Fatah disinformation goes unchallenged on the BBC World Service

On December 28th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – presented by James Menendez – included an interview (from 00:51 here) with Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett.

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

Menendez: “…when President Trump announced that his administration was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv it marked the end of decades of American policy in the Middle East. He said it was only a recognition of reality but the status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: so sensitive that it’s always been put to one side during 40 [sic] years of US brokered peace efforts. The rest of the world has never recognised Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city. The Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state. For the vast majority of Israeli Jews a unified Jerusalem is the eternal capital of a Jewish state. So does President Trump’s move signal the final death knell for an already moribund peace process? Is the two-state solution a thing of the past? Well with me in the studio is Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett – leader of the right-wing religious Jewish Home party that’s in coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. […] Is the two-state solution then dead in the water following this declaration?”

Having mentioned what he described as the “terror state” in the Gaza Strip, Naftali Bennett – whose party currently holds eight of the 120 seats in the Knesset – laid out his view of a scenario in which “the Palestinians govern themselves from almost all aspects barring an army”.

Bennett: “So we’re talking about an entity where they will have their own government, their own parliament, their own elections, their own tax system. […] And they would govern themselves but it’s less than a state in the sense that they don’t have their own military.”

Bennett also spoke about Jerusalem, stating that “no peace that is predicated on dividing Jerusalem could ever work” and the significance of Jerusalem in Jewish culture, religion and history.

An edited version of that interview was also aired later on the same day in the evening version of the same programme (from 30:00 here) which was presented by Julian Marshall using the same ‘death of the two-state solution’ theme.

Following that (from 35:57 here) Marshall introduced another interviewee.

Marshall: “And we played that interview to Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad – international spokesman for President Abbas’ Fatah party. What did he make of Mr Bennett’s comments?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well Naftali Bennett is known as a fanatic national religious leader who’s coming from a stream in Israel that denies the fact that there is a Palestinian people. He speaks about history and about God’s promises for [unintelligible]. Fortunately for him the Palestinians take this case as a case in which we want a secular state. If he were into a religious war he would have to face one million [sic] and a half Muslims coming to fight for the third most holiest place for them religiously. Mr Bennett says that Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran one time. God mentioned it in our Koran by naming the Aqsa mosque itself. But in our context we do not talk about Jerusalem [unintelligible] all the Palestinians from the religious side as he does…”

Marshall made no effort to ask Abu Zayyad whether or not Hamas agrees with his claim that Palestinians want “a secular state” or to inform listeners of the many examples of Palestinian Authority and Fatah use of religiously themed rhetoric when they “talk about Jerusalem”. Abu Zayyad went on:

Abu Zayyad: “…and we take it more towards our human rights and international law demands and requirements. Israel is isolated when 14 countries in the [UN] Security Council votes against the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. East Jerusalem has 350,000 Palestinians living without a nationality until now because of the apartheid system that Israel applies to them. I’m one of those Palestinians. We do not have a passport. We don’t vote and we are not protected by law.”

Failing to challenge Aby Zayyad’s use of the apartheid smear or to clarify to BBC audiences that Arab permanent residents of East Jerusalem have the right to apply for Israeli citizenship and that even those who chose not to exercise that option have the same rights as other residents (including voting in municipal elections and being “protected by law”) with the exception of voting in national elections, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “If you say that your claim to East Jerusalem is not based on religion, what is it based on?”

Listeners then heard an egregious distortion of history that likewise went completely unchallenged by the BBC presenter.

Abu Zayyad: “It’s based on the fact that 650 years ago…in 650 years BC Palestinians arrived to this country and they have been here while the Jewish people arrived actually 350 years BC. They have been living in this land for a long, long time and at the moment at 2017 if you look at the population that is living in East Jerusalem you’re talking about 350,000 Palestinians living in it, working in it and trying to get their rights. We want equality on rights so like any other people we want either sovereignty or equality. Either you give us a state of our own – with East Jerusalem which is part of the Palestinian lands that were occupied at 1967 when Israel went into war – or you simply go to the other option which is one state with equality and basic rights that include voting and a democratic system for everyone on the historical lands of Palestine from the sea to the river.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “But what Mr Bennett seems to have in mind for the Palestinians is simply a geographical entity where you will be able to govern yourselves and collect taxes but will fall far short of statehood. But that clearly is not acceptable.”

Abu Zayyad: “For us who is Bennett at all to decide for us how to rule ourselves? Bennett is simply a fanatic extreme Israeli leader who calls…”

Marshall [interrupts]: “But does he…but does he speak for the Israeli government do you think?”

Abu Zayyad: “He speaks for an extreme right Israeli government that calls for death penalty for Palestinian prisoners, for expelling Palestinians to Gaza and to Jordan to live there instead of their houses in the West Bank and to build more settlements against the international law in Palestinian lands that are occupied in 1967. For us, actually, his words condemn him because it shows that [what] he wants to choose for the Palestinians is an apartheid system.”

Yet again making no effort to question Abu Zayyad’s ‘apartheid’ slur or his false claim that the Israeli government calls for “expelling Palestinians”, Marshall closed the interview there.

As we see the Fatah spokesman was given free rein to promote his falsehoods and propaganda completely unchallenged from the BBC World Service stage. Rather than providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” as the BBC is obliged to do, this item in fact actively hindered audience understanding of the topic under discussion with its unquestioned amplification of  disinformation.

Advertisements

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

As we saw in part one of this post, an item (from 30:05 here) aired in the January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ 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?” opened with promotion of the views of the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi and then went on to feature a fellow at a think-tank who has advocated for sanctions against Israel.

The third and final interviewee in the item did nothing to counter its homogeneous portrayal of the topic. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced him as follows:

Marshall: “And Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad is international spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. So could the Palestinians really do without this American money?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the thing is that when the Palestinian Authority was established it was the result of the Oslo Agreement and it came as a solution – a temporary solution – while the Israeli occupation continued. Now according to the international law the occupation power takes all the responsibility – all the services needed for the people and of course also security matters.”

Marshall: “So…so you are suggesting that if the United States cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Authority might find it very difficult to administer the Palestinian territories and that the onus should be on Israel to take over that administration or funding?”

Referring to a scheduled PLO meeting (reportedly themed “Jerusalem is the exclusive capital of Palestine”) Abu Zayyad replied:

Abu Zayyad: “Absolutely. The PA would collapse immediately and if the PA collapse then this would also affect our Central Council meeting that will be happening at the middle of this month and with the decision that it would take. The PA is a temporary authority and it functions according to the funding that is coming from the mediators. Now since the US is not a mediator anymore and now they’re trying to blackmail the Palestinian leadership by saying that they won’t give funding anymore, then absolutely the result would be the collapse of the PA and according to the international law – not our law – Israel would be responsible of all the matters and all the services that are needed.”

Abu Zayyad of course refrains from reminding listeners that when the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority created, foreign donor countries expected to see the PA engage in serious negotiations with Israel in order to bring an end to the conflict. He also appears to be able to ignore the dissonance in the fact that while the PA has chosen to loudly proclaim that the US no longer has a role as a mediator, he claims that mediators are committed to providing the PA with funding and objects to any cut in US aid.

Marshall: “But setting aside the instability that you say the collapse of the Palestinian Authority might create as a result of a loss of US funding, a recent poll has found that half of the Palestinians surveyed views the Palestinian Authority as a burden on the Palestinian people – that they would be quite happy to see it go.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well they won’t be happy. I mean listen, we have been…since 1965 we have been in a revolution calling for the freedom of the Palestinian people. Now if Israel is ready to come and take responsibility then let them come and take the keys and face the new situation they will face, which is that the will be ruling two million and a half Palestinians that will be calling for equality and human rights. Which means that Israel will have two choices – either to create an apartheid system by not giving the basic rights for the Palestinians that would be under their control or to include them as citizens in one state on all the historical land of Palestine which would by all means end the Zionist dream of having a Jewish state for the Jewish people.”

Refraining from clarifying to listeners that Abu Zayyad’s reference to 1965 – the year of Fatah’s founding – means that their “revolution” is against Israel itself rather than “the occupation”, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “You…you seem to be saying that this threat by President Trump could backfire on him.”

Abu Zayyad: “Absolutely. The biggest loser is Israel and I’m quoting from here the Shabak – which is the Israeli intelligence service – and the IDF – which is the Israeli defence army – saying that any miss with the money being paid for the budgets of the PA would explode the situation in the face of Israel and therefore they recommended several times for the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu not to do such a thing. The Palestinian leaders have made it clear – the president made it clear – that they are not here to sit and rule on nothing but they want a democratic and independent Palestinian state and if we can’t achieve it, so the institutions that came out as a result of Oslo, then we will be looking into other options. And all the options are on the table for us for this.”

Marshall: “Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, international spokesman for the Palestinian Fatah party.”

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.

Listeners did not however hear anything at all about Palestinian Authority corruption and misuse of donor funding – including for salaries for people who do not work and for the purpose of providing financial rewards for terrorists and their families. Neither did they hear even a word about the problematic aspects of UNRWA or the arguments (which have been discussed long before the US remarks concerning aid were made) for and against cutting its funding.

Clearly this item’s framing of the issue was narrow, superficial and monochrome and failed to provide audiences any views and information that would contradict the homogeneous chosen narrative on the story. 

Related Articles:

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 one

The December 6th US proclamation recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city made it very clear that nothing in that announcement was intended to define the boundaries of the city.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders. Above all, our greatest hope is for peace, including through a two-state solution, if agreed to by both sides.”

That key part of the announcement has not been featured widely in BBC coverage of the story’s various chapters and indeed audiences have been led to believe that the US announcement somehow compromises or negates final status talks on Jerusalem.  

Despite the US statement having specifically clarified that it does not define boundaries or borders, presenter Julian Marshall introduced an item (from 30:05 here and billed as examining the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”) aired in the January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ as follows:

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

Marshall: “And now, Jerusalem – or rather the way in which President Trump’s recognition of the entire city as Israel’s capital has poisoned Washington’s relations with the Palestinians. The December the 6th declaration led Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to say that the United States could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process. This week President Trump threatened to cut off the more than $300 million in aid that the United States gives to the Palestinians because of what he said was their lack of gratitude and unwillingness to talk to Israel. But the Palestinians say they won’t be blackmailed and have reiterated their position that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Hanan Ashrawi is a senior Palestinian politician.”

Listeners were not told of the relevant fact that Hanan Ashrawi is also a member of the PLO executive committee and heads its department of culture and information.

Ashrawi: “They’re buying us in the same way as they threatened the rest of the world: if you vote against us we will stop assistance to you. Yes, the US has been paying hundreds of millions here and there, mainly spent on American [unintelligible] companies. But still, we can survive without American aid and there is no way in which we can accept or allow Trump to be…not just to be complicit in Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem but to sabotage the basic requirements of an agreement that will have any claim to legitimacy and permanence.”

Marshall: “So if Mr Trump was to carry out his threat, how reliant are the Palestinians on US aid? Hugh Lovatt is a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations – a think tank – specialising on Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

That introduction obviously gives listeners the impression that they are about to hear from a neutral commentator but Hugh Lovatt has advocated for FIFA sanctions against Israeli football teams, has recommended that the EU support the compilation of a blacklist of “unlawful business activity related to settlements” and recognise “the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza based on the 1967 border” [sic] and believes that there are “moderates” within Hamas.

Lovatt: “So the US provides the Palestinians with about $700 million per year. That sum is split between UNRWA, which is the UN agency that provides relief and services to Palestinian refugees and about just under $400 million goes to that. And then the rest is actually sent to the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah and then that…the majority of that goes to USAID projects which provide humanitarian and development works and activities and then a rather small amount of that, which is I think $36 million, is provided to train PA security forces.”

Marshall: “And what percentage of the overall international aid that the Palestinians receive is the American funding?”

Lovatt: “So it depends how you count it but it’s…I would say it’s probably just under about 30, 40%. But what I think is important to say is actually, the EU and its member states are equally large if not a slightly larger donor of aid to the Palestinian Authority and to UNRWA.”

Marshall: “And do you think that the European Union would make up any shortfall were the Americans to withdraw aid?”

Lovatt: “I think if you look at the short-term there would certainly be an effort within the EU to look at how the unit’s member states can buttress the PA budget which is currently running at a bit of a deficit. But, you know, given the vast amounts of US aid that we’re talking about, you know, over the mid to long-term it’s not imaginable that the EU could fully replace that sum of money.”

Marshall: “So the Palestinian Authority should be rather worried at the moment?”

Lovatt: “They should be but I think we should also be worried. I mean after all, there is a reason that we provide such vast amounts of aid to the Palestinians and it’s not just benevolence. It’s because it also suits our geo-political interests. So, you know, Europeans, Americans, it helps stabilise to a certain extent the Palestinian territories and it has been accused by Palestinians of fragmenting Palestinian civil society and mobilisation aimed at the occupation. It has also, you know, been credited rightly or wrongly with actually having laid the foundation for a Palestinian state. So I think if you take away this aid then it’s not just a Palestinian issue. It actually calls into question the whole basis for international engagement in the Middle East peace process.”

Marshall: “Hugh Lovatt from the European Council on Foreign Relations.”

If listeners were expecting to hear a view reflecting a different angle on the story at that point, they would have been disappointed – as we shall see in part two of this post.

 

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC World Service radio, beginning with programmes aired before the vote took place.

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

1) ‘OS‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Nuala McGovern, from 00:30 here.

McGovern: “You may have heard me say at the very top of the hour about the United Nations; that they’re preparing to vote on a resolution that would condemn president…US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, she’s just been speaking.”

Listeners then heard a segment from the US ambassador’s speech which would be repeated in additional BBC radio items relating to the same story.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.

But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered. Thank you.”

McGovern then brought in the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher, adding her own editorialised comments. 

McGovern: “Ahm…very strong words. I was struck by them listening to Nikki Haley. She is not prepared to apologise in any way obviously for the embassy moving but also seems to be standing firm as in there will be consequences to this vote.”

During the conversation with Zurcher, listeners heard a recording of statements made by the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the UN which were also repeated in other programmes.

Cavusoglu: “Before this meeting a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with the development aid cut. Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying and this chamber will not fall to do that. It is unethical to think that the words and dignity of member states are for sale. Let me put it this way: we will not be intimidated. You can be strong but this doesn’t make you right.”

Later on in the same programme, listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Sally Nabil at the UN.

2) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Julian Marshall, from 33:04 here.

Marshall: “Members of the UN General Assembly have been threatened by the Trump administration ahead of a vote later today on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On Monday the United States vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the US to withdraw its recognition. That same resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly and ahead of the vote President Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that go against the US.”

Marshall later brought in the BBC’s Nada Tawfik who told listeners that “when you speak to member states they do expect about 180 countries possibly out of 193 at the UN General Assembly to support this”. When the vote later took place, fifty-two fewer countries supported the resolution than predicted by Tawfik.

The item also included an interestingly timed report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 37:31) concerning evangelical Christian groups from the US touring Israel, with Bateman claiming that members of such groups had voted for Trump in huge numbers and were one of the reasons – together with “support from Jewish donors in the US” – for the US president’s December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC World Service also aired an item on the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

3) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Tim Franks, from 35:58 here.

Franks: “Not all votes at the United Nations are equal. Ones emanating from the UN General Assembly are non-binding but the effects of today’s vote in the assembly could, at least according to President Trump, be long-lasting. He’s warned that the US will remember those countries which voted for the resolution overwhelmingly passed today. The resolution calls on the US to withdraw its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr Trump said that the list of yea-sayers would be recounted next time they come asking for aid or help from Washington.”

Listeners then heard the same recording of the Turkish foreign minister’s statements aired in other programmes as well as part of the statement made by the US ambassador to the UN GA.

Franks next interviewed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi and began by asking him if he was “concerned about that threat from Nikki Haley and indeed from President Trump”.

Al Mouallimi: “Yes I do hope that this vote will be remembered by the United States because it is a vote in which the entire [sic] international community is making the point that the move taken by the United States is not within its right and it’s not appropriate and should not have been made – certainly not at this time and not outside the parameters of an agreed solution to the situation.”

Franks later asked the Saudi Arabian ambassador what he thought about the statement made by Nikki Haley according to which – in Franks’ own words – “the UN seems to have a particular thing about Israel and a particular thing about Jerusalem and its business is skewed towards taking what they hope are free hits against Israel and against Jerusalem”. Audiences heard the following unchallenged response.

Al Mouallimi: “Well the United Nations should have a special thing about Israel because Israel is an occupying power. It continues to occupy the Palestinian land for now more than 50 years. It continues to deny the Palestinians the right for self-determination. It continues to claim Jerusalem as its own capital without regard to the interests of the Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the city and in the area.”

As we see, the BBC World Service was far more preoccupied with informing audiences about what it portrayed as “threats” issued by the United States than it was with providing them with the context to this UN GA resolution and vote. Notably, with the exception of the recording of Nikki Haley speaking at the General Assembly, listeners did not hear the views of either American or Israeli officials on the story. 

 

BBC WS report on Har Adar attack avoids narrative-conflicting issues

The September 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included (from 33:54 here) a report supposedly about the terror attack that took place at Har Adar earlier the same day.

Unsurprisingly, presenter Julian Marshall portrayed the attack without using the words terror or terrorist: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Marshall: “Let’s go now to Israel where President Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has arrived in Jerusalem to try to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks and shortly before his arrival there was a shooting incident on the occupied West Bank in which three Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman who was himself later killed by police. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on what he called ‘Palestinian incitement’. The BBC’s Yolande Knell joins us now from Jerusalem and, Yolande, first tell us a bit more about that shooting incident.”

Knell: “Well the attack happened early this morning at Har Adar settlement. It’s just north-west of Jerusalem, just inside the occupied West Bank, and there are Palestinian workers there who were – with Israeli permits – going to work inside the settlement. They were queuing up for security checks. This man was among them and he had a work permit but his behaviour made security staff suspicious. When they asked him to stop he pulled out a gun and he shot and killed two of the private security guards from the settlement and one Israeli policeman as well. There was another security official who was badly injured and then the Palestinian man himself was shot dead. I was in the area just afterwards as an ambulance raced past. All surrounding roads were blocked off with a very heavy security presence.”

Marshall: “And…err…what has prompted the prime minister to blame the attack on ‘Palestinian incitement’?”

With BBC audiences being serially under-informed about Palestinian incitement, that question (notwithstanding the scoffing tone in which it was voiced) obviously provided an opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the issue. Yolande Knell did not however step up to the plate.

Knell: “This is something that we have regularly seen from the Israeli prime minister. He also called on the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the shooting and his deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely linked this to the arrival of the US envoy Jason Greenblatt – he’s back here trying to revive the moribund peace process. She said that the Palestinians meant this as a reception for him and she suggested that the US should focus on getting the Palestinian leader to condemn such acts of violence before any peace initiative could be launched. And we’ve heard this a lot from Israeli leaders recently.”

In addition to side-stepping the very relevant topic of incitement, Knell also avoided a no less important subject raised by Tzipi Hotovely in the statement partly paraphrased by Knell.

“The terrible attack this morning in Har Adar is the reception that the Palestinians prepared for US envoy Greenblatt,” she [Hotovely] said in a statement. “The American efforts must focus first of all on stopping the murderous Palestinian terror before anything else. There can be no negotiations with those who only fan the flames of terrorism and continue to pay the families of terrorists.”

The issue of the PA’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists, allocation of benefits to released prisoners and payments to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks is one about which BBC audiences know next to nothing. Knell, however, sidelined that issue too and – choosing her words carefully – went on:

Knell: “Of course it’s very difficult for Palestinian leaders to come out..ehm…condemning individual attacks because many of these…err…attackers would be seen…by…many Palestinians as being heroes of some kind while the Israelis would see them as being terrorist. And there was actually a senior member of President Abbas’ Fatah movement who came out saying that Israel alone bears responsibility for what he called the crimes of the occupation. And then the…err…Palestinian militant group Hamas as well; their spokesman told the BBC…ahm…that this was a natural reaction – those were his words – to the occupation and he praised this attack.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that Abbas’ Fatah party glorified the terrorist on social media or that among the so-called “crimes of the occupation” cited by that Fatah “senior member” was “the incessant invasions by the herds of settlers of the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas”. 

Marshall then gave Knell the cue for a typically tepid and obfuscating portrayal of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014.

Marshall: “Ahm…Yolande, you referred to those…err…peace talks as moribund. In fact so moribund you’re going to have to remind us when the two sides last sat down to talk to each other.”

Knell: “Well it’s now three years since…eh…the peace talks – the last round of peace talks – which were brokered by the US – ehm…fell apart. And Jason Greenblatt is back, trying to help President Trump work towards what he’s called the ultimate deal but there have been many signs that this is not gathering momentum. Palestinian leaders making complaints that the US is not pressuring Israel to curb its construction of Jewish settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell of course knows full well that the phrase “construction of Jewish settlements” is inaccurate and misleading, with no new communities having been constructed for decades. She closed her report with the BBC’s standard – yet partial – mantra on ‘international law’.

Knell: “Of course settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with that. And the other complicating factor that we have to remember are [sic] these fresh signs of reconciliation between the two main Palestinian political factions; between Hamas and Fatah. Ehm…they’ve just said in the last week or so that they want to work towards a unity government; expected to have more on that and Hamas of course is seen by the US, by Israel, by the EU and others as being a terrorist group.”

In conclusion, listeners to this report ostensibly about a terror attack against Israelis did not hear the words terror or terrorist used in the BBC’s portrayal of the incident. Neither did they learn anything about the three people murdered other than their job descriptions and Yolande Knell carefully avoided narrative-conflicting topics such as the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and financial rewards to terrorists.

However, BBC World Service listeners did hear two references to the “occupied West Bank”, five references to “settlements”, two references to “the occupation” and a one-sided portrayal of international law.

Related Articles:

BBC editorial policy on terror continues in Har Adar attack report

 

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

Just over a year ago we documented changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount.

“In late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists… […] the term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onwards. […]

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? As noted above, the change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th– the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem.”

Following that post, the BBC largely returned to using the terminology specified in its own style guide. However, the employment of that PLO recommended wording has been seen once again in some of the BBC’s reporting on the recent violence in Jerusalem – including in a backgrounder produced by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell.

“Now the gate to the al Aqsa mosque compound is open once again but to reach it you have to pass through one of those metal detectors.” [emphasis added]

On July 21st an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 49:58 here) that was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Marshall: “And to Jerusalem now where dozens of Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police amid tensions surrounding the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Our Mid-East correspondent Yolande Knell joins us now and, Yolande, why are the Palestinians protesting?”

Knell: “Well these clashes are continuing now after Friday prayers turned into protests. There have been tensions all week after Israeli officials put in place new metal detectors at the entrance to the al Aqsa mosque compound; this site which is sacred to Jews as well – known as Temple Mount. These detectors were installed after an attack that killed two Israeli policemen last week and Israel has been insisting that these new security measures are about safety only; they don’t alter the sensitive status quo, as it’s called, at this disputed site. But Palestinians see them very much as an attempt by Israel to extend its control there and of course…ehm…Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem is something…ehm…that is…err…really extremely…err…sensitive for Palestinians and any perceived changes at the al Aqsa mosque compound – at this holy site – can be a real flash-point for violence. We’ve seen that in the last few hours. There are now reports that a third Palestinian has been killed in these clashes between…err…protesters and Israeli security forces focused on Jerusalem but also around the West Bank. There have been clashes in Qalandiya checkpoint, in Ramallah, in Hebron and in Bethlehem where I was earlier, this after political factions called for a Day of Rage.”

Marshall: “And…erm…the metal detectors are not the only point of contention. I understand that there’s an age restriction at the moment on the number [sic] of Muslim worshippers who are allowed in.”

Knell: “Well that was something that was imposed for these Friday prayers. First of all, after this…eh….attack a week ago…ah…the Israeli authorities closed the whole compound for two days: this is something very unusual. Then, it has been opened through the week but Palestinians have been refusing to enter the compound, to go through these metal detectors and instead we’ve had hundreds of people praying on the street outside. So there have been clashes with police through the week. The restriction that was placed on today was that Muslim men under 50 were barred from entering the Old City of Jerusalem. There’s been this huge Israeli police presence all around the city and busloads of Muslim worshippers have been prevented from reaching it.”

As we see, in addition to promoting partisan PLO approved terminology to describe Temple Mount, Knell completely erased from her account of the installation of metal detectors the crucial fact that the three terrorists (whom she also deletes entirely from the story) who murdered the two Israeli policemen on July 14th did so using weapons which had been smuggled into al Aqsa mosque by an accomplice.

She also failed to explain to listeners what the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount entails and to clarify that Palestinian claims of  “changes” are baseless, while refraining from telling audiences about the copious incitement from the Waqf and official Palestinian sources that sparked the violence.

However, Knell was not the only Middle East correspondent to compromise BBC impartiality by prioritising PLO recommended language over the standard BBC terminology to describe Temple Mount in a report on July 21st – as will be seen in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC backgrounder on Palestinian ‘metal detector’ outrage fails to tell all

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

Several hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a report (from 19:18 here) on that story that was introduced by Julian Marshall as follows:

“And we go now to Israel where two Israeli police officers have died after three Israeli Arab gunmen opened fire on them in Jerusalem’s old city. Police chased the attackers into one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al Sharif. All three attackers were killed.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report on the same incident, that description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they returned to that site – with the police in pursuit – after carrying out the attack.

Marshall continued:

“The mosque complex at al Aqsa has been closed and evacuated and Friday prayers there have been cancelled for only the second time in 50 years. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, said the Palestinian leadership should be held responsible.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Erdan speaking which included the only mentions of the words terror and terrorists in the entire report.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount and continue to keep the status quo here. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians – but we all should understand that the incitement that was led by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority directly led to this terror attack that happened this morning.”

Marshall: “Well let’s go live now to Jerusalem and the BBC’s Tom Bateman. So what actually happened in this incident, Tom?”

Although several hours had already passed since the incident took place and the sequence of events was by that time clear, Tom Bateman had apparently not been keeping up with events. [emphasis added]

“Well this happened at 7 o’clock this morning local time. You’ll remember that this is in the vicinity of the most revered site in Jerusalem; holy to both Jews and to Muslims. Now the exact location of this attack has remained still a bit unclear but what we know is that they were close to the Lions’ Gate entrance beside that compound. And the police say they were armed with an automatic weapon, a pistol – there was a knife involved too – and that they opened fire on police officers. Now there was then a chase of some sort and some mobile phone footage has shown that at least one of the attackers was chased by police officers and shot.”

In fact the terrorists had two automatic weapons and Bateman similarly failed to clarify that the terrorists were on Temple Mount before they launched the attack or that they intentionally returned there afterwards. He continued:

“Now as a result of the initial fire by the attackers two police officers were fatally wounded. Ah…they were Israeli police officers. They were Druze – an Arab minority religion in Israel – and the attackers themselves were Israeli Arabs. They were from a town in the north of Israel and had Israeli ID and the domestic security services said that they were not aware of these men beforehand.”

Given the failure by both Marshall and Bateman to provide listeners with the full sequence of events, listeners would be unable to understand the context to their next topic of discussion.

Marshall: “And I would imagine tensions heightened by that decision to close the mosque complex at al Aqsa.”

Bateman: “Yeah, that’s right. As you said that is a highly, highly unusual move. There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.”

Bateman did not clarify to listeners that those “prayers […] outside the compound” were not coincidental.

“The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Maan News that he was prevented from going to site. “”We are determined to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to hold all prayers in it,” he said. He called on Palestinians to come to Jerusalem or to head to the checkpoints near Jerusalem to protest the cancellation of prayers.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the walls of the Old City, behind hastily set up police cordons, to pray and protest the actions of the Israeli police.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians spread the message using social media. Using the hashtag #Go_and_pray_at_alAqsa, they called for the faithful to come to the mosque.

The Director of the Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed Omar al-Kiswani, in a video shared on social media, said Israel was “taking advantage of what happened” at the Temple Mount “to impose a new reality on the ground.”

As we saw in part one of this post, the BBC News website was able to report that the closure of Temple Mount after the terror attack was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation – just as British police closed areas of London on two occasions following terror attacks there earlier this year – and not just some arbitrary move by the Israeli authorities. The fact that Tom Bateman failed to clarify that point in this report is therefore all the more remarkable and that failure was repeated later on the same day when Bateman gave another report to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘.

Following a news bulletin in which listeners were told that “two Israeli police officers have been killed in Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli Arab gunmen who were then shot dead”, presenter Eddie Mair introduced Bateman (from 14:32 here) “live from Jerusalem”.

Bateman: “Eddie, the ancient walls of Jerusalem encircle this city’s most revered site. From where the golden Dome of the Rock rises over the Old City’s narrow streets is the third holiest mosque in Islam; al Aqsa. For Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the first and second Temples once stood. The Old City, heavily guarded, is also one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict and it was not long after dawn that police say three men armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a knife attacked Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the site.

Mobile phone footage showed a rapid exchange of fire as one of the assailants was chased within the compound before falling to the ground. The attack killed two Israeli police officers. They were Druze – a minority Arab religion in Israel –whilst officials said the attackers were Arab Israeli citizens from a town in the north of the country and were not known to the security services. Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke from the scene.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the statements from Erdan aired in Bateman’s earlier report – and with it the sole mention of the word terrorists in this item too.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians.”

As we see, Radio 4 listeners were also not provided with a full picture of the sequence of events including the fact that the terrorists were on Temple Mount – apparently with their weapons – before they launched their attack and that they returned there afterwards. Like World Service audiences, listeners to Radio 4 would therefore be unable to appreciate the context to the next part of Bateman’s report.

Bateman: “After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.”

Listeners were not told of Husseini’s record of inflammatory statements before they heard his comments.

Husseini: “This is the first time that they announce the prayer will not take place; the Friday prayer. And this has never happened before and I think this is very dangerous. They have to use their mind, you know, when they declare such things. This moment is very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Erasing all pre-1967 Jerusalem history in typical BBC fashion, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “The Old City is within East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war – a move not recognized by the international community. Israel’s government said today’s incident crossed red lines. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas – under pressure in the past from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn such attacks – did just that during a phone call between the pair but also said that closing down the area could have repercussions. Since the autumn of 2015 there have been a wave of attacks involving knives, guns and car rammings which had decreased in frequency but had not stopped. Today’s shootings in Jerusalem have already led to concerns about a fresh escalation in tensions.”

It is of course highly doubtful that the BBC would find it appropriate to provide a platform to people in a European country who used veiled threats to demand access to the scene of a terror attack just hours after it had taken place and while the police were still carrying out investigations. However, as we see in these two reports, for Tom Bateman the focus of this story is exactly those people rather than the incident itself, which he fails to explain in a manner which would enable audiences to understand why such the highly unusual action of closing Temple Mount had to be taken.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell uses F1 to amplify PA propaganda on Jerusalem 

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

 

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Despite the BBC’s regularly displayed interest in Israel’s national intelligence agency, its pronunciation unit has apparently still not got round to explaining to presenters how to say the word ‘Mossad’ properly or that it should be preceded by the definite article – as was evident once again in an item broadcast in the July 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘.

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 37:51 here) with a typical mispronunciation of the name of its subject matter.

“The Israeli spy agency Mossad has launched a multi-million dollar fund to invest in the country’s hi-tech sector. It wants access to new technologies at their earliest stage of development; everything from miniature robotics to software that predicts people’s online behaviour. Collaboration between intelligence agencies and industry is common in many countries but rarely is it advertised this openly. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Tom Bateman opened his report on that story with a clip from the soundtrack of a promotional video and the curious claim that the hi-tech sector in Israel is “new”.

Bateman: “Its reputation may be formidable, its work shadowy but now – a publicity drive from Mossad. The video for the agency’s investment fund borrows heavily from Bourne or Bond films but it’s not popcorn eating audiences they want. The ad featuring a cocktail drinking spy appeals to Israeli hi-tech firms.

Well we’ve come to a neighbourhood of Tel Aviv. The car workshops here are graffitied, the old diamond polishing businesses gone. These days this is the heart of a new Israeli industry – hi-tech. Israel boasts more start-up firms per head than virtually any other country and Mossad has its eyes on the tech they develop; everything from miniature robotics to high-speed encryption to machine learning.”

Bateman then interviewed a person from a software company that has no connection to the story itself before going on:

Bateman: “The Mossad investment launch saw the head of the agency, Yossi Cohen, appeal for firms to step forward. He said the fund would help fulfil Mossad’s national mission, allowing freedom of action for visionary entrepreneurs. His call follows a growing trend by surveillance agencies to invest in emerging IT but its publicity has perhaps been the most bold. The CIA puts cash into Silicone Valley start-ups through an intermediary called In-Q-Tel while Britain’s eaves-dropping agency GCHQ has announced grants to work with cyber-security firms in the UK.”

Having spoken to a second interviewee who also has no direct link to his subject matter, Bateman then proceeded to politicise the story.

Bateman: “But spies with technology have proved controversial in the past. The leaks by the former US intelligence worker Edward Snowdon inflicted PR damage on big web-based firms. In Israel the military has previously fended off accusations from veterans of an elite army intelligence unit who claimed information was used for what they called the political persecution of Palestinians.”

Bateman was of course referring to allegations made in 2014 by a small group of politically motivated reservists from the 8200 unit but – like the BBC’s report at the time – did not bother to tell listeners the whole story

He then brought in his final interviewee, who has even less to do with the story ostensibly being reported in this item than the previous two.

Bateman: “Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, is sceptical about such tie-ups between companies and security agencies.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is of course one of the political NGOs consistently most quoted and promoted by the BBC but, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Bateman failed to inform listeners of that group’s political agenda, of its long record of anti-Israel campaigning or of Omar Shakir’s own personal history as a BDS activist.

Shakir: “It raises significant concern. I mean on one hand governments are regularly involved and often have been the engine for technological growth in many parts of the world but on the other hand it further raises concern around facilitating rights abuses and you worry about the lack of transparency, especially in a system where there is rampant impunity for abuse. And you worry again about practices that occur in the shadows – without oversight, without accountability.”

And so, although this new initiative from the Mossad has not yet even got off the ground, the BBC has already signposted theoretical “rights abuses” to its audiences and provided a platform for amplification of HRW’s entirely unsubstantiated allegations of “rampant impunity for abuse” without any Israeli official being given the right of reply.

Once again we see a BBC correspondent exploiting a news story for opportunistic leveraging of politicised messaging concerning Israel from an interested party touted as a ‘human rights defender’ without the required full disclosure to audiences of that political NGO’s agenda and anti-Israel activities.  

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs 

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

On March 17th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’“. The article opens with a ‘last-first’ summary of the story:

“Israel has shot down a Syrian missile using its most advanced anti-missile system for the first time, Israeli media say.

A surface-to-air missile (SAM) was intercepted using the Arrow system, designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles, reports say.

The SAMs were fired at Israeli jets which had just raided sites in Syria.”

The article goes on:

“In a rare admission, the Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked several targets in Syria before Syria launched the missiles.”

However, only in the report’s seventh paragraph do BBC audiences find out what those “several targets” actually were.

An insert of analysis from the BBC’s defence correspondent tells readers that:

“It is rare for Israel to admit to air strikes in Syria though there have been reports of at least four similar raids against Hezbollah weapons shipments since the start of December last year. […]

It’s a signal perhaps to all concerned that if weapons supplies to Hezbollah continue, then Israel is ready to escalate its air campaign.”

In the body of the article readers find the following:

“Air strikes, said to have been carried out by Israel, have hit sites in Syria on numerous occasions, reportedly targeting weapons shipments for Lebanon’s Shia militant movement Hezbollah.” [emphasis added]

As is inevitably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation and no background information concerning the suppliers of these “weapons shipments” is provided. Also as usual, this article fails to provide BBC audiences with the very relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

The same omissions were evident in coverage of the story on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on March 17th (from 30:04 here), with presenter Julian Marshall describing the terror organisation Hizballah as “militants in Lebanon”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s news from southern Syria front: for Arabic speakers only

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

BBC’s Connolly adds a postscript to his Dead Sea reporting

The June 23rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 45:10 here) by the Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly on the topic of the Dead Sea.

As readers may recall, six days earlier Connolly had produced a long written report on the same topic for the BBC News website. In this audio report Connolly focused largely on the effects of the declining level of the Dead Sea on tourism in the area and his superficial portrayal of the reasons behind that process was as follows:

SONY DSC

“The sea is dying because the countries of the Middle East are tapping into the waters of the River Jordan that once fed it.”

As far as this writer is aware, the River Jordan still flows into the Dead Sea.

Earlier, in his introduction to the report, presenter Julian Marshall had displayed an equally bizarre understanding of the geographical term ‘Middle East’:

“…for years there’s been a fear that the sea might live up to its name and die, as the countries of the Middle East drain the river system for precious drinking water.”

As was the case in his written report, Connolly refrained from providing his audience with more meaningful portrayal of the relevant issues of water agreements, irrigation practices, water recycling and water use efficiency. In what may perhaps be a first for the BBC, both of Connolly’s reports also ignored the topic of the influence of climate change on the River Jordan’s catchment area.

Connolly’s portrayal of the project intended to rehabilitate the Dead Sea was as follows in this audio report:

“A fix is possible: a grand scheme to build a pipeline across the desert from the Red Sea far to the south.”

In his earlier written report, Connolly had encouraged readers to view that project with scepticism:

“But the technical, financial and political difficulties are forbidding and the pipeline is unlikely to be built soon, if indeed at all.”

No such declarations were heard in this audio report – perhaps because just two days after Connolly published the above words, the Jordanian government announced that no fewer than seventeen international companies had made bids to carry out the work.

Related Articles:

Final status negotiations on Area C passé for BBC’s Kevin Connolly

Impartiality fail as BBC promotes FOEME objections to Red-Dead Sea project