BBC radio listeners get misinformation from Lyse Doucet

The day after the general election in Israel – April 10th – listeners to BBC radio stations heard commentary from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet who had been ‘parachuted’ in (along with Martha Kearney) to cover the event.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 1:33:13 here) during which listeners again heard Doucet claim that the election had been called by Netanyahu alone. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “But in Israel […] it’s not just about winning the election; it’s winning the battle to form a new coalition. And the numbers look like it is the Right-wing, that the prime minister’s been wooing ever since he announced this election campaign, that he looks set to be the man who can do the job. But the arithmetic is still complicated. There’s…Israel also gives a new name to horse trading and electoral promises and electoral…ah…pulling back promises. So we have to wait and see. It’s not going to be straightforward.”

Kearney: “And what are these smaller parties like – the kinds that Benjamin Netanyahu are talking to?”

Doucet: “Let me say another thing about this election. This has told us two things about Israel. One is that in a way Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu both won and lost. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu will get to stay in power, get to try to avoid those indictments on corruption and fraud, but he has been…trounced in a way by Benny Gantz. A total newcomer to politics has surged ahead to show Israelis that there is an alternative. So it is in a sense a victory for Benny Gantz but also for the electoral landscape. The far-Right parties who also were the newcomers – people had thought that they may be the kingmakers. As the votes show now they did not enter…they’re not going to enter the Knesset; the parties who were condemned here by many Israelis as being racist and homophobic.”

As we saw in a previous post, Doucet had likewise referred to unnamed “far Right-wing racist parties” – i.e. more than one – in a report the day before even though until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – ‘Otzma Yehudit’ (Jewish Power) as racist.

A report from Doucet was also aired in the April 10th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:44 here) and the same claim was repeated.

Doucet: “This is a man [Netanyahu] who managed to win again even though indictments are looming on three big charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust. But the attorney general is still expected to press charges and Israel now does not have any legislation which says you can’t indict a sitting prime minister so he’s going to want to have politicians who’ll say ‘well no, you can keep governing even though you’ll have to fight those indictments; it’ll go on in the background but please, Benjamin Netanyahu, keep ruling us’ and that seems to be the message from the political electorate which is moving to the Right – not the far Right. Some of the new far Right parties didn’t manage to make it into the Knesset and some Israelis here see that as a victory for democracy. These were parties described as racist and homophobic.” 

So which “new”, “far Right”, “racist and homophobic” parties (plural) was Doucet talking about? The answer to that question was revealed in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 34:12 here) presented by Tim Franks.

Doucet: “…it was said that he [Netanyahu] called this election nine months earlier [sic]. He was trying to preempt the attorney general who basically would not be preempted. He came out with his report on the three corruption cases where the prime minister is facing likely indictment before the elections. […] Israel currently doesn’t have any laws which say that you can [sic] indict a sitting prime minister. He was hoping for one of two things: either that there would be a…some kind of acceptance by the parties in his coalition that he can continue to govern even after he’s indicted – in other words while the political [sic – legal] processes take their course.” […]

Franks: “And Lyse, it was said of his last coalition that it was the most Right-wing in Israel’s history. What were…how’s the new one going to shape up?”

Doucet: “There were worries before the election that it would not just be a Right-wing but a far Right-wing government and that prime minister Netanyahu was reaching out to new parties just formed which were racist and homophobic – so much so that even members of the Democrats in the United States and AIPAC, the American Jewish organisation, said that they were not consistent with Jewish values. The way the votes have turned out they did not cross the threshold – at least two of the far-Right parties – to take seats in the senate [sic] so maybe more of the more familiar Right-wing and religious parties which will form part of his coalition.”

The one party which garnered criticism from AIPAC and others is ‘Otzma Yehudit’ which – contrary to Doucet’s claims – is not “new” or “just formed” but has been in existence since 2012. In this election that party ran together with two others on a list called the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP).

Where Doucet got the idea that the URWP “did not cross the threshold” is unclear. The exit polls conducted by the three Israeli TV channels predicted that the list would secure between four and five seats in the Knesset and the final count gave it five seats.

One new party which did not gain enough votes to secure any seats in the Knesset was ‘The New Right’ party headed Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Nobody has branded that party “racist and homophobic”.

Obviously the BBC’s chief international correspondent did not bother to familiarise herself with the differences between ‘Otzma Yehudit’ and ‘The New Right’ before giving BBC audiences her ‘expert analysis’. Clearly too she did not make any effort to check out the facts before repeatedly telling listeners around the world that there are “racist and homophobic” parties – plural – in Israel.

We have seen before – especially during conflicts – that journalists ‘parachuted’ in to Israel to cover a major event often produce low-quality and inaccurate reporting due to a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Nevertheless, this is not some junior reporter but the BBC’s chief international correspondent and one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of flying in extra journalists to report a specific story, it would at least ensure that they are familiar with the basic facts in order to ensure that the corporation’s funding public gets accurate reporting. 

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BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports election campaign speculation as fact

On December 26th 2018 an overwhelming majority of MKs voted to dissolve the 20th Knesset and go to elections just over three months later.

“The bill for the dissolution of the 20th Knesset was given final approval by the plenum Wednesday night. The government-sponsored dissolution bill was merged with private bills submitted by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Ayman Odeh (Joint List).

The bill, which passed by a vote of 102-2 in its third (final) reading, also sets early elections for April 9, 2019. The MKs who voted against the bill were Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Yaron Mazuz (Likud).”

Two days earlier the BBC had correctly told visitors to its website that:

“Israel is to hold a general election in April, the ruling coalition has said.

The political partners decided to call the poll after failing to resolve a dispute over a draft conscription bill for ultra-Orthodox Jews. […]

The ruling coalition was recently reduced to holding a one-seat majority in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) after the then-defence minister resigned in protest over what he said was a weak approach towards dealing with attacks from Gaza, the Palestinian enclave bordering Israel.

By Sunday night it was clear the government faced collapse after ultra-Orthodox parties threatened to withdraw over the draft conscription bill.”

Listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ on April 9th however heard a completely different account of those events from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

In the programme’s afternoon edition presenter James Coomarasamy introduced an item (from 18:37 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Now another election now and it was an early call but was it the right one for him? Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be finding out whether his decision to hold an early election today will secure him his record-breaking fifth term in office.”

In contrast to Coomarasamy’s claim that the decision to call an election was made by Mr Netanyahu alone, it was actually taken by the heads of all five coalition parties and – as seen above – endorsed by a majority of Knesset members from parties across the entire political spectrum.

After listeners had heard recordings of statements made by Netanyahu and the Blue and White list leader Benny Gantz at their polling stations, Coomarasamy brought in “Newshour’s very own Lyse Doucet who’s in Jerusalem for us”. Having mentioned the weather and voter turnout percentage, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “There’s a bit of apathy this time round because in effect this election campaign is about only one issue and that is Benjamin Netanyahu. Will he get that fifth term in office and put himself in the history books as Israel’s longest serving prime minister? So the question in this whole election is will Bibi, as he’s known, win and is Bibi good for Israel.”

Seeing as the BBC’s coverage of the run up to the election totally ignored the topic of what concerns the Israeli voter, it is of course hardly surprising that Doucet would come out with that inaccurate and superficial claim. Coomarasamy went on to suggest yet again that Netanyahu had called the election alone.

Coomarasamy: “And at the moment, I mean, he…he’s sounding confident. He sounds as though he made the right decision. I suppose, you know, this early election is…was a gamble. He’s made a gamble before and it didn’t pay off.”

Doucet: “He called early elections – eight months earlier – because he was trying to get in ahead of the attorney general but the attorney general got the best of him and has already indicated that charges are pending – corruption charge, fraud, breach of trust – and so there’s criminal investing…there’s criminal charges pending against Benjamin Netanyahu and he was hoping that he would call these elections and secure his fifth term before the attorney general filed. So this cloud is hanging over his head and what he would like to do is first of all get the high…get his Likud party to get the highest number of seats tonight – but remember: no party in Israel has ever ruled on its own – that he would then be chosen by the president to try to bring…to forge a governing coalition which will be comprised of not just Right-wing parties but far Right-wing racist parties – ah…and that’s causing some concern here – and then be able to pass a new law in the Israeli Knesset which says you can’t be charged when you’re a sitting prime minister. Israel doesn’t have that yet. So that’s the gamble really that he’s dealing with now.”

Until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) as racist but apparently the BBC’s chief international correspondent sees no problem in branding more than one Israeli political party in that way.

Coomarasamy: “That’s his personal gamble. What’s at stake for the country as a whole would you say, Lyse?”

Doucet: “Well that is the big issue. I mean one Israeli commentator was saying that it’s not just fateful issues on the agenda, it’s the fate of the country which is on the agenda. Israel has been moving steadily to the Right over the past decades, largely fuelled by the failure of peace making with the Palestinians. It’s noticeable that that simply wasn’t an issue at all in these elections. And look at what has happened in the past year thanks to Mr Netanyahu’s greatest champion in the White House, Donald Trump. The Americans have moved their embassy to Jerusalem, they’ve recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – effectively trying to take that issue off the table. They also have recognised the Golan as part of…under Israeli jurisdiction – not Syrian. So in some ways they’ve been trying to move toward resolving these issues and Mr Netanyahu even threatened or even indicated – again, in a bid to get those far Right-wing votes – that he would annex large parts of the West Bank, which takes another issue off the agenda.”

As we have regrettably had cause to note here before, despite the best efforts of BBC journalists to ignore it, the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties”.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – presented by Tim Franks – also included a contribution from “our very own Lyse Doucet” (from 45:05 here) in which she again paraphrased anonymous Israeli commentators.

Doucet: “…but I have to say, Tim, that the Israeli analysts are already saying this is a message to Benjamin Netanyahu that you may have snuck in again but your days are numbered.”

Franks: “Right and I suppose there would be a question also, were he to get in, just how long he might be in for because there are these corruption allegations hanging over him.”

Doucet again promoted the falsehood that Netanyahu had called an election all on his own.

Doucet: “He called this election eight months earlier than he had to. He was hoping to get a new mandate before the attorney general published or finished his investigation. The attorney general preempted him. The charges have been published – he’s facing possible indictment on three major corruption, bribery, breach of trust charges. What he wants from…if he does form a new government he will want that government to bring in new legislation which means a sitting prime minister cannot be indicted. He wants legal cover for those charges. It’s…this is quite clearly being discussed here. So it’s not just about winning these elections; it’s about winning his personal freedom as well.”

The as yet non-existent legislation touted by Doucet is known in Hebrew as ‘the French Law’ after similar legislation in France. Four days before Doucet laid out her theory according to which Netanyahu had dissolved the Knesset and called elections all on his own in order to get such a law passed, the Times of Israel reported that:

“Several political allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday they would not back an effort to pass a law giving the premier immunity from prosecution. […]

…several senior ministers said they would not back the law, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“He [Netanyahu] promised he wouldn’t try, and if a proposal like this comes up from others in the Knesset, I’ll oppose it,” Erdan told Army Radio.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who helped torpedo a bid in 2017 by a Netanyahu ally in the Likud to pass an immunity bill, said he would continue to oppose it. “Everyone is equal under the law,” he told Army Radio. […]

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is also seen as a likely coalition partner for Netanyahu should he be tasked with forming the next government, also said he was against a retroactive measure.

He blamed speculation about Netanyahu seeking a measure on “the media.””

Indeed speculation on that topic was rife during election campaigning but senior BBC journalist Lyse Doucet did not report it as speculation: she reported it as fact – even constructing a supporting story about a one-man deliberate dissolving of parliament and subsequent election – without providing any concrete evidence to support her claims.

So much for BBC accuracy and impartiality.

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More one-sided Gaza coverage on BBC World Service radio

As we saw in an earlier post, the March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary” and following reports from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, listeners heard five full minutes of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda from a professor at a university established by Hamas leaders.

Later on in the same programme (from 44:06 here) presenter Lyse Doucet recycled part of that interview. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “A reminder of our top story this hour: thousands of Palestinians have been demonstrating on the border of Gaza on the first anniversary of weekly protests against Israel. Dr Mosheer Amer is professor of the Islamic…at the Islamic University of Gaza. He told this programme why his students were so frustrated with life there.”

Amer: “…there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza.”

Given the BBC’s obligation to provide “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”, listeners may have expected that “top story” to go on to include the perspective of residents of the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year.

However, despite Yolande Knell’s rare visit to one of those communities, rather than balancing Mosheer Amer’s five-minute portrayal of life in Gaza with an equivalent item recorded in Israel, Doucet went on to introduce a commentator from a think-tank heavily funded (see also page 43 here) by the same Gulf state – Qatar – known for harbouring and funding Hamas.   

Doucet: “Back to our top story this hour: today’s one-year anniversary of the weekly Gaza protests along its border fence with Israel. It all comes at a time of mounting tension. This week a rocket attack from Gaza wounded 7 Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv. Israel launched a wave of airstrikes. There’ve already been three wars between Israel and Gaza in the past decade. Is there a risk of another? I’ve been speaking with Daniel Byman. He’s a foreign policy editor of Lawfare and he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. What are the prospects of another serious escalation between Hamas and Israel?”

Byman: “There is always a prospect of serious escalation. You have a situation in Gaza that is miserable for the Gazans. You have a Palestinian leadership that is divided and competitive and you have Israel that’s very willing to use force to protect what it sees as its security and that combination is very combustible. The good news is that despite having this potential we haven’t seen it spill over into a massive conflict – especially not in the last year or so. No side is particularly eager to begin the fighting but the potential is quite real.”

Apparently the BBC’s supposedly neutral expert does not consider an entire year of weekly violent rioting at the border or the launching of over a thousand rockets into Israeli territory in 2018 or the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Moshav Mishmeret within ten days as ‘eager to begin the fighting’.

Clearly from her subsequent remarks, Lyse Doucet too does not take over a thousand rocket attacks in twelve months too seriously, given that she went on to describe Israel as suffering from “tension” while Gaza suffers from “violence”.

Doucet: “Now we know there are back-channels to try to de-escalate the tension if not try to move towards some agreement. Egypt, for example, is trying to play this role. Do you see anything happening behind the scenes that Gaza can somehow get out of this endless cycle of violence and Israel can get out of this endless tension along that boundary?”

Erasing the Palestinian terror which has made counter-terrorism measures necessary, Byman replied with a curious claim of a current “state of peace”.

Byman: “In the near term there’s no hope for a deal that’s going to resolve this but there is hope for a deal that will at least ease the conditions in Gaza, that will open some [sic – there are two] of the crossings, that will expand the fishing zone, that will otherwise make life a little better for Gaza and as a result allow Hamas – which is ruling Gaza – to be able to say that they’ve achieved something; that they’ve made life better for Gazans and thus they have a reason to maintain the peace. And so that’s not a final status solution, that’s not something that’s going to resolve it forever but hopefully we could take the current uneasy state of peace and continue it.”

Doucet: “Now Israel of course accuses Hamas of using the people of Gaza as human shields to attack and terrorise Israeli civilians and as you know there were recent rare protests inside Gaza by citizens blaming Hamas in part for the dire state of affairs. Do you see any signs of any kind of shift in Hamas’ position?”

Byman then whitewashed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and its use of violence to maintain power while bizarrely framing the terror organisation in terms of Western politics.

Byman: “This is very hard to tell. So Hamas has a fairly tight grip on politics in Gaza and certainly dealt with the protesters. There is criticism but it’s hard to tell whether the movement itself is relatively popular as some polls indicate or if people are simply afraid. What makes things much better for Hamas is that it doesn’t have strong Palestinian rivals within Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, its main rival, is weak in Gaza; it’s not particularly popular and in general Hamas has been able to suppress most dissent. Hamas worries about criticism on both its right and its left but it’s been able to navigate that for over ten years now.”

Readers may recall that back in 2017, Lyse Doucet inaccurately claimed on the same BBC World Service programme that Hamas had ‘changed’ its charter. Apparently the BBC’s refusal to correct that inaccuracy at the time has led to Doucet holding on to that illusion.

Doucet: “But you see it as…its posture as being consistently just anti-Israel? There was a lot of attention a few years ago, as you know, that Hamas was changing its posture, looking for another way out in terms of its relationship with Israel. What…how do you see that now?”

Byman: “I would say Hamas is certainly anti-Israel but it’s also pragmatic. It recognises that Israel has military superiority. It recognises that it is diplomatically isolated. So Hamas is hoping that it now might be a time to strike at least a temporary deal. Now might be a time to try to achieve economic expansion in some way that will enable it to have accomplishments and they can claim that it’s doing something for the Palestinian people even if it isn’t achieving liberation through what it would call resistance.”

Doucet did not bother to clarify to listeners that as far as Hamas is concerned, “liberation” means the eradication of Israel and “resistance” means acts of violence.

Doucet: “And does Gaza, Hamas fit in in any way to this expected new American deal for the Middle East – it’s been called the deal of the century – which would focus on…largely on Israel, what’s happening in the West Bank – which of course is not run by Hamas – and the wider region?”

Doucet refrained from informing audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication.

Byman: “There are a dozen or so reasons to be sceptical of the so-called deal of the century and I think there’s a reason we haven’t seen any real details despite President Trump being in office for quite some time now. On Gaza I would stress that if the deal ignores Hamas, which I think is likely, Hamas can easily disrupt the deal. Hamas attacks in Israel will lead to a very ferocious Israeli response and that back and forth discredits any moderates who are negotiating. It’s very hard to negotiate when rockets are falling. It’s very hard to negotiate when Israel is bombing Gaza. And so Hamas effectively has a veto over a deal and ignoring it is going to be a mistake.”

Byman has been touting that idea of negotiating with Hamas for almost a decade regardless of the fact that the terror group has no interest in making peace with Israel.

Doucet: “So in a situation where you have the UN and many aid agencies and there are some people warning that Gaza’s a ticking time bomb, that its deepening humanitarian crisis and this tension of course, this continuing violence that shows no sign of ending, do you see any way out?”

Byman: “I think the best we can hope for in the near term is that there are fewer crises and the crises that happen involve fewer deaths. From Israel’s point of view it feels that it has achieved some degree of deterrence with Hamas and that even when larger scale conflicts have occurred, that Israel has been able to navigate these with relatively little loss of life on the Israeli side. And as a result Israel feels it can endure the current situation. So I don’t think there’s an answer short of much more comprehensive peace talks and those talks seem likely any time soon.”

Apparently the ‘expert’ brought in by the BBC is unaware of public conversations in Israel concerning ‘deterrence’ and the approach to Hamas. Apparently too he is disinterested in the Israeli citizens that bear the brunt of the terror organisation’s violence.

As we see, while around a quarter of this edition of ‘Newshour’ was devoted to this one story, most of its content focused on the promotion of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda concerning a non-existent “siege” on the Gaza Strip and analysis from a person who promotes the idea of negotiations with the same terror group, while not one Israeli voice was heard. So much for ‘balanced’ coverage.

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BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

BBC refuses to correct an error on a topic it previously reported accurately

 

 

 

Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary”. Illustrated with an image captioned “The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of return”, its synopsis read:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the start of protests along the boundary fence with Israel.”

Presenter Lyse Doucet began (from 00:25 here) by framing the story in the fashion seen throughout the past twelve months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “We start today’s programme in Gaza and the Great March of Return, as it’s called. Today marks one year of weekly protests at Gaza’s border fence with Israel. And Palestinian protesters are at the boundary again, some burning tyres, some using slingshots to hurl stones. And on the other side Israeli troops are massed again, bolstered by tanks and snipers. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past year as well as an Israeli soldier. The protests are meant to highlight the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. But Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields to terrorise Israeli civilians. The anniversary comes in the midst of growing tension between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling this sliver of land along the Mediterranean.”

As we see, the BBC’s chief international correspondent managed to tick nearly all the BBC’s framing boxes in her introduction. That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return’ and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Doucet then brought in Tom Bateman (on a bad line) in the Gaza Strip who, after he had described seeing around a thousand people “close to the fence” who were throwing rocks from slingshots and burning tyres, went on to note the use of tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces, claiming to have been “told” of the death of one person and 40 others injured. Doucet then reinforced the framing:

Doucet: “So it’s not just a protest but it’s a risky protest.”

Having wound up her conversation with Bateman, Doucet brought in Yolande Knell who was situated on the other side of the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Despite that rare visit by a BBC correspondent to one of the Israeli communities which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year (the last one was in July 2018), BBC World Service radio audiences once again did not hear a word from any of its residents.

Informed listeners – obviously not the majority – would have noticed Knell’s allusion to Hamas’ ability to control the level of violence according to its own interests and the fact that she is aware of what she termed “night time protests” – about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing at all.

Knell: “…Hamas officials in Gaza indicating…that they would put pressure on the protesters to turn up but then to stay calm and not to go so close to the fence as they have done previously.”

Knell: “…we know what its [Israel’s] demands would be – among them to stop the night-time protests that have taken place along the fence as well and also the incendiary balloons that have caused so much damage. Balloons and kites sent into Israel.”

Doucet then chose to uncritically amplify the recent UNHRC report while once again concealing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have been shown to have links to terror organisations – primarily Hamas.

Doucet: “And as you know, Yolande, the UN has said…has accused Israel of directly targeting civilians using excessive force. What kind of forces are lined along the border today?”

Following a rambling response from Knell, Doucet moved on.

07:17 Doucet: “So what’s it like to live in Gaza in the midst of this tension and deepening economic hardship for its 2 million residents? The UN often expresses alarm over a territory mired in grinding poverty and unemployment without access to even the basics of life: adequate health, education, water and electricity. Much of Gazan anger is directed at Israel but there were also protests against Hamas this month – rare protests – and they were forcibly suppressed. I’ve been speaking to one Gaza resident, Dr Mosheer Amer who is the professor of discourse analysis and linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.”

Presuming that before inviting him onto the show, the programme’s producers had checked out the record of the professor from a university co-founded by Hamas leaders whose political stance is plainly evident in articles and on social media, it is obvious that they had no problem with the fact that listeners were presented with a totally one-sided, context-free near monologue over the next five minutes.

07:53 Amer: “There is I think quite a strong resolve and determination to continue on the Great Return marches because I think that there is a large position among Palestinian civil society that this is effective in raising awareness internationally of the predicament that they’re facing over the past 12 years especially in Gaza. But there is also a feeling of, you know, sadness over the loss of civilian lives.”

Doucet: “What is life like? Are you – if I can ask – are you a father? You have children?”

Amer: “Yes I am a father of children, 2 kids, and it’s a difficult life. I’m a university professor so I think my condition is a little better than the other ones but I still get close to 30% of my salary. That is barely the minimum for, you know, having a good quality of life. But overall the situation is really difficult. We’re talking about restrictions on travel and movement in and out of Gaza. We have the electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day which is really appalling. I mean you cannot imagine that it is only on 4 to 6 hours electricity per day. And then you have to adjust all your life to this condition. And this is not just a month or two or three months: it’s been going on for quite some time. And then we have the overall economic conditions and the health conditions in Gaza hospitals. So in all aspects of life the situation is really dire and really unbearable and that’s why you see thousands – hundreds of thousands [sic] – of Palestinians flocking to the eastern side of Gaza to raise their voice, to say that enough is enough and we can no longer stay in, you know, this kind of a slow death rhythm of life.”

None of the ‘Great Return March’ events have seen more than 50,000 participants (and most have seen significantly fewer) but Doucet made no effort to correct Amer’s claim of “hundreds of thousands”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Gaza’s perennial electricity crisis and the standard of its healthcare have nothing to do with Israel.

Doucet: “What do your young students tell you? What sense do you get of them and how they think about their future?”

Amer: “Well there’s a sense, a large sense of desperation actually because I mean I’m teaching university students majoring in English and in media and journalism and there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find after I work. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza. And this is because of, again, the situation that the Gaza population have found themselves in because of this 12-year siege on Gaza and the repeated wars and this kind of abnormal state of life that we’re living here in Gaza.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2018 was 52% – not “over like 60%”. Doucet made no effort to challenge that inaccuracy or the false claim of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip.

Doucet: “And this…recently there were I think quite unprecedented protests against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Is this anger also rising?”

Amer: “I think this is anger rising at everybody, including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah and everyone. And there is quite a strong division amongst the Palestinians and there is sort of a trading of finger-pointing at Hamas and at PA’s President Abbas. But I think we have to put this in the context of the severe life conditions that the Gazans find themselves in because of the punitive measures that [are] imposed by the PA and also because of certain policies, economic policies, that the Hamas government here has imposed which aggravated in a sense the kind of suffering that people are facing. But the root cause actually behind all of this is the Israeli siege of Gaza. The policies and the measures adopted by the Israelis to keep life to a bare minimum. Gaza cannot live, it cannot die. And this is what we see that this kind of a slow death. Life is sucked out of Gaza and we have people really living a very difficult life.”

Again failing to challenge Amer’s promotion of the “siege” falsehood and plainly uninterested in hearing more about “economic policies that the Hamas government here has imposed”, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “You…do your own children or children of friends of yours – when I say children, even teenagers – do they go to the protests today?”

Amer: “My kids are like 5 year-olds, you know, and 4 year-old so they’re very…they’re very little. You know, and I wouldn’t take them to that protest at the moment. But I think that my friends’ families, their children have gone; they’re a little bit older. When we think about the Great Return March it’s sort of includes all peoples from all walks of life and also from all sort of socio-economic backgrounds and also from all ages, men, women and young children and adults and so on. So it’s not only restricted to what we see in the images; these sort of 18, 19 years old teenagers.”

Having failed to explain the context to Israel’s security measures that include a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip – and without even one mention of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians – Doucet closed that five minutes of unchallenged propaganda there, leaving BBC World Service audiences even worse informed than before.   

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

 

 

 

 

BBC News’ Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ myth on view again

In recent days the BBC News website had published two reports pertaining to the resignation (apparently no longer relevant) of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation” originally appeared on the evening of February 25th.

Iran president ‘has not accepted foreign minister’s resignation’” was published on February 26th and its headline has since been amended.

Both those reports include repeated framing of Zarif as someone who represents a “more moderate” Iran and is different from that country’s “hardliners”.

Article 1:

“He has served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and became foreign minister in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani was elected promising a more moderate, outward-looking Iran.”

“Mr Zarif has been under pressure at home from hardliners since the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact, which binds Iran to limit its nuclear activities.”

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

“But he’s under huge pressure from hardliners who never liked or trusted his negotiations with the West.”  

“…is this the exit of the US-educated diplomat who became the smiling face of Iran’s new engagement with the world?”

Article 2:

“His role negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers exposed him to sharp criticism from hardliners.”

The article includes analysis from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji:

“The fact is that Iranian hardliners resent him for agreeing to dismantle much of the country’s nuclear programme.”

“Mr Zarif, most observers agree, has put up a robust defence of Iran on the world stage in spite of the fact that many of Iran’s positions, actions and behaviours – with which he has had little to do – have been indefensible.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the fact that the JCPOA negotiations could not have been conducted or finalised without the agreement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, is the BBC’s framing of Javad Zarif as someone inherently different to Iran’s “hardliners” actually accurate?

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report by Kasra Aarabi based on analysis of speeches made by Iranian leaders perceived by some in the West as either ‘hardliners’ or ‘moderates’ – including Javad Zarif.

“The 2015 international nuclear deal did not alter Iran’s anti-US stance. The previous US administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was seen as a stepping stone to better relations between Iran and the world. Yet despite the deal, anti-US sentiment—and anti-Western sentiment in general—continues to abound in the rhetoric of Iran’s leaders. For both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom were involved in the negotiations, 60 per cent of their speeches featured explicit anti-US rhetoric.”

“…when the West speaks of moderates in the regime, it often overlooks the fact that all figures in the establishment are committed to Islamism and are vehemently opposed to liberal, secular values. This includes officials the West perceives as moderate, such as Zarif.”

“This research shows that although Rouhani and Zarif were willing to negotiate with the five permanent United Nations (UN) Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and the European Union (EU), at home their position towards the West did not shift—certainly not when it came to what they said in public. Antipathy towards the West might have been expected after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, but it was not a new feature of Rouhani’s discourse. Even while his government was negotiating the deal, he was repeating the same positions at home.”

“The anti-US rhetoric maintained by figures such as Rafsanjani, Rouhani and Zarif indicates that these individuals were never ideologically moderate, even though their actions—such as the negotiation of the nuclear deal—were perceived as moderate by Western counterparts. When it comes to policymaking, this is a vital lesson to learn. What sets these figures apart from the hard-line ideologues of the regime, such as Ahmadinejad, is that they understand that an unhealthy Iranian economy constrains the state’s ability to function. This, in turn, damages the implementation of Iran’s ideological objectives, both at home and overseas, as laid out in the constitution. […] These figures are more pragmatic ideologues than moderates or reformists.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has nevertheless been promoting the notion of Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ for many years.

While the BBC is not alone in having bought into the myth of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will enable audiences to “engage fully with issues across…the world” could and would do considerably better.

Related Articles:

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BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

 

No surprises in BBC Radio 4’s leading stories of 2019 forecast

On December 28th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme that was titled “Correspondents Look Ahead” and sub-headed “BBC correspondents forecast the leading news stories for the year ahead”.

“How do you look ahead in a world which constantly takes us by surprise, sometimes shocks us and often makes us ask ‘what happens next?’

Who would have predicted that President Trump would, to use his words, fall in love with the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, whose country he had threatened to totally destroy? Who could have imagined that a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, would be murdered and dismembered in a Saudi Consulate? And, on a happier note, we’re relieved that, as the year ends a climate change conference in Poland did manage to save the Paris pact, and maybe our world.

The BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet talks to correspondents from around the globe about what might happen in the world in 2019.

Guests:

Katya Adler, Europe editor
Yolande Knell, Middle East correspondent
James Robbins, Diplomatic correspondent
Steve Rosenberg, Moscow correspondent
Jon Sopel, North America editor”

The programme’s first thirteen minutes focused mostly on the United States and Russia. The guests were then asked to name a person who may be in the news in 2019 and Yolande Knell (from 14:24) chose Jared Kushner as someone who according to her will be “caught up still in several of the really big news stories that we’re going to carry on talking about”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Knell: “…and then most importantly, this historic task that was given to Mr Kushner – an Orthodox Jew, somebody who’s been a family friend of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – nothing less than crafting a peace plan to relaunch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

After a discussion about Saudi Arabia that included a description of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “Middle East peace”, presenter Lyse Doucet (from 20:53) returned to that topic.

Doucet: “This so-called deal of the century; President Trump’s lawyer Jason Greenblatt is in charge of this new Israeli-Palestinian deal. We expected it to be announced in 2018. Will they announce it in 2019?”

Sopel: “I think they’ve got to announce something otherwise it will look like this has been a lot of huffing and puffing with nothing to show for it. But I mean I think that the difficulties – and particularly the lack of trust that there is on the Palestinian side, that the US are not honest brokers following the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – is profound and therefore I think the scope…everybody knows what the issues are around a Middle East peace. Donald Trump has said vague things like, you know, I don’t care whether it’s a one-state or a two-state solution as long as all sides are happy with it I’ll go with anything. Then he’s kind of talked more about it; well let’s go for a two-state solution. I think the issues have been pretty well ventilated about the kind of sticking points there are. Does Donald Trump have the power to unpick this in a way previous people haven’t? I think it’s a huge question and I, you know, I don’t…nothing I’ve seen so far leads me to think oh yeah well they’ve got this in the bag. But there again Donald Trump is surprising. You know a year ago we didn’t imagine that there would be talks taking place in Singapore with Kim Jong-un.”

Doucet: “Yolande? Will it be announced in 2019?”

Knell: “I’m going to say so. I think there has to be some kind of peace plan after it’s been talked up so much. The latest we’re hearing is it will be in the coming months. It might not be quite on a scale that lines up to the idea of it being a deal of the century but already people here argue that the key steps have been taken by the US that makes some of its intentions clear. There was the US embassy move to Jerusalem, there was aid cut to Palestinian refugees – to UNRWA the agency that deals with them. There have been those warming ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf countries and there’s been lots and lots of diplomatic and financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.”

Interestingly, none of the BBC’s crystal ball gazing correspondents brought up the highly relevant topic of Hamas’ opposition to a negotiated peace deal with Israel or the question of whether or not the Palestinian Authority will survive the coming year in its present format.

While we have no indication as to when this programme was recorded, we can conclude that it was before December 24rd because Lyse Doucet’s next question was:

Doucet: “What if there’s Israeli elections? That will be the priority.”

Of course elections had been announced four days before this broadcast went on air but apparently nobody thought it necessary to edit the programme accordingly.

Knell: “Indeed I mean that is the big complicating factor I think when it comes to the timings because certainly I think Mr Netanyahu is seen as the partner – the Israeli partner – for any kind of a peace deal and he has to have Israeli elections this year. There’s another complicating factor as well where he is facing the possibility of charges in three public corruption cases so something else to look out for in the months to come is a decision by the Attorney General whether he should take the police recommendations to charge Mr Netanyahu and yes, I think this is something that’s all being carefully calibrated behind the scenes in terms of the timing of any announcement.”

With elections set for April 9th it is of course very unlikely that anything will happen on the diplomatic front until at least May, making Knell’s prediction that details of a peace plan will be announced “in the coming months” highly questionable.

Listeners then heard brief references to Yemen and Iran – though solely in relation to what Doucet termed the “landmark nuclear deal” as well as a one-word mention of Syria before attentions turned to Brexit.

Later on in the programme (from 28:09) Doucet asked her guests to name “unsung heroes” – people “who are having an impact in whatever world they inhabit” and Yolande Knell again brought the topic of conversation back to Israel.

Knell: “In terms of new names I mean I’m going to say the Attorney General here in Israel. Avichai Mandelblit. I mean he’s very well-known here but I really think he’s going to be internationally sort of known in the months ahead because he has to make this big decision about whether to charge the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in these public corruption cases. And there’s real drama here because Mr Mandelblit was Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. When he was appointed originally he was accused of being too close to the prime minister and now he could become the man who takes down the prime minister after a decade in power. And if Mr Netanyahu can stay in office until the middle of next year he would actually be the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, taking over from the founding father David Ben Gurion so there’s a real legacy issue here. Ahm…the BBC did get to ask Mr Netanyahu about all of this at an end of year journalists’ event and we just got his usual mantra which is nothing will come out of this because there’s nothing in it and I think this is going to be a fascinating year for Israeli politics. I mean certainly that is something that his party supporters believe that this has been some kind of witch hunt and just to go back to Mr Mandelblit, I mean this man many journalists remarked how he’s gone from having red hair to turning grey in the few years he’s been in his job, having to make lots of tough decisions. He already, I think, lost his invitations to go to the prime minister’s luxury private residence in the north of Israel because he charged his wife Sarah in a case about misusing state funds for catering when she has a cook paid for by the state. So I’m foreseeing lots more political drama here in the months ahead.”

Notably the BBC’s Middle East correspondent had no predictions to make concerning the complex situation in Syria, the demonstrations in Iran, the embattled Kurds or Lebanon – which has not had a functioning government for over six months.

All those stories and more lost out to the colour of the Israeli Attorney General’s hair and Mrs Netanyahu’s take-aways.

Our prediction is that the BBC’s disproportionate focus on Israel – often at the expense of audience understanding of the wider Middle East – will continue in 2019.   

Related Articles:

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Mystic Atwan’s crystal ball at the service of the BBC

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

The September 1st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item nearly thirteen minutes long on the topic of the previous day’s US State Department announcement concerning its intention to cease contributions to UNRWA.

Presenter Lyse Doucet introduced the item (from 30:06 here): [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees – known by its acronym UNRWA – has lurched for many years from one financial crisis to the next. But now the agency supporting some 5 million Palestinians faces its greatest test. Palestinian officials as well as the UN are criticising a decision by its biggest donor the US to withdraw all funding. Israel welcomes the move saying UNRWA keeps Palestinian hopes alive of returning to their homes which now lie in Israel proper.”

Obviously uninformed listeners would not understand from that portrayal by Doucet that at most only a tiny proportion of those 5 million people could actually claim to have had “homes” over seventy years ago in what is now Israel.

Doucet first brought in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell who noted that pupils in UNRWA schools had begun the school year, citing “526,000 pupils across the Middle East”, “711 schools” and “270,000 students” in the Gaza Strip.

Listeners then heard a reference to an aspect of the story rarely discussed by the BBC: that of UNRWA as an employer of Palestinians.

Doucet: “So and it’s not just schools; it’s also health facilities. I mean in effect entire families they depend on this for their sole source of income?”

Knell: “That’s right; of course UNRWA is also a major employer. 22,000 teachers in those schools that I’ve just mentioned. If you go to Palestinian refugee camps you will find that there are also clinics run by UNRWA that is providing many of the services such as rubbish collection.”

Knell went on to mention a story from July not previously covered by the BBC.

Knell: “…already we’ve seen protests, particularly in Gaza in recent weeks – a sit-in at the UNRWA headquarters there – as the first rafts of cuts have hit and about a thousand people were told that they were going to have their contracts ended.”

Doucet then introduced her second contributor.

Doucet: “But we do know that there are urgent meetings going on in the region including the Arab capitals…where millions of Palestinian refugees rely on UN support. And we reached UNRWA’s spokesperson Chris Gunness just as he was boarding a plane in the Jordanian capital Amman.”

BBC World Service audiences then heard Chris Gunness repeat talking points he used back in January when the US administration announced a cut to its UNRWA contribution. They also heard Gunness claim that his clients – rather than Yazidi, Syrian or Yemeni refugees living in temporary shelters – are “some of the most marginalized and fragile and vulnerable communities in the Middle East” with no challenge from Lyse Doucet.

[33:25] Gunness: “The impact will be absolutely devastating. It’s likely to be widespread, profound, dramatic and unpredictable because – let’s make no mistake – some of the most marginalized and fragile and vulnerable communities in the Middle East are going to likely suffer because of this. 562,000 schoolchildren receiving an UNRWA education every day. 1.7 million food insecure people. 3.5 [sic] patients coming to our clinics every day. We do assistance to disabled refugees, to women, to vulnerable children. The list goes on and as I say, the impact on them is likely to be utterly devastating.”

Doucet then asked Gunness “but what is your reply to the critics?” before playing part of an interview with Dr Jonathan Schanzer of the FDD heard in another BBC radio programme.

Schanzer: “This was a decision that was long time coming. For several years now we’ve been hearing about calls for reform within UNRWA. UNRWA has been slow to respond to the allegations that, for example, it has allowed Hamas to exploit some of its operations, that it has inflated the number of refugees making it virtually impossible for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace and that their budget has been over-inflated. Amidst these calls, UNRWA has dragged its feet and now the Trump administration, which is looking for really any excuse to cut budget, has found a new target.”

[34:52] Gunness: “Well it’s very interesting that just a few months ago the US administration was praising the high performance of UNRWA. They expressed praise for our reforms; we’ve been doing root and branch efficiency reforms – that was just a few months ago.”

If that sounds familiar it is because BBC audiences heard Gunness say the exact same thing in January:

“As far as reform is concerned, UNRWA has always been open to reform and the United States, most recently to our commissioner-general on a visit to Washington in November, was fulsome in its praise of UNRWA and its reforms.”

As noted here at the time:

“Despite the rosy picture painted by Gunness, past US donations to UNRWA have not come without conditions and criticism.”

Gunness went on:

Gunness: “On the specific allegations, whenever there’ve been accusations for example about militants leaving weapons in our schools or weapons components in our schools in Gaza, we were the first to come out and condemn and call for an investigation, which we did. When Hamas built tunnels under our schools we discovered them. We condemned it. So that allegation I reject absolutely.”

Having seen no BBC coverage of that latter story and others, listeners would of course be unaware of additional UNRWA related issues.

Gunness then repeated another previously made claim:

Gunness: “On the question of refugee numbers, the General Assembly have endorsed our methodology that we…err…confer refugee status through the generations exactly as the UN’s other refugee agency UNHCR does and the General Assembly has, as I say, approved this. If any single member state wants to try and bring that case, that accusation, to the General Assembly they’re very welcome to do that but our mandate remains. It cannot be changed unilaterally by a member state and, you know, as I say we’ve got the mandate. What happens now is we have less money to implement it but the mandate remains the same despite this decision by the Trump administration and we will do everything we can to implement it.”

Speaking to the BBC World Service in January, Gunness claimed that:

Gunness: “The reason why UNRWA’s budget runs out when it does is because the number of refugees we serve goes up and up and up because without a political resolution of their plight, their children remain refugees and that is the case with UNHCR refugees and other refugee populations around the world.”

As was pointed out here at the time:

“Unlike its sister agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for millions of non-Palestinian refugees worldwide, it [UNRWA] does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside nor “resettlement” in third countries.”

And:

“UNHCR confers derivative refugee status on the basis of family unity where there is a relationship of dependency. “As a matter of general practice, UNHCR does not promote the reunification of … grandchildren… unless they can be determined to be eligible under the principle of dependency.” This can mean financial dependency, “but also taking emotional dependency into consideration.” […]

It is true that, UNHCR’s basic standard is the nuclear family and that subsequent generations are given derivative refugee status only on an exceptional basis while UNRWA automatically grants grandchildren and great-grandchildren refugee status. But UNRWA defenders such as Gunness can argue that the two agencies are guided by the same basic principles.”

Once again a BBC WS presenter failed to challenge Gunness’ intentionally misleading presentation of that issue or to raise the relevant issue of ‘refugees’ that hold Jordanian or Palestinian citizenship. Doucet also refrained from questioning Gunness about the discrepancy between the number of registered refugees and actual refugees in Lebanon which came to light last year and an UNRWA official’s related claim that UNRWA’s figures do not necessarily reflect “deaths or relocation”.

Doucet next asked Gunness about alternative sources of funding and then went on to put a political slant on the story while ignoring the fact that when the US made its previous announcement concerning UNRWA donations in January, it specifically urged other nations to “step in and do their part“. 

[36:58] Doucet: “It’s clear that Israel and also the new US administration wants to take the issue of refugees off the negotiating table. They want to look at the so-called peace process in a different way. Do you believe that you’re a victim of that?”

Gunness took that cue to deflect criticism of UNRWA and proceeded to provide an example of why many consider UNRWA to be a political lobbying body.

Gunness: “Certainly it feels as if, given the praise for our reforms, that there are other forces at work. But let’s be very clear: you cannot airbrush out of the equation 5.4 million people. These are individuals with rights, including the right to self-determination, to a just and durable solution and whatever else must happen, if there is to be a peace dispensation it must be based on international law, it must be based on UN resolutions and of course the refugees themselves must be consulted. As I say, they cannot simply be airbrushed out of history. These are people who’ve been a UN protected population for 70 years and we have a continuing obligation towards them.”

Doucet went on to ask Gunness about “the mood” in Amman where, she pointed out, there are “so many refugees…dependent on UNRWA funding” but without clarifying that the vast majority of them are Jordanian citizens. After Gunness had spoken of “real alarm”, “panic and alarm” and “dramatic and unpredictable consequences”, Doucet further pursued her point.

Doucet: “Jordanian officials are even warning that this could be explosive. There could be security consequences.”

After Gunness had spoken of “the consequences of having 2 million angry, ill-educated, hungry people in Gaza on the doorstep of Israel”, Doucet closed that conversation and re-introduced Yolande Knell and the theme of a link between the US decision to stop contributions to UNRWA and “what’s happening in the peace process”. Knell took up the baton, promoting Palestinian messaging on that topic.

At 41:36 Doucet brought up a topic rarely discussed in BBC content.

Doucet: “What about the criticism that neighbouring Arab states, you know, keep the Palestinians generation after generation as refugees, denying them rights, as a political bargaining chip with Israel?”

Failing to mention the Arab League decision of 1959 designed to do exactly that, Knell responded:

Knell: “Well it depends on the different countries. There has been the different response to the Palestinian refugee issue. Certainly Jordan would point out that it has given citizenship to many of those Palestinian refugees but those in Syria and in Lebanon, it’s important to remember, they are still considered to be stateless. They are kept as refugees and the governments of those countries have said that it would be against the Palestinian interests, against the interests of their nationalist struggle if they were to be absorbed as citizens in those countries. This is an extremely sensitive issue for Palestinians and there are lots of Palestinian people that have lived their life in limbo from one generation to the next. They have very much kept alive this hope of returning back to land which now is inside Israel – something which both Israel and the United States say is unrealistic but which the different parties including the Palestinians say can only be solved through negotiations; not by just taking an issue off the table.”

With no mention made of the real motivation behind promotion of the ‘right of return’ issue, Doucet brought what she described as “a very sensitive, a very crucial story” to a close.

As we see BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged UNRWA messaging together with promotion of Palestinian talking points in a long item which once again did little to contribute to their understanding of the background to this story.

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Inaccuracy, partial language and speculation on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

As we saw in an earlier post, viewers of ‘Newsnight’ saw the Israeli prime minister being interviewed by Evan Davis on June 7th. However, BBC World Service radio listeners heard extracts from that interview several hours before it was broadcast on BBC Two in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘.

“During his trip to the UK the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tells the BBC recent protests in the Gaza Strip were violent riots aimed at killing at Israelis.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 01:08 here) by giving an account of the purpose of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Europe which was soon shown to be inaccurate by Netanyahu himself.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “We begin though with a visit by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK. London is the last stop in a series of meetings he’s had with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal. Mr Netanyahu has always opposed the deal and was delighted when President Trump decided to pull out of it. The Israeli prime minister has made it his business to persuade the other signatories to follow suit – especially since they have all said they will continue to see if it’s possible to keep the framework of the deal intact despite Washington’s departure. Today in an interview with my colleague Evan Davis of the BBC TV programme ‘Newsnight’, Mr Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal is dead. He said he would do everything in his power to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu: “…pressure can be of various kinds and I’ve seen in the past that when Iran faced very strong pressure – yes, a credible military response too but also by primarily paralysing sanctions – they came to the…”

Davis [interrupts]: “You’re not going to get the world behind sanctions.”

Netanyahu: “It’s already happened, Evan. I didn’t come here – contrary to news reports on another network that I’m going to try to persuade the E3, the Europeans, to leave the deal. That wasn’t my discussion. I said the deal is dead. It’s done; because of the force of the economic sanctions…”

Unsurprisingly (particularly given the fact that Iqbal allowed herself to shout inaccurate claims at an Israeli MK during live coverage of the rioting on the Gaza Strip-Israel border) listeners were not told that 53 of the people killed on May 14th were claimed by terror groups. Audiences did however hear Evan Davis’ editorialising.

Iqbal: “Well Israel has of course also been recently criticised internationally after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers on one day on the border between Israel and Gaza. The shooting happened on the day the US opened its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu described that moment as a glorious day. Evan Davis asked him, given the deaths of so many Palestinians, would he still use the words it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Netanyahu: “Tragic sounds like almost some force of nature. It wasn’t a force of nature. It was a deliberate policy of Hamas to push people into the line of fire, to try to kill Israelis and to present it as though this is Martin Luther King Day. It wasn’t Martin Luther King. It wasn’t Mother Theresa. These were not peaceful protests. This was violent riots directed at killing Israelis.”

Using an obviously partial term to portray the Israeli prime minister’s description of the events of May 14th, Iqbal then brought Lyse Doucet into the discussion.

Iqbal: “Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, speaking to Evan Davis. Let’s talk now to our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. Lyse – not in the least bit surprising that Benjamin Netanyahu should be defiant about what happened on that day on the border between Gaza and Israel.”

Doucet: “No; he has said it time and again. For him, of course, and for many who watch these events unfold, who watch the years of tensions between the two sides, that Israel has a right to protect its own security. It has a right to stop people from penetrating the security fence.”

Doucet then backed up her messaging using a quote from a German media interview with a disgraced former Israeli PM trying to make a political come-back and promoted some old BBC favourites: ‘disproportionate’ and the ‘Gaza prison’ theme.  

Doucet: “But what people are questioning – and even today the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert – and I’ll tell you what he said when he was interviewed about it. He says ‘I have doubts and questions over the use of lethal weapons against protesters near the Gaza border fence’. When you have that many people including children approaching the fence, what kind of force you use and it’s the question of disproportionate force and the fact that yes, of course Hamas was part of it and yes, Hamas militants did get killed but there are also peaceful activists including so many people, so many young people who are basically imprisoned in the Gaza Strip and see no hope.”

Apparently it has not occurred to Lyse Doucet that genuinely “peaceful activists” would most likely avoid mixing with terrorists committing attacks and infiltrations at a border fence, especially in light of seven weeks of prior experience. Doucet next promoted an anecdote from an anonymous source.

Doucet: “I was recently speaking to someone who has been working for years in the Gaza Strip trying to bring about a peaceful negotiation between Israel and Hamas and he said decades ago when he would speak to the young Gazans they would all say when we grow up we want to be teachers and doctors and lawyers. Now he said they all say we want to be martyrs; suicide martyrs.”

Perhaps if Lyse Doucet had carried out a more in-depth investigation into Gaza terror groups’ indoctrination of children when she had the chance, she would be able to report to BBC audiences on how the anecdote she chose to recount is connected to over a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza.

Razia Iqbal then made the following claim:

Iqbal: “Lyse, the United Kingdom has asked Mr Netanyahu to open an independent inquiry into those deaths in Gaza. Earlier this month the British government abstained from a UN Security Council resolution which called for an inquiry into the deaths. I mean, one wonders if Mr Netanyahu would have responded in the affirmative to the prime minister Theresa May.”

According to both the UK government announcement and media reports, Theresa May did not repeat the call she made on May 15th  for an ‘ independent inquiry’ (ironically while standing next to the Turkish president) during Netanyahu’s visit.

Doucet: “I think historically Israel has investigated its own incidents. It has not wanted international involvement. It believes that…you know Israel has always been regarded as having very strong judicial institutions. Of late questions have been raised about that but it has investigated and at times has been found to be wanting and fault has been found with the way Israel has responded to incidents like this. So I think it’s very much in keeping with how Israel responds to it. It is interesting the United Nations tried to introduce a new resolution at the UN Security Council last week and the only one who voted for it was the United States.”

Iqbal then gave Doucet the obviously pre-arranged cue for promotion of some remarkable speculation:

Iqbal: “Let’s talk in the brief time that we have left about the Iran nuclear deal which the BBC also asked Benjamin Netanyahu about. When Netanyahu says that the sanctions are already going to be put in place, that the deal is dead and that that isn’t going to change, do you think that the ultimate goal here of the United States and Mr Netanyahu is regime change in Iran? To put so much pressure on the country…because there have been appeals to the Iranian people by…specifically by the Secretary of State Pompeo and Mr Trump.”

Doucet: “Israel has never hid its desire to see regime change in Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always seen Iran as an existential threat to Israel. That hasn’t been helped by some of the comments that come out of some of the more radical politicians and clerics in Iran. And what you have now in power is you have Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, you have Donald Trump in the White House, you have Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. They want to see an end to the theocracy in Iran. President Trump’s…his national security advisor now, John Bolton, has for the years he was out of power been associating with groups which are bent on regime change in Iran. There were speeches about how he wants to see regime change in Iran. That is widely seen to be the real agenda behind trying…proclaiming the nuclear deal is dead. The nuclear deal is all but dead but the European…European powers who also signed the deal – Russia, China – they are trying to save the deal but there is a real worry that without the United States and with not just US sanctions but the secondary sanctions against any other companies who do business in Iran, it will be all but impossible to save the deal.”

John Bolton does indeed have past associations with anti-regime groups but he also stated last month that regime change in Iran “is not the Trump administration’s current policy”. As for Doucet’s claim that “that is widely seen to be the real agenda”, she does not inform listeners that “widely seen” in fact means a theory bandied about by some journalists, pro-regime lobbyists and commentators including Stephen Walt of ‘Israel lobby’ infamy.

The use of partial language and editorialising together with the promotion of inaccurate claims, one-sided quotes, anonymous anecdotes and unsupported speculation clearly signpost the overt bias in this relatively long item.   

Related Articles:

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BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

BBC flouts its own editorial guidelines with Iran talks interviewees

Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis

 

 

 

BBC’s Doucet presents speculation as fact

Last week a UK online newspaper called ‘i News’ published an interview with the BBC’s Lyse Doucet on the subject of the war in Syria.

“Lyse Doucet, award-winning journalist and Chief International Correspondent for the BBC, has been on the ground watching the Syrian conflict evolve with increasing alarm over the past seven years. […]

Never has journalism played such a vital role in establishing the truth, yet never has reporting from the front lines carried a greater risk. Here, she tells i the key things she has learned out in the field – and why some stories are worth risking your life for.”

Under the sub-heading “The most dangerous part of the Syrian war is yet to come”, readers were told in no uncertain terms that an attack on a military base in Syria on April 30th was carried out by Israel – even though neither Doucet nor anyone else has yet produced concrete evidence to support that claim.

Doucet – who is apparently unfamiliar with the name of the scale used to measure the magnitude of earthquakes – also attributed activity recorded at the time to ‘Israeli bombs’:

Doucet’s version of events completely ignores the relevant factor of the attack’s target.

“The explosion in Syria’s Hama province late Sunday night, which has been attributed to an Israeli airstrike, registered 2.6 on the Richter scale — a small earthquake, the kind that won’t knock down a building, but might knock a picture off your shelf.

The epicenter of this tremor was a military base south of the city of Hama, which is connected to the Syrian military’s 47th Brigade and has been identified by Syrian opposition sources as being under Iranian control and housing a weapons depot. […]

The massive explosion near Hama, which could be felt and seen throughout the area, was not likely caused by the missile or rocket used, but by the target that was hit.

“It may be ballistic missiles with heavy warheads. The level of explosion that even moved the needle of an earthquake detector is not from the munition that attacked these places, but from the target,” said Amos Yadlin, a former head of Military Intelligence and the current director of the influential Institute for National Security Studies think tank.”

Whether or not that strike – in which some 200 surface-to-surface missiles were reportedly destroyed – was carried out by Israel remains unclear. Nevertheless, the BBC’s chief international correspondent – who is supposedly committed to accurate and impartial journalism – obviously has no qualms about presenting her personal speculations as fact.

 

 

 

 

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

As readers may recall, one notable feature of the BBC’s coverage of the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on February 10th 2018 was the corporation’s unnecessary qualification of the event. [emphasis added]

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“Israel’s military, the IDF, released this footage from one of their helicopters. They say it shows an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“…the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.” [emphasis added] BBC World Service radio

At the same time, BBC reports also amplified Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.” BBC News website

“Iran denied it had sent a drone into Israel and defended the Syrians’ right to self-defence.” BBC News website

Later on in February BBC audiences got another heavy dose of Iranian disinformation when the corporation promoted written and filmed versions of an interview by the its chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi.

Among the BBC’s coverage of a strike in the early morning hours of April 9th on a military airbase in Syria used by Iranian forces was an extensive report on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 00:53 here) in which audiences around the world heard presenter Julian Marshall echo the unnecessary qualification previously seen in BBC reporting on the February Iranian drone infiltration. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin in Syria where in the early hours of this morning Tiyas military airbase – also known as the T4 airbase – came under attack from missiles. [music] Syrian TV playing stirring music over images that it said show the missiles flying over Lebanese airspace on their way to hit the airbase. Syria and its main backer Russia have accused Israel. The Russian defence ministry said two Israeli F15 warplanes carried out the strikes and Syrian air defence systems shot down five out of eight missiles. Syrian and Iranian forces are reported to have been killed. The Israeli Defence Forces told us they have no comment but Israel targeted the same airbase in February after what it said was an Iranian drone had entered its airspace. There had earlier been speculation that it might have been the work of either the United States or France, both of which had threatened possible retaliation after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma which left dozens dead. But both the United States and France have denied involvement.”

Later on in the same programme (from 14:05 here) Marshall spoke to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet who used the same unnecessary qualification.

Marshall: “…what do you make of Israel’s policy of no comment?”

Doucet: “Well that is Israel’s policy. It does not comment on strikes. In fact only once do I know in the Syrian context did they break that policy and that was in February when an Iranian drone is said to have entered Israeli airspace.”

In other words, two months after the incident in which Iranian forces launched a UAV from the T4 airbase in Syria and it was shot down over Israeli territory, the BBC is still failing to present that story clearly and accurately to its audiences.

One of the additional related interviews conducted by Julian Marshall in that programme (from 02:04 here) was with a Syrian journalist called Thabet Salem – who Marshall appeared to believe was qualified to answer the following question:

Marshall: “What would have been Israel’s strategic objective in attacking this airbase?”

Salem: “Well to the Syrians, frankly speaking, destroying Syria is the objective of Israel.”

Listeners around the world heard no challenge to that egregious claim from the BBC’s presenter.

Related Articles:

BBC News gives a stage to Iranian disinformation

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two