BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 31st edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme ran an item which included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell ostensibly about Palestinians from the Gaza Strip travelling to Jerusalem for healthcare.

That was followed by an interview with a British MP who had been taken on a four-day paid trip to Jerusalem by the anti-Israel NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ and who falsely claimed that two premature infants born to a mother from the Gaza Strip had ‘died alone’ in a Jerusalem hospital because of “inhumane” Israeli security checks before entry permits are given to Gaza Strip residents.

Not only did presenter Mishal Husain fail to challenge the inaccurate version of the story told by her interviewee Rosena Allin-Khan, but she went on to embellish it with fictions of her own. 

Following that, Husain introduced her final interviewee ( from 01:53:29 here) and in her opening statements, once again promoted the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had woven – this time in the plural.

Husain: “…Sharon Bar-li is Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK. […] What would you say to that point that Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has…has made that the system at the moment means that there are Palestinian children who die alone in hospitals in Jerusalem?

Bar-li: “…the policy is such that no child, no patient, should go into Israel to receive medical treatment by itself. Every patient should be accompanied and when it comes to children, it should be accompanied preferably by a parent, by the mother or by family member…”

Husain continued to inflate her own chimera, using a story from Knell’s report in which one child traveled to Jerusalem for chemotherapy with a grandparent as the base for the unevidenced claim that “often” parents do not get a permit to accompany their child.

Husain: “Yeah. I mean you know that it often doesn’t…from what we’ve heard in that report, often it is not the parent that for whatever reason – a security reason I imagine – the parent does not receive…ehm…the permit to enter Israel. But what kind of security risk is really posed by the parent of a child who’s going for chemotherapy or indeed a mother who’s just given birth to triplets?”

Once again Husain used a strawman argument: obviously the mother of the triplets was not deemed a security risk because she got a permit to travel to Jerusalem for the birth in the first place and later was given another permit to travel to collect her daughter from the hospital.

Bar-li: “As you know, Gaza is controlled by Hamas which is a terror organisation and there’s been plenty of cases in the past where unfortunately Hamas has abused – cynically abused – patients, many times without their knowledge, planting on them explosives, money, other information or devices, in order to instigate terror attacks. There are…”

As is all too often the case when Mishal Husain interviews Israelis, she then became noticeably impatient and proceeded to repeatedly interrupt her interviewee.

Husain [interrupts]: “Parents of children who are going to Israel for chemotherapy?”

Bar-li: “They don’t know. There has been cases in [the year] two thousand…”

Husain [interrupts]: “How many cases?”

Bar-li: “There has been several cases like this. Imagine when you go into hospital carrying a medical tube and this medical tube actually has an explosive in it. Can you imagine what would happen if it will explode in a hospital? And even if there were only…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Sorry, just to be clear: has that actually happened? When did it happen? How many times did that happen?”

Had the BBC bothered to report that story (and many similar ones) at the time, Husain would perhaps have known what her interviewee was talking about.

Bar-li: “It happened in 2017. There was a case of two sisters, one of them was a cancer patient. Her sister accompanied her and without their knowledge they were given medical tubes in which there were explosives. And it was revealed and a great disaster was prevented. There are also interviews with Hamas militants that were arrested in which they are exposing the methods and in which they are testifying to this method. Hence security measures need to be taken and we have to be extra vigilant. It’s important also to mention the role of the Palestinian Authority in…in delaying or preventing some of these permits.”

Husain obviously was not interested in having the deputy ambassador tell listeners about Palestinian Authority policies relevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion.

Husain: “OK yes because it’s a complicated process of getting approvals from different points.”

Bar-li: “Not just…not just because of the complication of the process…”

Husain [interrupts]: “There are many layers of it.”

Bar-li: “Actually recently…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You heard…you heard what we’ve been…it’s just that we understand the process is complicated but we can see from the figures that the approvals for patients who are travelling from Gaza into Israel, the numbers of those have been going steadily down over the years. In 2012, which was after Hamas came to power, it was something like more than 90% and it’s now down to around 65%. There are lives that are being lost in the process.”

Bar-li: “Over the years tens of thousands of Palestinians exit Gaza, entered into Israel to receive life-saving treatment. We of course sympathise with any person in need but at the same time we should remember that there is a complex situation. Actually, when you look at the numbers of [for] 2018, you see a 15% increase in humanitarian permits being issued to Gazans in comparison to 2017.”

Husain: “It’s currently 65% of permits that are approved according to the WHO. Those were the figures from March 2019 which is down from where they were in 2012.”

A closer look at the World Health Organisation data supposedly quoted by Husain shows that while indeed 65% of the 2,004 applications for travel permits for patients were approved in March, it is not the case that – as listeners would naturally have concluded – 35% were refused. In fact 32% of the total requests were delayed and 4% denied.

Husain then indulged herself with some blatantly brash editorialising which once again used the falsehood that she and Allin-Khan had earlier cooked up:

Husain: “The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people and no child should die alone.”

As Sharon Bar-li tried to respond, Husain cut her off and closed the item there.

It is of course all too clear that this long item was not news but over twelve minutes of journalistic activism based primarily on a false story irresponsibly promoted by a British MP who was taken on a paid jaunt by an organisation devoted primarily to anti-Israel campaigning for decades.

Not only did the BBC clearly make no effort to check that story and its dubious source, but Mishal Husain deliberately spun it into ‘fact’ in order to influence audience opinion on this topic, thereby providing backwind for existing political campaigning by that anti-Israel NGO and others.

That of course is ‘fake news’ according to this definition:

“Fake news is a problem for different reasons.

The first kind of fake news – deliberate lies – is a problem because it can make people believe things that are completely untrue.

The second kind – when people publish something without checking that it’s completely right – can make people have less trust in the media, as well as make everyone believe something that might be inaccurate.

People also only tend to share things that they agree with. So if people are sharing a lot of fake news, and lots of people believe it, it’s easy to get sucked into a bubble that is actually completely different to the real world – and a long way from the truth.”

That definition was produced by the BBC itself within the framework of its claim to counter fake news. In fact, as we see in this example, the BBC itself contributes to the phenomenon. 

Related Articles:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

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BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

For years the BBC’s portrayal of the topic of healthcare in the Gaza Strip has failed to give audiences an accurate and impartial view of the subject.

BBC News passes up the chance to set the record straight on Gaza shortages

The BBC, the Gaza Strip and medical supplies

No BBC follow-up on story used to mislead on Gaza medical services

Moreover, while the BBC knows full well that issues such as shortages of medical supplies and medicines – along with refusals to cover treatment costs and late or non-existent applications for entry permits into Israel for Palestinian patients – are the results of Palestinian Authority policies, it continues to frame such topics as being first and foremost connected to Israeli security measures.

“There is a considerable impact through the blockade on health facilities and that was shown…for example I did a report that ran last night on the ten o’clock news and you could see how medical facilities are suffering.” Mishal Husain, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, January 18th 2019

Not infrequently, BBC audiences have been told partially portrayed stories about children and infants to illustrate such reports.

“Because the blockade restricts the movement of people, patients need to request permission to leave. This two-day old baby with a congenital heart defect was waiting for an exit permit when we filmed him. Four days later he died. His permission hadn’t come through.” Mishal Husain, BBC One ‘News at Ten’, January 17th 2019

And it’s becoming more difficult to get Israeli permits to transfer seriously ill patients out of Gaza, partly because the PA is giving fewer guarantees it will cover their medical costs elsewhere. The doctor tells me how, days ago, he broke this news to the parents of a newborn with a congenital heart condition who went on to die. ‘How did I do this?’ he asks me. ‘I’m speaking to you not as a doctor but as a human being’.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC Radio 4, July 22nd 2017 [emphasis added]

The latest BBC report in that genre was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on May 31st. Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the long item (from 01:45:37 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition such as cancer in Gaza, where many medical treatments are not available, means a series of complex problems beyond your diagnosis. With a financial crisis and a deep rift between Hamas – which rules Gaza – and Fatah – which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – many drugs are in short supply.”

If listeners thought that they were about to hear more about that “deep rift” and how it and PA policy translates into a long-standing crisis in the health system in the Gaza Strip and reduced referrals for treatment elsewhere, they were mistaken.

Husain: “Treatments and travel are also restricted by the tight blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Often, a patient’s best hope is to get to one of the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. The final stage of that process is a permit from the Israeli authorities. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “There’s a crowd of cancer patients at the Augusta Victoria reception from early morning. Many come from Gaza and have had long hold-ups for potentially life-saving treatment.”

Woman [voiceover]: “My treatment is going to take longer as my tumour grew because of the delay. The longer you wait, the scarier it gets with this disease.”

Knell: “And yet these patients say they’re lucky as they’ve reached East Jerusalem. Those aged 16 to 55 have gone through more thorough Israeli security checks. Now, they’re in the only Palestinian hospital where Israel allows radiation treatment and it has the drugs they need.”

According to a study published in October 2018:

“In 2013, the first radiation oncology service in the Palestinian territories opened in the August-Victoria Hospital. There are now three linear accelerators in the Palestinian territories…” [emphasis added]

The report continued:

Woman [voiceover]: “In Gaza it’s difficult. All they do is check you. You live, you die, that’s it. The travelling is exhausting but this is the only place to get treatment. Getting permits is hard unless you’re in your 50s or 60s. Many younger people just have to stay in Gaza.”

Knell: Increasingly, hospitals in Gaza lack essential medicines including for cancer. The territory’s run by Hamas but a rival administration – the Palestinian Authority – is responsible for sending medical supplies. The PA also authorises patients getting treated outside. Then, the Israeli authorities decide who gets an exit permit. The bureaucracy for Gazans exasperates oncologist Dr Yussuf Hamamra [phonetic].”

Hamamra: “They have to go through a very complicated process. That’s mean two thirds of them they are coming to us in very advanced stage unfortunately. They need to have permission to come from the Israeli side and also financial coverage from the Palestinian minister [ministry] of health and you know sometimes here the politics of course will affect strongly the situation and [unintelligible] the patients they need to come to my clinic within 2 weeks, they need at least 2 months.”

Knell: “Upstairs, in the children’s ward, 13-year-old Mahmoud sings for his nurses while he’s hooked up to a drip for his chemotherapy. The lyrics about homesickness are poignant but for the first time in a year, Mahmoud does have his mum with him instead of an elderly grandparent. She’s now got security clearance from Israel.”

With no identifying details given, it is of course impossible to check out Knell’s story and understand why the mother allegedly did not initially receive a permit. Knell made no effort to fill in those obviously relevant details for listeners before going on to tell of more than one baby “on their own” but actually providing details of just one case.

Knell: “And here, in the neo-natal ward at the Makassed hospital, there are some tiny patients on their own. After the militant group Hamas took over Gaza more than a decade ago, Israel tightened its restrictions on people’s movements, citing security concerns. The Israeli authorities say it’s their policy for sick children to be accompanied by a parent but that doesn’t always happen. Baby Shahd was born prematurely in January, the only survivor of triplets. She’s now healthy, smiling at me in her cot. For over two months she’s been waiting to be taken home. Her mother was sent back to Gaza shortly after giving birth. This cash-strapped hospital had no place for her to stay.” […]

When I watch, it’s a nurse feeding Shahd but later I’m told of a happy reunion. Her mother was finally able to come and collect her this week. The staff are delighted. Here, at the East Jerusalem hospitals, they care for some of the most vulnerable Palestinian patients – tough financial and political realities only adding to the serious conditions they’re in.”

The background to that story promoted by Knell – which had been reported on May 29th by an Israeli media outlet and which again came up moments later in the same item – is actually as follows:

“In January, the Gazan woman, pregnant with triplets, arrived at the Makassed Hospital for urgent surgery. She went into labor and gave birth but two of the siblings, both boys, died days later.

The mother returned to Gaza to bury her two sons while Shahd, the girl, stayed behind in Jerusalem, where she was taken care of by hospital staff.

The hospital repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to request a permit from the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories for Shahd’s mother or father to come back to Israel, but the efforts failed. […]

COGAT said in a statement that it received just one previous request for a permit, but it was faulty and therefore not approved.”

Mishal Husain then (from 01:50:54) introduced the next part of the item.

Husain: “Well Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is a Labour MP and has recently returned from Jerusalem and the West Bank where she was visiting hospitals and doing medical work. […] And one of the cases you saw was that of this little baby.”

Allin-Khan did indeed visit the region between April 4th and 8th this year on a trip paid for by the political NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) as she went on to state. However, listeners heard nothing from her or from Mishal Husain about that NGO’s political agenda and its history of anti-Israel campaigning.

Allin-Khan then proceeded – unchallenged by Husain – to give a false account of the story.

Allin-Khan: “Yes, I met baby Shahd when I went to East Jerusalem with Medical Aid for Palestinians to help them and support their work that they do there. I met baby Shahd who sadly was the only baby surviving of three triplets born to a mother that wasn’t able to stay in the hospital and the sad case was that the staff in the hospital had to tell the mother over the phone that her other two babies had died. Being a clinician myself I cannot imagine what that must be like. But being a mother, I cannot imagine the incomprehensible pain to hear that you cannot be with your children as they take their dying breath.”

Rather than correcting the inaccurate version of the story told by her interviewee, Husain embellished it.  

Husain: “Because she had gone back to…eh…Gaza or her permit didn’t allow her to remain and the three new-born babies were in this…were in this neo-natal unit.”

Allin-Khan: “Yes.”

Husain: “What about the children who are having cancer treatment? There was one of them reflected in that report who had his mother with him on that day but there are other times when they’re receiving chemotherapy without their parents being allowed to have come to Jerusalem with them.”

Allin-Khan then came up with a completely unsupported claim that likewise went unquestioned.

Allin-Khan: “It’s very rare for them to have their parents with them. I went to the paediatric oncology ward that was featured in the piece and it’s full of children whose eyes are full of fear and sadness. Some as young as 2 or 3 facing chemotherapy alone without their mother. And we wouldn’t find it acceptable in the UK for children to endure the most unspeakable pain such as going through cancer chemotherapy without their mother there and some of them were so distressed that they couldn’t even communicate with their parents over the phone.”

Husain: “I mean there’s a complicated security situation – we’ll be talking to the Israeli deputy ambassador about that in a moment – but what could be done do you think to improve this? At least for the children.”

Allin-Khan: “Fundamentally this is a humanitarian crisis born out of political choice. The cases described today are not uncommon and frankly inhumane. Permit delays are in fact permit denials which in many cases cost lives and I’m going to be calling on the UK government to apply pressure on the Israeli government because I would hope that everyone, regardless of their politics, has enough humanity to accept that no child should die alone or endure painful treatment on their own.”

So what did Radio 4 listeners actually get here? Yolande Knell picked up a story which had appeared two days earlier in the Israeli media and made an item out of it which dovetails nicely with the BBC’s existing framing of the topic of Israeli counter-terrorism measures. The ‘Today’ programme then brought in a British MP with a vague connection to the same story to promote commentary that serves the long-standing political campaign by MAP and other anti-Israel NGOs concerning the ‘blockade’.

Listeners did not hear the word ‘terror’ once throughout those seven minutes but they did hear a false version of the core story which enabled promotion of the notion that children “die alone” and undergo “painful treatment on their own” (even when a grandparent or another family member is present) because of Israeli policy – which was clearly signposted to listeners as being “inhumane”.

The rest of this item will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

A source quoted and promoted by the BBC gets corrected

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC often uncritically quotes and promotes information and statistics – particularly Gaza casualty figures – provided by the UN agency OCHA.

On November 21st another political NGO that has appeared in BBC content – MAP – promoted UNOCHA supplied figures in a tweet.

However (unsurprisingly to those familiar with UNOCHA’s  methodology) it turned out that those statistics were not all that they were made out to be when the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) later replied to that tweet.

And yet UNOCHA – often presented to BBC audiences as merely ‘the UN’ – continues to be among the partisan NGOs frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC, despite the corporation’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting. 

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray discusses “The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy“.

“According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ – according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office – since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course. […]

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.”

2) The ITIC has updated its report on a study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks.

“An examination of the new textbooks issued by the PA shows they continue expressing, and in some instances by radicalizing, the same basic principles that appeared in previous textbooks: the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run school, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

3) The ITIC has also published a report on a ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip and expected to arrive in the area next week.

“Three small boats of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip set sail on July 21 and 22, 2018, and are expected to arrive around the end of July. Before they left for the Gaza Strip they conducted a series of propaganda visits to various European ports. The flotilla’s objective is to help the Palestinian propaganda campaign that accompanies the “return marches” by raising awareness to the demand to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. That is supposed lead to international solidarity with the Gazans while defaming Israel.

On July 16, 2018, four boats anchored in the port of Palermo, Sicily, and from there three of them set sail together for the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. The most prominent figure in organizing the flotilla is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian anti-Israeli activist living in Britain, affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Birawi has many years of experience in organizing flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. His official title is “coordinator of the international committee for breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.””

Readers may recall that Birawi is also linked to ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel since late March. The ITIC has also published an update to that report with details of the identities of the flotilla’s participants, one of whom is the founder of ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) who has in the past been interviewed by the BBC.

4) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran discusses “Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights“.

“Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.”

 

 

 

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a programme in the ‘Our World’ series that was recently broadcast on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel under the title “Working for the Enemy”.

After presenter Murad Batal Shishani had uncritically amplified Hamas’ claim that Israel was behind the assassination of one of its senior operatives last year and had been given access to a Hamas-run prison to interview a contrite collaborator, he turned to the topic of the alleged recruitment of Mazen Fuqaha’s assassin by Israel.

Shishani: “But would the Israeli security forces really recruit a jihadi – someone dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel? It seemed an extraordinary risk”.

Shishani then went to interview the former Shin Bet director and current member of the Knesset Avi Dichter, asking him:

Shishani: “Would you recruit a jihadist to kill a Hamas operative?”

Dichter: “Well everything is possible in this fight against terrorists.”

Shishani quickly moved on to his next interviewee who he described as “a reserve officer from Israeli military intelligence”. The fact that the interviewee remained anonymous and his voice unheard, together with Shishani’s claim that “he has to be careful about what he says in order to avoid arrest”, raises the unanswered question of how BBC Arabic made contact with this particular interviewee and whether or not a ‘middle-man’ such as the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ was involved.

That interviewee – presented as Aaron – apparently gave Shishani the money quotes he was obviously looking for.

Voiceover: “We know so much about people’s personal lives. Their romantic affairs, their sexual affairs, their health problems, everything. So if you want to gain cooperation from people it’s obviously best if we can blackmail this person.” […]

Shishani: “But it’s not just sexual orientation that makes people targets.”

Voiceover: “If someone’s daughter has cancer, for example, and he wants to get treatment in one of the Israeli hospitals – which is no doubt better treatment than in Palestinian hospitals – and if we know about it, maybe we can stop him and tell him OK you can have this but only if you cooperate.”

That led Shishani conveniently on to his next story.

Shishani: “Salwa Saidni [phonetic] knows all about this coercion. Today she is with her grandchildren. A year ago their mother Kholoud needed urgent treatment for cancer. The Israeli authorities granted her permission to go to a hospital in Jerusalem. It was six o’clock and barely light when Salwa and her daughter Kholoud arrived here at the Erez Crossing one morning in January 2017. […] The officers wanted information about a man married to Kholoud’s cousin. She said he was an olive tree farmer.”

Salwa: “He said ‘yes but he plants rockets. He plants rockets with Hamas.’ She said ‘if you know he plants rockets what’s that got to do with me? I’m sick and need treatment. I want to be able to raise my kids.'”

Shishani: “Salwa says her daughter was not able to give any information about the man.”

Salwa: “He told her ‘there’s the bus you need’. Only a glass screen separated us from it.”

Shishani: “But the Israeli authorities did not allow Kholoud to board the bus. […] Three weeks later Kholoud died.”

After having given extensive amplification to allegations that have been used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimise Israel – and with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – Shishani once again ostensibly ticked the BBC’s impartiality box with a one-liner.

Shishani: “The Israeli authorities told us that entry to Israel is not conditional on providing information or cooperation and they denied any irregularities in their dealings with Kholoud.”

Notably, Shishani made no effort to inform BBC audiences that the party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which in 2017 exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel. 

Shishani’s next interviewee was presented as follows:

Shishani: “Some Palestinians work with Israel because they genuinely believe this is the right way to protect their own people. I have come to a tiny village in the far south of Israel. It is the home of a Bedouin community of around 20 families that were moved from Gaza, where they had devoted their lives to working with the Israeli state. […] Hassan is the community leader here – a role he inherited from his father, a Bedouin Sheikh from the Sinai desert. Hassan’s father sided with the Israeli state after Arab nations were defeated in the 1967 war and Israel occupied his land. […] How do you feel when you or your father are called a traitor or a spy?”

The programme’s last interview – once again anonymous – took place in “a provincial Israeli town” with a man described as having “worked in Gaza for the Israelis from the age of 17 – but that was before he had to get out.”

Unsurprisingly, Shishani’s final interviewee stated that “my past is haunting me” and Shishani then closed the report.

Shishani: “Normality, more than anything, is what people in Gaza crave but for most here, it’s out of reach. Constant scrutiny, suspicion and human need mean that collaboration will keep shaping and poisoning lives and some will continue to work for the enemy.”

Clearly Murad Batal Shishani had a specific story to tell in this programme and nothing was going to get in its way. His uncritical amplification of the stories and interviews – in part obviously Hamas approved – that make up the bulk of the programme was not balanced by his token interview with Avi Dichter or his tepid one-liner presentations of responses from “the Israeli authorities”.

For years Hamas has periodically run campaigns targeting ‘collaborators’ and its extra-judicial executions of people branded as such are a subject only rarely covered by the BBC. Given the cooperation from Hamas that Shishani obviously enjoyed in the making of this programme, it is hardly surprising to see that Hamas’ use of the ‘collaborator’ tag as an excuse for extrajudicial executions did not get any coverage whatsoever in Shishani’s one-sided report.  

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News

 

 

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

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

However, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs

Weekend long read

1) With the BBC World Service having recently failed to disclose the anti-Israel activism of the sole interviewee in a history show, an article by Prof Gerald Steinberg titled “The Lancet: How an Anti-Israel Propaganda Platform was Turned Around” makes for timely reading.

“The Lancet‘s central role in anti-Israel demonization began in parallel to the wider political war launched in late 2000, at a time of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.  […]

It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995 and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas. In this context, Horton joined the Palestinian cause, reinforced through close association with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I). Under Horton’s direction, The Lancet and MAP co-sponsored The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA), generating a steady flow of pseudo-scientific papers, and, in turn, providing Horton with political support and visibility. […]

Dr. Swee Ang Chai, co-founder of MAP, was another central figure in The Lancet campaign and a frequent contributor to anti-Israel demonization, and the introduction from her book From Beirut to Jerusalem was posted on The Lancet’s “Global Health Network” website. The article, which included no citations and advanced no medical claims, was removed 28 days later following widespread criticism of “factual inaccuracies.” Another piece by Swee Ang cited testimonies of unnamed “eyewitnesses” to make war crimes allegations related to the 2009 Gaza conflict. In addition, she participated in an internet group that promoted David Duke’s racism and anti-Semitism, including promoting a video titled “CNN, Goldman Sachs, and the Zio Matrix” in which Duke accuses Jewish banking, media and political figures of conspiring to create “an unholy tribal alliance.””

2) The ITIC has translated an interview given to a Hamas newspaper by UK-based anti-Israel activist Zaher Birawi.

“Birawi added that despite the difficulties, the main objective of dispatching ships to the Gaza Strip is for their propaganda value, to keep the issues of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and breaking the “siege” alive in public discourse, and to continue to defame Israel (the “occupying entity,” according to Birawi). He claimed that the true test of the success of the flotillas is not whether or not they reach the Gaza Strip, but the coverage of the political and media campaigns accompanying them.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He also said other NGOs, working in solidarity for the Palestinians, that participated in the Freedom flotilla coalition, were also examining the possibility of sending their own ships.”

3) Readers may recall that in 2015 the BBC rejected a complaint from a member of the public based on information – inter alia – from the group ‘Kairos’. At the Boston Globe, Robert Leikind has more on that organisation.

“Over the last decade, a number of mainline Protestant Churches, including some with a significant presence in New England, have adopted resolutions harshly critical of Israel. During the summer two more were passed by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. These measures share three core elements: Each assigns Israel near total culpability for the conflict with the Palestinians; each overlooks decades of Palestinian activity that has undermined prospects for peace with Israel; and each justifies its claims by referring to a document called Kairos Palestine.”

4) The FDD has published a detailed paper on the subject of Hizballah’s finances.

“Hezbollah – a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon – is under financial strain, but is likely to stay buoyed by external support from Iran and by its vast network of illicit businesses around the world. The group makes roughly a billion dollars annually through support from Iran (which provides the bulk of its funding), donations from elements within the Lebanese diaspora, and smuggling and drug trafficking networks worldwide. Several countries in South America give the group’s trafficking networks safe harbor. Hezbollah leverages segments of the Lebanese diaspora for donations and “taxation,” and supporters have laundered money and run front companies on six continents. Hezbollah predominantly spends its revenues on providing social services in southern Lebanon, operating as a “state within a state,” and on funding its fighting forces in Lebanon and Syria.” 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS history programme fails to disclose interviewee’s anti-Israel activism

The September 15th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ was titled “Sabra and Shatila – A Massacre in Lebanon“.

“A doctor working in Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon recalls the massacre there in September 1982. Over the course of three days, Lebanese Christian militiamen killed and raped hundreds of the Palestinian inhabitants of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut in revenge for the assassination of their leader, Lebanese president elect, Bashir Gemayel. Dr Swee Ang treated the wounded in the basement of the only hospital in the camp; she tells Louise Hidalgo her story.”

The interviewee’s background is described to listeners by Hidalgo as follows:

“Dr Swee Ang was working in the hospital in Sabra and Shatila during those days.”

And:

“Dr Swee Ang is an orthopedic surgeon originally from Singapore who moved to Britain in 1977.”

A significant proportion of the programme relates to Israel rather than to the Lebanese Christian militia that actually carried out the massacre in Sabra and Shatila with Hidalgo referring to the findings of the Kahan Commission and providing some rather sketchy background to the first Lebanon War and her interviewee adding other statements.

“I grew up a very staunch fundamentalist Christian and I’ve always been supporting Israel. In 1982 […] I saw on television aerial bombardment of Beirut in Lebanon and I just couldn’t square it with my religious upbringing…”

“My understanding of the situation – because I was brought up with a lot of friends who are pro-Israel – was that the PLO was the cause of all the trouble.”

“Tanks were coming northwards into Beirut city and a contingent came for Sabra and Shatila. So by nightfall the shelling became so close and we knew that we were surrounded by Israeli tanks.”

At the end of the programme listeners are told that:

“After Sabra and Shatila she and her husband set up a medical charity for the people of the camp.”

That charity is called ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) and – far from being a neutral “medical” charity – its politicised anti-Israel bias is notorious.  Dr Swee Ang herself is frequently seen at anti-Israel events such as ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and in 2014 she co-authored a highly politicised open letter promoting unsubstantiated allegations and accusing Israel of ‘massacring’ Palestinians that was published in the Lancet.

None of that information was made available to listeners to this programme despite the fact that BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

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

Given the programme’s focus on Israel, full disclosure of its sole interviewee’s political activism in line with BBC editorial guidelines was obviously necessary.

BBC News website promotes anti-Israel activists’ fund raising

On the afternoon of August 22nd an article published on the BBC News website’s regional ‘Glasgow & West’ page was also cross-posted on the Middle East page.

Currently titled “Celtic fans raise £85,000 ‘for Palestine’ after Uefa charge” (and with its date stamp having been changed), the article states:Celtic art

“Palestinian flags were waved around Celtic Park during the Champions League match on Wednesday night.

Uefa later charged the club over an “illicit banner” display.”

Readers are not informed that:

“UEFA said the flag display constituted an “illicit banner,” under a rule which bans “messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature.””

Nearly two-thirds of the BBC’s 223 word article is devoted to amplification (including a link) of a fund-raising campaign organised by the anti-Israel activists who brought about the UEFA disciplinary action. The ten paragraph article includes four paragraphs of quotes from the campaign’s pitch, including:

“We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid Palestine and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website recently showcased an anti-Israel activist with connections to the Lajee Centre. The corporation has also used the BDS supporting political NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) as a source of information in the past.

Despite the extensive promotion given to the group described vaguely by the BBC as “Celtic fans”, readers are once again kept in the dark with regard to the litany of falsehoods used to advance their anti-Israel campaigning.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines state:

“Apart from the BBC Appeals and cross-BBC charity fundraising initiatives outlined above, BBC programmes and online content should not appeal for funds for charities or urge audiences to give money to any particular charity.”

Using 64.5% of the word count of a report to amplify a politically partisan fund-raising campaign, together with the provision of a link to that campaign’s webpage, might well be considered a breach of that guideline. At the very least, this report undermines the BBC’s reputation as a provider of impartial news. 

Related Articles:

BBC Sport ‘overlooks’ BDS linked agitprop in Glasgow

BBC promoted NGOs and a question in Parliament

 

BBC promoted NGOs and a question in Parliament

Back in December we noted that our colleagues at CAMERA had secured corrections to inaccurate information appearing in an article published by Associated Press which was largely sourced from an employee of a political NGO previously quoted and promoted in BBC content.

“”They (Israelis) are trying to uproot us from Jerusalem, they are stealing the houses, the trees and the stones of the city,” laments Nura Sub-Laban, a Palestinian woman featured in The Associated Press article today by Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh (“Palestinian eviction case spotlights Jerusalem settler push“).

Set against the backdrop of the disputed “gold-topped Dome of the Rock,” AP’s account of the looming eviction of Sub-Laban from their home in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter reflects a narrative of supposed Jewish encroachment in the holy city at the expense of dispossessed Palestinians, blameless “victims of discriminatory use of Israeli property law.” 

It is also fundamentally wrong, based as it is on a grossly misrepresented basic facts about the Sub-Laban case, initially ignoring critical essential information and falsely casting it as part “of a wider settlement campaign.””

The subject matter of that AP article cropped up again last week during Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK Parliament. The ‘BBC Parliament’ TV channel of course broadcast the February 24th session which included a question from the MP for Bradford East (available in the UK only from 29:22 here).

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Last week, together with several of my hon. Friends, I visited Palestine, where we went to the home of Nora and her family, who have lived in the old city of East Jerusalem since 1953. Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years. There are many other cases like that. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that illegal settlements and constructions are a major roadblock that hinder peaceful negotiations? What are this Government doing to help prevent these infringements into Palestinian lives and land?”

Mr Hussain and additional Labour MPs did indeed visit the region earlier in February on a trip organized by the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). As readers may recall, MAP has been used by the BBC in the past as a source of information and a BBC reporter showcased one of its projects in 2014. CAABU’s director Chris Doyle and other representatives are frequent contributors to BBC content.

According to CAABU’s Joseph Willits, the part of the trip which involved a visit to the Sub Laban family was facilitated by the foreign funded political NGO Al Haq which is of course active in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and is from time to time promoted in BBC content.

“They are Nora Gheith Sub-Laban and her family in Jerusalem’s Old City who are battling an eviction because illegal settlers want to move into their home. They also face constant intimidation from settlers and the Israeli army. Thanks to Al-Haq Organisation for arranging these visits to see the impact of illegal settlements and the Wall that destroys lives, livelihoods, families, and a person’s psychological make up.”

Willits tweet Sub Laban

MAP described that visit as follows:

“On Thursday, the MPs met Palestinian communities living in the shadow of Israel’s 440km-long separation wall, and heard from the Gaith-Sub Laban family who have threatened [sic] with eviction from their home of 62 years in East Jerusalem.”

Unsurprisingly given the agendas of all the groups involved in organising this visit, the British parliamentarians were obviously not told the entire story.

“…the Sub-Labans were never the owners of the property, but rather enjoyed “protected tenant” status. That status can be lost if the tenant abandons the property without intention of returning – and it is irrelevant whether the tenant is Jewish or Palestinian. […]

…before the 1948 war, the building was “owned by a trust for Kollel Galicia, a group that collected funds in Eastern Europe for Jewish families in Jerusalem.” When Jordan occupied Jerusalem in 1948, the property fell under the control of the Jordanian administration and was rented to the Palestinian Sub-Laban family in 1953. Following the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the property was, according to the AP,

‘handed to an Israeli government department, the General Custodian. Palestinian residents were recognized as “protected tenants,” provided they continued to live in the apartments and pay rent to the Custodian.

[Ahmed] Sub-Laban said his family was forced out of the apartment between 1984 and 2001, but did not lose their protected tenancy during this period.’ […]

But the article’s underlying flaw is that initially nowhere did it state that at that point, in 2001, the family failed to move back into the property, which is the crux of the legal argument against them.

The magistrate court (34656-11-10) (in a decision upheld by the district court (28083-12-14) found that the family had not returned to the apartment in 2001. According to the court from 2001-2010 (when the property was transferred to the trust) the family did not live in the apartment. From 2010 until 2014, they had only “pretended” to live in the apartment.”

In other words, the claim made by Mr Hussain in Parliament that “Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years” is inaccurate not least because two  courts of law have established that she did not live in that rented apartment for thirty of those years. Naturally, Mr Hussain’s amplification of that political propaganda in Parliament was appreciated by his hosts.

Willits tweet 2

The problematic aspects of the relationship between the media and political NGOs have previously been raised on these pages.

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

When political agendas and reporting meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. Whilst the BBC – like many other media organisations – has addressed the topic of ‘citizen journalists’ providing user-generated content (UGC), much less attention is given to content sourced from NGOs.”

One result of the BBC’s unchallenged promotion of information provided by NGOs often portrayed as ‘human rights groups’  is the ensuing ‘halo effect’ which leads members of the public and politicians alike to refrain from critical examination of the facts behind claims made by campaigning groups with a clear political agenda – as, sadly, the above example shows only too well.

Related Articles:

British MP’s query on Jerusalem prompting David Cameron’s ‘shock’ is based on lie (UK Media Watch)