BBC contributor on ME links up with UK Hamas supporters

Next month an organisation linked to Hamas (which is of course proscribed by the EU and in part by the UK) will hold an event titled ‘Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on’ at the British Library in London.

“The 1917 Balfour Declaration is widely regarded as one of the most formative and far-reaching documents in the modern history of the Middle East. It was the cornerstone of the Zionist project to transform Arab Palestine into a ‘Jewish state’. The Declaration and subsequent events changed not only the demographic map of the region but also its political, social and military configuration as well.

Join Middle East Monitor on the 7th of October at the British Library in Central London to learn more about and discuss the declaration, how it came about, it’s [sic] legal standing and consequences, and to look at Britain’s role in the continued oppression of Palestinians.”

The fact that ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO) is organising such an event comes as no surprise: it is after all the Hamas-linked outfit that invited Raed Salah to the UK in 2011 and it includes among its staff seasoned anti-Israel activists such as director Daud Abdullah (also connected to the PRC) and senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt of ‘Interpal‘. 

Neither is the line-up of speakers at this latest MEMO event much of an eye-opener: no-one familiar with the Hamas-sympathetic anti-Israel scene in the UK would be shocked to find names such as David Cronin, Clare Short and Peter Oborne on the list.

Nevertheless, one name on that list should raise eyebrows – not because he has unsurprisingly agreed to speak at an event run by a group known to be linked to Hamas but because the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activist academic Avi Shlaim is also a fairly regular (but inevitably inadequately introduced) BBC contributor on Middle East affairs and has even in the past been consulted as an ‘expert’ at the later stages of the BBC complaints procedure.

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Weekend long read

1) Although the BBC News website finally got round last week to making a fourteen word mention of the fact that municipal elections are scheduled to take place in the PA controlled territories and the Gaza Strip next month, audiences have yet to see any serious reporting on that topic. Writing at the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff takes the electoral pulse in Hebron.Weekend Read

“Yet although the public in Hebron seems somewhat indifferent to the elections, for the Fatah party, tensions are as high as the stakes.

These are the first elections in more than a decade in which voting is taking place at the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank, and Hamas and Fatah are going head-to-head.

Whatever the result, it will affect not only the status of these organizations but also of their leaders, and could even seep into the relationship between the Palestinians and Israel. While these elections are local, and won’t directly change anything politically or security-related between Israel and the Palestinian, a sweeping win by the hardline Islamist movement Hamas is still liable to ramp up the amount of suspicion and lack of trust between the two peoples.

As in the other cities in the West Bank, the trouble in Hebron is that because there are so many secular slates of candidates, there is a reasonable chance that the more moderate camp of Fatah and groups of its ilk will split the secular vote, paving the way for victory by Hamas candidates.”

2) At the Jewish News, Yiftah Curiel documents the connections between two British websites and Hamas.

“MEMO is populated by bloggers and activists and directed by Daoud Abdullah, a senior researcher at the London-based Palestinian Return Centre – an organisation outlawed in Israel for its connections with Hamas and acting as the terror group’s de-facto arm across Europe.

When you read stories on the site directed by Mr Abdullah, you’re reading material edited by senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt, who is also director of Interpal, a British Muslim charity designated as a terror-supporting group in Israel. The charity is also a longstanding member of the United States Treasury’s list of specially designated terrorist organisations.”

3) MEMO was also the topic of a 2014 article by Petra Marquardt Bigman which is worth revisiting.

“While the US government may designate Hamas and its funders as terrorist organizations and entities, some academics from elite US universities apparently don’t mind lending their prestige to a publishing enterprise that promotes the ideology of Hamas and is led by its supporters, who undoubtedly cherish the opportunity to gain legitimacy by bestowing their awards not only on professional anti-Israel activists but also on willing members of America’s academic elite.”

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BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

“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.” (BBC Editorial Guidelines, Impartiality, section 4.4.14 – emphasis added)

Like the BBC Editorial Guidelines as a whole, that section applies to all BBC content. However, on May 17th the ‘In Pictures’ page of the BBC News website published an item headlined “Hard Work” (which also appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page) which failed to conform to that clause.

In Pictures Hard Work

That link leads to a photo essay titled “Traditional industries in the West Bank” in which audiences are told:

“In the West Bank, several traditional Palestinian industries are still utilising historical techniques fine-tuned through generations – but once flourishing industries, such as shoemaking in Hebron or olive oil soap production in Nablus, are barely surviving, with a fraction of their former workforces.

Photographer Rich Wiles has been documenting these industries, some of which may not survive much longer in the current political and economic climate.”

Rich Wiles, however, is not only a photographer: he is also a professional political activist who uses his camera as a tool for the advancement of his chosen political cause – as is apparent from an interview he gave to a local UK newspaper in 2014.

“It might not be an easy place to live, but Rich Wiles feels at home in Palestine.

The Hull-born photographer has spent the past decade in this unsettled part of the world, getting married and starting a family along the way.

Now his latest exhibition – chronicling life in parts of this frequently war-torn region – is on show in London.

“It is never an easy place to live, but it is a beautiful place to live at the same time,” said Rich, who lives in Ramallah with his wife, Cyrine, and their baby daughter, Nadia-Sue. […]

In 2001, at the age of 27, he decided to study for an HND at Hull School of Art and Design.

After becoming involved in the anti-war movement in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he was invited by friends from the movement to join them on a trip to Palestine.

He went on to work with Creative Partnerships in Hull, where he organised photographic projects with children here and in the West Bank.

In 2005, moved by what he had witnessed, he decided to move to the Aida Camp for Palestinian refugees, which is located just outside of Bethlehem.

Since his arrival in Palestine, Rich has helped to establish the Lajee Centre Arts & Media Unit in the camp.

He now works at BADIL, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem.”

In addition to his involvement with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil’, Wiles can regularly be found promoting his campaigning photography at outlets such as Al Jazeera, the Hamas-linked MEMO (which, interestingly, describes him as “MEMO photographer Rich Wiles”) and other Hamas-linked outfits such as the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’.

“In the past Wiles has referred to his photography as a tool of activism. “A photograph is never going to give Palestinians their rights,” he says, “though art is part of a culture of change.”

“History shows us that all liberation struggles have involved elements of armed struggle, they’ve involved elements of popular struggle, demonstrations, they’ve involved art, they’ve involved culture and they’ve involved literature. All these things combined make an effective resistance movement.”” (MEMO, 20/8/14)

Little wonder then that the portrayal of  “traditional industries” in Palestinian Authority controlled areas presented to BBC audiences only briefly touches upon the issue of competition with mass production (a difficulty faced by artisan manufacturers worldwide), but does point audience attentions in one particular direction.

“Several olive-oil soap factories were destroyed by an earthquake that hit Nablus in 1927. More recently, during the second Intifada, which began in 2001, Israeli military attacks on Nablus caused further destruction to the historical buildings. And, today, only three factories remain in production.”

The second intifada of course began in September 2000 – not in 2001 – and this portrayal conveniently erases the very relevant fact that it was initiated by the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli military activity in towns such as Nablus (Schem) came after – and as a result of – over eighteen months of Palestinian terror attacks which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians.

“Historically, Palestinian tanneries got hides from neighbouring Arab states. More recently, supplies suffered from Israel’s economic embargo against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, which together with a ban on chemicals for security reasons has brought Zarai tanneries in Hebron to the brink of closure, its managers say.”

The terrorism which brought about restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip (inaccurately described here as an “economic embargo”) and the terrorism of the second intifada which brought about the (later rescinded) ban on the import of sulfuric acid “due to its potential dual use as an ingredient in explosives-making” are predictably erased from audience view.

In the world of propagandists such as Rich Wiles, Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as passive, lacking in agency and free of any responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.

Whilst that approach may be good enough for outlets with a casual relationship with facts and truth such as Al Jazeera and MEMO, the editorial guidelines quoted above were put in place precisely in order to ensure that BBC audiences get accurate and impartial news rather than politically motivated propaganda.

That means that Rich Wiles’ “particular viewpoint” should have been clarified to readers of this article – and no: the link to his personal website right at the bottom of the page does not suffice.

 

Sourcing an anti-Israel libel promoted on BBC Radio 4

When anti-Israel campaigner Ken Loach appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on February 25th, one of the more delusional allegations heard by listeners (and the competition was tough) was that during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli troops “executed” Hebrew speakers in the Gaza Strip.The World Tonight 25 2

“Will they go to Gaza and see the rubble? Will they see the schools that were bombed by Israel in 2014? Will they see the hospitals that were targeted by Israel? Will they see the places where families were herded together and then executed? Will they hear about the people who were asked if they spoke Hebrew and if they spoke Hebrew they were executed?”

Not only was that allegation – and the many others – not questioned or challenged by the BBC’s Ritula Shah but Loach was not even asked to provide a source for such a serious charge. Hence, we decided to look for its source ourselves and the search did not take very long.

The inventor of that defamation is a man who has made a career out of lying about IsraelMax Blumenthal – and in 2014 he touted it at the so-called ‘Russell Tribunal on Palestine’, with further amplification from Rania Khalek at ‘electronic Intifada’

“Blumenthal described in vivid detail the grisly executions he documented of civilians, paramedics and fighters carried out by invading Israeli soldiers. He also highlighted several instances of Israeli soldiers summarily executing older men in Gaza after learning they spoke Hebrew, leading to speculation that soldiers were ordered to eliminate anyone capable of understanding their commands.”

Another fan of Blumenthal’s unsubstantiated allegations is Asa Winstanley who told readers of the Hamas-linked MEMO website that:

“According to several different eyewitnesses he spoke to, offering corroborating accounts of different incidents, it seems that Israeli soldiers were executing a new practice during this latest Gaza war. As Max puts it: “wanton targeting of Palestinian civilians who spoke Hebrew”.”

The fact that Radio 4 apparently did not see anything problematic about broadcasting that and additional spurious allegations without question or challenge of course prompts the question of what it is that supposedly differentiates the BBC from Hamas-supporting websites which promote and amplify the same defamation – but without demanding a licence fee.

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BBC College of Journalism “associations”

The BBC Academy’s College of Journalism was opened in 2005 in the wake of the Hutton Judicial Inquiry with the aim of providing “training for the entire BBC editorial staff”. Its website claims that it “focuses on best practice in core editorial skills, and offers an overview of specialist areas as well as legal and ethical issues”.

On that website one can find plenty of evidence of collaboration between the BBC College of Journalism and the Frontline Club in London, where events are frequently advertised as being “in association with the BBC College of Journalism” and BBC employees frequently appear. Whether or not that “association” has financial aspects is unclear. 

FLC 1

FLC 2

But not only mainstream media journalists appear at the Frontline Club. As the CST recently reminded us, some speakers with decidedly dubious connections are given a platform there too.

“Tonight [June 12th 2013], Ibrahim Hewitt (pro-Palestinian Islamist), David Hearst (senior Guardian writer) and Tim Llewellyn (ex-BBC Middle East correspondent), will be “critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict”. The venue is London journalist haunt, the Frontline Club. It will be chaired by Mark McDonald, a founder of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

Hewitt is central to this meeting. He is senior editor of Islamist news outfit, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and runs Interpal, a pro-Palestinian charity. In 2010, CST stated that MEMO’s beliefs about “Zionist” control of media and politicians, made it “unsuitable for Labour MPs and senior Guardian personnel to work with”.”

As noted above, as well as being involved with MEMO, Ibrahim Hewitt is also a trustee of the Hamas-supporting ‘charity’ Interpal which is proscribed by the United States, Australia and Israel. He is seen in the picture below on the left, together with Essam Mustafa of Interpal, visiting Hamas PM Haniyeh in Gaza. 

“In July 2006, an investigation by BBC Panorama claimed that Interpal was providing funds to a number of charities in the  Palestinian territories that were affiliated with Hamas. Some of these charities were even run by senior Hamas members. The investigation uncovered video clips of young girls from the al Khalil al Rahman Girls’ Society, which had received money from Interpal. The children sang: “We all sacrifice ourselves for our country. We answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder” … “Fasten your bomb belt, o would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland.” “

 So here’s a question for BBC licence fee payers: do they consider it appropriate for the BBC College of Journalism to maintain “associations” with an establishment which provides a platform (and even a MEMO organised book launch) for someone who belongs to what it knows itself to be a fundraiser for a terrorist organization