BBC News ignores PA government resignation

One might have thought that the resignation of a prime minister and his entire government would have merited at least a few words on the BBC News website, regardless of the location.

However, when the Palestinian Authority prime minister handed in his resignation on January 29th, BBC audiences saw no coverage whatsoever of that story.

“PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government tendered their resignations earlier Tuesday, marking the end of a failed unity bid with rival Hamas.

[PA president] Abbas accepted the resignations but assigned Hamdallah and his fellow ministers the task of maintaining the PA government’s operations until the formation of a new one, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

The government’s decision to resign came two days after the Fatah Central Committee recommended the formation of a government made up of representatives of factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization and independent personalities, leaving out Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip. […]

Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Sunday that the Palestinians planned to form a new government in response to Hamas not handing over the Gaza Strip to the PA.”

However, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Fatah’s plans for a PLO government have already run into choppy waters.

“Two PLO groups announced that they will not participate in a new Palestinian Authority government because it will deepen divisions among Palestinians, consolidating the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. […]

…the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said that they will not be part of a government that “solidifies divisions among” the Palestinians.
Miriam Abu Dakka, a senior PFLP official, said that the PLO, and not Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, was the only party authorized to make a decision on the formation of a new Palestinian government. […]

Another PFLP official, Kayed al-Ghul, pointed out that his group has refused to participate in all Palestinian governments that were established after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. The PFLP is opposed to the Oslo Accords. […]

Earlier, the DFLP, which is also opposed to the Oslo Accords, said it too would not participate in a new government and called for launching dialogue among Palestinian factions to achieve “national unity.””

Meanwhile, The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) and timeline still tell audiences that in October 2017 “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions” and “Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations”, despite the fact that those statements are patently inaccurate.

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Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi provides an interim assessment of Operation Northern Shield.

“This display of IDF intelligence and operational capabilities strengthens Israeli deterrence somewhat, evident in Hezbollah’s “thunderous silence” over the past month and the lack of any significant response by its fighters or leadership, be it a public announcement or activity on the ground, except for the limited effort to show its presence along the border. Moreover, it made no attempt to disrupt the IDF activity, despite the impact of this activity on the Lebanese side (the sound of explosions and flow of liquid concrete poured into the tunnels). One way to explain Hezbollah’s restraint is the caution taken by the IDF to operate solely on the Israeli side. However, the restraint also strengthens the assumption that Hezbollah, like Israel, is not interested in an all-out conflict at this time. It appears that Israel’s cognitive and public diplomacy campaign surrounding the operation also had an impact, as it presented a clear picture regarding the IDF’s goals and activity, including updates given to UNIFIL and through it to the Lebanese army. This in turn reduced the possibility of military conflict, miscalculations, and escalation.”

2) At the CFR Elliot Abrahams takes the pulse of Palestinian democracy.

“On January 9, 2005—exactly 14 years ago today—Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. For a four-year term.

Today Abbas begins serving the fifteenth year of his four-year term.

That 2005 election was actually a milestone for Palestinians. Yasser Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas. […]

As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has outlawed any criticism of the corrupt Fatah rule and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future.”

3) At the FDD Saeed Ghasseminejad and Tzvi Kahn take a look at Iran’s new budget. 

“Iran’s military spending will significantly decrease while its domestic security expenditures will modestly increase, according to a draft of the 2019-2020 budget that President Hassan Rouhani submitted to parliament in late December. The new figures suggest that reimposed U.S. sanctions, which intensify the pressure on a regime already rocked by ongoing nationwide protests, have forced Tehran to prioritize its stability over its expansionary ambitions. […]

To be sure, Iran’s military establishment, especially the IRGC, does not depend solely on the state budget for its funding. The military establishment controls a fifth of the market value of companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and owns thousands of other companies, all of which generate revenue for the armed forces. Additionally, the IRGC controls a significant portion of Iran’s underground economy.”

4) The Times of Israel carries a story about a new shopping mall that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear.

“The parking lot is open, but the escalators aren’t working yet at Atarot Mall, a new, two-floor, NIS 200 million ($54 million) mall built by supermarket king Rami Levy on the seam between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem. […]

Officially, the mall will open for business on January 29, Levy said. For now, about one-third of the stores were open, while others were still stocking inventory. Some 35 percent of the store owners in the mall are Palestinian and some of the branches of chain stores are owned by Palestinian franchisees.

Customers, a mix of Palestinians and Israelis, were drinking coffee and eating pastries at Cafe Neeman, and wandering in and out of the stores that were open. […]

The Cafe Neeman chain opened its 56th outlet in the mall, said Yaniv Neeman, scion of the family, who was working the sandwich counter on Tuesday morning. The manager is Amjad Awadalla, who franchised this branch.

“That’s how we always do things,” said Neeman. “Jews and Arabs always work together at every Cafe Neeman.””

BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

A report titled “Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided” appeared briefly on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the evening of January 5th.

Relating to an incident which had taken place in the Gaza Strip the previous day, the article informed readers that:

“Five men have been arrested after the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Gaza were ransacked.

Thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment was destroyed when the armed men attacked the building on Friday.

The broadcaster is funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is dominated by the Fatah faction.

Staff initially blamed the raid on the faction’s rivals Hamas, which controls Gaza, but the Islamist group said unhappy PA employees carried it out.”

The report went on:

“The five men who have been arrested are “employees of the Palestinian Authority whose salaries have been cut recently,” the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said in a statement.

“It turned out that one of them was a Palestine TV employee whose salary was cut last month,” it added. […]

The interior ministry said an investigation had been carried out and the men had been identified by surveillance footage and were all members of Fatah.”

The BBC did not explain to its readers how that latter claim squares with other reports from the PA news agency alleging that the attackers had been masked.  Allegations of additional attempted detentions of Fatah linked officials by Hamas were not mentioned and neither was the reported decision by Fatah to close down offices in the Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem Post reported an apparent additional development hours before this BBC article was published.

“The Palestinian Authority has decided to stop paying salaries to hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including many Fatah members, sources said on Friday.

Palestinians see the move in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s punitive measures against Hamas and his critics in Fatah. These measures were taken last year in response to Hamas’s refusal to hand over full control of the Gaza Strip to Abbas’s Ramallah-based government. […]

Abbas, who is currently visiting Cairo, told Egyptian journalists and writers on Friday night that he was considering halting the monthly PA funds that are earmarked for the Gaza Strip and which, he said, were estimated at $96 million. […]

One Palestinian source told The Jerusalem Post that the latest PA move will affect 169 Palestinians believed to be affiliated with deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, an outspoken political opponent and critic of Abbas. […]

Another source said that dozens of former Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prison have also been told that they will no longer be receiving their salaries from the PA. Most of the former prisoners are affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were nevertheless on the payroll of the PA, the source explained. […]

In another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Fatah announced that it has decided to close all its offices in the Gaza Strip in protest against Hamas “threats” and “harassment.””

At the end of the BBC’s article readers were told that:

“The two factions [Fatah and Hamas] have been at odds since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief but violent battle in 2007.

In October 2017, the rivals signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to see Hamas hand over administrative control of Gaza to the PA, but disputes have delayed the deal’s full implementation.”

Meanwhile, the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile continues to mislead audiences with the inaccurate claim that “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017”.

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The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) tells audiences that:

“The Fatah faction of the PLO ran the PNA until 2006, when Hamas won a majority in Legislative Council elections.

Uneasy co-existence between PNA President Mahmoud Abbas and a Hamas-led government led to violence between armed wings of Fatah and Hamas, culminating in Hamas seizing power in Gaza in June 2007 and President Abbas dismissing the government.

The two PNA areas were then run by the separate factions – the West Bank by Fatah, and Gaza by Hamas – until a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017.” [emphasis added]

That same profile’s ‘timeline‘ states:

“2017 October – Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.”

While the BBC enthusiastically reported that ‘unity government’ story at the time, those statements obviously do not reflect Palestinian political reality.

Earlier this week Fatah accused Hamas of arresting a large number of its members in the Gaza Strip.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction claimed on Monday that Hamas has arrested 500 of its activists and officials in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah spokesmen said the arrests were designed to prevent the men from celebrating the 54th anniversary of the launching of its first attack against Israel.”

Although Hamas denied the allegations saying that “only 38 senior Fatah men were summoned for questioning”, as the Jerusalem Post reports the row continues.

“The Hamas crackdown has enraged Fatah leaders in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as chairman of Fatah, launched a scathing attack on Hamas. In a speech, Abbas strongly denounced the Hamas measures against his supporters in the Gaza Strip. He even went as far as hinting that Hamas was working for Israel. “Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said, referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.” […]

Hamas quickly responded by hinting that the 83-year-old Abbas was senile and talking nonsense. “Abbas’s speech is trivial,” retorted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. […]

Several other Hamas leaders and spokesmen reacted with outrage to Abbas’s charge. They used the words dictator, senile, mentally unstable, traitor, collaborator and liar to condemn the Fatah leader. The Hamas representatives said that Abbas was the real collaborator because of the security coordination between his security forces and Israel in the West Bank.”

Prominent analyst Khaled Abu Toameh went on to report that:

“Fatah officials in the West Bank said on Wednesday that Hamas’s actions against their men indicate that there’s no chance that the two parties could ever resolve their differences. The officials pointed out that the Egyptians have given up on their repeated attempts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.

“That’s it: There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” said Hussein al-Shiekh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank. “We have notified Egypt and Qatar that their efforts to achieve reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] have reached a dead end.” […]

Until recently, it appeared as if the Egyptians were on the verge of reaching another “historic” reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah. The two parties have signed several reconciliation accords in the past 11 years, but none have been implemented. The last reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo in October 2017. That accord, too, has yet to be implemented.

Judging from the actions and words of Fatah and Hamas, it now seems that the chances of ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are virtually zero.”

Clearly it is high time for an update to bring the BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile into step with reality.

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BBC News continues to side-step internal Palestinian politics

While BBC reporting on internal Palestinian affairs is relatively rare, audiences are nevertheless regularly told that Hamas “won parliamentary elections in 2006”. The topic of the stagnated Palestinian political system that includes a non-functional defunct parliament and a president poised to enter the fifteenth year of his four-year term of office next month is however rarely covered in BBC reporting.

In recent weeks a story has been brewing which may signal upheaval in the Palestinian political system. Earlier this month Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

“Shortly after Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, the PLC stopped convening, essentially becoming defunct.

In the West Bank, some PLC members have continued to meet to discuss drafts of laws proposed by the PA government, but they have been unable to exercise legislative powers including those related to oversight.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, a number of Palestinian parliamentarians have continued to meet to discuss political developments. However, Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have strongly opposed those meetings, with some calling them “illegitimate.”

74 of the 132 PLC members are affiliated with Hamas; the last elections for the PLC were held in 2006.”

On December 22nd Abbas again expressed that intention.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas once again pledged on Saturday to implement a court ruling and dissolve the parliament controlled by his Hamas rivals, triggering warnings of chaos from the Islamist terror group. […]

“We resorted to the Constitutional Court and the court decided to dissolve the PLC and called for parliamentary elections in six months and we have to execute this [decision] immediately,” Abbas told a Palestinian Liberation Organization meeting in Ramallah.”

Coming in the wake of failed Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ negotiations in Cairo, Abbas’ move – which is opposed by Hamas – is seen by analysts as an attempt to prevent Hamas from gaining control of the Palestinian Authority.  

“Abbas’ change of heart is not because he is suddenly interested in democracy. Rather Abbas is recognizing that at 83 years old he must consider what will happen the day he leaves office. Under PA law should the president leave office without a successor, the Speaker of the Parliament takes over as President of the Palestinian Authority for two months after which presidential elections are held. The current Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament is Aziz Al-Dweik from Hamas.

So under PA law Hamas would rule the PA, should Abbas leave his position. […]

Although Abbas has refrained from explaining his decision to disband the parliament, the rationale underlying the move would appear to be his fear that Hamas would legally take control of the PA, even without new elections. While the PA Basic Law does limit the interim presidency to two months there is no guarantee that Hamas once ruling the PA would allow for new elections.”

Notably, BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of this potentially significant development.

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Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, in the first part of the July 19th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ (aired on the BBC News channel and the BBC World News channel and available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the next eleven months) BBC audiences were exposed to a series of falsehoods, distortions and whitewashing of the ‘Great Return March’ violence that has been taking place throughout the past four and a half months.

After presenter Stephen Sackur had allowed his guest the PA envoy Riyad Mansour to get away with pretending not to have heard violent threats against Israelis from Hamas’ top man in the Gaza Strip, he changed the topic of the conversation.

Sackur: “You earlier referred to Gaza as a prison. You talked about the desperate conditions – humanitarian conditions – that people live in; pretty much 2 million people inside the Gaza Strip. In that circumstance, why is it that over recent months the Palestinian Authority has been imposing its own financial punishments and sanctions on the people of Gaza?”

Mansour retorted “I would not use, you know, these words that you are using” before going on to state that the Palestinian National Council had authorised the payment of salaries to employees of the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza.

Viewers were not told that those employees – who have not worked since 2007 – have repeatedly had their salaries cut and withheld by the Fatah dominated PA since April 2017. Instead, interrupting Mansour, Sackur went on:

Sackur: “Well forgive me Ambassador; maybe it’s slipped your mind but you know in recent months, after the failure it seems of the last reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, what we’ve seen is Mahmoud Abbas – the president of the Palestinian Authority – impose different punishments on Gaza including holding shipments of medicine, cutting payments for Gaza’s electricity; all sorts of different ways in which the people of Gaza are suffering – not at the hands of Israel or even Egypt which closes its border crossing with Gaza – but at the hands of fellow Palestinians.”

As regular readers will be aware, BBC audiences have not been informed of the PA’s cuts of medical supplies and treatment referrals to Gaza Strip residents. Moreover, since that PA policy began, the BBC has continued to mislead audiences with regard to the background to the chronic crisis affecting healthcare in the Gaza Strip by leading them to believe that it is connected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Similarly, with the exception of one report on the BBC News website, audiences have been repeatedly led to mistakenly believe that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is also related to those same counter-terrorism measures. It is therefore highly unlikely that viewers of this programme would be able to recognise Mansour’s denial as the falsehood it is.

Mansour: “I don’t think that this is accurate but if you’re saying that there is much more that can be done to help our people in Gaza, that is true. And the Palestinian government – including President Mahmoud Abbas – is trying with many parties, including the Egyptians and the United Nations and other parties, to alleviate the situation, the difficult situation of our people in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur then asked:

Sackur: “I mean you say you represent all Palestinians: have you seen the various protests and demonstrations by Palestinians against the policy of the Palestinian Authority inside Gaza? Have you also heard another senior Palestinian – I’m sure a man you know well; Mohamed Dahlan – who has called the PA government corrupt, fascist for punishing the Palestinians of Gaza. He says ‘I can understand the hardships facing the Palestinians. I cannot understand that the Palestinian leadership is imposing additional burdens on the people of Gaza’.”

Seeing as the internal Palestinian power struggles that are the background to Sackur’s chosen quote have been completely concealed from BBC audiences, it is highly unlikely that viewers would be able to put Mansour’s reply into its appropriate context.

Mansour: “Well I wouldn’t use quotation from the individual that you refer to. He used to be representing the Palestinian National Authority in the Gaza Strip. If he is referring to his conduct at that time then one can talk more of that. But he cannot speak with authority or respect about the behaviour of the Palestinian National Authority and the leadership of the Palestinian people, whether in the Gaza Strip or other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Sackur went on to pose two questions relating to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and viewers heard Mansour state that the PA’s top priority is reuniting the “land of the State of Palestine”, even though no such state currently exists. Despite the BBC’s style guide recognising that fact – “There is no independent state of Palestine today” – viewers then heard Sackur use the same term.

Sackur: “There is another development which may or may not come to fruition in the next few weeks and that is the grand plan, the ultimate deal, the deal of the century that Donald Trump and his team say they’re going to put on the table to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law is in charge of it. He said recently after a trip to the Middle East where he saw the Israelis, he saw the Saudis, he saw the Gulf leaders – he didn’t see any Palestinians ‘cos you appear to be absolutely unwilling to talk to the Trump team – Kushner said this: ‘the Palestinian leadership is scared that we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it’. Are you scared?”

Referring to Kushner, Mansour claimed “He is on one hand talking tough and on the other hand he is begging for us to engage with him” before going on:

Mansour: “For us if Jerusalem is off the table, refugees off the table and those who say that they are concerned about our people in the Gaza Strip they cut off $300 million from the budget of UNRWA, so how could you be helping the people in the Gaza Strip by depriving them of this large sum of money that helps 1.2 million Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip? And also they say settlements now is not objectionable and they don’t refer much to the occupied Palestinian territories. What is left on the table to talk about?”

Sackur “Why are the Saudis, the Gulf State leadership, the Egyptians and the Jordanians all very happy to talk to the Americans and appear to be involved in trying to figure out how a peace plan might work? It seems you’re dangerously isolated.”

Mansour: “We are not isolated. They are engaging them for their own reasons including things related, you know, to the role of Iran in the region.”

Mansour went on to state that the PA wants to convening “an international conference” of “all relevant parties including the Americans, including the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese and others” while claiming that the Americans “disqualified themselves from being honest broker”.

Sackur pointed out that there “won’t be a process without the Americans”, asking:

Sackur: “Are you Palestinians seriously saying that as long as Donald Trump’s in the White House you will not in any way whatsoever engage with the Americans?”

Mansour: “We will engage with them in collective process, through an international conference.”

Mansour then claimed that the UN Security Council had “legislated a decision to call for an international conference to be convened in Moscow”. Sackur did not clarify to viewers that he was apparently referring to the decade-old UN SC resolution 1850 which Abbas tried to resurrect in February of this year.

Sackur next raised the subject of opinion polls showing dissatisfaction with Palestinian leadership, stating “more than 60% of Palestinians…think Abbas should resign” and pointing out that he has “no obvious successor”.

Unchallenged by Sackur, viewers heard Mansour promote the fiction that the Palestinians have been ‘peacefully’ negotiating with Israel “for more than 20 years”.

Mansour: “One cannot blame the Palestinian people for their frustration. We tried the peaceful negotiation process for more than 20 years after the Oslo agreement and instead of putting an end to this occupation and enjoying independence, the reality on the ground moved from bad to worse, especially in the field of settlements. So one cannot but, you know, understand this frustration and the negative feeling among the Palestinian people.”

In response to Sackur’s statement that a generation of Palestinian leaders have failed, Mansour claimed “we assume our share of the responsibility” and went on to say that as a result the Palestinian National Council decided “to dissociate ourselves from the occupation and also not to continue on the path that did not lead us to the end of occupation, meaning the old style of negotiation.”

When Sackur again asked why Mahmoud Abbas has no obvious successor his guest replied:

Mansour: “I am confident that the Palestinian people will be able to elect the appropriate leader to lead us for the ongoing stage.”

Refraining from pointing out that the Palestinian people have not been able to elect their leaders for over twelve years, Sackur ended the interview there.

As we see, BBC audiences did not see any serious challenge from Stephen Sackur in response to Riyad Mansour’s lies about the ‘Great Return March’ and although Sackur twice insisted in the course of the interview that it was his job to ask ‘hard questions’, he continued to allow him to promote falsehoods on numerous other issues and to whitewash Palestinian violence.

It is of course difficult to see the point of an interview which includes questions relating to topics which the BBC has serially seriously under-reported (such as internal Palestinian power struggles and corruption) or inaccurately reported (such as medical supplies and electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip) – meaning that viewers do not have the basic knowledge necessary to understand the background to the question or form an opinion on the answer.

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BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

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

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

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

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

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

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

BBC website recycles article, ignores anti-Israel image

On May 24th 2018 an article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“.

Readers may recall that towards the end of October 2016, the BBC News website published an article by Yolande Knell with the exact same title which was discussed here.

In fact the May 2018 article uses the same URL as the one published in October 2016 and recycles the bulk of its content, with minor amendments made to reflect recent changes and events.

At the beginning of the new version of the report, Knell writes:

“Wearing an elegant dressing gown, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is shown walking unaided along the corridor of Ramallah’s best private hospital.

A family photograph has him sitting upright in bed casually studying a newspaper.

A hospital official said the 83-year-old leader – who had surgery on his ear last week – now had inflammation in his lung but was “responding to the treatment quickly and recovering”.

The message was clearly meant to quell swirling rumours of the president’s imminent demise.

However, his latest medical scares are a reminder of how Palestinian politics remains in a critical condition.” [emphasis added]

Unlike some other media outlets reporting the same story, including the Times of Israel, the BBC did not show its audiences that so-called “family photograph” of Abbas “casually studying a newspaper”.  

“Pictures and video of 83-year-old Abbas walking around the hospital and reading a newspaper were published late Monday, in an apparent attempt to calm rumors that his condition was more serious than reported.  Independent media outlets were banned from entering the hospital.

Hadashot News pointed out that the newspaper Abbas was pictured reading prominently carried a large cartoon on its back page, facing the camera, showing an Israeli soldier taking a baby’s milk away from her and ramming poison down her throat instead.”

The newspaper in question is the Palestinian Authority’s official daily.

Given that during the last six months alone the BBC has on four separate occasions failed to provide its audiences with a full account of offensive speeches made by Mahmoud Abbas – and, relatedly, that it serially avoids reporting on incitement from Palestinian leaders and officials – it is not at all surprising that the Palestinian Authority president’s decision to be photographed touting a grotesque anti-Israel cartoon in a newspaper approved by his regime was not considered newsworthy.

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Another Abbas speech and more selective BBC reporting

Between December 2017 and February 2018 the BBC News website failed to provide audiences with a full account of speeches made by the Palestinian Authority president on three separate occasions:

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

When Mahmoud Abbas made yet another offensive and historically illiterate speech at a rare PLO convention on April 30th (which was subsequently condemned by a wide range of parties including Israel, Germany, the UK, France, the UN, the EU, US envoys, Holocaust scholars and even the New York Times and the Guardian), the BBC’s coverage appeared at first glance to be more comprehensive.

On May 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Holocaust row: Abbas accused of anti-Semitism“. In the body of the report the BBC was similarly incapable of informing readers in its own words of the anti-Semitic nature of Abbas’ remarks and instead relied on observations from third parties.

“Remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust have been condemned as anti-Semitic by Israeli politicians and rights activists. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said the remarks were “anti-Semitic and pathetic”. […]

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Mr Abbas’s “anti-Semitic assertions”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did Abbas say exactly?” the BBC report described Abbas’ statements as follows:

“Carried live on Palestinian TV, the 90-minute speech in Arabic included a section on the Palestinian leader’s view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

Jews in eastern and western Europe, he said, had been periodically subjected to massacres over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.”

Mr Abbas also denied that Ashkenazi Jews – Jews from Germany and north-eastern Europe – were actually Semitic, saying, “They have no relation to Semitic people.””

The BBC did not however bother to clarify that Abbas’ falsehoods did not stop there and it failed to inform readers that he also touted the long discredited claim according to which Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the ‘Khazar kingdom’, that he denied historic Jewish links to Israel and described the State of Israel as a “colonialist enterprise”, that he promoted the falsehood that Jews in Arab lands had not suffered discrimination and persecution or that he claimed that a Jewish bank had collaborated with the Nazi regime.

In other words, rather than telling readers – as claimed – what Abbas said “exactly”, the BBC actually gave a selective account of his speech to audiences who have in the past repeatedly been denied information concerning similar outbursts from the Palestinian leader that the corporation frequently touts as a ‘moderate’.

Towards the end of that article readers found a typically euphemistic description of the background to the breakdown of the 2013/14 round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians:

“The last direct peace talks took place in 2014, when Barack Obama was in the White House. They broke down amid acrimony.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC refrained from clarifying to readers that those talks came to an end after the Palestinian Authority chose ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas over an end to the conflict with Israel and breached agreements reached before the talks commenced.

Three days after the appearance of that report, on May 4th, the BBC News website published an additional article titled “Palestinian leader Abbas apologises for Holocaust remarks” which similarly presented a selective description of Abbas’ statements.

“His televised speech included a section on his view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

He said that, over the centuries, Jews in eastern and western Europe had been periodically subjected to massacres, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.””

The article failed to clarify to readers that Abbas did not retract any of the false claims made in his speech or that his belated ‘apology‘ was directed at “people of the Jewish faith” rather than the Jewish people because he and others of his ilk continue to deny that the Jews are a nation.

Once again we see that the BBC has sidestepped an opportunity to enhance its audiences’ understanding of factors such as the Palestinian erasure of Jewish history and refusal to recognise the Jewish state that do not fit into the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

Related Articles:

BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem discusses a topic ardently avoided by the BBC: “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority“.

“At the moment, the hot topic of conversation in the Palestinian Authority is the most recent appointment made by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. At the beginning of this week, he extended the tenure of his friend Rafiq al-Natsheh as head of the Palestinian Authority’s anti-corruption department for the second time, contrary to Palestinian law. Even the department’s internal constitution does not allow its serving head to remain in his position once his term has ended.”

2) Raz Zimmt of the INSS analyses the protests in Iran.

“Some two months after the wave of protest that swept through Iran, the Iranian authorities are endeavoring to bring the situation back to normal, though local protest events are still ongoing. The protests, which reflected the Iranian public’s demand for change, once again highlighted the conflicting opinions in the Iranian leadership concerning the desired response to the civilian plight.”

3) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Joshua Block unpacks a concept about the Middle East that is frequently promoted in BBC coverage.  

“Of all the policy myths that have kept us from recognizing the true nature of conflict in the blood-soaked region, one stands out for its fatality and perpetuation: the idea that if only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were solved, all the other deep-rooted quandaries facing the Middle East would magically disappear.

The “Arab Spring” revolt that swept across the region should have destroyed the “linkage” dogma once and for all – what happened in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia had nothing to do with Israel – and yet the myth that the Arab world resolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lives on.”

4) Yad VaShem is offering a free online course on the history of antisemitism.

“In this course, 50 leading scholars from all over the world will explore questions and issues relating to antisemitism including: What is antisemitism? How has it changed throughout history? Why can it be found among so many diverse cultures, and even among opposing ideologies? What happened to antisemitism after the Holocaust? How is antisemitism expressed today, and what are the main spheres in which it can be found?
We will examine different periods and societies, exploring the development of antisemitism as well as its changing nature over time, place and culture.”