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”.

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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:

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BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

From the outset, the French government’s announcements concerning its recently held one day conference on the Middle East peace process made it perfectly clear that neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives would be invited.

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. He told the international press, however, that Israel and the Palestinian officials would not be invited to the meeting, which will take place in Paris.” (Times of Israel & AFP, 21st April 2016)

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday.

In an interview with four newspapers including Israel’s Haaretz and pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al-Arabi, the minister said however that Israel and the Palestinians would not be invited to the meeting in Paris.” (France 24, 22nd April 2016)

“Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discuss the peace process which has been effectively frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited.” (France 24, 17th May 2016) [all emphasis added]

However, when Jeremy Bowen reported on that conference to BBC World Service radio listeners in the June 3rd edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) he presented a markedly different picture.Newshour 3 6

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the item as follows:

“He’s beset by flooding and strikes at home but President François Hollande has nevertheless taken time to host talks in Paris with the aim of reviving Middle East peace talks. But surprisingly, neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending. Jeremy Bowen, our Middle East editor, is in Paris; so why aren’t they there?”

Bowen: “Well the Israelis don’t wanna come. They think that having an international meeting like this is completely the wrong way to proceed. They say there should be one-on-one negotiations between the two leaders of the Palestinians and of the Israelis. Ah…the Palestinians welcomed the conference but I think the fact that the Israelis aren’t coming meant that they decided to go ahead without either of them.”

In other words Bowen promoted two falsehoods in those four sentences: rather than telling listeners that Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the meeting, he falsely attributed Israel’s absence to a refusal to attend and then ‘explained’ Palestinian non-participation by means of the myth he has created.

Later on Bowen – who has been the gatekeeper of information provided to BBC audiences on the topic of this conference – once again promoted the notion that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the lynchpin of strife in the Middle East and beyond.

“What this is about is trying to get the international community to talk again about the need to have peace between the Israelis and Palestinians because it’s really rather slipped off the agenda in the last few years. There’s no peace process whatsoever and it’s been somewhat eclipsed – their own conflict has been somewhat eclipsed – by the tumult and war and chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.”

“Ah…what President Hollande, the French president, said today was that just because there are dramatic things happening elsewhere in the region, it is no reason to ignore the real dangers of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he also said that at a time – as he put it – when terrorism was spreading everywhere in the world, then people are…I think essentially he was saying that people, outsiders, had a legitimate interest in what was happening there and in trying to settle it because his belief would be that’s one of the drivers for the violence that is spreading.”

Regardless of whether or not Bowen’s paraphrasing of the French president’s “belief” is accurate, it is noticeable that he made no attempt to relieve listeners of the mistaken impression that a prime cause of terrorism in France, Belgium, Turkey, Syria or elsewhere is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He then went on to promote a theme increasingly seen in BBC content:

“What the French foreign minister said in his closing remarks was that that idea of two state solution is in great danger – he said because of the colonization of the occupied territories by the Israelis; the fact that settlements have been growing apace.”

Apace of course means swiftly or quickly and that is the term Jeremy Bowen apparently thinks is an accurate description of fewer than fourteen hundred completed construction projects annually in existing communities throughout the whole of Judea & Samaria in the three years between 2013 and 2015 inclusive. Neither of course did he bother to advise listeners of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

Bowen closed his report with some by now standard promotion of PLO talking points.

“Now the Israelis say that the problem is the fact that there is incitement against them; that Palestinians are brainwashed into hating them. The Palestinians essentially say that their people – after getting on for 50 years of occupation – are at their wits’ end, at the end of their tether and if violence happens, that’s the reason: because of those frustrations and anger and humiliation.”

An additional report by Bowen on the topic of the Paris conference will be discussed in a subsequent post.

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BBC self-conscripts to UNRWA PR campaign

An article by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 21st using the headline “UN schools targeted in Middle East”. The report itself – titled “More than half UN schools in Middle East targeted in conflicts” – carries the following somewhat ‘cloak and dagger’ introduction:Doucet UNRWA

“Nearly half the schools run by the UN in the Middle East have been attacked, damaged or rendered inoperable in the past five years, according to a new report obtained by the BBC.” [emphasis added]

Seeing as the head of the organization which produced that report – UNRWA – was interviewed in connection with its content on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 45:53 here) on the very same day, we can probably conclude that “obtained” means “given to us by UNRWA”.

Reflecting the framing used in the headlines, Doucet’s report tells readers that:

“More than 300 UN schools were attacked or shut down.” [emphasis added]

In the ‘Newshour’ interview a rather different portrayal was in evidence when presenter Julian Marshall put the following question to Pierre Krahenbuhl:

JM: “And the schools have been damaged as a result of the overall conflict rather than being targeted, have they?”

PK: “Yes indeed. It’s a mix between some having been of course affected by the fighting that takes place in some of the camp landscapes. […] and many of them are beyond reach in frontline areas that have become very, very delicate.”

Doucet’s report also includes the following:

“UNWRA [sic] runs 692 elementary and preparatory schools in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria; and 8 secondary schools in Lebanon. […]

At least 302 (or 44%) of UNWRA [sic] schools were directly affected by armed conflict or violence in the past five years.”

Readers are not however told how many schools were affected in each location.

In April 2015 the UN released a report concerning the seven UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip which were damaged during the conflict between Hamas and Israel in the summer of 2014. The report also examined the cases of three additional UNRWA schools in which weapons belonging to terrorist organisations were found and noted the potential for “confusion” caused by UN practices on the ground at the time.

“The Board found that, at times, there had been multiple channels of communication, both within the United Nations and with outside interlocutors. While this could be helpful, it could also lead to misunderstandings. The Board also found that the existence of two United Nations operations emergency rooms, one organized and coordinated by OCHA and the other by UNRWA, could lead to confusion, even though they carried out distinct functions, which were clear to United Nations actors on the ground. […]

While they were channelled [sic] by the United Nations to the IDF in a timely manner, the Board sensed a degree of confusion concerning the names and coordinates of installations, as, on occasion, the IDF and the United Nations used different mapping references and some schools have multiple names. The Board welcomed the intention of UNRWA and Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) to refer to installations in the future by numbers, as opposed to names.”

Interestingly, neither Marshall nor Krahenbuhl mentioned those UN findings, the storage of weapons in three schools or the all-important context of the terrorist activity in the vicinity of the damaged schools when they later turned to the topic of the Gaza Strip.Newshour 21 5 UNRWA

JM: “Syria clearly in the midst of conflict at the moment but Gaza, the West Bank – we’re very much aware of what happened in Gaza way back in 2014 – but…eh…presumably the problem is not as acute any longer.”

PK: “The problem is not acute in the same way because we have rebuilt and repaired all the schools that were damaged or – more largely – destroyed during the 2014 war.”

Whether BBC audiences are in fact “very much aware of what happened in Gaza way back in 2014” is of course debatable given the corporation’s record of reporting in general and its frequent amplification of politicised UNRWA messaging (both during and after the conflict) in particular.

The timing of the appearance of this UNRWA report is – as stated in Doucet’s article – linked to the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit and – as is evident in the final part of the ‘Newshour’ item – UNRWA’s related funding drive. The BBC’s predictable self-conscription to UNRWA’s public relations campaign means that audiences are fed context-free messaging in the guise of ‘news’ – as ever with no critical examination of the organization concerned or its mandate.

Related Articles:

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How the BBC’s Knell censored a report on the Samaritan Passover festival

The April 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report (from 44:23 here) by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell from the Samaritan Passover festival  on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.Newshour 30 4

In among Knell’s commentary, listeners heard the following:

“During the Passover feast it’s an unusual sight. Samaritans carry both Israeli and Palestinian IDs and here Israeli soldiers and settlers mix – sometimes uncomfortably – with Palestinian firefighters and officials.”

However, Knell’s coy portrayal does not tell BBC audiences what actually happened at the Samaritan festival at which she was present. As Khaled Abu Toameh recounts:

“Things went well for about two minutes on Mount Gerizim, one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of Nablus. That was how long it took for the Palestinian guests to walk out in protest at the presence of representatives of the Jewish settler community and IDF officers.

The Palestinian Authority Governor of Nablus, General Akram Rajoub, was an honored guest, as were Nablus Mayor Adli Yaish and dozens of Palestinians.

Rajoub later explained his decision to “vote with his feet”:

“Yes, we withdrew from the ceremony. We respect and appreciate the Samaritan community and have been regularly sharing with them in joyous and sad events. We consider them part of the Palestinian people. But we can’t accept the presence of settlers at the ceremony. Even worse, these settlers were given the privilege to speak at the ceremony, which is why we had to boycott the official event and leave the hall. We’re not prepared to talk to Jewish settlers because we don’t accept their presence among us.”

Shortly thereafter, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank issued a statement strongly condemning the invitation of Jewish settler leaders to the Samaritan ceremony:

“This is a dangerous precedent that must not be allowed to recur. This is something unusual for the Samaritan community to do. We consider them to be part of the Palestinian people and we hope that this invitation does not represent the will of our Samaritan people. They need to fix this and prevent it from ever happening again.”

Raed Dib’i, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, praised the Palestinian delegation’s decision to boycott the ceremony. He said that the move reflected the Palestinians’ rejection of any form of “normalization with the occupiers and the settler gangs.””

Just days before this report was aired Yolande Knell’s filmed, audio and written reports from Gush Etzion appeared on multiple BBC platforms. In those reports she told BBC audiences that:

“For two years there have been no peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

And:

“…I expect more bad news from the Gush Etzion junction. With no hope of a political solution in sight, it offers a worrying glimpse of a future where both sides in this conflict continue to live with simmering tension and outbreaks of violence.”

A reporter truly committed to enhancing audience understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have been non-existent for two years would of course give a story such as the one above at least as much prominence as the promotion of slogans such as ‘occupation’ and ‘illegal settlements’. Yolande Knell demonstrates once again that she is not that reporter.  

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BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

The February 11th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – hosted by Julian Marshall – included an interview (from 40:33 here) with Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi.Newshour logo

Zoabi and two of her colleagues from the anti-Zionist Balad party (which is part of the Joint Arab List) were recently barred from Knesset activity, including debates, by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee. Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas were barred for four months and Jamal Zahalka for two months. During that time the three will continue to receive their salaries and will be able to participate in voting sessions.

The details of the terms of the suspension – together with any information concerning Balad’s political agenda – were absent from Marshall’s presentation of the item.

JM: “Haneen Zoabi is an Arab-Israeli MP who is currently barred from attending sessions of Israel’s parliament – or Knesset. Along with two other Arab-Israeli MPs she’s been suspended for meeting relatives of Palestinians who were killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis. The meeting was condemned by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So why did Haneen Zoabi feel the need to meet the relatives?”

In fact, the meeting was the subject of complaints to the Knesset Ethics Committee not only from the Israeli prime minister but also from parliamentarians across the political spectrum.

“The panel received more than 450 complaints about the lawmakers, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and from relatives of people killed by the terrorists whose families the Balad MKs met.”

At no point throughout this item are listeners informed that the meeting which the Balad MKs attended included glorification of the terrorists as ‘martyrs’ and a minute’s silence in their memory. They are also not told about the promotion of material glorifying terrorism on Balad’s Facebook account. Instead, listeners heard the following account from Zoabi.

HZ: “Me and my colleagues from the Joint List we have received an invitation from the families who lost their children in order to help them getting back the bodies of their children which the Israeli police have killed in order to burn [bury] them. It has been four months since the Israeli administration refuses to release the bodies of the young Palestinians from East Jerusalem.”

Marshall then interjects with some framing which Zoabi is quick to adopt.

JM: “So what you were doing in your view was simply humanitarian…”

HZ: “Of course.”

JM: “…but you can understand how many Israelis saw you as consorting with the relatives of people they regarded as terrorists – these Palestinians who had killed Israelis or tried to kill Israelis.”

HZ: “I don’t accept that because our demand was purely humanitarian. It was even according to the Jewish religion and to the Christian religion and to…according to the Muslim religion you should bury…it’s….it’s a very simple dignity for the death [dead]. All the bodies of the Palestinians who the Israelis killed were released because Israel negotiated this matter but in the case of East Jerusalem the families tried for four months to connect with the authorities and the Israeli authority refuses to do so. So their last option was to address us as parliamentarians.”

Marshall fails to provide listeners with a very important piece of background information which is essential to their understanding of why the Israeli authorities have not yet handed over the bodies of those ten terrorists: the families concerned refuse to comply with the demand to hold modest funerals so as to avoid incitement to more violence.  Without that crucial piece of information, audiences are obviously unable to put Zoabi’s claims into their correct context.

Despite having also failed to inform audiences of the glorification of terrorism at the meeting and whilst refraining from providing listeners with any insight into the records of the MKs concerned such as the fact that Zoabi was recently given a six-month suspended sentence and a fine for insulting civil servants and that she and Bassel Ghattas have both participated in anti-Israel flotillas in the past, Marshall goes on to provide Zoabi with the cue for the promotion of trite propaganda which goes completely unchallenged.

JM: “One of the members of the Ethics Committee of the Knesset which suspended you and your colleagues accused you of inspiring terrorism and encouraging the murder of more and more Israelis.”

HZ: “In Israel whenever you criticise occupation as a Palestinian member, or even as a Jewish activist, the Israeli consensus will call you disloyal to the state and will say that you are threatening Israeli lives. Actually for me this is not just for the interest of the Palestinians. This is also for the interests of the Jews because if we really seek a normal life for the Jews and for the Palestinians we should also seek for justice. We should struggle for freedom and in Israel this is not accepted. Occupation is accepted….”

JM: “OK.”

HZ: “…but struggle against is not accepted.”

Marshall’s failure to provide listeners with any information concerning Zoabi’s record of whitewashing terrorism also means that they are unable to put her answer to his next question into context.

JM: “But those Palestinians who were killed after attacking Israelis….ehm…do you regard them as terrorists?”

HZ: “We are against killing innocent people. We see that this behaviour is not an act of a struggle: it’s an act of desperation. We believe that we have a just cause and in a just cause you should also use a just tools.”

The item closes with more propaganda from Zoabi.

JM: “Do you and your parliamentary colleagues…do you expect to have to serve out your entire suspension from the Knesset or are you going to appeal?”

HZ: “With this suspension this means that the Israeli consensus is controlling my actions and my performance as a member and this means that in Israel there is no meaning to democracy except the tyranny of the majority.”

The take-away messaging for listeners around the world is that this is a story about Arab-Israeli parliamentarians in an undemocratic state who have been unfairly suspended for ‘humanitarian’ activities.  The reason that distorted take-away message can be promoted is because the BBC has framed the story in such a way as to leave out crucial elements which are necessary for its accurate and impartial presentation and has thus denied listeners the ability to see the full picture. 

BBC gives amplification to Middle Eastern conspiracy theories

When locals in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil captured and abused a griffon vulture which recently strayed from an Israeli nature reserve, the BBC could have done a story about the considerable efforts on the part of Israeli nature conservation organisations to protect that species of bird and others.  It could also have used the opportunity to highlight the problem of illegal hunting of wild birds in the Mediterranean area.

Gamla nature reserve

Gamla nature reserve

“About 25 million birds are illegally hunted and killed or captured every year in countries bordering the Mediterranean, and many of these countries have adopted a policy of looking the other way when it comes to the mass killing of the winged creatures, a report released over the weekend by the group BirdLife International claims. On the other hand, Israel, the report says, has the best record among Mediterranean countries when it comes to bird conservation.

The most wide-scale slaughter is being committed in Egypt and Italy, says the report from BirdLife International, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the protection of birds, while the island nation of Malta has the worst record in relation to its size. Many of the avian creatures are killed or captured in the course of their seasonal migration between Europe and Africa.

After Egypt and Italy, the worst offenders on the list are Syria and Lebanon, which together account for the deaths of six and a half million birds every year. “

Instead, the self-styled “standard setter for international journalism” chose to take a different approach to the story, focusing on the obviously groundless and downright ridiculous suspicions of the Lebanese villagers that the captured griffon vulture was carrying espionage equipment. The BBC was far from the only media organization to report the story from that angle, but at least the Guardian, for example, made the essence of the story quite clear to readers.

“Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Middle East.”

The BBC, however, elected to add credence to such silly conspiracy theories with wording such as “Lebanon returns Israeli vulture cleared of spying” – presumably written with a straight face.Vulture story

“A huge vulture detained in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel has been returned home after UN peacekeepers intervened, Israeli officials said.”

“The Lebanese media says the villagers freed the vulture after it became clear it was not on a spying mission.”

“It is not the first time a griffon vulture has been taken to be an agent of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Saudi Arabia captured one, also with a Tel Aviv University tracker, in the desert city of Hyaal in 2011, sparking rumours of a “Zionist plot” that were dismissed by Israeli officials.” [emphasis added]

No better was Julian Marshall’s introduction to an item (here from 39:28) concerning the same story which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on January 30th and billed in the synopsis as being about ‘Animals as “spies”‘.

“Now to a tale of airborne espionage and conspiracy. Last night a griffon vulture was released by Lebanese authorities – cleared of spying for Israel after UN peacekeepers intervened.”

Despite the fact that the story is obviously not about “airborne espionage” at all, Marshall further stoked the fires in his conversation with his interviewee.

“Ahm…and what made the villagers suspicious was a tracking device attached to its tail. But I suppose that could equally have been a camera, couldn’t it?”

When the BBC reports on the abuse of endangered birds of prey in its own domestic arena it does not find it necessary to ‘explain’ the story by pandering to ridiculous conspiracy theories. As one of the representatives of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority put it:

“In the 21st century we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful.” 

The question that therefore arises is why the corporation does not similarly report stories from the Middle East – and especially those which it makes available to audiences in that region – in an equally factual and accurate manner.

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BBC WS amplifies former ISM activist’s falsehoods about Gaza blockade

The August 16th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (available here from 38:32 or here as an abridged clip) on 3D printed stethoscopes developed by a person described in the introduction by presenter Julian Marshall as “a Canadian-Palestinian physician.”Newshour stethoscopes

At the beginning of the item listeners hear the following false claim from Dr Tarek Loubani:

“I had attended the war in Gaza in 2012. I’ve been working there for about the last five years and while I was there we had patients coming in – no equipment because the siege has gotten so bad even though it’s medical equipment – and we had to listen to patients’ chests by putting our ears to their chests which is exactly what we would have done 200 years ago.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and no restrictions are imposed by Israel on the entry of medical equipment. As it has unfortunately been necessary to point out here on numerous prior occasions due to inaccurate BBC reporting on that issue, shortages of medications and medical equipment in the Gaza Strip are due to long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Julian Marshall however made no effort to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression created by his interviewee – who, in response to a question concerning the material used to make his stethoscope, later promoted a similar inaccuracy.

“It’s made of plastic. So the plastic that it’s made of is available anywhere. In the Gaza Strip because it’s such a closed system, because things are not allowed in, they have a very rich culture of recycling their plastic….” [emphasis added]

The only restrictions on materials entering the Gaza Strip are of course on weapons and dual-use goods which can be diverted to the purposes of terrorism.

One presumes that before this item was recorded and broadcast the production team exercised due diligence by researching their interviewee. If that is the case, then the BBC will be aware of the fact that in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.

Tarek Loubani’s promotion of the Hamas narrative of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip and his promotion of the falsehood that Israel does not allow the import of medical equipment therefore does not come as a surprise.

However, adherence to the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy should obviously have prevented that falsehood from being broadcast literally worldwide and the editorial guidelines on impartiality should have ensured that listeners were made aware of Loubani’s political agenda and the fact that he is rather more than just a “physician”. 

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Resources:

BBC World Service contact details

BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

In recent days the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell has produced two very similar reports on different platforms concerning illegally built structures in the South Hebron Hills.

On July 25th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Susiya: Palestinian West Bank village faces bleak end“, where it remained for three consecutive days.Knell Susiya

The July 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Julian Marshall – included a report (from 30:10 here) on the same topic by Knell. In his introduction to that audio report, Marshall states:

“Earlier this year Israel’s High Court ruled against an injunction by residents of Susiya trying to stop Israeli demolition orders. Now, before an appeal is heard, they’ve been told to expect their homes to be destroyed any day.”

That portrayal is inaccurate and misleading.

“During the years while the legal proceedings were ongoing, the petitioners continued to expand their illegal construction, raising the number of structures to a few dozen. They exploited a cease and desist order that temporarily prevented Israel from demolishing the illegal structures. 

On 4 May 2015, the Supreme Court declined to issue another temporary injunction preventing demolitions. The Court found that the petitioners chose to continue to build illegally in violation of judicial rulings that were meant to facilitate the examination of the situation in its entirety, including the actions of the Israeli authorities.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in May, Israel has decided to remove only those structures that were constructed in defiance of judicial rulings or by the exploitation of judicial orders. Israel has undertaken not to demolish the remaining illegal structures before the Supreme Court renders its decision and then only with the Court’s permission. The Court will hear arguments from both sides of the case in August 2015.” [emphasis added]

Both Knell’s reports include considerable input from one Nasser Nawaja – described by her in the audio report as “one of about 350 villagers” and in the written report as a “Susiya resident”.

Whilst those descriptions may indeed be accurate, Mr Nawaja’s position as a community organizer and a field researcher for the political NGO B’Tselem is highly relevant to this story. But – in breach of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state “[w]e should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made” – Knell refrains from telling audiences about her main interviewee’s day job or his worldwide promotion of a libel which has darkly medieval overtones.

“My name is Nasser Nawajah, I’m 30 years old and a resident of a Palestinian village called Susiya in the occupied West Bank. My home is here in the Hebron hills that Israel calls an “illegal outpost” and they have demolished our town five times since 1985, even poisoning our wells.” [emphasis added]

As NGO Monitor reports, B’Tselem is one of a number of foreign funded political organisations involved in promoting the Susiya campaign.

“Khirbet Susiya (Susya) is a small Arab village in the South Hebron Hills. There are widely divergent narratives regarding the village and its history; according to Israeli authorities, the village’s structures have been illegally built. A protracted court battle ensued regarding the demolition of the village.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently cleared the legal barriers to demolition, on the grounds that the structures were constructed illegally, entirely without permits or approved plans. (Under the Oslo framework, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in Area C, which is where Susya is located.)

A number of governments, including the U.S. and European governments, are lobbying the Israeli government to prevent the demolition. […]

As with many such contentious issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict, many NGOs are active in promoting the Palestinian narrative, which is then repeated by the European and U.S. officials. These NGOs are themselves heavily subsidized by European and U.S. entities.”

A proportion of B’Tselem’s funding comes from the EU and the UK government and the involvement of those two entities in this story does not end there. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Little wonder the Europeans have rushed to Susya’s aid. Practically the entire hamlet is being sustained by EU funding. The solar panels generating its electricity were donated by the German foreign ministry; the clinic and water purifying systems were donated by Italy, and the master plan which the Israeli court is to debate on August 3 was funded by the UK. Significantly, 22 of the 37 buildings scheduled for demolition are EU-funded.”

Anyone who has travelled around Area C in the past few months will not be surprised by that revelation of pirate construction of EU-funded structures in places which according to the Oslo accords are under Israeli control – including planning and zoning. The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, for example, offers an excellent view of dozens of relatively recent structures bearing the EU flag.

Whilst BBC licence fee payers might perhaps have appreciated some in-depth investigative reporting on the subject of why their taxes are going towards illegal construction which flouts the terms of the Oslo Accords and creates ‘facts on the ground’ despite those agreeents clearly stating that the future of Area C is to be determined by means of final status negotiations, Yolande Knell’s reports avoided all mention of the above topics with the exception of the following opaque sentence in the written report:

“European donations help sustain Susiya village, which is not connected to mains electricity or public water supplies.”

Instead, Knell’s pathos-rich accounts clearly steer audiences towards her desired take away messaging.

“Now, for the third time in three decades, villagers are facing the threat of another forced displacement.”

“Seventy-year-old Mohammed Nawaja looks on. “Each time we’ve had to rebuild we’ve started with nothing,” he says. “I must trust in God that my grandchildren won’t have to live the same experience.”” (BBC News website report)

“Nearby local children play football. Their grandparents and parents were forced to move from their homes and now they face the same uncertainty.” (Newshour report)

In addition to failing to mention that the High Court of Justice found that the families in Susiya already have homes in the nearby village of Yatta in Area A, Knell refrains from telling her readers and listeners that the Israeli government has offered the residents an alternative.

“They have been offered plots of similar, or even better, quality in a nearby area that already conforms to planning and zoning laws. Building houses there will also improve the petitioners’ quality of life, giving them access to infrastructure and educational facilities that are not available in their current illegal locations. Additionally, they will be allowed to continue the same agricultural activities on the lands they currently claim.”

Yolande Knell’s failure to tell audiences the whole story and her concealment of the fact that her main interviewee is an employee of one of the political NGOs involved in the public relations campaign promoting the one-sided Susiya narrative is ample indication of the fact that these two reports – once again – have more to do with political activism than accurate and impartial news reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Resources:

BBC News online – contact details

BBC World Service – contact details

BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ exploits Pope’s canonizations for promotion of propaganda

BBC coverage of the Pope’s recent canonization of four nineteenth century nuns has focused exclusively on the two who were born in places which were at the time part of the Ottoman Empire: Jerusalem in the Mutassariflik of Jerusalem and Ibillin in the Acco (Acre) Sanjak. The Ottomans of course did not recognize ‘Palestine’ as a separate entity but divided the Levant into provinces, governorates and districts.

On May 17th the BBC devoted two written articles and two items in radio broadcasts to the story.

Vatican boost for Christians in Holy Land” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website

Pope Francis canonises two Palestinian nuns” – BBC News website

‘Newshour’ – “Palestinian nuns become saints” – Julian Marshall, BBC World Service radio (from 00:32)

Sunday‘ – Edward Stourton with Fr David Neuhaus, BBC Radio 4 (from 00:57)

All those items include an element of politicization of the topic by means of promotion of two women who would have been extremely unlikely to self-define as Palestinians as “Palestinian nuns”.

An idea of the aims of such politicization of what is, after all, an event of religious significance can be gleaned from an article published by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

“Rifaat Kassis, a prominent political community activist and coordinator of Kairos, a local Christian group, says the canonization is significant on many levels, notwithstanding the recognition that Palestinians under Ottoman rule were part of a diverse, productive society, contrary to the mainstream sidelining of Palestinians from the region’s history.

“This puts Palestine on the map, among not only the catholic world, but the whole world, and I think this will also help people to understand Palestine and the occupation,” he told Ma’an.” [emphasis added]Newshour nuns

Not content with the geographical politicization of the topic, the ‘Newshour’ item went even further and a report supposedly about the canonization of two nuns quickly became a platform for the promotion of political propaganda when presenter Julian Marshall brought into the conversation Oliver McTernan of the Hamas-supporting ‘Forward Thinking’ and a Palestinian Christian from Beit Sahour named only as Ghassan Bannoura who appears to have worked variously for Oxfam GB, and the IMEMC media arm of the ISM-linked Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People.

McTernan: “I think to the broader Palestinian public it’s the rebuilding of Gaza, the unity of Palestine: terribly important.”

Bannoura: “Well of course living under occupation, the war-torn Gaza strip needs rebuilding of course – that is very important and we should, you know, be focusing on rebuilding Gaza, ending the occupation in the West Bank, stopping the settlements that eating our resources in the West Bank, make it impossible to build any kind of future state in the Holy Land.”

Bannoura: “We can’t get to Jerusalem not because of the Palestinian Authority – our own government and our own police. We can’t get to Jerusalem because of the Israeli occupation and the wall that surrounds the city.”

Clearly the editorial consideration behind the running of this item was not only to inform listeners worldwide of the life and times of the Catholic Church’s new saints.