Superficial BBC News reporting from Qatar hinders understanding

Plucky: Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

The article promoted by the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief in that Tweet appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the headline “Qatar cash and cows help buck Gulf boycott“. Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell after a visit to Doha, the report includes a video about a dairy farm in Qatar in which BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The cows were shipped, and even flown into Qatar when it was cut off by its Arab neighbours. They accused it of supporting terrorism – which it denies.”

In the article itself readers find the following:

“On 5 June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off all diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar.

They accused it of supporting terrorism, stirring up regional instability and seeking close ties with their arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar denied that and refused to comply with a long list of demands, including closing its Al Jazeera news network. […]

“The main thing that the blockading states are aiming for [is] a power consolidation in the region,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tells me.

They started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The exact same messaging is seen in the synopsis to a filmed report that also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th.

“Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says “they started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The same statement opens the filmed report itself.

So what information were BBC audiences given that would help them judge whether there is any truth in that repeatedly promoted claim, according to which accusations of support for terrorism are merely a smear because Qatar is “different”?”

Knell’s portrayal of the issue begins with a year-old story.

“Qatar blames the start of last year’s crisis on what it says was a cyber-attack on its state-run news agency, which published comments purportedly from the ruling emir.

He was quoted as expressing sympathy for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and claiming that Donald Trump might not last long as US president.

However, analysts say the roots of the disagreement go back much further.

“This was an issue that was kept bottled for 20 years but it just came out in the open a year ago,” says Ali Shihabi, the Saudi founder of the Washington-based, Arabia Foundation.

He refers to tapes that emerged after the fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which appeared to show the Qatari emir’s father plotting against Saudi royals when he was ruler.

Mr Shihabi says that Qatar reneged on agreements to stop payments to dissidents in other Arab countries and gave them a platform on Al Jazeera.”

Who those “dissidents” are and what they ‘dissented’ remains unclear in Knell’s report.

Significantly, Knell made no effort whatsoever to inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s record of negligence on terror financing. Neither did she bother to tell audiences about Qatar’s selective definitions of terrorism, its hosting of senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood figures or Qatari leaders’ ties to a terror financier.

As one Middle East analyst put it earlier this year:

“Qatar is on a charm offensive designed to portray itself as a victim of rivalries in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies have isolated the emirate. […]

The problem with Qatar’s attempt to rebrand itself as the moderate state being victimized by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar has never come clean about its support for Hamas and terror financing. “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability,” U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said at the Center for a New American Security in March 2014. He said that fundraisers for Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, then known as Nusra Front, had operated in Kuwait and Qatar.”

Yolande Knell’s superficial reporting clearly does nowhere near enough to enhance the ability of the BBC’s funding public to look beyond that charm offensive. Quite the opposite in fact: it provides back wind for Qatar’s rebranding campaign.

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Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

Two years ago the BBC’s Middle East editor conducted an embarrassingly unchallenging interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al that was promoted in filmed and written versions. Readers of the written report were told that:

“Although Hamas has opposed years of on-off peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Mr Meshaal said he and the group had agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state.”

In the filmed version, viewers found the following:

Bowen: “Do you think a two state solution is still possible between yourselves and the Israelis?

Masha’al: “Israel with its extremist leadership has killed the peace process, the two state solution and every opportunity for a political solution for the Palestinian cause. And if the West and the United States want to do something new, then they have to change the approach that they followed for years. The new approach should be pressuring Israel and not the Arabs and the Palestinians. We are not the ones who are responsible.”

Included in the written report was ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen which was repeated on radio:

“He [Masha’al] seemed to be calibrating his comments on the conflict with Israel to catch the prevailing mood of anger towards Mr Netanyahu in the White House, after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli Right in the last days of the election campaign.

Mr Meshaal called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

The claim that Hamas has embraced the two-state solution and “agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state” was of course as ridiculously far-fetched two years ago as it is now.

Nevertheless, one should not be surprised if that theme crops up again in BBC reporting in the near future because – as AP reports – the terror group is apparently in the final stages of creating a new PR stunt.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas has drafted a new political program it hopes will improve ties with neighboring Egypt and the West, and present a more moderate image that will help it get off Western terrorism lists.

The internationally isolated group, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for the past decade, characterizes itself in the manifesto as a Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli occupation, dropping references to holy war against Jews. It also raises the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The document plays down ties to Hamas’ parent movement, the regional Muslim Brotherhood, which is being targeted by Egypt’s government as a terror organization.

However, Hamas appears to have stopped short of a significant ideological shift amid concerns about alienating its hard-line base at a time when ultra-fundamentalist Islamist groups, such as the Salafists, are making inroads, particularly in Gaza.

The new program, to be made public at the end of the month, will not formally replace Hamas’ 1988 founding covenant, which called for the destruction of Israel and for “confronting the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews through jihad.”

Such language has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism.

In referring to a Palestinian state, Hamas does not spell out whether it considers this an acceptable solution to the conflict with Israel or a stepping stone to its longstanding goal of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.”

However, shortly after news of that revised programme broke, the terror group’s new leader in the Gaza Strip clarified the picture.

“Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that the terror group will not cease its conflict with Israel until “the liberation of all of Palestine.”

Speaking at an event marking the anniversary of the death of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004 in Gaza City, Yahya Sinwar said Hamas would not allow the State of Israel to exist on even a “morsel” of land.”

The man tipped to replace Khaled Masha’al was present at the same event.

“Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has vowed to pursue resistance to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian lands.  

“Resistance is our strategic choice to achieve aspirations of our people for freedom,” Haniyeh said in an address during a visit on Wednesday to the house of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City to mark the 13th anniversary of his death. […]

Haniyeh reiterated that his group will not abandon a “single inch” from Palestine.   

“Gaza is part of Palestine and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza and there will be no state without whole Palestine.””

That will be worth remembering if Jeremy Bowen or any other BBC journalist decides to similarly facilitate Hamas’ latest PR campaign or when the corporation next promotes the notion that Hamas accepts the two-state solution.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen facilitates Hamas PR binge

BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Khaled Masha’al

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News ignores Hamas bid to join PLO

The possibility of Hamas joining the PLO once again made headlines this week, as the Times of Israel reports.

PLO logo

PLO logo

“Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal made a rare plea on Wednesday for uniting his popular Palestinian Islamist movement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), bringing it, for the first time, into the umbrella group recognized internationally and by Israel as the representative of the Palestinians.

A senior PLO member told The Times of Israel that the group wants to bring Hamas under its framework, while an expert on Palestinian politics said the move was likely to take place. […]

Mashaal called for a “united authority for inside and outside of Palestine under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.”

“It is time we reconsider the organization [the PLO],” he said during a speech in Qatar broadcast live by Al Jazeera at the Fourth Palestinian National Security Conference, which took place in Gaza City.

In Fatah-Hamas unity deals in 2011 and 2014, the Islamist group agreed to join the PLO, but the agreements fell through. There was also a failed bid for Hamas to join the PLO in 2005.”

Despite the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the PLO agreed to recognise Israel, reject terrorism and commit itself to the peace process, even while pitching his bid to join that organisation Hamas’ leader reiterated his own group’s commitment to terror.

““The wager on the diplomatic movement on its own has been proven a failure. Let us agree on a national strategy and that everyone is with the [armed] resistance, which is a legitimate right that raises the cost of the occupation,” Mashaal said.”

As was pointed out at the Tower:

“Accepting Hamas into the PLO without forcing it to renounce terrorism would put the Palestinian Authority at odds with the Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace, which requires Palestinian leadership to issue an “unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate end to all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.””

One of course does not need too good a memory to recall that the last time such a move was on the cards just two and a half years ago, the Palestinian Authority’s pledges that its ‘unity government’ with Hamas would “abide by previous agreements” and “continue “programmes of peace”” were quickly proven to be worthless.

Hamas is of course highly unlikely to accept any demand to renounce terrorism – as Masha’al’s words illustrate. If the BBC does get round to reporting Hamas’ latest bid to join the PLO, it will be interesting to see whether or not audiences are accurately informed of that organisation’s existing commitments.

Related Articles:

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Cursory BBC coverage of PA unity government does disservice to audiences

 

Erasing the word terror from a BBC WS programme about Hamas

The February 16th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ – presented by Louise Hidalgo – was titled “The Attempt to Kill Khaled Meshaal” and its synopsis reads as follows:Witness 16 2

“In 1997 Israeli secret agents tried to kill a Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Jordan. But they botched their assassination attempt and a diplomatic scandal followed. In February 1998 the head of Israel’s secret service, Mossad, was forced to step down after an official inquiry into what went wrong. Hear from Mishka ben David, a former Mossad agent, who played a part in the events in Jordan.”

Throughout the nine minute-long broadcast listeners heard the head of the Hamas political bureau since 1996 described as:

“…the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal…”

“…Hamas’ political leader in Jordan….”

“…this man Khaled Meshaal…”  

“…a leader of the Islamic movement Hamas…”

What they did not hear at any point was the use of the word terror to describe either the organization headed by Masha’al or the suicide bombings it carried out against Israeli civilian targets which are mentioned in this programme.

As this example shows, the BBC’s long running failure to distinguish between the means and ends of Hamas and other terror organisations – and the resulting compromises in accuracy and impartiality – is not only limited to news reports.  

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BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Khaled Masha’al

Several members of the public who submitted complaints concerning Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with Hamas leader Khaled Masha’al (see related articles below) have received the following template response.Bowen Hamas filmed

“Thank you for contacting us about BBC News Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. We have received a wide range of feedback about this interview, so we apologise in advance if your specific concerns have not been fully addressed in this response.

Some people contacted us saying this interview showed bias in favour of Hamas, or against Israel. Firstly, we would like to point out that the longer version of the interview shown on the BBC News at Ten on 1 April clearly explained the nature, intentions and ideology of Hamas to viewers. During the introduction to the report we said that Hamas is:

“…designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and other countries and “still calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter”.

The BBC News website’s article, which featured a shorter version of the interview, said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-32060613 

“Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and other countries due to its long record of attacks on Israelis and its refusal to renounce violence. Under its charter, the group is committed to the destruction of Israel.”

This interview sought to give a brief insight into Hamas’ position given the current political landscape in the Middle East. We felt it was relevant and important to explore the likely challenges facing Palestinians and their leadership, particularly following the results of the Israeli general election in March, last year’s war with Israel in Gaza and the growing crisis in Syria and Iraq.Bowen Hamas written

Jeremy Bowen challenged Khaled Meshaal on a number of points during the interview. He reflected on comparisons between Hamas and jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda and ‘Islamic State’. When Mr Meshaal described Hamas as “moderate” in response to this comparison, Jeremy remarked that many in the US, Israel and the UK would “laugh” at this description.

During the News at Ten report, Jeremy was shown some of Hamas’ network of tunnels by Colonel Peter Lerner from the Israeli Army. Col Lerner explained how sophisticated the tunnels are and emphasised the threat posed by them to those living in southern Israel. This point was put directly to Khaled Meshaal during the interview. 

Across our coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have extensively reported on Hamas’ actions. We have covered their targeting and killing of Israeli soldiers and civilians, on the threat posed by rocket attacks and tunnels, and their hostility towards the state of Israel. This interview was a small part of a much wider range of reports on this complex and ongoing conflict.

Thanks again for contacting us.” 

Obviously, nothing in that generic first stage response addresses the issues raised on these pages and others. As Tom Wilson writing in the Spectator noted with regard to Bowen’s interview:

“When journalists have the much sought after opportunity to interview the heads of states and organisations with appalling human rights records the very least we expect is to see such people given a thorough cross-examining. What we don’t expect is for heads of terrorist organisations to be provided with a platform from which to give the equivalent of a party political broadcast and to get away with it virtually unchallenged. “

Members of the public considering pursuing their complaint further may find the following links helpful.

How to Complain to the BBC

Tips on using the BBC Complaints Procedure

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 BBC’s Bowen facilitates Hamas PR binge

More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

Jeremy Bowen exploits Radio 4 news bulletin for Hamas PR promotion

Jeremy Bowen exploits Radio 4 news bulletin for Hamas PR promotion

Listeners to the 8 a.m. news bulletin broadcast during the April 1st edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard items about the UK elections, zero hours contracts, a study concerning the drug Paracetamol, the P5+1 talks with Iran, the Nigerian presidential election, EU milk quotas, the death of a Getty heir and the hospitalization of singer Joni Mitchell.Today 1 4 15

In among those actual news stories they also heard an additional fabricated news item (from 02:06:35 here) which took up over a minute and a half of that ten-minute news segment.

News presenter: “The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Masha’al, has accused the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of killing the peace process. He also condemned the activities of Jihadist groups which he said were against the teachings of Islam. Khaled Masha’al was speaking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Bowen: “Khaled Masha’al nearly died in 1997 in a bungled Israeli assassination attempt on the orders of Benjamin Netanyahu; then in his first term as prime minister. Now Mr Masha’al says the re-elected Israeli prime minister has killed the peace process and the chances of a negotiated two state solution.”

Masha’al [voice-over]: “Even in the eyes of the Americans and Europeans, Netanyahu is the most extreme leader and the one who likes to shed blood the most. That’s why we’re expecting difficult times with him. And it’s the responsibility of the international community to put a stop to his stubbornness and Israeli extremism.”

Bowen: “Mr Masha’al heads an organization that’s classified as a terrorist group by the United States and Britain among many others. But he seemed to be calibrating his comments to catch the prevailing mood of anger in the White House towards Mr Netanyahu after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli right in the last days of the election campaign. Mr Masha’al called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

Bowen’s embarrassingly puerile attempt to persuade listeners to Radio 4’s most widely heard and influential programme that the US Administration is on the same page as an internationally recognized terrorist organization of course depends on listeners being kept in the dark with regard to the fact that Hamas regards all of Israel as ‘occupied land’ – not just the areas previously occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967 – and rejects Israel’s right to exist, thus making a two state solution unviable.

Perhaps the ‘Today’ editor would care to clarify both the editorial considerations behind the omission of that and other important context and the broader decision to misleadingly present Bowen’s transparent propaganda to Radio 4 listeners as ‘news’.

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 More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

 

 

More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

In addition to the previously discussed written and filmed reports based around Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al in Doha published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 1st, other filmed reports appeared on BBC television news programmes on that date.

In one report viewers yet again saw Masha’al being given a platform from which to promote the notion that his organisation is different from other Islamist groups operating in the region. Bowen’s failure to challenge the statement “There is no Daesh [ISIS], no IS or Al Qaeda in Palestine. There are some lone wolves but they are isolated. We don’t allow such thoughts in Palestine” should of course be assessed within the context of the fact that a BBC reporter was kidnapped by the Al Qaeda affiliated group Jaish al Islam in Gaza in 2007 and in light of the history of Hamas’ relations with that group and others.

“In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Jaish al-Islam also received formal recognition from Hamas as a legitimate jihadi organization, and it was agreed that joint actions carried out in the past would not be revealed.”

Notable too is the fact that whilst Bowen clearly does not believe the oft-touted myth that all unrest in the Middle East is ultimately attributable to the Palestinian –Israeli conflict, he still gives Masha’al a platform for promotion of that ridiculous notion and others – including the claim that “we are the owners of the land”.

Another report seen by viewers of BBC television news programmes opens with aerial footage of Shuja’iya which has already been used in several BBC reports. No attempt is made to put that footage into its correct context, meaning that audiences are led to believe that it is representative of the situation in the whole of the Gaza Strip.

Bowen tells viewers that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

He provides no background information concerning the reasons why Israel had to construct walls against snipers and fences against infiltrators and even goes on to promote the regularly used – and repeatedly disproved – Hamas propaganda line according to which it only attacks military targets.

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

Of course there are plenty of examples of Hamas officials stating that the terror organisation’s policy is to target Israeli civilians – including this one from Fawzi Barhoum.  

“We say to [Israeli Arabs], living in Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramla, and the Negev: The rockets fired by the Al-Qassam Brigades will not hit you. We know those parts. We are familiar with the geography and with the history. Not a single Arab Palestinian child will be hit by one of our missiles. Our rockets are aimed at the Hebrews, the murderers, the Israelis, the criminals. […] We say to our people in Haifa: The missiles of Al-Qassam will not hit any Arab home. Rest assured, our missiles accurately target the homes of the Israelis and the Zionists.” [ Al-Aqsa TV, July 11, 2014] [emphasis added]

With regard to the cross-border tunnels specifically:

“On four separate occasions throughout the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Hamas militants emerged from covert tunnels onto Israeli territory, within the territory or in close proximity to Israeli residential communities:

  • On July 17, thirteen Hamas militants infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel that opened just 1.5 km from civilian homes in an Israeli community, Kibbutz Sufa. In light of the imminent danger, the residents of 12 nearby residential communities were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes for up to five hours.
  • Two days later, on July 19, approximately 10 Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel opening 4.7 km from civilian homes in Kibbutz Be’eri armed with lethal weapons as well as tranquillizers and handcuffs for kidnapping Israelis. The residents of five residential communities near the border with Gaza were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack.
  • On July 21, approximately 12 Hamas militants infiltrated Israel via an underground tunnel that opened in the territory of Kibbutz Nir Am, just 1.3 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz and 1.1 km from civilian homes in the town of Sderot, communities bordering Gaza. Militants disguised as IDF soldiers and armed with lethal weapons headed towards Nir Am. To ensure their protection, the IDF instructed the residents of all of the communities in the Otef Aza border region to barricade themselves in their homes for hours.
  • On July 28, nine Hamas militants infiltrated Israeli territory through a tunnel opening in the territory of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just 2 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz. The residents of the residential communities of Nahal Oz and Alumim were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack. Following the attack, three ready-to-use motorcycles and deadly weapons were found inside the tunnel, attesting to the militants’ ability to penetrate deep into Israeli territory and carry out attacks.”

In October 2014 the Hamas newspaper al Risalah interviewed a Hamas commander who said:

“The Al-Qassam Brigades use the tunnels for several military missions, such as: firing rockets on Israeli cities; firing massive barrages of hundreds of mortars on the settlements around the Gaza Strip, and carrying out quality operations behind enemy lines that have resulted in the killing and capture of soldiers and terrorized millions of Israelis…” [emphasis added]

Clearly – when addressing its domestic audience – even Hamas itself does not buy into Jeremy Bowen’s promotion of the notion of exclusively “military targets”.

Bowen continues:

“Israel calls them terror tunnels to back up rocket attacks which Amnesty International says showed a flagrant disregard for civilian lives.”

In fact, as the BBC reported on March 26th, Amnesty International said rather more than that: it described Hamas’ missile attacks as “unlawful attacks” which “amount to war crimes”. Bowen, however, conceals that information from viewers.

Predictably, these filmed reports from Bowen join the two previous ones on the same topic in not only failing to meet the BBC’s commitment to “build a global understanding of international issues”, but actively sabotaging that public purpose as defined in the BBC’s charter. 

BBC’s Bowen facilitates Hamas PR binge

On the morning of April 1st the following headline was promoted on assorted BBC Twitter accounts. It was apparently not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Bowen Hamas tweet 1

Bowen Hamas tweet 2

Visitors to the BBC News website found both written and filmed versions of Jeremy Bowen’s embarrassingly unchallenging interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al: “Hamas leader Meshaal warns of Israeli ‘extremism’ after elections” and “Hamas leader accuses Israel of killing peace process“. In the synopsis to the filmed version, audiences are told that:Bowen Hamas filmed

“Khaled Meshaal was speaking to the BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where he lives in exile.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here before, the accurate terminology is ‘self-imposed exile’.  

Bowen’s self-conscripted role as a vessel for the propagation of Hamas’ public relations campaign should of course be viewed within the context of his earlier orchestration of coverage of the recent election in Israel which focused on persuading BBC audiences that the Israeli electorate’s choice – and that alone – had killed off the peace process. Thus, in response to a question from Bowen which viewers of the filmed report do not hear, Masha’al replies:

“Even in the eyes of the Americans and Europeans, Netanyahu is the most extreme leader and the one who likes to shed blood the most. That’s why we’re expecting difficult times with him. And it’s the responsibility of the international community to put a stop to his stubbornness and Israeli extremism. We’re not looking for any escalation but we will defend ourselves.” [emphasis added]

Notably, the BBC did not edit out that highlighted statement.

Any serious journalist would of course have followed through on that latter sentence with questions on topics such as Hamas’ frequent missile testing and tunnel reconstruction since the end of last summer’s conflict, Masha’al’s slated visit to Tehran, his colleague Mahmoud al Zahar’s recent call for support from Hizballah and Iran and Hamas’ ongoing attempts to establish its terror infrastructure in PA controlled areas. Bowen predictably did not confront his interviewee with such tricky subjects, but moved on to a ‘question’ which provided the opportunity for Masha’al to mislead BBC audiences with regard to Hamas’ aims.

Bowen: “Do you think a two state solution is still possible between yourselves and the Israelis?

Masha’al: “Israel with its extremist leadership has killed the peace process, the two state solution and every opportunity for a political solution for the Palestinian cause. And if the West and the United States want to do something new, then they have to change the approach that they followed for years. The new approach should be pressuring Israel and not the Arabs and the Palestinians. We are not the ones who are responsible.”

Similarly, in the written version we find the BBC unquestioningly promoting this Hamas spin:

“Although Hamas has opposed years of on-off peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Mr Meshaal said he and the group had agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state.”

Of course the BBC has been pushing this theme for some time now, despite the fact that Masha’al made his position clear in a BBC interview in February 2013:

Stephen Sackur:  “But I just want to nail down what your current position is on the question of a two state solution to provide a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Saudi newspaper Al Sharq reported just the other day that you are now prepared to accept a two state solution. You have told this, according to the newspaper, to King Abdullah and you’ve asked King Abdullah to…of Jordan…to relay this message to President Obama. Is that true?”

Masha’al: “This is not true.” 

Further, in January 2014:

“Hamas said it never gave Abbas or anyone else a mandate to agree to the two-state solution.
The Islamist group said that in 2006, all Palestinian factions agreed to the establishment of Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel “without recognizing the Zionist entity or its legitimacy on the land of Palestine.” 
It added that “resistance in all shapes, first and foremost armed struggle, will remain the only effective way to achieve the goals of the Palestinian people and liberate their land.””

Bowen refrains from making any effort to deconstruct Masha’al’s Western-focused PR spin and goes on to provide him with the opportunity for more:

Bowen: “Now in some of the…ahh…statements put out by Mr Netanyahu and others in Israel they have associated the activities of Hamas with the activities of Jihadist groups like the group that calls itself Islamic State and also like Al Qaeda. They tend to put you all into the same category. What do you think of that? Do you think that’s a fair comment?”

Masha’al: “There is no Daesh [ISIS], no IS or Al Qaeda in Palestine. There are some lone wolves but they are isolated. We don’t allow such thoughts in Palestine. The Palestinian people are in a movement for national liberation. It is a just cause and it is certainly not terrorism – quite the opposite. The Palestinians have been the victims of Israeli terrorism for decades. I condemn any side that is practicing extremism and killing based on identity or affiliation.” [emphasis added]

Bowen makes no effort to question Masha’al on the topic of Hamas collaboration with Jihadist elements in the Sinai Peninsula and of course he refrains from asking him how that highlighted sentence fits in with statements in the Hamas charter and the propaganda disseminated in Hamas-run mosques and Hamas-run media.

Hamas cleric:  “Our belief about fighting you [Jews] is that we will exterminate you, until the last one, and we will not leave of you even one. For you are the usurpers of the land, foreigners, mercenaries of the present and of all times. Look at history, brothers: Wherever there were Jews, they spread corruption… (Quran): “They spread corruption in the land, and Allah does not like corrupters.” Their belief is destructive. Their belief fulfills the prophecy. Our belief is in obtaining our rights on our land, implementing Shari’ah (Islamic law) under Allah’s sky.”  [Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), July 25, 2014]

Bowen’s subsequent questions enable Masha’al to expand on his whitewashing of Hamas ideology for Western audiences.

Bowen: Is there a sense in which…ahh….the activities of Muslim Brotherhood allies like yourselves in Hamas are being overshadowed by the growth of Jihadist groups – Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the like?”

Masha’al: “We are an active resistance with a just cause battling the occupier. We have a moderate ideology and an open mind. Others practice violence in the name of Jihad, which we condemn. And this is not Islam. [emphasis added]

Bowen: “There are plenty people in America, Britain, Israel, other places who would laugh when they heard you say that Hamas is a moderate organization. That’s not how they’d describe you.”

Masha’al: “The ones who are laughing at our logic today, they should laugh at Mandela and what the Vietnamese people have done and what De Gaulle did when he led the liberation war against the Nazi occupation in the Second World War. They should laugh at George Washington and the American Revolution. The people of the world have been liberated from occupiers and the Palestinian people are doing the same and so is Hamas.”

Bowen of course avoids asking Masha’al why Hamas continues to carry out terror attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel a decade after the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza Strip.

Additional Hamas propaganda promoted in the written report includes:Bowen Hamas written

“But to its supporters Hamas is seen as a legitimate resistance movement.

In an interview with BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Qatar, Mr Meshaal said attacks on Israel would continue “as long as there is occupation, aggression, war and killing”.

But he stressed that Hamas was “careful to respect international humanitarian law and to target only military targets”.” [emphasis added]

And:

“The Palestinians, he [Masha’al] asserted, had shown that they were “flexible, serious and keen to achieve a just and rightful peace”.

“But Israel killed the peace process,” he added, blaming Mr Netanyahu’s outgoing government, along with “extremist forces” in Israel, for the collapse of the US-brokered direct negotiations last year.”

No effort is made to point out to readers that Hamas was not party to those negotiations and expressed opposition to them or that their collapse was the result of the PA’s  decision to form a ‘unity government’ with Hamas.

A glimpse into the rationale behind these two alarmingly opaque puff pieces from Jeremy Bowen can be found in the insert of his ‘analysis’ in the written report:

“He [Masha’al] seemed to be calibrating his comments on the conflict with Israel to catch the prevailing mood of anger towards Mr Netanyahu in the White House, after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli Right in the last days of the election campaign.

Mr Meshaal called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

And of course Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen just happened to be in Doha at this particular juncture in order to play matchmaker and enable the joining of those dots.

These two reports not only fail to meet the BBC’s commitment to “build a global understanding of international issues”, they actively sabotage that public purpose. They do, however, provide further indication why the corporation’s Middle East reporting consistently falls short of its professed standards of accuracy and impartiality and why it will continue to do so for as long as the helm of its Middle East reporting is steered by a man who long since self-conscripted to a particular political cause.

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More BBC amplification of Hamas ‘siege’ propaganda

‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al

 

 

BBC News absolves Hamas of truce violation, amplifies its propaganda – and refrains from naming its victim

Normally based in Dubai, Middle East business correspondent Mark Lobel appears to be the latest BBC reporter to have been ‘parachuted in’ to provide backup to the Jerusalem Bureau team covering events in Israel and the Gaza Strip.Mark Lobel Nahal Oz

On August 22nd, Lobel produced a report for BBC television news which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the oddly punctuated title “Israeli child ‘killed by rocket fired from Gaza’“. Whether those inverted commas were intended to convey to audiences that the BBC is not sure that four year-old Daniel Tragerman was killed or not convinced that the mortar (rather than rocket) which caused his death was actually fired from the Gaza Strip is unclear. However – as was the case in the BBC News website’s written article purportedly relating to the same incident – Mark Lobel presented his entire report without mentioning Daniel’s name.

“The Israeli prime minister has come out and offered his condolences..eh…to the family of a four year-old boy who was…ehm…was announced killed by one of these mortar…eh…rounds. What had happened is that since Israel…eh…assassinated three senior Hamas military leaders in the early hours of Thursday morning, there’ve been a flurry of rockets and mortars flying over the border. Eighty – over eighty – since midnight last night and several of these mortars all landed on a kibbutz several…ehm…meters away from the border with Gaza and medics said that a four year-old boy was playing inside his living room and got hit in the head and…eh…was killed.”

Lobel’s claim that missile and mortar fire is a result of the strike in which three Hamas terrorists were killed on August 21st of course misleads viewers by concealing the fact that terrorists in the Gaza Strip had already breached a ceasefire two days prior to that event, with particularly heavy targeting of civilian communities near the border. Lobel continues by further confusing audiences with a claim that the break-down of talks in Cairo preceded the renewed fighting. In fact it was the breach of the ceasefire by Gaza Strip-based terrorists which led to the termination of negotiations.Sommerville filmed 23 8

“And…erm…you know this is all a sign that the fighting on both sides is continuing to pick up since those failed peace talks which were being brokered by Egypt fell through. And..err…since midnight last night on the other side…err…the Israelis have launched over thirty…eh….strikes from the air at Gaza and we’ve got reports from within Gaza that four people have died since midnight.”

The following day – August 23rd – BBC television news audiences viewed a report by Quentin Sommerville (titled “Israel continues air strikes on Gaza targets” in its website version) which likewise failed to name Daniel Tragerman and misled them with regard to the reason for the end of the ceasefire on August 19th.

“This was the aftermath of an earlier Hamas mortar attack. It killed an Israeli child; the fourth civilian to die there since the conflict began. Israel promised it would escalate its campaign in Gaza as a result. After a lull of the ceasefire which ended on Tuesday, the violence and the casualties have been steadily increasing here.”

The ceasefire of course did not simply ‘end’ – it was violated by Palestinian terrorists.

Also on August 23rd a written article appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Gaza conflict: Mahmoud Abbas urges fresh talks in Egypt“. In that report audiences were once again misled with regard to the reason for the ceasefire’s end.

“A previous Egyptian-brokered truce collapsed on Tuesday.”

In the article’s fourteenth paragraph readers were again informed of the incident in Nahal Oz without any mention of Daniel Tragerman’s name.

“On Friday, a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed in a village near the Gaza border, prompting Israel to warn it would “intensify” its operations.”

Moreover, the very next paragraph of that report consists of amplification of obviously false Hamas propaganda without any qualifying comment from the BBC.

“In an interview with Yahoo News, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal rejected the charge that his organisation targets Israeli civilians.

“We try most of the time to aim at military targets and Israeli bases,” Mr Meshaal said. “But we admit that we have a problem. We do not have the weapons available to our enemy… so aiming is difficult.” “

That same propaganda from the leader of a terrorist organization proscribed by numerous countries precisely because of its history of killing Israeli civilians was again amplified in an article appearing on the BBC News website on August 24th. The title of that report also included bizarre punctuation which implied to audiences that the launching of mortars at a border crossing might perhaps not be seen by the BBC as an attack: “Gaza conflict: Erez crossing ‘attacked’ amid Israel raids“.Erez crossing art

The article’s entire representation of the subject matter outlined in its headline is as follows:

“Israel says it has closed the Erez crossing after it came under rocket fire from Gaza, wounding four people.

The crossing is used by aid workers, journalists and Palestinians with Israeli permits to enter or leave Gaza.”

No mention is made of the fact that the people wounded in the attack – two of them seriously – were Arab-Israeli taxi drivers who had been waiting to transport patients from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Israel.

“Hussein Abu-Einam, an eyewitness on the scene, told Army Radio: “The [drivers] sat in a shed and waited for the passengers and their relatives who were leaving Gaza for Israeli hospitals Ichilov and Tel Hashomer. Then seven shells fell — just one after the other. We didn’t have time to flee; it was a matter of a second.”

Eli Bean, head of Magen David Adom, said the paramedics who were dispatched to the crossing were forced to treat the victims under fire.

“During treatment, we were forced to deal with a number of sirens and mortar explosions fired at us. The mortar shells fell very close to those who were injured,” he said.

Up to 11 mortar and rocket rounds landed near the crossing, the army said.”

Once again, a revisionist version of the breakdown of the ceasefire on August 19th is presented in this report.

“Hostilities between the two sides resumed on Tuesday after a temporary truce, scuppering efforts by Egyptian negotiators to achieve a long-term ceasefire deal.”

And yet again – this time in the sixteenth paragraph – Daniel Tragerman goes unnamed.

“Israel had announced it would “intensify” its offensive after a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed in a village near the Gaza border.”

So too was the case in a filmed report by Alpa Patel which appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website on August 24th under the inaccurate headline “Gaza residences targeted in Israel air strikes“: the target of that strike was in fact a Hamas command and control centre.Alpa Patel report 24 8

“It followed the killing of a four year-old Israeli boy on Friday in this village near the Gaza border. Israel warned it would intensify its operations as a result. He becomes one of 68 Israelis killed in recent weeks – most of the dead are soldiers. On the Palestinian side more than two thousand have been killed – the majority are civilians.”

As we see, these five items appearing on BBC News platforms over the weekend of August 22nd to 24th all continue what is now evidently the BBC policy of concealing from audiences the reason for the breakdown of the last ceasefire on August 19th and the resulting renewal of hostilities. Not unrelatedly, Khaled Masha’al’s ridiculous claim that Hamas does not target Israeli civilians (contradicted of course on numerous occasions by his less media-savvy accomplices) is amplified unquestioningly by a news organization supposedly committed to bringing its funding public accurate and impartial news. In contrast, the BBC cannot be bothered to name a four year-old victim of the policies of the terrorist organisation whose propaganda it chooses to unquestioningly amplify. 

 

More BBC amplification of Hamas ‘siege’ propaganda

On July 24th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an excerpt from what it termed an “exclusive” ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al who of course resides very comfortably in Qatar.Hardtalk mashaal

If audiences were expecting the BBC’s representative Stephen Sackur to fulfil the corporation’s mission of cutting through Hamas slogans and propaganda in order to bring them accurate and impartial information which would help them reach informed opinions and enable them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues“, they would have been sorely disappointed.

Stephen Sackur: “What would it take for Hamas to sign on to a ceasefire now?”

Khaled Masha’al: We want a ceasefire as soon as possible that’s parallel with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the demand of the Gazan people. I call on the UN, the UK and the US to go to the Gazan people and ask them what they want. I can guarantee that will be the answer of the Gazan people.”

SS: “What the Americans seem to be working on is a two-stage deal where there will be a truce – where the guns, the rockets, will stop firing – and then there will be a serious negotiation about how to boost the Gazan economy, how to ease the blockade on Gaza and to give the people of Gaza a better life. Are you prepared to accept a two-stage solution to this?”

KM: “Regardless of the mechanisms, what is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza. These promises have been made in the past but nothing was done. Gaza is part of the Palestinian land. We have 1.8 million people. They need to live without a blockade. We want an airport. We want a port. We want to open up to the world. We don’t want to be controlled by a border crossing that makes Gaza the biggest prison in the world. People cannot go for medical treatment or to work. Why are the people of Gaza being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison? This is a crime. We want a halt in the aggression and the end of the siege. We are eager that the bloodshed should end in Gaza.”

SS: “You talk of resistance. How can any idea of resistance justify putting rockets in a school building?”

“KM: “Frankly speaking this is a lie. Let Israel show where the rocket launchers are in Gaza.”

SS: “In respect, this is not something that has come from Israel. This is the UN relief and Works Agency which has said that up to 20 rockets were deposited in a school building inside Gaza. They are furious. The Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his outrage. He said those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children.”

KM: “This is not true. Rocket launchers in Gaza belong to the resistance. They are underground and Israel is unable to reach them. This is why it pretends they are in civilian areas. Israel is hitting hospitals, mosques, towers and buildings. It committed a massacre in Shuja’iyeh, Tufah district. There is a new massacre in Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, that the world has witnessed this morning. This is butchery in Gaza and the world is sitting idle and it blames Hamas.”

Now obviously Khaled Masha’al is lying (unhindered) through his teeth in every single answer here and – difficult as it must be to interview a compulsive liar so disconnected from reality – if the BBC is not going to challenge Masha’al’s blatant falsehoods and cut through his propaganda, then the obvious question must be what journalistic value does such an interview have in the first place?

Questions Stephen Sackur could and should have asked Masha’al in order to provide BBC audiences with some insight into this issue include:

If Israel and Egypt lift the blockade and ease border restrictions, will Hamas rearm itself with missiles and weapons imported from Iran, Libya and elsewhere as it has done in the past? Will it import concrete and other materials in order to reconstruct its attack tunnel network currently being destroyed by the IDF? Will foreign aid money for the rehabilitation of Gaza be commandeered for reconstruction of terrorist infrastructure? 

If Hamas is so worried about the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza, why did it not stop carrying out acts of terrorism itself and facilitating terrorism by other groups which are the reason for the implementation and continuation of the blockade and border restrictions?

Why did Hamas breach the ceasefire agreement of November 2012 and why did it initiate this current escalation?

If you, Khaled Masha’al, reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, can you ensure that Mohammed Deif will honour it and do you – based as you are in Qatar – actually have any control over Hamas’ armed militia?

Why should Israel open its borders and allow people from Gaza to work in Israel given the history of terror attacks and suicide bombings carried out by workers from Gaza in the past?

Are you eager to stop the bloodshed in Israel as well as in Gaza? Will you stop all acts of terror against Israelis for good?

Sackur, however, failed to present anything approaching a robust challenge to Masha’al’s blatant lies. Hence, this interview joins the previous items of BBC content in the category of one-sided, context-free promotion and amplification of Hamas’ demands.

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‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al