BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

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BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

h/t @Salted2

As readers may be aware, the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on January 5th the BBC’s Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas did just that while criticising another media organisation.

So much – once again – for BBC impartiality.

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BBC amplification of Iranian regime charm offensive misleads audiences

BBC audiences could not have failed to notice the dominant theme promoted in the headlines of the plethora of multi-platform reports produced by Kim Ghattas during her recent visit to Iran.Ghattas Iran filmed

Iran to work with rivals for peace – VP Masumeh Ebtekar  (BBC News website, 18/8/15)

‘Iran Nuclear Deal Will Promote Peace’ (‘Newsday’, BBC World Service radio, 18/8 15)

Iran VP Masoumeh Ebtekar: Nuclear deal ‘will help promote peace’  (BBC television news & BBC News website, 18/8/15)

Iran nuclear deal a step for ‘global peace’ (BBC television news & BBC News website, 18/8/15)

Iran Vice President: “We will promote peace and stability” (‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 18/8/15)

All of the above reports were based on an interview with one of Iran’s twelve vice-presidents, Masumeh Ebtekar. With the BBC not having had a permanent correspondent in Tehran for six years, Ghattas’ visit obviously presented a rare opportunity to provide audiences with an up-close, unembellished portrayal of a theocratic regime notorious for its human rights abuses which has recently featured heavily in the news and to enhance their understanding of the country and its influence on the region.

However, not only did almost half an hour of blatant regime propaganda go largely unchallenged in any meaningful manner by Ghattas but the ‘peace’ theme promoted in Ebtekar’s well-spoken charm offensive was amplified in the headlines the BBC chose for those reports.

When Ghattas raised the topic of Iran’s support for Assad and Hizballah – one of the obvious contemporary examples of Iran promoting anything but regional peace and stability – she not only allowed her interviewee to dodge the real issues but provided her with a platform for the promotion of crude propaganda.

Ebtekar: “You know Palestine has always…the issue of Palestine has always been a legacy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s always been supporting the oppressed against the oppressor. It’s always been supporting a cause which is just and deals with a nation which is now oppressed because it has no home.”

Ghattas: “But we’re talking about Syria.”

Ebtekar: “Yeah but Syria is part of that. It’s part of the movement to support Palestine in a sense. It’s part of a general approach in the region to support the Palestinian nation, to resist; it’s part of the resistance. It’s important, I think, that a lot of the equations in the region take shape on the basis of the resistance movement and that is to resist occupation, to resist oppression.”

Ghattas noted the civilian death toll in Syria and the Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs against its own people before adopting her interviewee’s terminology:

“How does that fit into the issue of resistance and what do you tell those Syrians who are suffering today?”

Again, she allowed Ebtekar to dodge the real issue.Ghattas Iran audio

Ebtekar: “I think that what has happened in the past few decades in this part of the world, it has created many reasons for nations like the Syrian nation or the Lebanese nation to feel threatened by the policies of the Zionist regime. They have been increasing their settlements; they have been pushing forward in different areas, occupying many of the lands belonging to the Palestinians. So it is considered as an imminent threat and that is a reason for resistance and that is a reason for governments like the government of Syria to stand up in the face of that.”

In addition to failing to challenge that whitewashing of the Syrian regime’s slaughter of its own people, Ghattas made no attempt to relieve viewers of the misleading and inaccurate impressions created by her interviewee in relation to ‘increasing’ settlements or ‘occupying’ lands. Later on when Ghattas asked if any of the funds freed up by sanctions relief will be funneled to the Assad regime, she allowed Ebtekar to fob viewers off with talk of “environmental challenges” and “green technologies”.

Kim Ghattas’ failure to cut through any of the slick replies to her questions means that this widely promoted interview obviously did nothing to advance the BBC’s purpose to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”.  Rather, it actively misled BBC audiences by herding them towards ridiculous notions such as the idea that hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians have been killed by their own government and millions more forced to seek refuge in Europe and elsewhere because of Israel.  

The idea that a regime which produces violent anti-Israel propaganda videos and includes officials who state openly that “[o]ur positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan” is a force for regional stability and peace is plainly risible. Nevertheless, the BBC chose to amplify that absurdity, selling out Syrians, Israelis, Iranians and many more along the way. 

Sadly, given the BBC’s record of reporting on Iran in recent months, there is nothing remotely surprising about that.

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BBC’s big Bibi binge lacks substance on P5+1 deal and Congress speech

Those following Jeremy Bowen on Twitter learned on March 2nd that he was in Washington.

AIPAC Bowen Tweet

What is particularly remarkable about the BBC Middle East editor’s second statement is that in previous years, he has not found that “not to be missed” annual event unmissable.

But of course Bowen’s real interest in this year’s AIPAC conference (and readers can find his at times snide observations of that event on his Twitter feed) actually stems from the proximity of the Israeli prime minister’s appearance there to his speech in Congress the following day and the BBC has been building up to that story for some time.

In January the BBC News website’s reporting on the invitation from the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to the Israeli prime minister to address Congress was notable for its misrepresentation of Netanyahu’s stance on the issue of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran supposedly aimed at preventing that country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

On February 19th the BBC News website carried a report titled “Iran nuclear talks: US accuses Israel of ‘leaks’” which for the most part was devoted to amplification of allegations made by a White House official but – in common with much of the corporation’s previous reporting on the topic – failed to comprehensively inform audiences of the concerns raised by many observers with regard to the emerging end results of the P5+1 negotiations.

On February 23rd the BBC News website promoted the Guardian/Al Jazeera story which wrongly alleged that differing appraisals of Iran’s nuclear programme by the Mossad indicated that Israel’s prime minister had deliberately misled the UN on that issue in 2012.AIPAC 1

February 26th saw the appearance on the BBC News website of an article titled “Netanyahu row with Obama administration deepens” which once again was largely devoted to the amplification of US administration statements on the issue but only briefly and superficially addressed the underlying issue of concerns regarding the details of the P5+1 agreement, whilst at the same time misleadingly framing them as being confined to the Israeli prime minister alone.

On the same day, an article titled “Netanyahu ‘not correct’ on Iran nuclear talks – Kerry” also appeared on the BBC News website which further promoted the theme that concerns over the essence of the P5+1 deal with Iran are limited to Israel’s prime minister and that his presentation of the issue is based on faulty judgement.

Also on February 26th an article by Kevin Connolly appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel US: Republican invite to Netanyahu riles Obama“. Yet again concerns over what kind of deal the P5+1 is about to make with Iran were presented to readers as an ‘all-Bibi affair’.AIPAC 2

“That issue – Iran and the Bomb – is one of the defining themes of Mr Netanyahu’s career and he is alarmed that the P5+1 powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, UK and France – plus Germany) negotiating with Tehran may be preparing to agree a deal towards the end of March which would be acceptable to the world powers but unacceptable to Israel.”

All of the above, however, was merely the aperitif before the BBC really got down to business.

On March 2nd visitors to the BBC News website found another article by Kevin Connolly titled “Netanyahu Congress speech a moment of high stakes“. They could also read “Netanyahu arrives in US for contested Congress Iran speech” and “Netanyahu: Speech ‘not intended to disrespect’ Obama” or watch “Netanyahu in US on controversial visit” in which BBC audiences were , as ever, told that “Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons technology”.AIPAC 3 Ghattas

March 3rd saw the appearance on the BBC News website of an article by Jonathan Marcus titled “Netanyahu’s speech ‘win-win’ for Iran” and a filmed report (also shown on BBC television news) by upcoming J Street conference speaker  Kim Ghattas titled Tensions as Israeli PM Netanyahu visits US“. In her report Ghattas told BBC audiences that:

“He [Netanyahu] hasn’t said very much yet about the case he plans to make against a nuclear deal with Iran but this is all very much part of his strategy to try to undermine progress towards an agreement.”

That false information was similarly promoted by the BBC on Twitter

AIPAC BBC News US tweet

The main course of the BBC’s Bibi binge will obviously be served up with Netanyahu’s actual speech to Congress, but as is already apparent, the information being provided to BBC audiences on this topic is both voluminous and yet at the same time misleading and lacking in crucial context.

The BBC’s framing of the story as though Netanyahu were the only party concerned about the details of the P5+1 deal is plainly both wrong and politically motivated. Plenty of other parties both in the Middle East and beyond share the same concerns and yet the BBC has refrained from reporting on that issue and on the topic of the interest shown in the upcoming Congress speech.

The claim that Netanyahu is trying to “undermine progress towards an agreement” is patently false and – as noted above – this is far from the first time that the BBC has misrepresented that issue.

Likewise, there is nothing novel about the BBC’s promotion of trite slogans such as “Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons technology” with the concurrent avoidance of provision of a coherent picture of professional opinions on the issue, such as that given by the head of the IAEA on March 2nd:

“International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said Monday that Iran still needed to hand over key information to the UN body necessary for its investigation of the country’s nuclear program.

The two missing pieces of the puzzle relate to alleged explosive tests and other issues related to research that may also be useful for military uses of atomic energy. According to Amano the missing pieces of data should have been addressed by Iran by last August.

“The agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Amano was quoted by Reuters as saying.”

Unfortunately for members of the BBC’s funding public trying to understand why the Israeli Prime Minister is currently in Washington and what exactly is the basis for his (and others’) concerns about the P5+1 deal, the corporation’s correspondents are too heavily invested in both their own animosity towards the Israeli leader and their cheer-leading for the current US administration to get around to any real ‘standard-setting journalism’ on this topic.

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Does BBC coverage of the P5+1 deal with Iran adequately promote audience understanding of the issue?

 

 

 

Why is a BBC correspondent speaking at the J Street conference?

“It is essential that BBC staff, BBC correspondents on non staff contracts and freelances known to the public primarily as presenters or reporters on BBC news or current affairs programmes do not undertake any off-air activities which could undermine the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. Nothing they do or say should bring the BBC into disrepute. No off-air activity, including writing for newspapers, magazines or websites, writing books, giving interviews, making speeches or chairing conferences should lead to any doubt about the objectivity or integrity of their work for the BBC. If BBC journalists, presenters or reporters publicly express personal views off-air on controversial issues, then their editorial or on-air role may be severely compromised.”

The above words appear in the guidance document titled “Conflicts of Interest – Off Air Activities”, complimentary to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and – under the sub-heading “Public Speaking and Other Public Appearances” – the document goes on to state:

“BBC staff and BBC Correspondents on non-staff contracts should get written permission from their Head of Department before undertaking any outside public appearances including speaking at conferences. They must not make any appearances which are promotional for a commercial concern and nothing they do or say should undermine the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. They should not allow the use of the BBC’s name or brands in connection with advertising for a public appearance unless this has been expressly approved by the BBC. Care should be taken with appearances related to charities, particularly if they are campaigning organisations, and no impression should be given of BBC endorsement of one charity over another.”

J Street is a political campaigning organization which has branches with differing not-for profit designations:

“The J Street family of organizations is comprised of:

J Street: a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation and registered lobby.

JStreetPAC: a political action committee endorsing federal candidates.

J Street Education Fund, Inc: a legally independent 501(c)(3) non-profit.”

We must therefore conclude that written permission from the head of the relevant BBC department was obtained in advance of the advertisement of the BBC Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas’ upcoming appearance as a speaker at J Street’s 5th conference and that the use of her BBC title in that advertising has been “expressly approved” by the BBC.

J Street conf 1

J Street conf 2

The approval of Ghattas’ appearance as a speaker at J Street’s conference clearly indicates that the BBC is under the impression that it does not undermine the corporation’s impartiality. That impression is of course grossly mistaken.

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Confusing and conflicting messaging on Jabhat al Nusra in BBC reports

On December 9th an article by State Department correspondent Kim Ghattas appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Syria war: Southern rebels see US as key to success“. Despite its title, the report is illustrated using a photograph taken in Damascus in February 2013 rather than in southern Syria.Ghattas art

The article opens by informing readers that:

“Rebels in southern Syria are working to convince Washington to provide more decisive support as they continue to make small but steady gains against government forces.

While most of the world’s attention and the Syrian government’s forces have been focused on Kobane and Aleppo in northern Syria, moderate rebels south of Damascus have successfully taken territory and held it over the last three months, in the Deraa province, along the Jordanian border and along the Golan Heights.” [emphasis added]

Audiences will of course be likely to conclude that those “moderate rebels” differ essentially from the Jihadists profiled two days later in the BBC’s special feature on “Jihadist attacks”. One of the groups named in that feature is Jabhat al Nusra which, according to the BBC’s data, was responsible for 36% of the Jihadist attacks in Syria during the month of November.

Jabhat al Nusra attacks

Much later on in Ghattas’ long article, however, readers discover that one in ten of the rebels operating in southern Syria she previously described as “moderate” actually belong to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra.

“Abu Majd el-Zoubi, a spokesman for the Southern Front, acknowledged that the Nusra Front operated in the region but insisted they were only 10% of the fighting force and that the rebels were all “100% Syrians”.”

That information in turn conflicts with a previous statement (still uncorrected) made by the BBC in its profile of Jabhat al Nusra (not updated since its publication in April 2013), according to which the Free Syrian Army does not cooperate with the Jihadist group.

“Al-Nusra’s connection to al-Qaeda has led the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition to distance itself from the movement.

“We don’t support the ideology of al-Nusra,” FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said.

“There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with al-Nusra.””

The take-away message for BBC audiences in Ghattas’ report is that the ability of the rebels in southern Syria to challenge the Assad regime is being hampered by a lack of American support.

“The growing coalition of 58 US-backed rebel groups south of Damascus known as the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is inching closer to the capital but with restricted military supplies and only half-hearted political support from the White House, they admit their progress will be limited.

“For three years most factions in the opposition have been asking Washington ‘what can you do for us?'” said one activist speaking by phone from the Middle East.

“We want to make Washington want to help us because of what we achieve on the ground,” added the activist, who is close to the rebel groups.”

Notably, Ghattas backs up her message by linking to an article produced by Charles Lister of the Doha branch of the Qatari-funded Brookings Institute.

“There are growing warnings that the US is on the verge of losing the last remnants of influence it has on the ground in Syria.

Reluctant backing has led to a lack of trust by the moderate rebels, and the newly announced Pentagon programme to train and equip new rebel recruits only starts in the spring of 2015.

So the southern front is even more crucial for any short-term Western strategy in Syria, especially if it still envisages putting the squeeze on the government in Damascus.”

However, Ghattas fails to inform BBC audiences that as well as funding the think-tank which produced that article, Qatar has also funded some of the extremist groups promoted by Lister as ‘invaluable actors’ in the battle against the Assad regime; Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

Jabhat al Nusra is currently designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the US. Ghattas’ simplistic (though revealing) admonishment of American policy towards “moderate rebels” in southern Syria fails to mention the very relevant fact that those forces include a designated terrorist organization defined by the BBC itself as a Jihadist group.  

What do BBC journalists think you should be reading?

Among the recommended reading on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip which BBC employees have recently promoted to their followers on social media is an article by Jeremy Bowen in the New Statesman.

Tweet Ghattas Bowen art

In that article Bowen makes no attempt whatsoever to adhere to those famous BBC values of accuracy and impartiality. Moreover, he further amplifies the line he already began promoting whilst on the ground in the Gaza Strip, claiming that he saw “no evidence” of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields.

“I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys. Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told me that Hamas, whatever you think of it, is part of the Palestinian DNA.

I met Sourani first when he was condemning abuses by Yasser Arafat’s men. He has taken an equally tough stance on Hamas. Now he says Israel is violating the laws of war by ignoring its legal duty to treat Palestinian civilians as protected non-combatants.”

Bowen refrains from informing readers that Raji Sourani is far from the impartial human rights campaigner he portrays, but in fact one of those currently leading the lawfare campaign against Israel. Bowen, it is all too apparent, has elected to lend his own clout to that campaign.

“Hamas, human rights groups say, also violates the laws of war by firing missiles at civilians. […]

But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.”

It is of course worth remembering that those words – and in particular that ‘scorecard’ of suffering – were written by the man ultimately responsible for the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the BBC’s reporting on the Middle East. 

Another article which proved popular with BBC employees was written by Channel 4’s Jon Snow. 

Tweet Swift Snow art

Snow – who incidentally supports a ‘charity’ banned in Israel because of its ties to Hamas – makes little effort to put up any kind of show of journalistic impartiality either and he too appoints himself as judge and chief awarder of points in the league tables of suffering invented by Western journalists.

“I could see the young Israeli IDF guards peering at me through the steel room’s bullet-proof glass. They were the same women who, from another glass window, had barked commands at me though a very public address system.

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through – each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off – right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me. […]

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. […]

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.”

Perhaps predictably, Snow closes by promoting the cringingly uninformed claim that Israel’s battle against a terrorist organization trying to destroy it (a fact he somehow neglects to mention) is in fact the cause of conflict the world over.

“This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world.”

BBC licence fee payers might reasonably wonder what chance they have of getting anything approaching the accurate and impartial reporting they are promised if these are examples of the type of vitriolic polemics the corporation’s employees read and recommend. They might, however, have already ceased to wonder why so many UK media reports  fail to address the topic of the responsibility of terrorist organisations for the suffering of the people of Gaza. 

What have BBC audiences been told about the P5+1 deal with Iran?

Some of the groundwork for the prevalent themes used in the BBC’s later coverage of the news that the P5+1 had agreed the terms of an interim agreement with Iran was already laid down nearly two weeks prior to that agreement in a November 12th article titled “US challenge to convince Mid-East allies over Iran” by the BBC’s State Department correspondent Kim Ghattas which appeared on the BBC News website’s US & Canada page, as well as in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of its Middle East page. 

Ghattas Iran deal

In that article, Ghattas used specific language in order to herd readers towards viewing some of the regional responses to the then still unsigned interim deal as reactions based purely on emotions – rather than on any concrete scientific or strategic factors with which audiences might need to familiarise themselves in order to fully understand the issue.

Ghattas opened: [all emphasis added]

“Negotiations in Geneva with Iran may have failed to produce an interim deal over the weekend, but Israel and Gulf countries are still alarmed about the potential for a nuclear deal with Tehran, finding themselves in the unusual position of being partners in angst.”

Of course any “alarm” was actually related to the specific terms of the deal – not to the prospect of a deal in itself – and we later saw Ghattas promoting that same misleading theme once again in a filmed report. 

She went on to wave aside the concerns of one country in the region, making no mention of the significance of its physical proximity to Iran or of the Shia – Sunni enmities at work.

“Saudi Arabia has long been worried about a deal between its traditional protector and regional rival, mainly due to its own insecurities.”

Then it was Israel’s turn to have concerns frivolously dismissed, with Ghattas apparently not interested in detailing for readers the practicalities of exactly how a country should “reach out” to multiple entities committed to its destruction:

“Surrounded by violent upheavals in a changing region, Israel’s instincts have been to retrench rather to reach out to traditional foes.”

She continued:

“During a meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Mr Kerry found himself ambushed in front of the cameras by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu launched into a diatribe about the Palestinians, accusing them of incitement and of creating artificial crises and he called on Mr Kerry to set them straight. […]

Livid, looking like he had not slept all night, the Israeli prime minister said the West was getting “a bad deal, a very, very bad deal”, while Iran was getting the ”deal of the century” because “they got everything and paid nothing”. “

Later, Ghattas’ cod psychology and crystal ball gazing skills were extended to cover the subject of talks between Israel and the PLO.

“Mr Kerry has tried to convince Mr Netanyahu that a deal with Iran is good for Israel’s security, as is peace with the Palestinians. But Mr Netanyahu’s anger at the Iran negotiations means he will be even less eager on the peace talk front.”

Then it was back to the Gulf:

“In the Gulf too, monarchies are having a hard time coming to terms with the possibility of an Iran deal. […]

There is little that Gulf monarchies can do to torpedo the ongoing negotiations with Iran, but they will continue to hyperventilate in public about the prospects and lobby against them through other parties, like Congress.”

Despite the BBC’s obligation to build a global understanding of international issues, Ghattas made no effort to explain to her readers the very real issues surrounding the actual terms of the deal which cause Israel, Saudi Arabia and others to have serious doubts about its long-term efficacy in containing Iran’s progress towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Instead, she reduced the entire issue to the level of a soap opera, projecting emotional reactions onto states, engaging in two-penny psychology of their leaders and herding her readers into simplistically viewing any country less than enthusiastic about what the BBC has consistently promoted as a ‘best thing since sliced bread’ deal as emotion-driven hysterical nay-sayers spoiling the rest of the world’s party. 

BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s stance on Iran talks continues in Kim Ghattas report

A filmed report by the BBC’s State Department correspondent Kim Ghattas from November 20th 2013 also appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Fresh push for Iran nuclear deal”.

Ghattas filmed report 1

Ghattas opens her report:

“One by one the senators arrived for a meeting at the White House: an urgent last-minute pitch by President Obama. Don’t impose more sanctions on Iran for now, he told them. The senators appeared unconvinced.”

The report then cuts to a statement made by one of the senators – not identified by the BBC – who says:

“It was a long meeting and a lot of questions were asked and a lot of questions were answered but I think everybody’s gonna go back and seek their own council.”

Ghattas then introduces a clip showing the US president by saying:

“The president then made his case again – in public.”

Obama: “Let’s look, let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion.”

Ghattas continues:

“John Kerry’s also been lobbying in congress since the last round of talks. But they’re both up against America’s best friend in the region. Israel launched its own feverish campaign against a deal with Iran – on Twitter and on television.” [emphasis added]

The image appearing on the screen as Ghattas says “on Twitter” is this one:

Ghattas filmed report 2

The image appearing on the screen as Ghattas says “on television” shows a short clip from a video made – as is clearly visible – by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which is an American organization: not “Israel” as Ghattas inaccurately claims. 

Ghattas filmed report 3

Ghattas goes on:

“In Geneva earlier this month Americans and Iranians spoke more over thirty hours than they did over the last thirty years. In exchange for halting progress in its nuclear programme, Iran would get moderate sanctions relief while negotiations continue and Iranians say the US must stick to its end of the bargain.

And at the White House they agree. This administration believes in ending wars – not starting new ones. Barack Obama is convinced that negotiations with the Iranians are the way to avoid conflict. He wants a deal with Iran if he can get it. He sees it as part of his political project – his potential legacy.

But thousands of miles away from here, Israel is already warning that a deal with Tehran in itself could provoke war.” [emphasis added]

So here we have Ghattas giving a superficial presentation of the Obama administration’s policy in overtly sympathetic tones whilst BBC audiences are once again mislead with regard to Israel’s stance on the P5+1 talks.

As we have previously pointed out here, Israel has not expressed opposition to diplomatic efforts to solve the problems presented by Iran’s nuclear programme – quite the contrary, as Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz has explained to the BBC in person. And had Ghattas and her team bothered to read other entries on the Twitter feed they used as an image in their report, they would have found ample evidence that the Israeli stance does not include a “feverish campaign against a deal with Iran”, but urges an agreement which will prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability. 

“Netanyahu called on the international community to stand by what he said were its original demands for an end to all enrichment of uranium by Iran, the export of all already enriched material, and the closure of the under-construction heavy water plant at Arak.”

The BBC’s repeated disingenuous misrepresentation of Israel’s approach to the P5+1 talks clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality as well as deliberately misleading audiences and actively preventing them from obtaining the “understanding of international issues” which it is obliged to promote under its public purposes remit.

Related posts:

Inaccuracy and distortion in BBC report of Netanyahu’s UN speech

BBC misrepresents Israel’s stance on P5+1 talks yet again