BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ jumps on the ‘cultural censorship’ bandwagon

h/t JS

For well over a year the BBC has been telling its audiences dark – though consistently inaccurate – tales of supposed cultural censorship in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC News website: How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

November 2016, BBC World Service: In which the BBC WS stereotypes over 7,000 Israelis as ‘fanatic’ and ‘racist’.

On April 12th BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight‘ jumped on that bandwagon with a filmed report by the BBC’s West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy that was heavily promoted (see here, here, here and here) on Twitter.

The seven minute long report was also uploaded to Youtube where it is presented as follows:

“While the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians remains frozen, Israel is itself divided, not least on issues of culture. There have been fights over plays, music, books, the funding for the arts and academic awards. The populist culture minister – a rising star of the right – is rarely out of controversy. So what is that culture war all about? Thomas Fessy has been finding out.” 

Fessy’s report opens with showcasing of a play called ‘Palestine, Year Zero’ and viewers are told that “it deals with an insurance assessor who is estimating the cost of damage done to Palestinian homes by the Israeli authorities” before they see equally context-free subtitles on screen saying “In 2016: 34 homes demolished, 130 people evicted”.

A journalist committed to providing his audiences with an objective view of the story would of course have clarified at this point that the play in question is a political as well as artistic project and that its writer received ‘guidance’ and ‘assisstance’ from individuals and NGOs (eg ‘Zochrot’) that campaign for the elimination of the Jewish state. Fessy, however, tells his viewers that:

“Before it was first performed the office of the culture minister, Miri Regev, assessed it. A complaint had been lodged because the play apparently contained messages of incitement that undermined the state and insulted its symbols.”

Viewers then see the play’s writer and director recount how “scared” she was of people coming to watch rehearsals because of the suspicion that they “had been sent by the culture minister”.

While a complaint concerning the play was indeed lodged, the ominous picture painted by Fessy does not – according to the play’s writer – reflect the whole story and in fact no ministry representative ever visited rehearsals.

Having presented BBC audiences with that partial story, Fessy then goes on to explain the ‘rationale’ behind his report.

“Israel likes to project an image around the world that it is an open society in which dissent is not persecuted. But there’s a growing fear here that a new generation of political leaders wants to shut down critical voices. Some say the culture minister, Miri Regev, is trying to gain control over cultural production, putting the vitality of this country’s culture and its freedom of creation in jeopardy. Many talk of a culture war that has been declared against Israeli artists.” [emphasis added]

Exactly who those “some” and “many” are is not disclosed to viewers.

The antagonist in Fessy’s story is very clearly the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev. Although at no point do viewers get to hear a response from her or her office, Fessy tells them that:

“Here is a culture minister who has called artists arrogant, hypocritical and ungrateful and she rails against the liberal elite. She set out a so-called loyalty in culture plan, threatening to condition support for cultural institutions or on the contents they present or the place where they perform.”

Later viewers see footage from last November taken in Kiryat Arba as Fessy tells them:

“One of her [Miri Regev] other battlefields: the Jewish settlements. We followed her to Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank. That night was the first time that the national theatre had ever come to perform here – a move that many say normalises the residence of settlers in occupied territory, or Judea and Samaria in biblical terms.” [emphasis added]

Fessy once again refrains from disclosing to viewers who the “many” he quotes actually are and he makes no effort to clarify that the financial aid given to theatre groups is financed by taxes paid by Israeli citizens living on both sides of the ‘green line’. He fails to tell audiences that while that may indeed have been the first performance by ‘Habima’ in that specific location, the theatre company has appeared in what he would call “the occupied West Bank” (i.e. in communities in Area C) in the past – long before Miri Regev became culture minister and despite his transparent attempt to create false linkage.

“The culture ministry issued a memo that’s become known as the loyalty form. From now on, cultural institutions that would perform in the occupied West Bank would benefit from a financial bonus. Those that wouldn’t may face funding cuts.”

Failing to provide viewers with the name of the organisation he describes as campaigning “to end the occupation”, Fessy devotes part of his report to a tour of Hebron by an Israeli actress, portraying it as an effort on her part to express dissent.

“But some of the performers want to make their feelings clear. […] Not a word – but her tour said it all.”

According to Israel’s Channel 2, however, that political tour was in fact initiated by the NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Throughout the whole seven minute and twelve second-long report, viewers see just 37 seconds of footage presenting an alternative view of the story. A man at the ‘Habima’ performance in Kiryat Arba is given three seconds of airtime while commentator Isi Leibler accurately and succinctly explains the issue in 34 seconds.

Nevertheless, Fessy chooses to close his report with take-away messaging concerning “a society turning its sights inward” and “censorship”, invoking “the peace process” which of course has absolutely nothing to do with the story.

“As the peace process with the Palestinians remains frozen and with new leaders leaning to more populist agendas, Israel is for now busy fighting on the cultural front.”

Once again we see that the BBC is intent upon promoting – with more than a pinch of artistic licence – a politically motivated non-story concerning an alleged “shut down” of “critical voices” and a “culture war” that simply does not exist. 

In which the BBC WS stereotypes over 7,000 Israelis as ‘fanatic’ and ‘racist’

The November 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Lyse Doucet – included an item (from 19:16 here) about a recent performance by the Israeli national theatre company.newshour-12-11-habima

Doucet introduced the item as follows:

“To Israel now, where politics has taken to the stage – literally. There’s growing tension with the country’s national theatre company and the wider artistic community after the company ‘Habima’ performed in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba – close to the Palestinian…largely Palestinian…town of Hebron, dominated by hardline settlers. One of the actors, Shlomi Bertonov, refused to perform in the play; ‘A Simple Story’ based on a Hebrew short novel by the Nobel prize winnister…winner…SY Agnon. The culture minister of Israel Miri Regev attended the event which took place in a community centre. She’s threatened to cut funding to all arts groups who refuse to perform in the settlements. So just how controversial is this? We’re joined on the line now by Haim Weiss – he’s a literature professor at Ben Gurion University. Thank you very much for joining us.”

Weiss: “Thank you.”

Doucet: “What did you think of a performance taking place in Kiryat Arba?”

That disingenuous question conceals the fact that there can be no doubt that Lyse Doucet knew exactly what her inadequately introduced guest thinks about the topic. Haim Weiss was not asked to appear on this programme because of his expertise in literature as listeners may have concluded from Doucet’s introduction. He was chosen because, as Ha’aretz reported on October 25th, he initiated a campaign against the ‘Habima’ performance in Kiryat Arba – which is not disclosed to World Service audiences.

“The controversy over Habima’s performance in Kiryat Arba was sparked by two recent Facebook posts by Haim Weiss, a senior lecturer in Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

In his first post, Weiss alluded to the incentives and penalties introduced this year in the Culture and Sports Ministry’s criteria for financial support. Cultural institutions that appear in the settlements receive a 10-percent bonus, while those that stay away see ministry support cut by about a third. […]

In a reference to the culture minister, Weiss wrote on Facebook: “It turns out that the spirit of the commander is working and the fear of Miri Regev’s open or concealed threats are doing the trick.”

The post was featured next to a picture of a fence with a poster advertising the Habima performance in Kiryat Arba.

“The willingness of the theater, its employees and actors to take part in the process of normalizing the occupation and turning Kiryat Arba into just another city where they’re performing is very disturbing,” Weiss wrote.

“Are the theater’s economic difficulties and the hope that a performance in Hebron will encourage the culture minister and other ministers to help the theater what’s leading to the performance in Kiryat Arba-Hebron?” […]

In a later post, Weiss wrote about what he considered the significance of the theater’s performance.

“When Habima, with its canonic (and complicated) standing in the Zionist and Israeli discourse, chooses to appear in a city that symbolizes more than any other the violence and racism of the settlement enterprise, it’s taking a step of major significance,” he wrote.

As Weiss put it, “The Habima Theater is conferring validity, significance and legitimization upon the settlement enterprise, especially its most extreme and violent representation. Kiryat Arba’s residents understand this symbolic significance very well and are therefore very pleased about the theater performance in their city.””

In other words, Doucet and the ‘Newshour’ producers knew exactly what kind of messaging they would be promoting  (with no alternative views voiced) to the programmes audiences.

Weiss responded to Doucet’s ‘question’ as follows:

Weiss: “I think that the fact that the Israeli government is…is interfering with artistic decisions and telling the national theatre where to perform and where not and enforcing…and the minister of culture is enforcing her will upon the theatre by using money, this is a very disturbing thing. The theatre must have free…must be free – completely free – to decide where to perform and where not. The fact that before the show the minister gave a lecture or a speech to the same audience – this is a very disturbing thing.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the financial aid given to theatre groups is financed by taxes paid by Israeli citizens living on both sides of the ‘green line’, Doucet continued:

“And is this – I don’t need to tell you that there’s a vibrant artistic community in Israel – is this…is this very much dominating the conversation now?”

Weiss: “I don’t know if it’s dominating the conversation. The big question is the occupation itself. We are dealing with some of its symbolic representations which is the performance of ‘Habima’ in Kiryat Arba. Since we cannot fight or stop occupation we are trying at least to be…or to say something about its symbolic representations and the fact that the national theatre of Israel is going to Kiryat Arba which is not a usual settlement. It’s not a real…a regular settlement but this is the base or the cradle of the fanatic, racist eh, eh, settlers movement and we have…and the fact that the ‘Habima’ is come…is going there mean that all…it’s like the whole artistic establishment in Israel is going – in a way – is going to Kiryat Arba. We don’t want the national theatre of Israel to go to Kiryat Arba.”

Doucet: “And can they resist? Because as you know, the theatre company has a financial crisis.”

Weiss: “[sighs] This is complicated. Since the government tied performing in the occupied territories with the financial support that the government should give all theatres, so the fact…the real fact is no: they cannot fight it or they cannot resist it. The price of resistance is very high.”

Doucet then brought the item to a close, making her own stance amply clear.

“Haim Weiss; I’m afraid we have to leave it there but thank you very much for speaking with such clarity and conviction about this…this development with the artistic community of Israel.”

The Israeli Ministry of Culture and ‘Habima’ (which appeared in other communities in Area C long before the current minister of culture took office) were not afforded the right of reply in this item.

Neither of course were any of the more than 7,000 residents of Kiryat Arba  – collectively stereotyped and slandered in a programme broadcast worldwide as “fanatic” and “racist” – given the opportunity to express their views.

Instead, the choice of interviewee and absence of any even remotely challenging questions from Doucet ensured that listeners heard one exclusive politically motivated narrative.  

Relates Articles:

Guardian story on Habima & settlements omits facts which undermine narrative  (UK Media Watch)

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

 

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

Not for the first time, the BBC News website’s reporting on the June 30th terror attack in Kiryat Arba in which thirteen year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was murdered as she was sleeping made sure that audiences were aware of the BBC’s preferred political designation of the location of the incident.

“A teenage Israeli girl has been stabbed to death in an attack at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.”

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Pigua K4 art

As ever, the BBC itself did not employ the word terror anywhere in this report with the incident described as “an attack” and the perpetrator as “the attacker” or “the assailant”. The only mention of that word came in a quote from the Israeli prime minister inserted into the fourth version of the article some three hours after its initial appearance.

In contrast, earlier this week when the BBC covered commemoration of the terror attack in Tunisia a year ago, audiences were given a clear and accurate description of that incident – for example here and here. [emphasis added]

“A ceremony has been held in Tunisia to remember the 38 tourists shot dead on a beach exactly one year ago.

Thirty of those killed in the resort town of Sousse were British.

The attack, claimed by the so-called Islamic State, was the greatest loss of British life in a terrorist incident since the July 2005 London bombing.”

And:

“It is almost a year since a gunman opened fire on a beach in Tunisia killing 38 tourists, 30 of whom were from the UK.

It was the greatest loss of British life in a terror attack, since the London bombings in 2005.”

The BBC of course long since made it clear that it ‘believes’ that terror attacks against Israeli citizens are “very different” from the one perpetrated against British citizens in Tunisia in 2015 – although it refuses to explain why in writing.

However, the corporation’s two-tier system of reporting acts of terror is itself clear enough indication of the fact that what lies behind its inconsistent approach are the very “value judgements” that – at least according to its editorial guidelines – the BBC supposedly seeks to avoid.

The terminology used (or not) by the BBC is determined by the way it judges the perceived motivations of the terrorist rather than by the nature of the act itself and that is what ensures that the murder of a thirteen year-old girl asleep in her bed will not be termed a terror attack – as long as that child is a Jewish Israeli and the perpetrator a Palestinian.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

 

BBC coverage of October 8 terror attacks downgrades terrorist to ‘suspected attacker’

Visitors to the BBC News website seeking information concerning the multiple terror attacks against Israelis which took place on October 8th found no information on that subject until the appearance of an article titled “Israelis injured in new spate of stabbings” some four and a half hours after the first major attack took place in Jerusalem and two hours after the attack in Tel Aviv. The article was subsequently amended several times to include information on additional attacks in Kiryat Arba and Afula.Oct 8 attacks art

The first attack is described as follows in the version of the report currently appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page:

“Hours earlier, a Jewish seminary student was seriously injured when he was stabbed in the neck by a Palestinian near a light rail station in the French Hill area of East Jerusalem, police said.

The assailant then reportedly fled the scene after attacking a security guard at the station and attempting to steal his weapon. He was eventually apprehended, police said.”

The report then goes on to state:

“Israeli security forces then shot dead a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted as they were moving towards the suspect’s home, Palestinian medics said.”

Earlier on in the report, that same incident is portrayed as follows:

“Israeli forces targeting the house of a suspected attacker in the West Bank then shot dead a Palestinian as clashes began, Palestinian medics said.”

The incident actually took place in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat rather than in “the West Bank” and the “clashes that erupted” when police went to search the house of Subhi Abu Khalifa would be more accurately described as violent riots.

“On Thursday night, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that a riot ensued in Shuafat when Border Police officers approached Khalifa’s home.

“When the Border Police went to Shuafat to enter the terrorist’s house, hundreds of Palestinians attacked them with rocks, pipe bombs and firebombs,” he reported.

“Fearing for their lives, police responded by firing shots at the lower parts of the bodies of the suspects that approached them.”

Rosenfeld said at least nine officers were wounded during the clash, but he could not confirm reports that a Palestinian man was killed.”

The second attack reported in this article took place in Tel Aviv at around 3 p.m. and is initially described as follows, with further detail added later on:

“Seven Israelis have been wounded and one suspected assailant killed in the latest spate of stabbing attacks.

Police said four Israelis were hurt in Tel Aviv before the suspected attacker was shot dead.”

Notably, earlier versions of the article accurately described Taeer Abu Gazala from Jerusalem as the “assailant” and “attacker”, with the word “suspected” having been added to the report hours later.

The third attack – in Kiryat Arba – is described in the report thus:

“Shortly afterwards, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded a man near the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, close to the West Bank city of Hebron, the Israeli military said.

The attacker fled the scene and Israeli forces were searching the area, it added.”

The fourth attack, which took place in Afula at around 7 p.m., is described as follows:

“In yet another attack later on Thursday, an Israeli soldier was stabbed by an attacker in the northern Israeli town of Afula, police said.

They said the assailant – who was not identified – was arrested.”

The article has not been updated to inform audiences that the terrorist – Tarak Yaha – came from Jenin.

Towards the end of the report, readers are provided with the following ‘context’:

“Tensions between Israel and Palestinians have soared in the past couple of weeks, with the attacks on Israelis following clashes between troops and Palestinian youths at a flashpoint holy compound in East Jerusalem.”

The fact that what the BBC chooses to describe as “clashes” were in fact organized episodes of premeditated rioting aimed at preventing visits by non-Muslims to Temple Mount is clearly not adequately conveyed by that wording and yet again we see that no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of the related incitement from assorted official and unofficial Palestinian sources.

Related Articles:

BBC News reporting on October 7 terror attacks avoids the word terror