BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

 

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

BBC framing of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain continued on June 20th with an item by Yolande Knell aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced (from 37:29 here) by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Next week in Bahrain the first piece of the Trump administration’s much vaunted Middle East ‘deal of the century’ is due to fall into place at a workshop on the Palestinian economy. But the Palestinian Authority, which has cut ties with the White House, is staying away despite being on the verge of financial collapse. The Israelis have been withholding tax revenues which the PA uses to pay prisoners and families of Palestinians who’ve been killed – payments which Israel regards as encouraging terrorism. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report.”

The Palestinian Authority of course does not pay any old prison inmate – only those convicted on counts of terrorism against Israelis. Neither does the PA pay every family of a Palestinian who has been killed – only those killed due to their having carried out an attack against Israelis. That information is obviously crucial if audiences are to be able to properly understand why “Israel regards” those payments as “encouraging terrorism”.

Nevertheless, when a slightly different version of Knell’s report was aired on the  BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 21st (from 18:53 here), presenter Julian Marshall employed similarly vague language.

Marshall: “Many Arab states now plan to join next week’s US sponsored workshop on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain although the Palestinian Authority, which has cut off ties with the White House, refuses to attend. Meanwhile, the PA itself is on the verge of financial collapse after Israel decided to withhold tax revenues equivalent to the sum the PA pays as salaries to Palestinian prisoners and the families of killed Palestinians. Israel says the payments encourage terrorism. The PA says they support Palestinian nationalist heroes. It now refuses to accept any of its money transfers and has had to cut the wages of tens of thousands of public workers including doctors and teachers as Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s report began with an unclear reference to the Sbarro terror attack in August 2001.

Knell: “18 years ago ambulances rushed to the bloody scene of a Hamas suicide bombing. Fifteen people were killed and 130 injured at a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. The militants who planned it were later jailed by Israel but over the years they’ve been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in Palestinian prisoner salaries.”

Knell did not mention that the planner of the attack was released from prison in 2011. Listeners then heard a man say:

“They are treated as heroes in every sense of the word.”

Knell: “Arnold Roth, who lost his 15-year-old daughter Malki in the attack, says those wages promote terrorism.”

A. Roth: “The longer you serve in this satanic Palestinian Authority payments scheme – incentive scheme – the more money you make per month. What really is galling from the perspective of people like us, who will never see our daughter again, is that there’s no sense whatever that they’ve done something wrong.”

Listeners then heard music.

Knell: “This song, written by Malki, was recorded by her friends in her memory after her death. Her parents have long called for action against those behind the bombing. Frimet Roth welcomed a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”

As we see, Knell also did not bother to adequately clarify to listeners that the financial rewards are given only to those involved in terrorism against Israelis.

F. Roth: “I think that the payments made are very crucial and they signal that there is no will for peace on the other side right now. Hopefully there will be changes.”

Knell: “But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants, including Charly Mansour, a hospital technician.”

Mansour: “It’s a problem for us because our salary’s not so high. When they cut it to half you cannot stay so long for that. And I have 3 children who have many activities to pay for and the loan to the bank, all this stuff.”

Knell: “A rally for prisoners shows how they’re held in high esteem by Palestinians. Along with those who’ve been killed by Israeli security forces, they’re considered to be heroes of the nationalist struggle. Criticism is taboo. There are over five thousand Palestinians held in Israel for security offences, some for murders, others for political activities.”

Knell did not clarify what she means by “political activities” – an omission which is particularly significant given that in the past she has portrayed Palestinian detainees as “political prisoners” to BBC audiences. Knell went on to interview the family of a convicted terrorist without providing enough details of the incident for it to be identified.

Knell: “Baby Mahmoud is named after his grandfather who’s serving a life sentence for killing an Israeli man. His father, Ali Rudaida [phonetic] tells me he was raised on his father’s prisoner wages. Over time they’ve gone up to $1,300 a month.”

Rudaida: “Actually, when we…when my father get to prison his salary was the only funds for the family that covers all our needs.”

Knell: “The family watches a video which shows Mahmoud Rudaida when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers after a shooting in the West Bank desert in 2002. It was the time of the second Palestinian uprising and his wife Basma says he was fighting for Palestinian rights.”

Voiceover: “From outside looking at us they’ll ask why did you do that? Why are you a terrorist? Why don’t they come and see the situation? We’re not allowed any freedom of movement. We’re all in a prison.”

The report ended abruptly there with Knell making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the claim that Palestinians do not have “any freedom of movement” is false and until the Palestinians launched the terror war known as the Second Intifada, there were no restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The version of the report aired on ‘Newshour’ omitted that last part and instead listeners heard Knell say:

Knell: “The issue of the Palestinian prisoners has long divided Israel and the Palestinians. At a time of deep impasse in the peace process it’s back in focus and for now, though the Palestinian Authority is in a dire financial state, there’s no end in sight to this stand-off.”

As long-time readers will be aware, it took the BBC years to even mention the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and their families and although slightly more coverage of that subject has been seen in the past year, it is still under-reported.

Now, as the corporation builds its framing ahead of the Bahrain economic conference, the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s finances is obviously relevant and – as one of the factors contributing to the financial crisis – so is the issue of the PA cash rewards to terrorists who have murdered or tried to murder Israelis. Unsurprisingly, Yolande Knell found it appropriate to portray that topic ‘impartially’.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

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

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC

 

Context-free political slogans go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The June 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 18:38 here) introduced by presenter Julian Marshall as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “There are reckoned to be just under 73,000 Americans of Palestinian descent living in the United States. They’re one of the smaller groups of Arab Americans but their profile – along with that of the millions of other Palestinians elsewhere in the world – could be raised with the opening today in Washington DC of the Museum of the Palestinian People. Its founder and director is Bshara Nassar.”

After listeners had heard Nassar explain why he decided to found the museum, Marshall continued with a question apparently inspired by the museum’s press release:

Marshall: “You’re wanting to counter what might be described as…ehm…negative stereotypes of Palestinians as…as either victims or…or terrorists so what will visitors to the museum see to reflect a more positive image of Palestinians?”

Nassar: “Well the museum will show the Palestinian culture, Palestinian arts, will celebrate everything that’s related to Palestine like culture, food, poetry so, you know, showing the story, the culture, the arts of the Palestinian people. Our first exhibit is about reimagining the future. The question is, you know, we get all the time like why are you starting with the future? Why not the past? Our answer is that as oppressed people, right, like any other oppressed people around the world, it’s really hard for us to imagine a future that’s different from what we’re living right now and that said is that reimagining a positive future, imagining Palestinians with rights, Palestinians with freedom.”

Marshall: “I mean you say that you want to counter this view of Palestinians as victims and yet you have described them to me as an oppressed people.”

Nassar: “Right, right. Well it’s what’s happening. I mean it’s…this is what’s the reality on the ground. Palestinians are living under the occupation, under Israeli occupation, lands being confiscated, there is no water. That’s what’s happening. What we want to say that we have a rich culture. We have a beautiful dance, beautiful traditions. If you go to the West Bank right now, which is where I’m from, from Bethlehem, people not necessarily sitting around talking about the occupation all day, right. There is weddings, there is celebrations, there is life. There is so much positive contributions that as Palestinians we’re bringing to the whole world.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that, like the rest of the areas in which the majority of Palestinians live, Bethlehem has been under Palestinian Authority rule for twenty-four years and failing to provide any information at all which would put Nassar’s trite political slogans into context, Marshall asked a final question about the museum’s take-away messaging.

Hence in this item promoting what is essentially the continuation of a political project, BBC World Service listeners found no trace of the impartiality which is supposedly a required component in BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC News website gives platform to political campaigning article

 

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

Just after 9 p.m. UK time on the evening of May 4th BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ which led (from 00:11 here) with a report described on its webpage as “Three dead in Gaza as Israel retaliates after a serious escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks which cause injuries in Israel”.

Both presenter Julian Marshall and reporter Tom Bateman initially refrained from telling listeners who was responsible for the rocket fire against Israeli civilians and promoted a sense of false equivalence.  

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

Marshall: “There’s been a serious outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. There’ve been fatalities and injuries after scores of rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Predictably, Bateman avoided the use of the word terror throughout his report, even inaccurately claiming that the IDF describes its targets “as militants sites”.

Bateman: “Well on Saturday morning there was a barrage of rockets that were unleashed from the Gaza Strip into Israel. At that stage around 90 rockets according to the Israeli military. Many of those were shot down – dozens according to the Israelis – but that salvo went on for hours. As Israel responded with tank and air strikes across the Gaza Strip, now there’s been a day of heavy exchanges of fire and this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip. Before that a 22-year-old man killed in an Israeli air strike in the north of the Strip. While those rocket salvos continued, some hit homes in towns in southern Israel and there were 2 people wounded, one of them seriously: an 80-year-old woman who was hit by shrapnel.”

As usual Bateman failed to inform listeners that by the “Palestinian ministry of health” he in fact means the same terrorist organisation launching those rockets at civilian targets. Three quarters of an hour before Bateman’s report was aired an IDF spokesman had already noted that “According to indications, the infant and her mother were killed as a result of terrorist activities […] and not as a result of an Israeli raid” and as we see, Bateman was obviously aware that the Hamas claim he chose to promote may be less than watertight. Neither had he apparently bothered to clarify whether or not the “22-year-old man killed” was in fact part of a rocket-launching squad.

Marshall: “I mean clearly any loss of life, any casualties are to be regretted but with so many rockets fired, Tom, it does seem that there was a relatively low loss of life.”

Rather than explaining to listeners how Israelis defend themselves in such circumstances, Bateman went on to promote the bizarre notion that rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terror groups are a relatively recent phenomenon and one that “we’ve become used to”.

Bateman: “These exchanges of fire have been something we’ve become used to over the last year. And they have varied in their magnitude. There have been serious casualties in the past, others have taken place with fewer casualties and what we’ve seen I think in the previous exchanges of fire like this is that rockets might be fired in the periphery of the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, not going further afield and Israel responding largely with strikes on Hamas militant sites that have been evacuated. Things have become more serious with this turn of events and it follows what happened on Friday which was a Palestinian sniper shooting at 2 Israeli soldiers during these weekly protests that have been taking place at the Gaza perimeter fence. Those two soldiers were wounded. Israel then responded by hitting a Hamas militant post, killing two of those militants. A further two Palestinians were then killed by Israeli fire in the protests. Already by Friday night there was a fairly serious escalation and that was then followed, as I say, by the barrage of rockets from Gaza on Saturday morning.”

Marshall: “Has any group in Gaza said that they carried out…ehm…some or all of these attacks?”

Bateman went on to uncritically amplify a Hamas statement.

Bateman: “Hamas is the militant group that controls the Strip and it was clear from the outset…they said that they would respond to what they described as the aggression by Israel yesterday that led to the deaths of two of its militants. But the other significant group in the Strip is Islamic Jihad; another smaller militant group that is thought to be behind some of the recent fire from Gaza in the recent months towards Israel. As things stand at the moment it looks as though these hostilities are going to continue despite the ongoing attempts by the United Nations and also by Egyptian intelligence to try and broker a calm between the two sides. And those efforts have been going on for many months but what we see at intervals like this is how quickly and easily that can be shattered.”

Three hours later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard another report from Bateman. By that time COGAT had also clarified that the child and the person initially mistakenly described as her mother had been killed by a shortfall rocket fired by Gaza Strip based terrorists. Nevertheless, Radio 4 listeners were told that:

[00:30] Newsreader: “A mother and her baby have died after Israeli forces launched attacks on the Gaza Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being fired by Palestinian militants.”

[07:46] Newsreader: “Israel says around 200 rockets have been fired into the south of the country from Gaza by Palestinian militants, wounding two people. Israel launched air strikes and tank fire in response. Palestinian officials said four people including a mother and her baby were killed. Israel has closed both crossings into Gaza. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns as a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza. Israel shot down dozens of them before [sic] its tanks and war planes targeted militant sites in the Strip. This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike. A 22-year-old Palestinian man died in a separate strike earlier. During hours of rocket fire two Israelis – one of them an 80-year-old woman – were injured after being hit by shrapnel. This latest flare-up follows months of tensions between Israel and Gaza based militants who demand an easing of the crippling blockade which Israel says is needed to stop weapons getting in. Israel demands calm on the boundary after more than a year of Palestinian protests at the perimeter fence. The rocket salvo coincided with the funerals of two Hamas militants killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike: retaliation – Israel said – for the wounding of two Israeli soldiers who were shot by a Palestinian gunman. It marks yet another ratcheting-up of hostilities, despite repeated attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term truce.”

Once again Bateman failed to clarify that “the Palestinian health ministry” is in fact controlled by the Hamas terrorist organisation and listeners heard nothing about the shortfall rocket or the circumstances in which the other two of the “four people” were killed.

“In addition, the ministry said two Palestinian men were killed in Israeli strikes Saturday: Imad Muhammad Nasir, 22, and Khaled Mohammed Abu Qliq 25.

The latter was reportedly killed in an airstrike as he and several other men were launching rockets at Israel.”

Yet again too we see Bateman conforming to BBC editorial policy by euphemistically describing violent rioting during which IEDs were thrown, infiltrations attempted and a sniper fired at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border as “protests”.

Given the BBC’s previous experiences of jumping to insufficiently verified conclusions regarding the circumstances of the deaths of small children and women in the Gaza Strip, one would have thought that lessons would have been learned and caution – especially in relation to claims from a terrorist organisation hiding behind a ‘health ministry’ mask – would be applied.

Obviously that is not the case.

Related Articles:

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story 

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part 2

In part one of this post we saw that listeners to the two editions of the BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 12th were repeatedly led to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis the previous evening was a member of Hamas despite the fact that all belonged to terror factions.

By the time those two editions had ended, listeners had heard from two residents of the Gaza Strip – one at length – but nothing from any of the residents of southern Israel affected by the 17 rocket attacks launched by terrorists on November 11th or the hundreds of attacks launched from the afternoon of November 12th onward.

On the following day (November 13th) the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ was titled “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” and once again the image used to illustrate the programme’s webpage depicted a scene in the Gaza Strip.

“The worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. More than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel, while Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.”

(Photo: Smoke blows up [sic] after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike to positions in Gaza City. Credit: Getty Images)

As documented here previously, presenter Julian Marshall failed to tell listeners that by that time at least three of those killed in IDF strikes had been claimed as members by terror organisations. This edition did however include the first – and only – mention of the fact that a civilian had been killed when a rocket hit an apartment block in Ashkelon.

Marshall: “Well Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead.”

The item included a brief statement from an IDF Spokesperson as well as an interview with a resident of the Gaza Strip (Majd Masharawi) and a resident of Ashkelon (Sigal Arieli).

Listeners did not hear anything which would contribute to their appreciation of the fact that in this round of violence, Israeli civilians were being deliberately targeted by terrorist organisations while civilians in the Gaza Strip were actually receiving warnings of impending strikes against military targets in order to ensure their safety.

The evening edition of the programme was titled “Gaza Israel Violence” and for the first time visitors to the webpage saw an image depicting events in Israel.

“Hamas says it’s agreed to a ceasefire in its hostilities with Israel. Israel says it reserves the right to strike inside Gaza. But how to stop the violence for good? We’ll hear from a former senior member of the Obama White House.”

(Photo: Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Credit: AFP)

As noted here previously, the original caption to that photograph uses the word ‘house’ rather than “buildings”.

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 00:52 here), once again erasing the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were members of terror factions.

Franks: “It takes two sides to agree a ceasefire. The question tonight in the Middle East is is that what Israel and Hamas – the Palestinian group running Gaza – have both agreed? Hamas says it has; that it said yes to the terms of an Egyptian brokered deal. Israeli officials have been rather more circumspect, saying they reserve the right to continue air strikes into Gaza as necessary. All this comes against the most heated flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants for four years. Over the weekend Israeli Special Forces conducted an operation deep inside Gazan territory which appeared to spin out of control. Seven Palestinians were killed including a senior Hamas commander. One Israeli officer died. Out of Gaza there then came a barrage of hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel. The Israeli military conducted scores of airstrikes inside Gaza. There was widespread fear that this could escalate into a full-blown war as it has three times in the last decade. “

Listeners then heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell in which they were told that:

Knell: “The Israeli military says more than 460 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza in the past 24 hours and that it struck 160 militant targets including a building in Gaza City that it said was used by Hamas intelligence.”

Knell then immediately contradicted that accurate information with a claim from a Gaza resident who later on in the week cropped up in yet another BBC report.

Knell: “A doctor living there, Adnan al Waheidi, condemned the attack.”

Al Waheidi: “They destroy a civilian building which was fully occupied with families, where you find women are crying and the children are leaving and everybody’s just trying to escape for themself.”

Although by the time this programme was aired the extent of the damage to homes and businesses in southern Israeli communities was clear and the death of one civilian and injury of dozens of others had been amply reported by the local media, Knell confined her portrayal of the Israeli side of the story to sirens.

Knell: “On the Israeli side sirens sounded repeatedly. Einav Shimoni lives just two miles from the Gaza border.”

After listeners had heard Shimomi’s description of alarms and running to the shelter, Knell told ‘Newshour’ listeners for the first time in all four programmes that the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were “militants”.

The item continued with segments from the interviews with Majd Masharawi in Gaza and Sigal Arieli in Ashkelon which had been heard in that day’s earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ and closed with an interview about ceasefire prospects with Ilan Goldenberg – described by Franks as “a man who used to be one of President Obama’s point men on the Middle East”. 

In the four editions of ‘Newshour’ aired on November 12th and 13th BBC World Service listeners around the world heard one short statement from an IDF spokesperson and one lengthy interview with a Hamas spokesman – parts of which were later repeated. Listeners heard comment relating to the broader background to the story from one Israeli journalist and one American commentator as well as one Israeli MK. Interviews with four different residents of the Gaza Strip – two of them lengthy and one partly repeated – were aired in contrast to interviews with two Israeli civilians affected by the rocket attacks – one lengthy and partly repeated.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that their principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure that ‘controversial subjects’ are treated with due impartiality in all our output.

News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.

We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

And:

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.  The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

“Due impartiality” and “due weight” can hardly be said to have been achieved when listeners heard twice as many voices from the Gaza Strip than they did Israeli civilians.

Listeners heard inaccurate descriptions of the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis on five occasions (and on one webpage) and only one accurate portrayal. They heard one accurate and one inaccurate portrayal of people in the Gaza Strip killed in the Israeli airstrikes that came in response to Gaza terror factions’ missile fire on civilians. A civilian killed in Ashkelon in one of those rocket attacks was mentioned just once.

Half of the programmes failed to clarify to listeners that while the rocket fire by Gaza based terror groups deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions and false equivalence between those differently focused attacks was promoted in all editions.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state that its principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output.

The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.”

Repeatedly describing six of the seven people killed in the incident near Khan Younis as “Palestinians” even though – as locally based BBC journalists knew – they had been claimed by two armed terror factions is obviously a prime example of misleading audiences and distorting known facts.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

 

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the lead item in the November 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was presented with the false equivalence promoting title “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza“.

Having interviewed a resident of the Gaza Strip, presenter Julian Marshall went on to introduce his second contributor. Whereas in the introduction to the first interview Marshall had stated that “Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead”, in this introduction he failed to mention who was carrying out the attacks which resulted in a civilian casualty on the Israeli side of the border.

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

Marshall: “And sirens in southern Israeli towns and the port city of Ashkelon have been sending people rushing for shelters to escape rocket attacks from Gaza. In Ashkelon a rocket gutted an apartment building, killing a resident. Sigal Arieli also lives there. How has it been over the past 48 hours?

Arieli: “So last night until one o’clock a.m. it was crazy. We had two rounds of rockets – tens of rockets each time. And then we had a few hours of quiet over the night. And this morning we woke up with another two sessions of ten, or something like that, rockets over two different sessions at 6 a.m. and half an hour later. Since then Ashkelon has been quiet.”

Marshall: “And did you and others spend the night in shelters overnight?”

Arieli: “Well me personally I don’t have a shelter in my house so every time there’s a siren we run and hide under the stairs People that have shelters room [safe room] in their houses spent the night in the shelters. We just had to run every time that there was a siren. We ran quite a lot.”

Marshall then came up with the following question:

Marshall: “And did these…ehm…rockets…ehm…make contact with Ashkelon?”

Having told listeners in the introduction that a rocket had “gutted an apartment building”, he obviously already knew the answer to that bizarrely worded question. Listeners did not however hear of the direct hits on homes and businesses in additional locations.

Arieli: “What do you mean ‘made contact’? Did they land in Ashkelon?”

Marshall: “Yeah: did these rockets…did any of these rockets land in Ashkelon?”

Arieli: “Yes of course. We have Iron Dome system – this is a battery of rockets protecting us from rockets. But this time because there was so many rockets at the same time, every time, about eight different rockets landed in Ashkelon on buildings, in apartments, in open areas but definitely landed and some of them destroyed houses.”

Marshall’s line of questioning then took on an even more strange direction.

Marshall: “How long have you lived in Ashkelon, Sigal?”

Arieli: “Twenty-nine years actually.”

Marshall: “And have you ever considered moving because of the rocket threat?”

Arieli: “No way. This is home and we’re strong and we’re here. And when we have no rockets Ashkelon is a beautiful city, very peaceful, very green and by the water. There’s no way. We’re here. This is home.”

Listeners next heard Marshall recycling Hamas propaganda.

Marshall: “Because you may or may not be aware that the latest violence is also being accompanied by an exchange of threats between Israel and Hamas using Twitter and Hamas’ armed wing has tweeted in Hebrew warning Israelis to stay away from Ashkelon.”

Arieli: “OK, I’m not aware of that. I know Hamas is trying many ways to weaken the resilience of the people in Israel and especially here in Ashkelon but we only listen to IDF Homefront Command and we try to stay safe and just, you know, do what we were told: stay near sheltered area and just hopefully things will go back to normal soon.”

Marshall: “Why is Ashkelon targeted? Hamas says it’s because Israel is using it as a base for airstrikes.”

Marshall was citing an image put out by Hamas that morning in which it claimed that “The army uses the city in cruel actions against us and so we will respond to that. It is preferable to keep as far away from the city as possible”.

By repeating that baseless propaganda put out by a terrorist organisation, Marshall further muddied audience understanding of the basic story: the fact that Hamas and other terror organisations launched attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel while Israel’s response struck exclusively military targets after advance warnings were given.

Arieli: “Mmm…I don’t think so. First of all Ashkelon is the largest city closest to Gaza on their north side so this is a big city – 150,000 people – and it’s easy to target and it’s relatively close. It’s even closer that Sderot and it’s much larger. So I guess this is why Ashkelon is the target and also we have electric company here, we have water desalination plant, so I guess this is also something that they might be interested in hurting.”

Although he had asked his previous interviewee “What do you think needs to happen for all this to stop?” and “what should other countries in the world be doing?”, Marshall had a rather more specific question for his Israeli contributor.

Marshall: “You…you say you listen to the IDF but I mean do you have any advice for the IDF and what do you think they should be doing at the moment?”

Arieli: “[laughs] I’m a very plain [ordinary] citizen in Israel. I trust the IDF to do everything they can to keep us safe and I know that nobody wants this escalation. Both sides don’t want this round to end in a war like 4 years ago so I know IDF is doing everything in a measurement and they try not to cause something that will evoke like a really serious war between the two sides.”

He then went on to ask her a question which – notably – he did not pose to his contributor from Gaza, once again promoting the false notion of equivalence – given that civilian residents of Gaza were not targeted by the IDF while civilians in southern Israel were deliberately targeted by Hamas and other Gaza terror factions.

Marshall: “Sigal, you’ve been explaining to me the amount of stress and fear that there is among the residents of Ashkelon. Can you understand in any way how the residents – the civilian residents – of Gaza must be feeling something similar at the moment?”

Arieli: “”Of course. Being a civilian myself I can only think about the people on the other side, in Gaza, families, children. And I know that what we’re suffering is equal to what they’re suffering and I have all the compassion for everyone on the other side. It’s their leadership that is really doing all this cause and I know that the people – like the regular people that live in Gaza – like the regular people in Israel, we want peace, we want to live our life, raise our children in a normal environment. And I’m sure that everybody in Gaza that has children and is now fearing from IDF as much as we are worried about Hamas feels the same. The people we don’t want war. We want peace and normal life. That’s the bottom line that we need to understand. There are people on both sides.”

Having secured that messaging from his Israeli interviewee, Marshall closed the item there, leaving BBC World Service audiences with a deliberately distorted framing of this story which hinders their understanding by promoting false equivalence that does not in fact exist. Unsurprisingly, that messaging was also the focus of a separately promoted clip from the programme. 

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The BBC World Service’s idea of ‘context’ to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

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More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one

Last week we saw how, on November 13th, the BBC News website used the term ‘traded’ to promote false equivalence between an unprecedented barrage of rocket and mortar attacks launched by Hamas and other terror factions against the civilian population in southern Israel and IDF retaliatory strikes on exclusively military targets after advance warnings were given.

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

The same framing was evident in the title of the November 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” – and in the report itself (from 00:58 here). Presenter Julian Marshall opened that lead item with an inverted view of the order of events, placing Israeli strikes before the terrorist rocket attacks that prompted them.

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

Marshall: “But we begin in the Middle East where the worst escalation of violence between Israel and…err…Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. There’ve been more Israeli airstrikes over Gaza, more rockets fired by Hamas militants into Israel and an Israeli attack helicopter has opened fire on several people who officials suspected were trying to cross the Gaza security fence.”

The incident to which Marshall referred actually involved more than ‘suspicion’:

“Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked several suspicious Palestinians near the security fence who had been monitored by IDF surveillance and who had tried to cross the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory (IDF spokesman, November 13, 2018).”

Marshall continued, using an inaccurate term to describe the exposure of an undercover IDF operation in the southern Gaza Strip two days earlier.

Marshall: “The violence follows a botched Israeli undercover operation on Sunday. But Israeli Defence Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus said there were no plans at the moment for Israeli troops to go back into Gaza.”

Listeners then heard a statement from the IDF spokesman which included the only mentions of the word ‘terrorist’ in the entire twelve-minute item.

Failing to tell listeners that at least three of those killed in IDF strikes were claimed as members by terror organisations, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “Well Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead. Just before we came on air I spoke to Majd Masharawi, a civil engineer in Gaza.”

Readers may recall that Masharawi recently featured (see ‘related articles’ below) in two other items of BBC content.

Masharawi: We couldn’t sleep the whole night yesterday. You just expect that you might be the next one. Can you imagine this feeling?”

Marshall: “So there was pretty continuous airstrikes, were there, through the night?”

Masharawi: “Literally all the night.”

Marshall: “And what can you do to protect yourself?”

Masharawi: “Well you can’t do anything. You don’t know where they are bombing and you can’t…you just have to stay with the family and protect them.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that – in contrast to the misleading impression given by Masharawi – Israeli forces issue advance warnings of strikes on their exclusively military targets, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “So there’s nowhere you can go? No shelters? Anything like that?”

Masharawi:”We don’t have shelters, you know.”

Marshall: “And today, is it quiet for the moment?”

Masharawi: “It’s more quiet than the night but they still…they still like targeting places in the south and north. And yesterday how it happened? I was journey to [travelled to] one of the sites yesterday in the north and 500 meters away I saw like a huge explosion and something is falling from the sky. So I didn’t know where to go and my legs just freeze and I received a phone call from my dad saying the war’s going to start; go back now.”

Marshall: “It’s not safe enough, I assume, for your children to go to school today?”

Masharawi: “No, no. My brothers and sisters didn’t go to school. Everyone is still at home. Even, even my dad he didn’t go to work.”

Marshall: “So at the moment you’re trapped in your house.”

Masharawi: “Yeah, literally trapped.”

Marshall: “And are you worried that there could be another war like there was in 2014?”

Masharawi: “Well this is a nightmare. I wish it will not be. And yesterday night I was crying like a kid. I was crying because I didn’t want war to start and I don’t want…I don’t want to lose faith that we will have peace.”

After those first six questions relating to the events of the previous 24 hours, Marshall ‘zoomed out’.

Marshall: “What do you think needs to happen for all this to stop?”

Masharawi: “What should happen? Our leaders should leave their places and they should give it to people who can lead us into better destinations. Not destinations of killing and losing people and just making a mess. A destination where we can…we people can have a better future and a better life.”

Marshall: “So you don’t believe that Hamas are doing a very good job?”

Masharawi: “I don’t believe anyone is doing a good job. I don’t believe anyone even like the PA, even Israel. Everyone is like…I’m 24 years old now, OK? Since I was born I didn’t see one good day in Gaza. I didn’t. I didn’t see for one day that someone is taking care of us. I’m really worried about the future for us.”

Marshall: So you don’t see yourself at the moment having…having a future?”

Masharawi: “No. What does it mean to have a future? Seriously, what does a future mean? Is it just by feeling for every second that your life is [unintelligible]. Like for example I have to give talk next week and now I can’t leave. Even representing my country in a good shape, I can’t do it. I can’t hold a future for me now I can’t leave. So tell me what does it mean to have a future? We don’t have even life.”

Marshall: “But my understanding was that you…you chose to come back to Gaza – is that right?”

Masharawi: “Yeah, I choose to come back because I thought I can create a change and I feel now like it’s like there is a very powerful thing over us that prevents us even from having a good life.”

Marshall: “But having come back to Gaza, you can’t leave again – is that what you’re saying?”

Masharawi: “No I can’t. Yeah, I can’t. I’m trying now for weeks to get a permit from Israel and they don’t give me. And I’m asking many people who promised to help young people in Gaza and no-one is responding.”

Marshall: “So what should other countries in the world be doing, do you think, to try to help bring this violence to an end?”

Masharawi: “Well at the end of the day people are showing solidarity which is very…like very nice of them: it’s really appreciated. But we want it more like real steps. We want people to stand and say we are not moving from here unless this will stop, because people are dying here in my country.”

Obviously listeners to that four-minute and twenty-second interview did not hear anything which would contribute to their understanding of the roots of the conflict or their appreciation of the fact that in this particular round of violence, Israeli civilians were being deliberately targeted by terrorist organisations while civilians in the Gaza Strip were actually receiving warnings of impending strikes against military targets in order to ensure their safety.

Julian Marshall next went on to speak an Israeli woman and that rather different interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

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The BBC World Service’s idea of ‘context’ to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

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Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

Previously we saw how a BBC News website report on the US decision to close the PLO office in Washington DC failed to provide readers with an adequate explanation of both the legal background to that decision and the fact that the same Palestinian officials now protesting it have had nearly three years in which to study the requirements for keeping that mission open.

The September 10th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ closed with an item on the same story which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:05 here) with the following framing:

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

Marshall: “The Trump administration is piling the pressure on the Palestinians. It’s already ended bilateral funding and also funding to the UN agency which looks after Palestinian refugees. President Trump says they’re ungrateful and should return to the negotiating table with Israel. And today the US ordered the closure of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington. The US State Department said the Palestinians were refusing to engage with the US over peace efforts. US National Security Advisor John Bolton also touched on the topic in his speech excoriating the International Criminal Court. He said the US decision to close the mission in Washington was a result of the court’s insistence on investigating Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

In contrast to Marshall’s claim, the ICC’s preliminary investigations in fact came as a result of actions by the Palestinian Authority beginning in January 2015. Listeners then heard a recording of John Bolton speaking on the same day.

Recording Bolton: “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel. And today, reflecting Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the Department of State will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation office here in Washington DC and the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process and we will not allow the ICC or any other organisation to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Marshall: “So why is Mr Bolton conflating two issues: the ICC and the Palestinians? Our State Department correspondent again, Barbara Plett-Usher.

While it is obvious that Barbara Plett-Usher is aware of the history and legal background to this story, BBC World Service listeners did not hear a lucid explanation. Despite the BBC having itself reported on Palestinian petitions to the ICC – including as recently as in May – Plett-Usher disingenuously portrayed that topic as though it were a claim dreamed up by John Bolton.

Plett-Usher: “Well that’s because Congress conflated them. Congress put some conditions on the ability of the PLO to open an office in Washington, one of which was that the Palestinians could not be going after Israel in the ICC and you heard there Mr Bolton saying they were in fact trying to do that. But even then, even if the Palestinians had made such moves, the PLO office could still be allowed to operate here if the Palestinians were engaging in peace talks with the Israelis, which they are not. They’re boycotting the US attempts to revive negotiations because they see them as blatantly favouring the Israelis on core issues. But the administration used these two arguments, these two conditions put down by Congress, to close down the mission.”

Marshall: “And has this mission in Washington been useful for the Palestinians?”

Misrepresenting the title of the PLO envoy to Washington and giving a partisan interpretation of the Oslo Accords Declaration of Principles, Plett-Usher replied:

Plett-Usher: “I think it’s been more useful at some times than at others but by and large what it was, it was set up after the Oslo Accords were negotiated in ’93-’94 and this was the sort of point man point in Washington to liaise with the US administration on efforts to implement those accords which of course were supposed to result in a Palestinian state and never did. More recently the diplomats here have engaged in direct outreach to Americans – to churches, civil organisations, students and the like – trying to build support for the Palestinians, to take advantage of a decrease in support for the Israeli government policies among Americans but also including American Jews. In fact the PLO ambassador claims that that was one reason they were shut down.”

Plett-Usher refrained from mentioning reports that the PLO mission in Washington had been funding campus activity of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the US.

Marshall then went on to introduce his second contributor, failing to clarify to listeners that Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Marshall: “[…] and earlier I spoke to Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian legislator and former negotiator. What’s her reaction to Mr Bolton’s remarks?”

[48:23] Ashrawi: “This is not an act that happened in isolation. It’s part of a concerted American assault on Palestinian rights, on the chances of peace [laughs] and on any semblance of justice, on legality and solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue. And it seems to me the US is certainly doing Israel’s bidding and is trying to resolve all issues by bashing the Palestinians, by punishing the Palestinians – who are already under occupation – and by rewarding Israel and granting it full immunity to act outside the law with full impunity.”

Marshall: “The United States says it’s doing this because the Palestinians are not supporting peace talks with Israel.”

Ashrawi: [laughs] That’s extremely ironic. There are no talks. There are no plans. There is no negotiating table to invite us back to: the US has smashed it into smithereens. It has decided unilaterally to give away Jerusalem to Israel which is illegal because Jerusalem is occupied territory – it is Palestinian land. It has decided single-handedly to redefine Palestinian refugees and to stop funding UNRWA which is an international organisation specifically set up to serve and protect the Palestinian refugees. It has unilaterally decided that the settlements are not illegal, that it doesn’t want the ’67 boundaries or the two-state solution. So what does it want? Right now it is busy telling the Palestinians if you do not surrender to our dictates, if you do not accept all these steps then you are going to be punished again and Israel is rewarded. So it’s extremely ironic. It’s really disingenuous to talk about peace. Actually now we are being punished because we dared ask the International Criminal Court to speed up its investigation of Israeli war crimes and as you know, settlements are a war crime by international definition according to the Rome Statute.”

Making no effort whatsoever to challenge Ashrawi’s egregious portrayal of Jerusalem as “Palestinian land”, her “war crimes” smear or her partisan interpretation of Article 8 of the Rome Statute, Marshall changed the subject.

Marshall: “Do you have any idea what the US peace plan is? Because the Trump administration says that the Palestinian leadership has condemned that plan that they haven’t even seen [Ashrawi laughs] and refused to engage the US government with respect to peace efforts in other words.”

Ashrawi: “Yes of course we refuse because we don’t need to talk about a plan; they’re implementing it. I mean anybody who has any sense – any sight – would see that the US is busy dismantling every single component or requirement of peace. These issues are very clear. So it’s not that we [laughs] are not talking peace. We have been talking peace for decades and we’ve negotiated with numerous American administrations. It’s this one that has…I think it has lost its mind. I think in this mad, hysterical defence of Israel, they just don’t make sense. They have lost their balance and it’s really serious because they’re creating a situation of tremendous volatility.”

Marshall: “How do the Palestinians now though gain their independent state? You’ve rejected the United States as a mediator; you’re not prepared at the moment to sit down with Israel. How do you achieve your political objectives?”

Ashrawi: “Well the president Mahmoud Abbas last year declared or announced an initiative about convening an international conference about the requirements of peace. There is a plan but obviously when the US has taken sides so blatantly and I think now it’s up to the international community that has to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinians and to hold Israel to account and now to hold the US to account.”

Failing to inform listeners that Abbas’ ‘international conference’ was supposed to have taken place “by mid-2018“, Marshall closed the item there, once again neglecting to clarify Ashrawi’s PLO links.

As we see, once again BBC audiences were not given an adequate account of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of the US decision to close the PLO mission in Washington. They did, however, hear Hanan Ashrawi’s political talking points, inaccuracies and distortions go completely unchallenged for four straight minutes in this one-sided presentation of the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safadi’s response to that question included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

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

 

 

 

 

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

The day before the US State Department announced its intention to cease contributions to UNRWA, the August 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ led with a very long item described in the synopsis as follows:

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

The item began with an introduction (from 00:54 here) from presenter Julian Marshall. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin in the Middle East where the UN agency known as UNRWA which provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees now faces a funding crisis as a result of American cuts. In January this year the United States, which provides around a quarter of UNRWA’s budget, announced that it would be cutting its contribution to 60 million from 350 million. This is what President Trump said at the time at the Davos Economic Forum.”

Recording Trump: “When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice-president to see them and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support; tremendous numbers – numbers that nobody understands. That money’s on the table. That money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Marshall: “And this week it was being reported that the United States had decided to cut funding to UNRWA altogether as the Trump administration announced it would also be ending the $200 million a year it gives to the Palestinian Authority. Well this squeeze on the Palestinians seems to be part of a broader strategy by the United States to try to shape any future peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Washington has already relocated its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem while America’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley told a conference in the US this week that the right of Palestinians to return to Israel should be reviewed. Let’s speak first to the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem. And Yolande; how is the money dispersed by UNRWA spent?”

[02:41] Knell: “Well it provides a lot of services to the 5 million people who are registered as refugees – Palestinian refugees – all around the Middle East. It provides to them schooling; there are 711 UNRWA schools, 526,000 pupils, just to give you a sense of the scale. It also provides healthcare, clinics in many of the refugee camps…ahm…places like Gaza, people really rely on those. There are 8 refugee camps in Gaza. Many of the 1.3 million refugees there also receive food aid from UNRWA.”

Marshall: “And the money that the United States gives bilaterally to the Palestinian Authority – do we know how that’s spent?”

Knell apparently does not know “how that’s spent” because she failed to answer that question and quickly changed the subject back to UNRWA.

Knell: “We’re not given a complete breakdown on how the funds are spent but we know that really since the beginning of the year there’s been this huge budget deficit for UNRWA and the announcement that came through just a couple of weeks ago is that it had received about $238 million in additional contributions. It’s been running a campaign called ‘Dignity is Priceless’. It’s had a lot of pledges from Arab states in particular. At the moment the agency is still short of 200 million it says but it was in doubt about whether the UNRWA schools which operate around the Middle East would be able to open for the start of the new term but yesterday and in the coming days we’re seeing those schools opening again. But UNRWA’s saying that it would be forced to close them again in a month if it doesn’t find additional new funding.”

Marshall: “Yolande, many thanks. The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.

As has been documented here, the BBC has lent its weight to that UNRWA funding campaign in recent months – for example:

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part two

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

As has also been documented here, since the story concerning US donations to UNRWA broke in January, none of the BBC’s related reports have provided its audience with any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

BBC audiences have been told countless times that there are over 5 million Palestinian refugees – but not why their number has increased rather than fallen during the last 70 years or why in all that time they have not been integrated in host Arab countries.  

BBC audiences have likewise been repeatedly informed that UNRWA provides education and health services to Palestinian refugees but they have not been told why people who live under the rule of fellow Palestinians in the Gaza Strip or the PA controlled areas do not get those services from the governments to which they pay taxes or why, 70 years on, there are still ‘refugee camps’ in those locations.

As we see above, neither Julian Marshall nor Yolande Knell made any attempt in this item to enhance their listeners’ understanding of this story beyond UNRWA’s talking points.

In part two of this post we will see whether or not Julian Marshall posed the Jordanian foreign minister any questions which would help enhance audience understanding of the fact that the majority of just over 2 million people registered as Palestinian refugees who live in Jordan hold Jordanian citizenship and yet still get services from the UN agency.

Related Articles:

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

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

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

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