Catching up with some recent BBC Middle East reporting

Back in late July visitors to the BBC News website were told that an Israeli MK had resigned:

“An Israeli Arab politician has resigned in opposition to a controversial new law which declares Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.”

July 2017

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s claim concerning Zouheir Bahloul’s resignation was premature and – as reported by the Times of Israel – the MK actually only stepped down on October 16th.

“Zionist Union member Zouheir Bahloul formally resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, some three months after he announced he would step down as an MK in protest of the recently passed nation-state bill, which he said officially discriminates against Israel’s Arab minority.

The Arab Israeli lawmaker met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to present his letter of resignation, a day after the parliament returned from a three-month summer recess. […]

Bahloul offered no further explanation after his Tuesday meeting with Edelstein.

He also declined to comment on why he chose to formally resign only after the Knesset recess, a move that saw him rake in more than NIS 100,000 ($27,000) in taxpayer money over the break, based on the NIS 41,432  ($11,000) monthly salary for an MK.”

BBC audiences have not seen any reporting on Bahloul’s actual resignation.

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In late June we noted the appearance of an inaccurate and misleading map on the BBC News website.

“An article titled “Syria war: Air strikes knock out hospitals in Deraa” which appeared on the BBC News website on June 27th includes a map showing the areas under the control of different parties in south-west Syria.

[…] the UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) are portrayed as being present in the demilitarised zone that came into existence under the terms of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria.

However, as noted in this report from May 31st, UNDOF vastly reduced its physical presence in the so-called demilitarised zone nearly four years ago when it redeployed to the Israeli side.”

Similar versions of the same map appeared in at least five additional BBC News website reports.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and on July 30th we received a response informing us that more time would be needed to address the points raised. On August 18th we received a further communication informing us that the time frame for addressing the complaint had run out.

On October 15th the BBC News website published a report titled “Syria reopens key crossings with Jordan and Israel-occupied Golan” in which we discover that the BBC in fact knows that UNDOF was not in control of the DMZ when it published the map which led audiences to believe that was the case.

“The Syrian national flag was also raised at the Quneitra crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at a brief ceremony on Monday morning.

The UN, Israel and Syria agreed to re-open the crossing as part of an effort to allow UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) peacekeepers to carry out their mandate to maintain a decades-old ceasefire between Israel and Syria. […]

In 2014, after 45 peacekeepers were held captive for several weeks by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and their bases attacked, Undof withdrew to the Israeli side.

The peacekeepers resumed their patrols in the area of the Quneitra crossing this August, after Syrian government forces regained control of the surrounding province and Russian military police were deployed there.”

******

Back in August 2017 we asked “Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?” and since then we have continued to document the corporation’s promotion of false balance when reporting on that subject.

“…BBC audiences continue to repeatedly see false balance in the form of unchallenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being plainly ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of global issues.”

May 2017

On October 15th a report was published on the BBC News website under the title “How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory“. In that article the BBC states that it has gathered evidence to show that:

“…at least 106 chemical attacks have taken place in Syria since September 2013, when the president [Assad] signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.”

It is of course impossible to determine how many members of the BBC’s audience – who have previously seen countless promotions of unchallenged denials from the Syrian regime on this issue – will have come across this latest BBC report.

Related Articles:

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Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel

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Omissions in the BBC Jerusalem correspondent’s story of ‘fanaticism’

Back in July the BBC published a number of items on different platforms which clearly communicated to audiences what they should think about the Nation State law passed by the Knesset that month after seven years of deliberation.

BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Two months later the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman returned to that topic in two reports – mixing in a partially told, unrelated story from an Israeli town with a name he could not be bothered to learn to pronounce properly.

On September 19th viewers of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight‘ saw a filmed report by Bateman.

On September 22nd listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 heard an audio version (from 06:24 here) of the same report which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie at the beginning of the programme as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “Today we’re in Israel on the hunt for the finest falafel while hearing what Arab and Jewish Israelis think of the controversial new law which characterises the country as principally a Jewish state.”

Adie’s introduction to the item itself included overt signposting.

Adie: “In July Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – narrowly voted in favour of a new Nation State law. It promotes Israel’s Jewish character and has been celebrated by religious nationalists, among other supporters, and not just within Israel itself but in the USA and Europe. It’s also sparked condemnation at home and internationally. Among its harshest critics have been the country’s nearly 2 million Arab-Israeli citizens who say it underlines their second class status, as Tom Bateman’s been finding out.”

Bateman’s report began in a falafel shop in Afula and listeners were told that he has “set out to gauge reactions to one of Israel’s most controversial new laws” before Bateman introduced his linkage of a local story to his main agenda.

Bateman: “My lunch companion wants to tell me about that. This is the world’s only Jewish state says Ilan Vaknin, a local lawyer turned mayoral candidate. Israel is surrounded by Arab nations and needs protecting, he asserts. He supports the new Nation State law. The legislation is an emblem for the Israeli Right, championed by Benjamin Netanyahu – a prime minister with an eye on elections next year, trying not to be outflanked by more hardline nationalists in his coalition.”

Bateman went on to give a particular view of the legislation.

Bateman: “The single-page law is stacked with symbols of Jewish sovereignty. It states that Jews have the unique right to national self-determination in Israel. That what it calls Jewish settlement is a national value. That Hebrew is the state’s official language – a statement seen as downgrading Arabic. But what of the central complaint from the law’s many critics, I ask, that it shreds Israel’s founding pledge of equality for all the inhabitants regardless of their religion or race?”

Given that account, uninformed listeners could of course be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that Jewish self-determination in Israel is an innovation that first appeared in the Nation State law. What Bateman refers to as “Israel’s founding pledge” is of course the Declaration of Independence which does indeed pledge “equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” but also – he refrains from clarifying – clearly defines Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Ilan Vaknin says that the Jewish people in Israel must safeguard their land. There has certainly been a struggle among the people of Afula. When 48 Arab-Israeli families tried to buy plots of land on the edge of this Jewish majority town, there were protests by Jewish residents. Mr Vaknin acted for those who wanted to stop the sales. He claimed the Arab families had illegally coordinated bids. The courts ultimately threw out much of that argument and most of the sales went ahead. Many such land disputes elsewhere have not always gone the way of Arab citizens. Afula’s story seemed to echo a desire in the Nation State law to assert Jewish identity.”

Presuming to tell audiences what Israel “is supposed to stand for”, in his filmed report Bateman described the same story thus:

Bateman: “An empty space to be filled – but by whom? There has been a struggle among the people of Afula. What should this town in northern Israel look like? Who should live here? From whose past should it seek its character? Afula isn’t a story of troops and teargas filling the foreign news but a less visible confrontation between Jews and Arabs that goes to the heart of what the State of Israel is supposed to stand for. Ilan Vaknin wants to be the mayor. The lawyer told me how he tried to stop the sale of land to nearly 50 Arab families in this majority Jewish town. The dispute, which started well before the row over Israel’s new Nation State law, provides an example of the tensions that led to the law’s drafting and why its supporters think Israel’s Jewish character needs protecting. […] He [Vaknin] fought the sale of this land to Arab-Israeli families, saying they illegally coordinated bids But, after two years, Israel’s High Court allowed most of the sales to go ahead.”

The only Israeli politician mentioned by Bateman in these two reports is the current prime minister and so BBC audiences could be forgiven for concluding that it was he who proposed the Nation State law. In fact, the legislation was originally proposed in 2011 by Avi Dichter – who was at the time a member of the Kadima party – together with 39 other MKs. In contrast to the impression given by Bateman, the Afula building plots story began in late 2015.

While some of those who demonstrated against the sale of plots to 48 families from Arab villages in the district may have had racist motives, there are relevant parts of the story that Bateman did not bother to tell BBC audiences – not least the fact that the full complement of tenders in the proposed new neighbourhood was won by Arab applicants.

“The protesters claimed that the winning tender applicants may have coordinated their bids to ensure the neighborhood is populated mainly by Arab residents. They also charged that the tenders were poorly publicized within the city, and only announced in two local newspapers.

Many of the protesters have previously expressed their opposition to having an all-Arab neighborhood in the city.

The tender was run by the Israel Land Administration, which accepted bids on almost 50 plots for homes in a planned community next to the Afula Illit neighborhood. The results, published last month, showed that none of the plots had been won by current residents of Afula and all had been awarded to residents of Arab villages in the area.”

In April 2016 the Nazareth District Court revoked the tenders.

“Court president Justice Avraham Avraham said in his decision that the 48 Arab families violated housing tender rules by coordinating their bids on several of the 50 lots for homes in a planned neighborhood next to the Afula Illit neighborhood in an effort to fix prices for the homes.

“The coordination between bidders severely damages the principle of equality,” Avraham said in his decision. “The bidders joined forces to coordinate their proposed prices in an effort to unfairly divide the market among themselves.””

In August 2017 the High Court found that while a bidding group which had won ten of the 27 available plots had indeed coordinated bids, the other applicants had not. The court ruled that, rather than cancelling all the tenders as the Nazareth court had ruled, only the tenders of those shown to have coordinated bids would be cancelled.

While those parts of the story are missing from Bateman’s account, he did make sure to tell his radio audience of statements made by another interviewee – Ghayadad Zoabi.    

Bateman: “She says when Jewish protests took place against families like hers buying plots in Afula the sense of division felt overwhelming. She worries for her children who she fears have harder days to come. As long as the Right-wing controls Israel, she claims, it is heading for fanaticism. She believes the Nation State law sends a message to people like her that they are citizens second to Jews.”

And that of course is the agenda behind Bateman’s sudden interest in a local story that the BBC has ignored for nearly three years. Despite the fact that Arab-Israelis won tenders organised by a government agency and the 63% of bidders who were shown not to have coordinated bids had their tenders upheld in Israel’s High Court, The BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent still has a tale of “fanaticism” to tell about just one of the 22% of the world’s countries – including the UK – that have a religion enshrined in their constitution or basic law.  

 

 

 

BBC News website reports a resignation yet to happen

Late on the evening of July 28th (UK time) the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli Arab MP resigns over controversial ‘nation state’ law” on its main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Readers were originally told that: [emphasis added]

“An Israeli Arab politician has resigned in opposition to a controversial new law which declares Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.

Zouheir Bahloul, 67, branded parliament “racist” and “destructive” for passing the law, which also revokes the status of Arabic as an official language.”

“[The law] removes the Arab population from the path of equality in Israel,” he told Israeli TV network Reshet.”

That second paragraph was amended some eleven hours after the article’s initial publication when someone apparently realised that it gave an inaccurate presentation of the legislation. It now reads:

“Zouheir Bahloul, 67, branded parliament “racist” and “destructive” for passing the law, which also puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language.”

However, despite the BBC’s claim that Mr Bahloul “has resigned”, that does not yet appear to be the case.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“…Bahloul said he would submit his resignation letter when the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess October 14 and then “keep away from the Knesset as if it is fire.””

The Times of Israel similarly reported that:

“An Arab Israeli lawmaker from the Zionist Union faction announced on Saturday that he would be resigning from the Knesset to protest the recently passed nation-state bill, which he said officially discriminates against Israel’s Arab minority.

When the Knesset recess is over my resignation will go into effect, I promise you I will not sit in this Knesset again,” Zouheir Bahloul told Hadashot news.”

Ha’aretz reported:

“Israeli Arab Knesset Member Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) announced Saturday his intention to resign from the Knesset in protest over the controverisal [sic] nation-state law.”

[all emphasis added]

As of the morning of July 30th, Mr Bahloul is still listed on the Knesset website as an MK.

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

 

 

BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Section 4.4.13 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality states:

“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.”

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.”

Not for the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) a clearly identified BBC employee – who describes his position as “BBC News Arabic service producer in Israel and the West Bank” – has allowed himself to “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” on social media, thereby contradicting the BBC’s editorial guidelines and compromising its impartiality.

Clearly that Tweet from Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on that legislation. 

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Inaccurate BBC WS radio portrayal of Israeli legislation

As noted here previously, the lead item in the July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update‘ concerned legislation passed hours beforehand by the Israeli Knesset.

The programme’s webpage uses the title “Israel: An Exclusively Jewish State”. Presenter Dan Damon introduced the item (from 0:00:15 here) using the same term. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Damon: “We begin though with the news from Israel. In the parliament there – the Knesset – a vote on the future of that country’s self-determination: a controversial bill defining the country as an exclusively Jewish state. The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest. Israel [sic] Arab politicians have denounced this new law as racist.”

Obviously the claim that the law defines Israel as “an exclusively Jewish state” is inaccurate.

The same inaccurate claim appeared in the first two versions of an article that appeared on the BBC News website on July 19th.

Following a complaint from Mr Stephen Franklin in which he pointed out that the text of the law does not define Israel in that manner and that Israel’s minorities already have equal rights under the law and will continue to do so under this new legislation, the BBC Complaints department responded, citing an amendment made to the report some eight hours after its initial publication.

“I understand you feel it is inaccurate to state that the bill passed characterises Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.

BBC News always aims for the highest standards – to be fair, accurate and impartial. It is worth noting that the article now reads “‘Israel’s parliament has passed a controversial law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state”.”

BBC Watch has written to request a similar correction to this radio programme and its webpage.

In that item listeners heard from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem who correctly pointed out that the law “isn’t going to change things overnight. It’s simply not that kind of a piece of legislation” and that “many of the things it talks about are actually pre-existing in other laws”.

However, as was also the case in the BBC News website report, Bateman for reasons unclear found it appropriate to mention a clause which was not included in the final draft of the legislation.

Bateman: “…the law says that Jewish settlement is a national value that should be promoted by the state. Now that’s actually a watered-down version of the draft clause which critics of the law had felt might lead to Jewish-only communities and local authorities really having the power to create de facto and in law Jewish-only communities.”

Like the website article, Bateman did not clarify that the dropped clause actually allowed the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community” and did not bother to inform his audiences that many communities composed of people belonging to religious and ethnic groups such as Bedouin, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims already exist in Israel.

Bateman closed his report by telling listeners that one Arab-Israeli MK had “described it…as a hate crime and an apartheid law”.

Listeners then heard from two MKs – Yehuda Glick of the Likud and Ahmad Tibi of the Joint Arab List. They did not however hear any challenge from Dan Damon when Tibi raised the false claim promoted by the political NGO Adalah of “more than 60 laws differentiating and discriminating between Jews and Arabs”. Neither did they hear any questioning of numerous inaccurate claims from Tibi including that the new law affords rights “both political and housing, lands allocation etc…only for Jews”.

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.

Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]

In a news bulletin broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ (from 02:04:51 here) listeners were told by newsreader Diana Speed that:

“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.

In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:

“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):

“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

But is that actually what the legislation says?

In the original Hebrew the relevant clause is titled התיישבות יהודית” – ‘Jewish settlement’, not settlements – and when translated into English it says that:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.

That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.

As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:

“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””

Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification. 

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BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

On the morning of July 19th the BBC News website published a report titled “Jewish nation state: Israel approves controversial bill” which opened by telling BBC audiences that:

“Israel’s parliament has passed into law a controversial bill that defines the country as an exclusively Jewish state.

The “Jewish nation state” bill downgrades Arabic as an official language and says advancing Jewish settlement is a national interest.

It also states that the “whole and united” Jerusalem is its capital.”

The BBC’s report did not provide readers with the text of the bill. Had it done so, BBC audiences would have been able to see that the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

The clause referring to “Jewish Settlement” reads:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Readers of the BBC’s report are told that:

“…some clauses were dropped following objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general, including a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish-only communities.”

That dropped clause actually allowed the state to:

“authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community,”

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences of the fact that many communities composed of people belonging to religious and ethnic groups such as Bedouin, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims also exist in Israel.

The BBC’s report promotes comment on the story from three sources: members of the ‘Joint List’, the Israeli prime minister and an anti-Zionist foreign funded political NGO.

“Israeli Arab MPs condemned the legislation but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a “defining moment”. […]

Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill’s passing represented the “death of democracy”.

Adalah, an Arab rights non-governmental orgnisation, said the law was an attempt to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.”

With the report providing no comparison between this legislation and similar laws and constitutions in other countries, the view of the story that BBC audiences are intended to take away is of course amply clear.

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ inaccurately portrays Israeli legislation

The final item in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 17th was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 48:53 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “Now, Parliament in Israel has passed a law that could see groups critical of the government prevented from entering Israeli schools and speaking with pupils. The amendment to the education act grants new powers to the education minister Naftali Bennett – head of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party – to order schools to bar certain groups from giving lectures to students.” [emphasis added]

So is Iqbal’s portrayal of the story accurate?

First of all the legislation which passed its third reading in the Knesset on July 17th is an amendment to an existing law – the 1953 Law of State Education. The legislation adds a clause to the second section of that law in which the objectives of state education are defined. The new clause adds the objective “to educate to significant service in the Israel Defence Force or to civilian national service…” and goes on to state:

“The minister [of education] will establish rules in order to prevent activity in an educational institution on the part of an individual or organization who is not part of the educational system whose activity grossly contradicts the mission of the state educational system outlined in sub-clause (a) and rules to prevent activity in an educational institution of an outside party which initiates legal processes outside Israel against IDF soldiers for activity that they undertook as part of their service.”

Obviously the reference to “the minister” does not mean merely the current minister named by Razia Iqbal and the amendment does not relate to “groups critical of the government” as she inaccurately claims.

Razia Iqbal then went on to introduce MK Sharren Haskel who was allowed to say six sentences before Iqbal jumped in with the following portrayal of a foreign funded political NGO regularly quoted and promoted in BBC content:

Iqbal: “Let’s deal with one of the organisations that’s going to be affected by this law – it’s called ‘Breaking the Silence’ and it’s made up of Israeli citizens, veteran combatants, who have served in the IDF and they endeavor to stimulate public debate and going into schools and talking about what life is like for a soldier working in the occupied territories, they want to convey that as an issue of debating, so why is it that you are stopping that from taking place?”

Iqbal of course did not clarify to BBC audiences that much if not most of the activity of ‘Breaking the Silence’ takes place outside Israel and is not designed to “stimulate public debate”. When her interviewee noted that information promoted by the NGO has been proven false, Iqbal interrupted her.

Iqbal: “There is a member of the Knesset who belongs to the Zionist Union, Shelly Yachimovich, and she says that her two children grew up in Tel Aviv, they were exposed to all sorts of pluralistic views at school, including lectures by ‘Breaking the Silence’ and her two children served significant service in the IDF and they were officers. She doesn’t seem to think that ‘Breaking the Silence’ is a dangerous group. What is it that you are so afraid of?”

After Haskel had clarified that she doesn’t think the group is dangerous either and that there is no limitation on their activities outside of schools, Iqbal continued on the same theme.

Iqbal: “There are other Knesset members in addition to the one that I quoted to you who are saying that this law is dangerous, that the education system is not the property of a minister. Surely schools should be allowed to make decisions about which groups they allow in?”

With Iqbal focusing audience attentions primarily on ‘Breaking the Silence’, listeners did not get to hear that the legislation would apply to other groups as well.  

Clearly Iqbal’s introductory portrayal of this domestic Israeli story gave inaccurate and misleading impressions of the legislation to listeners, which the rest of the item did nothing to dispel. 

 

 

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

Readers may recall that in March of this year the BBC refrained from reporting on the ‘Taylor Force Act’ passed by the US Congress and also ignored the passing of the first reading of a bill relating to the same issue in the Israeli Knesset. On July 2nd that bill became law.

“The Knesset voted into law on Monday a bill to slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

The bipartisan law passed by 87 to 15. […]

The bill says that welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives, as well as the families of slain attackers, must be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body. The money withheld in this way would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of terror attacks.”

Around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $350 million. Nevertheless, the BBC has serially avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic in May 2017, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

On the afternoon of July 3rd the BBC News website finally got round to mentioning the Israeli legislation that has been making its way through the Knesset for months – as well as the previously ignored US legislation – in a report titled “Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts“.

In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

The 14 paragraph report includes four paragraphs on the practicalities of the new Israeli law. Two paragraphs are devoted to reactions from Israeli politicians while Palestinian officials’ reactions are given five paragraphs of coverage.

However, a press release concerning “Reallocation of aid to the Palestinian Authority” that was put out by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on July 2nd apparently did not reach the BBC’s correspondent in Sydney. 

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“Australia has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday that funding to a World Bank trust fund was cut after she wrote to the Palestinian Authority in late May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not being misspent.

 In a statement, Bishop expressed concern that providing further aid would allow the PA to use the funds for activities that “Australia would never support.””

So while on the positive side BBC News website visitors at long last got to see a mention of American and Israeli legislation related to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists, an Australian announcement related to the same topic was ignored.

Related Articles:

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

Comparing BBC reporting on mosque loudspeakers in Israel and Rwanda

On November 13th 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Quieten calls to prayer in Israel – Netanyahu” (discussed here) in which a draft bill proposing to limit the use of loudspeakers by religious institutions was described as “unnecessarily divisive” and readers were told that:

“Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya from the Israel Democracy Institute, a thinktank, wrote in a local newspaper that “the real aim is not to prevent noise but rather to create noise that will hurt all of society and the efforts to establish a sane reality between Jews and Arabs”.”

The next day – November 14th 2016 – another report (discussed here) on the same story appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Israeli bills draw Palestinian warning“.

“A senior Palestinian official has said his government will go to the UN to stop what he called a series of “escalatory measures” by Israel.

Nabil Abu Rudeina said Israeli plans to […] quieten calls to prayer, will “bring disasters to the region”. […]

The Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Youssef Ideiss, said the plan threatened a “religious war”, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported.”

On March 8th 2017 the BBC News website published yet another report (discussed here) on the same subject – “Israeli Arab anger as parliament backs ‘muezzin bill’“.

“Two versions of the so-called “muezzin bill”, which would mostly affect Muslim calls to prayer, passed their first readings by slim majorities.

Some Arab MPs ripped apart copies of the legislation during a debate. […]

The bill’s critics say it as an attack on religious freedom.

“The voice of a muezzin has never caused any environmental noise. It is about an important Islamic religious ritual, and we have never in this house intervened in any religious ceremony related to Judaism. Your action is a racist slur,” warned Ahmed Tibi of the Arab-dominated Joint List alliance during the debate.

“Your intervention strikes at the very souls of Muslims,” he added.”

On March 15th 2018 an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Africa page under the headline “Rwanda bans Kigali mosques from using loudspeakers“.

In contrast to the headline in the third BBC report from Israel, that title does not suggest that muezzin themselves are the target of the ban rather than loudspeakers.

Readers of the report from Rwanda were not told that the ban is “unnecessarily divisive” or a “disaster” or a “racist slur” or that it would “hurt society”. They did not see the move portrayed as part of a “religious war” or an “attack on religious freedom” or something that “strikes at the very souls of Muslims”.

Here is how the BBC did present the story to its audiences:

“Rwanda has banned mosques in the capital, Kigali, from using loudspeakers during the call to prayer.

They say the calls, made five times a day, have been disturbing residents of the Nyarugenge district, home to the capital’s biggest mosques.

But an official from a Muslim association criticised it, saying they could instead keep the volume down.”

Readers also found the following analysis:

“Today’s noise pollution concerns have silenced the loudspeakers on Kigali’s mosques. But it would be wrong to say that Muslims are being targeted. They can still go to mosques and pray five times a day.”

It would be difficult to find a clearer example of double standards in BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on proposed legislation – part 1

Superficial BBC reporting on proposed legislation – part 2

Third context-free BBC article on proposed legislation