nearest he had previously ever been to the region was Majorca – has (presumably with a bit of help from his ‘guides’) let his imagination run wild – and presented his own uninformed assumptions as fact.

Moreover, he appears to be making an oblique reference to Nazi confiscation of Jewish property – an analogy that would be considered antisemitic according to the IHRA working definition adopted by the British government.”

In our initial complaint BBC Watch pointed out that Boyle had presented pure conjecture as fact and that:

“Boyle’s claim that the graffiti ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’ is unfounded and inaccurate.”

Although we did not raise the issue of Boyle’s apparent Nazi analogy in that complaint, in the reply received at Stage 1a we were informed by BBC Complaints that what appeared to be the case was in fact so.

“In the course of making the film Danny Boyle spent some time in Hebron (visiting both Hebron 1 and Hebron 2) and saw for himself properties formerly owned by Palestinian residents which were now claimed by Israeli settlers, and he saw that the Star of David was used to mark these properties. His comments in this section of the film are a reflection on what he had seen throughout his visit and on his awareness, as someone who loathes anti-Semitism, of what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s.” 

In our Stage 1b complaint submitted on January 22nd 2018 we noted that:

“The response provides no proof for the inaccurate claim that the shops on Emek Hevron street “were now claimed by Israeli settlers” – that allegation is simply untrue and unless the BBC can provide factual evidence must be withdrawn. Additionally the response states that Boyle was reflecting on “what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s”. The BBC – and Mr Boyle – should be aware that such a Nazi analogy is considered anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government.”

The relevant part of the response we received to that complaint was as follows:

“As stated previously, on his trip Danny Boyle saw properties formerly owned by Palestinians that had been claimed by Israeli settlers and marked with the Star of David.  It is your contention that the buildings in this specific scene have never even been considered for the purpose of settlement homes. Nonetheless we believe it was appropriate for Danny to comment on a practise that he had seen throughout his visit.”

Needless to say, no details were provided to support the claim that Boyle had seen Star of David graffiti expressing a claim by “Israeli settlers” to “properties formerly owned by Palestinians” in any other location “throughout his visit”.

In our complaint submitted to the ECU on February 28th 2018 we noted that:

“With regard to the second point raised in my complaint, the BBC once again provides no evidence to support the claim that the Star of David graffiti painted by unknown parties on doors on  Emek Hevron Street ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’. Moreover, it again justifies Boyle’s anti-Semitic Nazi analogy while ignoring the fact that other types of graffiti are in evidence on doorways on the same street.”

We included photographs of that additional graffiti, which includes (see here) Arabic writing and an anarchist symbol.

The reply received from the ECU four months after that Stage 2 complaint was submitted is as follows:

In other words, while admitting that Boyle’s remark was “conjecture” which may have been “mistaken as to the motive behind the particular graffito shown”, the BBC ECU still claims that audiences were not materially misled. The “evidence” cited by the ECU consists of three media reports: one from the Palestinian media outlet ‘Maan News’ dating from 2012, one from the New York Times dated 1997 and one from the Times of Israel dated 2014. While those articles may indeed support the ECU’s claim that graffiti can be a “declaration of…hostility to Palestinian residents”, that was not the claim put forward by Boyle in that part of the programme.

The third point raised in our Stage 1a complaint related to a statement made by the narrator at 33:11: [emphasis added]

Colman: “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads.”

BBC Watch pointed out that the claim is inaccurate and misleading, that even according to B’tselem just four Israeli communities are served by roads upon which vehicles with Palestinian plates cannot travel and that:

“Obviously “most” of the people the BBC chooses to call “Jewish settlers” do not live in those four communities.”

The response received at Stage 1a was as follows:

“Jewish settlements in the West Bank are increasingly connected and served by roads inaccessible to Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates. This is a result of the ongoing Israeli policy of expanding the settlements and their infrastructure.”

When we challenged that response – obviously irrelevant to the point made in the original complaint – at Stage 1b, this was the reply received:

“It is not disputed that the majority of West Bank settlers live in settlements. It is also the case that these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates.”

In our Stage 2 complaint to the ECU we pointed out that:

“With regard to the third point made in my complaint, the claim that “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads” is simply untrue and the BBC’s claim that “these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates” is only applicable to the entrance roads to a small number of communities – totaling at most less than 60 kms.”

Four months later the ECU replied with no small amount of ‘whataboutery‘, quoting a report from the politicised UN agency UNOCHA.

Readers can judge for themselves whether six months is an acceptable time-frame for the resolution of a complaint to the BBC and whether or not the practices of outsourcing complaints to a private company and basing responses to complaints on information supplied by political NGOs serves the interests of the public that funds the corporation. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

How the BBC outsources its complaints system

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part one

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part two

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during June 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 220 incidents took place: 88 in Judea & Samaria, 6 in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and 125 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 77 attacks with petrol bombs, fourteen attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two shooting attacks, and one vehicular attack. One stabbing attack took place in Afula.

Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 78 attacks with petrol bombs, five shooting attacks, 8 attacks using IEDs and three grenade attacks. 29 separate incidents of rocket fire were recorded, with 76 launches.

Five people were wounded in attacks that took place throughout the month. A high-school student was stabbed in Afula on June 11th. The BBC did not produce any reporting on that attack. A member of the security forces was wounded by a petrol bomb on June 5th in Jerusalem and three members of the security forces were wounded in a vehicular attack on June 23rd near Bethlehem. Neither of those incidents was covered by the BBC News website.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during June is listed below.

June 2nd: “Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic” – discussed here.

“Later on Saturday rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel reportedly responded with air strikes. […]

Israel’s military said its troops along the border had been attacked by militants with gunfire and a grenade on Friday. […]

Hours after the funeral two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, the IDF said, triggering air raid sirens in Israeli villages near the border.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system and the other apparently landed inside Gaza, a statement said.”

June 20th: “Gaza rocket barrage triggers Israeli air strikes” – discussed here.

“Twenty-five targets linked to the Hamas movement were hit overnight in response to a barrage of about 45 projectiles. […]

Israeli officials say six rockets fired from Gaza landed inside populated areas, causing damage to buildings and vehicles but no casualties. One rocket exploded just outside a kindergarten.”

Additional rocket attacks earlier and later in the month did not receive BBC coverage.

As we see BBC reporting mentioned one shooting incident and one grenade attack as well as rockets fired on two separate days. At the very most it can therefore be said that BBC News website audiences saw coverage of 21.8% of the terror attacks which took place during June.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18.7% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

Terror attack in Afula ignored by BBC News

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first half of an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis‘ titled ‘The Middle East Conundrum’ provided listeners with a long list of Israeli prime ministers who failed to make peace – while deliberately ignoring the role played by the Palestinian leaders with whom such agreements were supposed to be made.

Having erased post-Oslo Palestinian terrorism and the planning of the second Intifada from audience view entirely and with no reference whatsoever to foreign funding of Hamas terror, presenter Edward Stourton likewise presented three rounds of conflict sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as something that simply ‘erupted’.

Stourton: “There have been repeated eruptions of conflict between Israel and Gaza and those who try to mediate in the region have seen trust between the two sides steadily eroded by violence.”

He then introduced his next contributor – Gabrielle Rifkind – as someone who “has been involved in conflict resolution in the Middle East for two decades” but without clarifying (as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) the “particular viewpoint” of the organisation – formerly part of the Oxford Research Group – with which she is associated and without mentioning that her “Palestinian colleagues” included the PLO’s Husam Zomlot

Rifkind: “Well I think post-Oslo there was a moment of hope and even some of my Palestinian colleagues would say things like they threw olive branches to the Israelis. There was a belief that things could change and the two sides could live together. But since then there’ve been so many wars…ahm…three rounds of war in Gaza, we’ve had the Lebanon war.”

The Hizballah-initiated second Lebanon war of course had nothing to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and while conjuring up “olive branches”, Rifkind erased the post-Oslo terrorism in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered just as Stourton had previously done.

Stourton also managed to erase the 2008 peace offer made to the Palestinians by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert from his account before going on:

Stourton: “There was a flutter of hope that the peace process could be revived in the aftermath of Barak Obama’s arrival in the White House. In 2009, with an eye to Israel’s ever important American relationship, Benjamin Netanyahu – newly elected as prime minister for a second time – gave a conditional acceptance to the idea of a two-state solution.”

Stourton is of course referring to the Bar Ilan speech – which listeners then heard described thus:

Pfeffer: “It was very much a pragmatic rhetorical compromise made because he was dealing with the Obama administration which at the time was putting a lot of emphasis on trying to solve the Palestinian issue and therefore he had to make that concession. If you read those speeches then – the entire speeches – in the fine print you’ll find that he made so many conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state as to render it almost impossible to ever exist.”

With no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table throughout most of the 2009-10 freeze on new construction in Judea & Samaria, Stourton’s portrayal continued:

Stourton: “The last real peace-making push came during Bara Obama’s second term when John Kerry was Secretary of State.”

Martin Indyk then told listeners that “neither Netanyahu nor Abu Mazen [Abbas] believed that the other was actually serious about making peace and neither of these leaders was being pressed by their publics to make peace because their publics didn’t believe in it.”

Listeners were not however told the real reasons for the collapse of that particular round of talks – including the announcement of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which is relevant to Stourton’s next statement.  

Stourton: “On the Palestinian side the stalemate has been attended by a collapse of confidence in the two-state solution and political chaos. The divisions between the Hamas hard-liners and Mahmoud Abbas’ once dominant Fatah movement have become more intractable than ever.”

Listeners heard Gabrielle Rifkind tell them that “the level of kind of tensions and rivalry there is very problematic” and that Palestinians have “lost faith in their leadership and so they’re no longer believing in the idea of a two-state solution” and “they talk about one state, a binational state”. She did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the relevant fact that Hamas – which garnered the majority of support from the Palestinian public last time elections were held in 2006 – has never pretended to support the two-state solution.

Stourton then introduced Dr Khalil Shikaki “director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah” who told listeners that:

Shikaki: “Most Palestinians are highly pessimistic about the chances of creating a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. A lot of those who used to support the two-state solution have now shifted to supporting a one-state solution.”

Those interested in a rather less superficial view of Shikaki’s research can find it here.

Stourton: “What do they envisage?”

Shikaki: “Well to be honest we don’t know exactly what they envisage. […] they want a one-state whereby current Israeli Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights. The state itself would have no national or religious identity. [….] some believe in a bi-national state where the two groups would remain, would maintain their national identities…”

Stourton: “So the idea of a state that is both Jewish and democratic, which has been at the heart of the whole project of Israel, that doesn’t really survive either of those scenarios, does it?”

Shikaki: “No absolutely not.”

Stourton then turned to the subject of demography, claiming that “even if you take Gaza out of the equation, the population percentages in what might be described as a greater Israel present a real challenge – not least because the Palestinian population is growing faster.”

Dennis Ross next told listeners that “Israel and the West Bank….60% Jews to 40% Arabs” and went on:

Ross: “…I think that the issue of Israel becoming a bi-national Jewish-Arab state is one that is quite real. Most Israelis are not addressing it now because they’re looking at the region. They see how terrible the wars in the region are where there’s no limits, where civilians are fair game, where hospitals are a natural target and they say why should we take the risk, especially when we don’t see any opportunity. The danger with that is that it maintains this kind of drift towards a new reality which raises basic questions. Will this be one state with two peoples and if so, how are you going to manage that?”

Stourton: “One way of managing a bi-national state would be to relegate Palestinians to second class citizens without full rights which would sit uneasily with Israel’s proud claim to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The alternative would be to accept that the State of Israel will no longer be a Jewish state.”

Listeners heard Yossi Beilin’s comments on that issue, including “in the Holocaust no country in the world was ready to absorb Jews including Palestine because it was under the British mandate. And the most important notion of a sovereign Jewish state is that it will allow Jews to immigrate to it without restrictions”.

Stourton: “On the Israeli side one party in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government has put forward a radical solution of its own. Naftali Bennett – one of his ministers – has proposed what he calls the Israel stability initiative.”

A recording of Naftali Bennett speaking was heard before Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Under his plan Israel would hand over Gaza to the Egyptians unilaterally, annex most of the West Bank and allow the Palestinian Authority to run what remained with, however, Israel retaining control of security. Mr Bennett is opposed to any kind of Palestinian state.”

Stourton did not bother to clarify to listeners that what he described as “most of the West Bank” is actually Area C and that Bennett’s proposal is to offer “full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there”.

Stourton: “Mr Bennett is one of those we wanted to talk to for this programme but his office never responded to our request. On the Palestinian side the Hamas movement also has a radical vision. It has now expressed a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within those 1967 boundaries but it’s still, in the long term, committed to the liberation of all Palestine which would of course mean the end of Israel.”

After a recording of part of the US president’s announcement concerning the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Stourton continued:

Stourton: “President Trump has taken two steps which reduced the pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognising the city – to which the Palestinians also make a claim – as Israel’s capital. And he pulled out of his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran: a step that’s been taken as an endorsement of the Netanyahu view that Palestinians can be relegated to a lower place in the diplomatic running order.”

Listeners were not told who exactly takes that view besides those making the statements they then heard supporting it.

Rifkind: “I think on the Israeli side, certainly among the leadership, it’s quite easy to keep your head in the sand. You can think you’re in quite a strong position. You just need to look at Netanyahu who’s very good friends with Putin and Trump and the relationships have never been better with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and you can think well maybe we can just manage this conflict.”

Pfeffer: “Even the major Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem of have got tired of even paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So yeah; he feels that his vision is winning.”

Stourton: “That means the stalemate and the violence associated with it are likely to continue.”

Once again the Iranian part of the story of shifts in the stances of Middle East states was erased from audience view.

With less than three minutes of the programme left, listeners next heard Dennis Ross make the most realistic and relevant comment in the entire discussion.

Ross:  “…I’ll tell you I don’t see – even if we could agree to a two-state outcome – I don’t know how you implement that because right now Hamas is in Gaza and I don’t see anybody moving Hamas out. The Israelis are not going to move them out. Egypt is not going to move them out. The Palestinian Authority is incapable of moving them out. And so even if you could agree to a two-state outcome – which is itself a leap at this point – you couldn’t implement it.”

Stourton: “In Israel that realism has led to a certain resignation and many Israelis now talk about managing the problem.”

Audiences then heard two negative views of that approach:

Beilin: “I hate this idea of managing conflicts”

Pfeffer: “Well you know it’s a dreadful phrase…”

Pfeffer went on to claim that “..there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight; certainly not with the current Israeli and with the current Palestinian leaderships” before Stourton returned to his context-free presentation of the violent rioting and terror attacks along the Gaza border:

Stourton: “So incidents like the shootings in Gaza become just something one has to accept according to that strategy.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, it’s the equivalent of a bad news day really.”

Stourton closed the programme by bringing up the topic of the Trump administration’s “new peace plan”:

Stourton: “Mr Trump is something of a hero in Israel. When America moved its embassy to Jerusalem his picture went up on posters all over the city. Among Palestinians hopes for a new Trump initiative are – to put it mildly – on the low side. According to Dr Shikaki’s data 90% of Palestinians believe no good can come from a Trump administration.”

As Stourton admitted early on, this programme did not even try to give audiences an objective and balanced view of the reasons why the ‘peace process’ has failed to make inroads after so many years and that editorial decision in itself is a topic for discussion. The quaint view that only Israel needs to have “a long-term strategy” because it is “a fully functioning state with military superiority” clearly deliberately ignores the very relevant fact that no such process can succeed without leaders on both sides being committed to its aims.

But even given the programme producers’ bizarre decision to present a one-sided narrative, crucial elements of the story were omitted. The history – which of course includes three full-scale wars initiated by Arab countries attempting – unsuccessfully – to eradicate the Jewish state – is highly relevant to audience understanding of the background to the conflict, as are decades of Palestinian terrorism that peaked when peace seemed to be on the horizon.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is also a crucial part of the picture, as is Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorism. And no less relevant of course are the proposals put forward by Israeli prime minister Olmert and US president Clinton which the Palestinians refused.

While this Radio 4 portrayal presented Palestinians as being in favour of the two-state solution but turning to the one-state option out of disillusion, notably it failed to inform BBC audiences of the crucial context of the Palestinian Authority’s continued rejection of the demand to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – and thus bring an end to any future claims.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 365 incidents took place: 139 in Judea & Samaria, 34 in Jerusalem and 192 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 153 attacks with petrol bombs, eleven attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), four shooting attacks, four arson attacks and one attack with a stone slab. Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 118 attacks with petrol bombs, twelve shooting attacks, 12 attacks using IEDs, one grenade attack and two arson attacks. Forty-five separate incidents of projectile fire were recorded (41 involving rockets and 4 involving mortars) with 188 launches.

One soldier – Staff Sgt Ronen Lubarsky – died two days after being critically injured when a marble slab was thrown at his head on May 24th. The BBC News website did not produce any reporting at all on that incident or on an earlier one in which one member of the security forces was wounded in an IED/stoning attack on May 9th in Abu Dis. Three additional members of the security forces and one civilian were wounded by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip on May 29th with the BBC mentioning three of those four injuries.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no reporting at all on any of the incidents in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during May is listed below. [emphasis added]

Kerem Shalom crossing May 11. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

May 5th: “Gaza explosion leaves six Palestinians dead

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.”

May 14th: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

May 15th: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years

“They burned tyres, and threw stones and incendiary devices.”

[Israeli spokesman] “…people throwing mortars, and bombs, and placing IEDs…”

May 15th: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

“Palestinian protesters have hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence, which Israel has declared a no-go zone, on foot.”

May 15th: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

No mention of Palestinian actions.

May 15th: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence.” 

May 17th: “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?

“Despite the warnings, thousands of Palestinians approached the fence during the protests. A number threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers deployed on the Israeli side of the border, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material intended to start fires on Israeli territory. […]

The [Israeli] military has said it also foiled a number of “terrorist attacks” orchestrated by Hamas during the protests and killed people trying to plant bombs at the fence or break through it.”

May 18th: “Israel’s Gaza response ‘wholly disproportionate’ – UN rights chief

“While most Palestinians have demonstrated at a distance from the border, others threw rocks and incendiary devices towards the fence and tried to break through.”

May 22nd: “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’

No mention of Palestinian actions

May 29th: “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years

“In Israel, an empty kindergarten was hit when militants fired more than 30 mortars earlier in the day. […]

The Israeli military said the biggest volley of mortar shells was fired at several sites in Israel in the early hours, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. […]

More shells were launched in subsequent attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Three Israelis were wounded, media reports said. […]

Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicles in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said. […]

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

May 31st: “Gaza violence: Red Cross sends surgeons ‘to help health crisis’

“On Tuesday, Israel attacked militant sites in Gaza after it came under a heavy barrage of mortar and rocket fire.”

As can be seen, in six of the BBC’s articles audiences were told of stone-throwing (which is not recorded by the ISA) and incendiary devices – i.e. firebombs – with one mention of incendiary kites. The only mentions of explosive devices (IEDs), shooting and arson attacks were found in quotes or descriptions of statements from the IDF/Israel. BBC audiences were given an account of the mortar and rocket attacks on May 29th/30th which did not reflect the full number of projectiles launched.

Even if we count the six BBC references to firebombs as covering the full amount of attacks with such devices, count the BBC’s presentation of “more than” 30 mortar attacks as portraying the full number of projectiles fired and include the four mentions of IEDs, one reference to “machine gun fire” and one mention of an arson attack, we still see that more attacks went unreported than reported and that at the very most, BBC audiences saw coverage of 46.3% of the terrorism that took place during May.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

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BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2018

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during April 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 223 incidents took place: 83 in Judea & Samaria, 22 in Jerusalem and 118 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 94 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), four shooting attacks and one arson attack. In the Gaza Strip sector the agency recorded 98 attacks with petrol bombs, three shooting attacks, 15 attacks using IEDs, one grenade attack and one arson attack. No missile or mortar attacks were recorded during April. 

Two Israelis were injured during April. In Jerusalem a civilian was wounded by a petrol bomb on April 19th and in Jenin a member of the security forces was wounded in a shooting attack on April 24th.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no reporting on any of the incidents in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

All the website’s coverage of the incidents along the Gaza border during April is listed below. As can be seen, the sole first-hand account from a BBC journalist relates to stone-throwing (which is not recorded by the ISA). The only mentions of firebombs, weapons and explosive devices are found in quotes or descriptions of statements from the IDF/Israel. 

Gaza protests: further deaths in renewed border protest April 6th

Yolande Knell: “Now we have seen Palestinians who have been throwing stones.”

Deadly unrest on Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians resume protests April 7th

“Protesters threw stones and firebombs at troops deployed on berms on the Israeli side of the frontier, the Israeli military said, and multiple attempts were made to break through the border fence.”

Israel to investigate killing of Palestinian journalist April 7th

None

Israeli minister praises viral video sniper April 10th

“Israel has defended its actions, saying it has only used live fire against individuals trying to breach the border fence, or those using weapons or explosives.”

Fierce clashes continue at Gaza-Israel border fence April 13th

Israel’s army estimated there were 10,000 people “rioting” on Friday, with some attempting to breach the fence with firebombs and explosive devices.”

Israel border clashes: Three Palestinians killed, Gaza officials say April 27th

Israel said hundreds of rioters had tried to burn the fence, and threw rocks and firebombs. Its soldiers used tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire.”

In other words, the BBC did not itself report on any of the 118 recorded incidents along the Gaza Strip-Israel border during April and all four generalised references to such attacks seen by audiences throughout the month’s 30 days were attributed to a third party.   

If, notwithstanding the unspecific nature of that coverage, we count those four references as ‘reporting’ we can say that the BBC covered 1.79% of the terror attacks that took place during April 2018 and that since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported 1.6% of the attacks and 100% of the fatalities. Just one of the six separate incidents of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip that have taken place since the beginning of the year has been mentioned in BBC News website coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

 

 

BBC’s preferred terminology hinders audience understanding

The April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook‘ included an item by Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell (from 37:30 here) about a dog shelter in Beit Sahour which has been the topic of reports by other media outlets in the past.

Beit Sahour is located in Area A and has been under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. However that relevant fact was not mentioned at all throughout the item, which was introduced by presenter Jo Fidgen using the term ‘occupied West Bank’.

Fidgen: “On nearly every street in the occupied West Bank you see stray dogs wandering about or scrapping or lounging in the sun. From time to time they’re hit by cars or abused by humans. And then what? There are vets in the West Bank but many of the surgeries are poorly equipped and anyway they’re more geared up for treating farm animals than pets. But one Palestinian woman has made it her mission to look after them. Our reported Yolande Knell went to the West Bank dog shelter to meet her.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide recognises that the geo-political divisions in the region are “complicated”:

“…the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority […]. These are complicated to work out because of the division of the West Bank into three areas…” 

One would therefore have thought that following Fidgen’s use of the unhelpful broad brush term ‘occupied West Bank’, listeners would be given a more precise description of the location of the story they were hearing – but that was not the case.

Knell: “We’re on a patch of wasteland at the edge of Beit Sahour, just outside Bethlehem.”

Knell: “Just give us an idea of the problem here in the Palestinian areas…”

That meant that when listeners later heard the answer to a question posed by Knell to her interviewee, they had no idea that the “government” to which she referred is the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “What needs to be done here to change attitudes towards animal welfare?”

Babish: “It needs time, it needs also the government to support this.”

The same BBC Academy style guide recognises the political implications of the term ‘occupied West Bank’:

“It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.” 

Nevertheless, the fact that the BBC chooses to use that particular terminology – together with the fact that it more often than not fails to adequately clarify to audiences that the vast majority of the Palestinian population in what it terms the ‘occupied West Bank’ lives under the rule of the Palestinian Authority – does not contribute to audience understanding of stories such as this.

Another aspect of this report may also have confused listeners.

Babish: “Basically I go to Israeli clinics and hospitals because they have the medical labs, they have x-rays, they have efficient doctors. Here we lack all of these so that’s why I take the dogs over there.”

Knell: “Every week Diana goes to Israel to try and find homes for her dogs.”

BBC audiences have of course been told for years that Palestinians suffer from “major constrictions on freedom of movement“, that “freedom of movement is also restricted by hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles“, that “Israeli troops have also […] severely restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians” and of “the challenges of mobility in the West Bank“.

Now however they suddenly hear about a Palestinian woman who not only goes to Israel “every week” but also takes sick and injured dogs with her for treatment. Obviously BBC audience understanding would benefit from less simplistic portrayals of that topic too.

Related Articles:

Four BBC radio reports on the same topic promote politicised themes

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during March 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 136 incidents took place: 111 in Judea & Samaria, nineteen in Jerusalem, one inside the ‘green line’ and five in the Gaza Strip and Sinai sectors.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 114 attacks with petrol bombs, nine attacks using improvised explosive devices, three shooting attacks, one stabbing attack, one vehicular attack, one stoning attack and one arson attack. A vehicular attack was recorded in Acco and incidents in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector included one shooting attack and one IED attack. No missile or mortar attacks were recorded during March.

Two members of the security forces were murdered in a vehicular attack near Mevo Dotan on March 16th which was reported on the BBC News website. One civilian was murdered in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on March 18th which was reported the next day .

Nine people were wounded in attacks during March – four of them in the vehicular attack in Acco on March 4th which did not receive any BBC coverage. A stoning attack on a civilian motorist near the Hizme checkpoint in Jerusalem was not reported and neither was an IED attack on the Gaza Strip border on March 15th.

In all, the BBC News website reported 1.47% of the terror attacks that took place during March 2018. Since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported 1.49% of the attacks and 100% of the fatalities. Just one of the six separate incidents of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip that have taken place since the beginning of the year has been mentioned in BBC News website coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

BBC News continues to link terror to US embassy move

BBC News reports another fatal terror attack without the word terror

 

 

BBC News website does stealth makeover on fact check fail

On the morning of March 19th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an apparently hastily written short report titled “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms to Gaza'” which read as follows: [emphasis added]

“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February while crossing into Gaza from Israel.

One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.

Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Gaza’s militant Hamas group.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles into Gaza over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.

Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”

In fact, that story is about an employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem (who, despite the BBC’s claim, was named) allegedly smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip to Judea & Samaria.

“Two French embassy workers have been arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency on suspicion of smuggling dozens of weapons from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to the West Bank, the agency cleared for release on Monday.

One French citizen, Romain Frank, worked at the French consulate in Jerusalem, and is suspected of belonging to a cell which smuggled 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles through the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border on five different occasions. […]

According to the Shin Bet investigation, Frank received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip employed at the French Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip and he transferred the weapons to a cell in the West Bank who sold them to arms dealers.

The Shin Bet investigation clearly showed that Frank was acting in return for financial gain, of his own volition, and without the knowledge of his superiors. The investigation also found that several Palestinians arrested in relation to the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank. […]

In addition to Frank, a resident of east Jerusalem who works as a security guard at the French consulate in Jerusalem as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were living in the West Bank illegally were arrested and will be indicted on Monday.”

The BBC at some point realised its error and the report was republished under the amended headline “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms from Gaza’” – but without a footnote clarifying the previous errors. [emphasis added]

“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February at the Erez border crossing.

One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.

Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Palestinian militants.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles from Gaza into the West Bank over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.

Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”

A third version of the report has since appeared in which the consulate employee was named and further details of the story provided.

As regular readers know, the BBC has in the past ignored attempts to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip for the purpose of terrorism as well as numerous stories related to efforts to build up the Hamas terror infrastructure outside Gaza.

How unfortunate then that when the BBC did finally produce a report on that issue, it passed up on basic fact checking. How unfortunate too that those who read the initial version of this article have once again not been informed that they were given inaccurate information. 

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