Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

In October 2015 the BBC News website allocated just forty-two words to coverage of a terror attack in which four people were wounded near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.

On August 7th 2017 the BBC News website devoted two hundred and ninety-eight words to amplification of statements made by a political NGO concerning a court ruling revoking the citizenship of the terrorist who committed that attack.

Titled “Israel decision to revoke attacker’s citizenship condemned” and illustrated with an unrelated image, the article opens with a description of the attack which predictably does not make use of the word terror because the BBC refuses to employ that term itself when reporting on attacks against Israelis.

“Human rights groups have criticised a decision by an Israeli court to remove the citizenship of an Israeli Arab who attacked people with a car and a knife.

It is thought to be the first time a judge has implemented a 2008 law under which perpetrators of “terrorist activities” can lose their citizenship.”

Later on in the report the word terrorism does appear in direct and indirect quotes.

“In his decision, Judge Avraham Elyakim of Haifa district court said victims’ right to life took precedence over “those who choose to violate the trust of the state of Israel and carry out acts of terrorism in its territory”.”

“The removal of citizenship for terrorism had been applied by Israel in rare instances prior to the 2008 law but the latest case could pave the way for similar rulings in the future, local media said.”

The report does not inform readers of an additional part of the court’s ruling:

“The court ruled that after Zayoud’s citizenship is revoked in October he will be given a temporary status, as exists in citizenship laws, and that it will be extended from time to time at the discretion of the interior minister after he has completed his sentence.”

As is made clear by its headline, the main aim of this article is amplification of statements from what the BBC coyly describes as “rights groups”.

“Israeli civil rights groups said the ruling set “a dangerous precedent”. […]

The court’s ruling was condemned by rights groups.

“The decision to revoke Mr Zayoud’s residence would render him stateless, in violation of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Sari Bashi of Human Rights watch.

“Citizenship is a precondition for a host of other rights, including the right to political participation and social and economic rights.””

Readers are not provided with any additional legal information beyond that simplistic portrayal and neither are they informed that numerous other countries have similar laws – as the BBC itself reported in relation to the UK only weeks ago:

“The 2014 Immigration Act granted the home secretary the power to strip citizenship from dual nationals or from immigrants who have become naturalised citizens and are now fighting overseas, even if that renders them stateless.”

As is usually the case, readers of this article find no mention of the obviously relevant issue of the political agenda of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the fact that it engages in lawfare and campaigning against Israel.

Human Rights Watch was the foreign NGO most quoted and promoted by the BBC throughout 2016 and its reports, PR releases, campaigns and statements enjoyed similarly prominent amplification in previous years. Nevertheless, the BBC consistently fails to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

Obviously that condition was not met in this latest article and so once again we see the BBC providing leverage for politicised messaging concerning Israel from an interested party touted as a neutral-sounding ‘human rights group’, without the required full disclosure to audiences of that political NGO’s anti-Israel activities and campaigns.

BBC’s Gaza casualty figures source continues lawfare campaign

Last week the Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini published an article concerning another chapter in the anti-Israel lawfare campaign.stats

“The European Council, a body that is made up of all European countries and is wider than the European Union, has adopted a report written by Eva-Lena Jansson, a representative of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, which accuses Israel of engaging in “an appalling pattern of apparently systematic unlawful killings” of innocent civilians.

The report is based on the Al-Mezan NGO, which is supported by Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. The NGO itself supports the BDS Movement and is part of the campaign that is based on denying Israel’s right to exist.

As always, European countries are funding bodies that issue reports, allegedly about “human rights,” while in fact waging a campaign against Israel’s actual existence.”

As readers may recall, during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, the BBC quoted and promoted casualty figures based on information sourced, among others, from the NGO Al Mezan.

Two and a half years on, the BBC has still not provided its funding public with a satisfactory explanation as to why it uncritically amplified data – which had not been independently verified – that was sourced from organisations that make no secret of the fact that they are involved in a political campaign of lawfare against Israel or why it later rejected complaints which challenged the BBC’s use of patently partisan information from those sources.

Related Articles:

BBC content continues to mislead on Gaza casualties

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

Lawfare agenda of BBC’s sources on Gaza casualty figures revealed once again

BBC News coy on lawfare NGOs it previously quoted and promoted

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

Related Articles:

Presenting the “progressive” (Guardian approved) group, Avaaz – astroturfing for Hamas  UK Media Watch

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

SONY DSC

One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

 

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

On July 12th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “EU criticises Israel law forcing NGOs to reveal foreign funding” which included some rather confused language in the description of its subject matter.

NGO law art desc

The article’s introductory paragraph provides an accurate description of the groups affected by the new law but does not clarify that “from abroad” means from foreign governments.

“The EU has criticised a controversial new Israeli law targeting non-governmental organisations that receive most of their funding from abroad.”

Further on in the article, however, those groups are given a different title which is clearly intended to shape audience perceptions of the story. [emphasis added]NGO law art main

“But the EU said the requirements, which mostly affect human rights groups, went “beyond the need for transparency”.”

And:

Analysis by the Israeli justice ministry found there were 27 NGOs in Israel that would be affected by the law, of which 25 were human rights groups identified with the Left, Israeli media reported.”

The link in that paragraph leads to a report from Ha’aretz which does not provide the names of those “human rights groups” but does include a link to another Ha’aretz article on that topic which is behind a pay wall and hence inaccessible to most readers. In other words, the BBC does not allow readers to judge for themselves whether or not the title “human rights groups” is justified and accurate in all cases. It does go on to tell them that:

“They include B’Tselem, which monitors human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and Zochrot, which advocates for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”

Haaretz NGOs list

from Haaretz article

The BBC’s report refrains from informing audiences that some of the 25 so-called “human rights groups” on that list support the anti-peace Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (for example Al Marsad, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Who Profits and Israel Social TV). It does not inform readers that some of those groups are anti-Zionist ‘one-staters’ that support the dissolution of the Jewish State (for example Zochrot and Sikkuy) and it does not tell them that quite a few of those groups are involved in lawfare campaigning  against Israel (for example Bimkom, B’tselsm, Yesh Din and PCATI).

The article further amplifies the EU’s statement but provides no challenge to the inaccurate claim that “activities” of NGOs would be ‘constrained’ by the new law.

“But the EU’s External Action Service said the reporting requirements seemed “aimed at constraining the activities” of civil society organisations.

“Israel enjoys a vibrant democracy, freedom of speech and a diverse civil society which are an integral part of the values which Israel and the EU both hold dear. This new legislation risks undermining these values,” a spokesperson warned.”

No discussion of the topic of interference in a democracy by foreign governments is seen in this article and no mention is made of similar legislation in other countries. The rather glaring question of how groups receiving between 50 – 100% of their funding from foreign governments can call themselves ‘non-governmental organisations’ is ignored.

The article closes with unchallenged quotes from two political NGOs: ‘Human Rights Watch’ (which is not registered in Israel and therefore is not affected by the law) and ‘Peace Now’ which – despite the BBC’s description of it as “another affected group” – does not appear on the list.

‘Human Rights Watch’ is of course one of the NGOs most often quoted and promoted by the BBC. Several of the NGOs which will be affected by the new transparency law (e.g. ‘Breaking the Silence’, ‘Ir Amim’ and ‘B’tselem’) are also among the NGOs which are most frequently quoted by BBC journalists and/or provide source material for BBC reporting.

Clearly this report does not provide audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial view of either the new legislation or some of the political NGOs it will affect. Given the BBC’s longstanding dismal record on informing its audiences of the “particular viewpoint” of the cadre of NGOs it quotes and promotes (in breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality) that will hardly come as a surprise to BBC Watch readers.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s Tim Franks and the ever ‘disappearing’ Jewish state

AP Headline on Israeli Law Breaks Journalistic Rule  (CAMERA)

BBC News coy on lawfare NGOs it previously quoted and promoted

On July 4th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli politician Tzipi Livni ‘summonsed by UK police’” on its Middle East page.Livni art

One coyly worded paragraph is of particular interest:

“Correspondents say pro-Palestinian activists have filed a series of complaints against Israeli officials, including Ms Livni, in recent years.”

Who those “correspondents” are is not made clear and of course the said “activists” are more accurately described as anti-Israel than “pro-Palestinian” but remarkably, the BBC chose not to identify them for its readers.

Fortunately, NGO Monitor has background information on that subject which includes the following:

“The main NGOs behind the campaigns in the UK and beyond, including at the International Criminal Court, are Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Haq, and Al Mezan. All are funded by European governments.

In the UK, they have been supported by Daniel Machover of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and Hickman & Rose Solicitors, as well as Irvine, Thanvi, Natas and Imran Khan & Partners.”

If the names of those political NGOs engaged in lawfare against Israel and its public figures seem familiar to readers, that is because the BBC has quoted and promoted them extensively over the years – and in particular during its coverage of the conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014.

Not only were the Gaza Strip casualty figures cited by the BBC based on information sourced, inter alia, from the PCHR and Al Mezan, but the corporation engaged in vigorous amplification of unsubstantiated claims of ‘war crimes’ by the PCHR literally from day two of the conflict.

Reminders of the BBC’s promotion of Al Haq can be found here, of Al Mezan here and of the PCHR here.

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

The BBC has never provided its funding public with a satisfactory explanation as to why it uncritically amplifies the agendas of organisations which make no secret of the fact that they are involved in a political campaign of lawfare against Israel or why it rejected complaints which challenged the BBC’s use of obviously politically partisan information from those sources.

Audience understanding of this latest lawfare stunt (and the topic in general) would of course be greatly enhanced were the corporation to name its protagonists and finally provide some accurate and impartial information concerning their political agenda. 

 

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

As time goes by the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs flourishes and expands and news consumers find that more and more of their news comes or is sourced from agenda-driven organisations which make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to journalistic standards.

When political agendas and reporting meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. Whilst the BBC – like many other media organisations – has addressed the topic of ‘citizen journalists’ providing user-generated content (UGC), much less attention is given to content sourced from NGOs. Currently one of the few safeguards in place comes in the form of the section in the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However, throughout 2015 BBC Watch was unable to record even one example of that clause having been upheld in Middle East related content which was sourced in one way or another from political NGOs or their representatives.

The BBC’s use of content originating from political NGOs comes in a variety of forms. The most obvious is direct amplification of material produced by NGOs and some examples from the past year can be seen below.Schick art

Human Rights Watch:

BBC News does its convincing impression of HRW PR department yet again

More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

Breaking the Silence:

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

Amnesty International:

BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)  

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

B’Tselem:

BBC News amplifies political NGO in inaccurately headlined report

In other cases, NGOs and/or their representatives are interviewed and/or quoted in BBC reporting, or content produced by NGOs is uncritically promoted, or links are provided directing audiences to the websites of NGOs.BtS audio

Right to Movement:

Political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Beit Sahour

More inaccuracies and political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet

ACRI:

BBC’s Knell raises an opportunistic stink

FIDH:

BBC continues to avoid telling audiences what BDS is really about

Save the Children:

BBC’s Gaza blockade campaign continues with amplification of another NGO

Lyse Doucet’s promotion of her BBC Two ‘Children of the Gaza War’ programme

Amnesty International:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

Forensic Architecture:

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

B’Tselem:

BBC News compromises impartiality with link to website of political NGO   

BBC’s Knell raises an opportunistic stink

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

In other cases, persons working for or associated with political NGOs are interviewed and/or quoted, but not adequately identified.AI report Rafah

Youth Against Settlements:

BBC editorial guidelines breached in report on Hebron incident

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra exposed by Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

PACBI, Sabeel:

BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist

Ir Amim:

How a BBC WS News bulletin misled on Jerusalem Day

Forward Thinking:

BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ exploits Pope’s canonizations for promotion of propaganda

 ARIJ:

BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

B’Tselem:

BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

The BBC’s most quoted and promoted local NGO in 2015 was – for the second year running – B’Tselem, followed by ‘Youth Against Settlements’ and ‘Breaking the Silence’.

The most promoted foreign NGO in Israel-related coverage was Amnesty International, followed by Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and ‘Forensic Architecture’.

All of those NGOs come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and audiences hence remain unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

New report again highlights BBC’s Gaza conflict reporting failures

Six months ago we documented an instance in which BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Evan Davis misled audiences with regard to the meaning of the term proportionality in the framework of the Laws of Armed Conflict whilst interviewing Israeli politician Tsipi Livni.BBC brick wall

Davis: “The UN, others, plenty, think there is disproportionate force used by the Israeli army for the threat against Israeli civilians.” […]

Davis: “What is the ratio of the families losing children?”

Livni: “We are not targeting civilians.”

Davis: “I know you’re not targeting but what is the ratio of civilian to… untargeted killed by the Israelis relative to those killed in Israel by Hamas?”

As was noted at the time:

“What Davis is doing here is promoting the false notion that ‘proportionate’ means equality in death or suffering. That, of course is not the definition of the term in the context of war and the fact that he makes no effort to inform his audiences what the term really means is ample indication that the simplistic take-away message audiences are intended to receive is that Israel must be in the wrong because fewer Israelis die.”

A new report on the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas from the High Level Military Group clarifies that point further:

“Our concern about the discussions and narratives that emerged from the 2014 Gaza Conflict arises from incorrect interpretations and pronouncements, whether misguided or politically motivated, about the meaning of and legal requirements contained within several of these principles as applied to the 2014 Gaza Conflict.

In particular, it is vital to understand that LOAC does not prohibit all harm to civilians or civilian property. The protection of civilians inherent in the concept of distinction is not absolute – where civilians or civilian locations are directly involved in hostilities they lose their protected status, as per Article 51 of the 1st Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention. Further, though deliberately attacking civilians and their property is illegal, incidental or collateral damage when attacking a legitimate military target is accepted, as per Articles 51, 52 and 57 of the 1st Additional Protocol (subject to the anticipated collateral harm not being excessive in relation to an attack’s expected military advantage). This is the essence of the concept of proportionality, adherence to which cannot in any way be determined by considering the relative casualty figures between belligerents in a conflict, which is misleadingly and yet frequently asserted to be the case in this conflict.”

Among the many topics addressed in this detailed report is that of Hamas media manipulation and intimidation (see in particular pages 44 and 45).

“Hamas’s effective manipulation of the messages emanating from Gaza during the conflict is not just a matter of upholding the standards of accurate and balanced reporting, but rather, coupled to its strategic concept, forms a core part of a deliberate strategy to shape the narrative around the conflict in its favour. The impact of this strategy in the form of the resultant media imagery amplified by misinformed commentary about LOAC is a key reason why Hamas is able to act with the unlawful modus operandi of a terrorist organisation, but enjoy a strategic communications advantage over Israel, which seeks to act within LOAC.”

As readers will no doubt recall, within twenty-four hours of the commencement of the conflict in July 2014 the BBC began promoting to its audiences worldwide the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip. That accusation – along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’ and ‘collective punishment’ – continued to be a theme found in BBC coverage throughout the fifty-day conflict – despite the fact that its origins were to be found in statements from politically motivated NGOs concurrently engaged in ‘lawfare’ against Israel and in amateur speculations from BBC journalists.

Much of that material is still available to the general public as ‘permanent public record’ on the BBC News website and no attempt has been made by the corporation – either at the time or since – to provide audiences with impartial professional commentary on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict of the type seen in this report and others (see ‘related articles’ below) which would enable them to reach informed opinions on the topic and correct the inaccurate and misleading impressions propagated by BBC journalists.

Related Articles:

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

More on the Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

Lawfare agenda of BBC’s sources on Gaza casualty figures revealed once again

During and after the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, BBC reporting on the subject of casualty figures in general and the civilian/combatant ratio of those casualties was based on information from two main sources: the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and the UN.

As BBC Watch pointed out at the time, the UN figures were themselves based on information provided, amongst others, by Hamas and NGOs active in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselemthe PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

Readers will also no doubt recall that the BBC complaints department defended the corporation’s use of those sources and that complaints made by members of the public on that topic have been rejected – despite the fact that since the end of the conflict, there has been no evidence of any independent BBC verification of casualty figures and/or the civilian/combatant ratio.Knell filmed PCHR

A representative from the NGO Al Mezan was interviewed on a BBC Radio 4 programme on the subject of Gaza casualty figures which was broadcast in August 2014. Throughout the summer 2014 conflict, the PCHR was showcased on numerous occasions in BBC content and allowed to make evidence-free accusations of ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘deliberate’ targeting of civilians.

Via NGO Monitor we now learn that:

“On November 23, 2015 four European funded Palestinian NGOs, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) submitted a document to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) claiming evidence and testimonies of alleged Israeli “war crimes” perpetrated during the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge).

These four NGOs are all leaders in anti-Israel activities (including boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns), and this submission is part of the ongoing “lawfare” campaign exploiting international institutions in general and the ICC in particular for anti-Israel campaigns. This tactic was adopted at the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, and is an integral part of the Durban Strategy which seeks to demonize and delegitimize Israel.”

The BBC has yet to provide its funding public with a satisfactory explanation as to why its reporting on the topic of casualty figures was based on unverified information provided by organisations which make no secret of the fact that they are involved in a political campaign of lawfare against Israel or why it rejected complaints which challenged the BBC’s use of that obviously politically partisan information.

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

A photography exhibition currently on display in London was the subject of an article appearing in the BBC News website’s ‘culture’ section on October 7th. The same exhibition was also the topic of an item (available from 15:42 here) broadcast in the October 18th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

Here is how presenter James Coomarasamy framed the report’s subject matter in his introduction: [emphasis added]

“Now, getting to the truth of the ultimate crime of murder – whether that of an individual or genocide – is a painstaking job. Photographs are integral to the evidence gathering process. They’re used in courtrooms around the world as an essential tool for justice. Now, ‘Burden of Proof’ is the name of a new exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery here in London and it charts the changing history of the form, from photographs of a crime scene in the 19th century to the graphic reconstruction of a recent bomb attack on Gaza.”

And indeed, tucked in between depictions of Victorian-era murder scenes, victims of Stalinist purges and the Holocaust and Joseph Mengele’s skull, is the following exchange (from 19:08) between Coomarasamy and the venue’s Head of Exhibitions Clare Grafik.

Commentary: [sound of explosions] “This is the bombing of the Tannur neighbourhood: the deadliest attack of the first of August 2014. [sound of screaming]

Coomarasamy: “This is the ‘Gaza Book of Destruction’; we’ve got video and this is a graphic reconstruction of what would have been there.”

Grafik: “What it shows is how ‘Forensic Architecture’ use digital technology to reconstruct a bombing. What they’ve done is they’ve taken footage of the bombing and they’ve frozen literally a few seconds in time around that bombing and have picked it apart with satellite imagery, with architectural software, to try to reconstruct what happened.”

JC: “And this is being done, I see, in collaboration with Amnesty International. What’s the goal of this reconstruction?”

CG: “To try and prove that certain strengths of bomb were used in this attack that were originally denied.”

JC: “So we now have moving images trying to make sense of how people died?”

CG: “Yes – essentially – and also how those moving images become increasingly subservient to software and data.”

Coomarasamy did not tell listeners is that the incident portrayed in this exhibit took place during the 51-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 or that the Tannur neighbourhood is located in Rafah and that the August 1st 2014 counter-offensive there took place because Hamas had broken a ceasefire by kidnapping Lt Hadar Goldin. Neither did Coomarasamy clarify that of the 41 Gazans killed in that particular counter-offensive in Rafah, 12 have been identified as terrorists and 13 as civilians, with the rest categorized as undetermined, but “of fighting age”.

Coomarasamy also refrained from informing audiences that Amnesty International’s campaign of ‘lawfare’ against Israel includes the use of this incident and he likewise made no effort to explain what the organization called ‘Forensic Architecture’ is and who is behind it or that it also partnered Amnesty International in the production of an app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare partners – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

So, whilst failing to make any effort to provide BBC audiences worldwide with either the context or insight into the political motivations behind the exhibit to which he gave amplification, Coomarasamy did propagate the notion that Israeli actions during a military campaign brought about by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians should be lumped into the same “ultimate crime” category as criminal murders, political murders and genocide.

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BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality