Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports the results of an opinion poll.

“A new poll by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, taken June 27-July 19, indicates that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose their leaderships’ preemptive rejection of the Trump administration’s peace plan—despite widespread popular disapproval of the current U.S. president. The survey also shows a dramatic rise in the proportion supporting an enhanced role in peacemaking for the Arab states. More specifically, however, only a minority voice a favorable attitude toward the June regional economic workshop in Bahrain, with many saying they have not heard or read enough about it.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.

“Turkey’s efforts at building influence and power in the neighborhood are not restricted to dry land.  Rather, an important currently developing arena for Turkish assertiveness is the eastern Mediterranean.  This area has been the site of major gas discoveries in Israeli, Cypriot and Egyptian waters in recent years.  Lebanon too is seeking to open exploration in its territorial waters. […]

As Turkey moves further from the west, and closer to alliance with Russia, so it is emerging as an aggressive and disruptive force with regard to gas development in the eastern Meditteranean.  The main area of current concern is that around Cyprus.  Israel, Egypt and Lebanon have all signed delimitation agreements with Cyprus. Turkey refuses to do so.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt asks ‘Has Ebrahim Raisi been Tagged as Iran’s Next Supreme Leader?’.

“Recent months have seen increasing signs that the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Since his appointment as head of the judiciary in March 2019, there have been increasing efforts on the part of Raisi, a conservative cleric, apparently backed by the Supreme Leader, to advance changes in the legal system, improve his public image, and increase his media exposure, particularly in view of his loss in the most recent presidential elections in May 2017. It is still too early to assess Raisi’s chances of winning the battle of succession for the leadership of Iran, which will necessarily be affected by the timing of Khamenei’s departure from the political map. However, his closeness to the Supreme Leader, his experience in the judicial authority, his tenure as chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation (and the Imam Reza Shrine) in the city of Mashhad, and his hardline positions, alongside his increasing efforts to improve his public standing, make him the leading candidate at this stage in the battle of succession.”

4) The ITIC documents how Hamas is “using youngsters as a tool for violence near the security fence in the Gaza Strip”.

“The return march in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2019, was similar in most respects to the previous marches. About 4,500 Palestinians participated, gathering mainly at the five return camps. As usual, the march was accompanied by violent activities near the border fence carried out by several dozen Palestinians, most of them adolescents and children. The violent activities included throwing IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails at the IDF. Several Palestinians tried to sabotage the security fence and some crossed the fence into Israeli territory. Videos photographed at the return march clearly illustrated the exploitation of youngsters handled for military missions, endangering their lives. Harm that may come to them serves Hamas as a propaganda and lawfare weapon against Israel, which is represented as Israel’s killing youngsters in cold blood.”

 

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BBC radio audiences get ‘the word’ and ‘theories’ instead of facts and analysis

On the same day that the BBC News website published a highly partial report on the topic of new Israeli building permits, listeners to the July 31st evening edition of  the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce the final item (from 48:49 here) with the claim that security cabinet approval for those permits came a day later than was actually the case.  

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

Coomarasamy: “Now let’s hear about some developments in the Middle East because President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner has been meeting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. The meeting comes on the day when the Israeli government gave rare approval for the building of 700 Palestinian homes in a part of the occupied West Bank, along with permission for another 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers. The Palestinians bitterly oppose Jewish settlement building and they say this permission is simply another land seizure.”

Seeing as any building would likely take place within the boundaries of existing communities, that claim of a “land seizure” is clearly far fetched and Coomarasamy’s suggestion that the security cabinet approval stipulates the religion/ethnicity of potential residents is equally inaccurate. He went on:

Coomarasamy: “Omar Hajajrei [phonetic] lives in the affected area.”

Listeners were not informed who that interviewee is, to which organisation – if any – he belongs or what makes him qualified to comment on the topic besides his place of residence.

Voiceover translation from Arabic: “This is a lie and it’s only for the media. It’s an excuse to build settlements and to have a barrier of settlements around Jerusalem as you can see in front of us. There are around 1,500 residential units. They started six months ago and look how much they’ve built so far. They will build all around the mountain. It is a lie. Even if they will give permits, they will not give it the right way.”

Coomarasamy: “I’ve been discussing this decision with Raphael Ahren, a diplomatic correspondent of Times of Israel.”

The ‘analysis’ that listeners heard from Raphael Ahren commenced – and continued – with pure speculation.

Ahren: “It is quite unusual. Usually it’s not the security cabinet who debates and decides these issues. It doesn’t need security cabinet discussions. The word here in Israel is that Netanyahu decided to bring this topic up for discussion among the ministers so he can sort of share the blame. If people criticise them for it he can say ‘well all the ministers in the cabinet bear responsibility for that decision and it’s not just me’.”

Coomarasmay: Why might he have decided to go ahead with it?”

The answer to that question was no more evidence based.

Ahren: “Well nobody really knows. There are several theories going around. I’ll offer you two theories. One is that the American administration which is preparing to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has asked him to do so.”

However Ahren then admitted that not only does he have nothing to support that speculation but it has actually been refuted.

Ahren: “This evening the US ambassador David Friedman and his people say that they made no such request and that they didn’t even hint at it. But sometimes, people say, you don’t even have to make an explicit request. Everybody knows that as the Trump administration releases its probably pro-Israel peace plan, it probably looks good to have this gesture for the Palestinians.”

Ahren then presented more evidence-free speculation:

Ahren: “The second reason I would offer had nothing to do with the Americans, had nothing to do with the forthcoming peace plan but rather with the fear of litigation in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I heard reports tonight that the special prosecutor is in the final stages of her decision-making process whether to proceed from the currently ongoing preliminary examination in the situation in Palestine to a full-fledged investigation. According to that logic the settlements are a war crime and if then Israel only ever advances housing for Jewish residents but not for Palestinian residents of the West Bank it wouldn’t look good, it would kind of provoke her.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question the assertion that the ICC bases its decisions on whether or not it is ‘provoked’ and Ahren continued:

Ahren: “You might have heard even last week it made international headlines that Israel demolished illegal structures in the West Bank. I toured the West Bank today where settlement leaders have different opinions on this but some people are actually saying in a world where everything’s forbidden, everything’s allowed. If we never give permits for them to build we cannot expect them not to build and then it doesn’t look good if we only destroy and we don’t let them build.”

Coomarasamy: “If it is the first of the two theories you put forward and it is a bone, as you put it, to be thrown to the Palestinians, is it one that they’re likely to touch?”

Ahren: “Well yeah I mean of course they want to be a building for their people so it’s not something that they’re going to reject. I may say, some of these houses may already have been built and these permits are sort of coming retroactively. Palestinians, as I mentioned, do not get a lot of permits to build in the West Bank and there is natural growth of the Palestinian population there and therefore a lot of illegal structures are going on. These 700 permits might just be used sort of to legalise them after the fact.”

How the BBC can possibly claim that those unsupported speculations would help BBC audiences understand the story is of course unclear and listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Midnight News on August 1st (from 22:10 here) did little better.

Newsreader: “Israel has given rare approval for 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. It also said that 6,000 homes could be built for Jewish settlers. The announcement was made as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived in Jordan to drum up support for US attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman of course recited the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’.

Bateman: “The government decision gives the go-ahead for a significant number of new homes in settlements – which are seen as illegal under international law – and is said to further extend Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank. But it is Israel’s approval for Palestinian homes that is unusual. It is not clear whether these would be 700 new constructions or merely legal consent for existing homes in what is known as Area C. Here, Israel has full control and builds new settlement houses but new Palestinian homes are frequently demolished as Israel virtually never gives them building permission.”

Bateman next amplified an obviously absurd Palestinian claim and presented listeners with yet another speculative theory.

Bateman: “The Palestinian leadership called the announcement piracy. The timing, with Mr Kushner’s visit to the region underway, may be significant. The White House’s faltering attempts to deliver what Mr Trump has called ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is based on money and backing from Arab states. This may have been one way of trying to convince them to take part in the process and address the long-held criticism that the administration’s support is heavily weighted towards Israel.”

That, apparently, is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

Related Articles:

More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

BBC News report omits significant information

BBC radio audiences hear one-sided reports from Yolande Knell

 

More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.

As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]

“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”

As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.

 Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.” 

Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”

Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The article tells readers that:

“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”

It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.

“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”

Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:

“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”

While the BBC continues to ignore allegations of corruption at the top of UNRWA management and the related suspension of funding by Switzerland and the Netherlands, readers are also told that:

“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”

UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.

Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.

“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”

The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:

“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”

Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.

As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.

Related Articles:

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

 

 

BBC News again sidesteps an issue that does not fit the narrative

Last year we noted the significance of the BBC’s failure to adequately inform its audiences about Palestinian violations of agreements signed with Israel within the framework of the Oslo Accords concerning freedom of access and worship at holy sites located in areas under Palestinian Authority control.

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

“Obviously Israeli Jews are not able to visit the synagogue in Gaza City today and visits to additional sites on that list are either virtually impossible or severely restricted. Some of those holy and historically important sites have been vandalised, including Joseph’s Tomb which – as the BBC reported at the time – was set ablaze by Palestinian rioters in October 2015. 

Holy places to which access is supposedly guaranteed by the Oslo Accords have also been the scene of numerous terror attacks and planned attacks…”

The last time the BBC showed any interest in such a story was in March and that was because two Palestinians were killed while throwing explosive devices at soldiers securing visitors.

In that report readers were told that Joseph’s Tomb in Schem (Nablus) “has been a source of friction in the past” but the BBC refrained from clarifying that “friction” actually means repeated Palestinian attacks on both the site itself and the security forces guarding visiting worshipers.

This week the Israeli media reported that during the monthly visit:

“IDF forces found a pipe bomb near Joseph’s Tomb during preparations before the arrival of 1,200 Jewish worshipers to the compound in Nablus. The bomb was neutralized in a controlled explosion. 

Disturbances broke out as the worshipers entered the tomb, as rioters burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, and the prayer services continued undisturbed.”

Under the terms of its charter the BBC is of course obliged to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. While in recent weeks the corporation has repeatedly amplified a PA promoted narrative touting the demise of its interpretation of the two-state solution, the BBC continues to be notably less interested in informing audiences about the Palestinian Authority’s failure to uphold agreements already signed nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Related Articles:

BBC News glosses over repeated Palestinian violence at holy site

 

 

 

Do BBC audiences get the ‘range and depth of analysis’ promised?

The BBC’s explanation of the first of its public purposes includes the following:

“It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues…as active and informed citizens.”

In contrast to that fine declaration, here is an example of actual practice taken from an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 20th under the headline “Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel’s longest-serving leader”.

“As head of the right-wing Likud party, Mr Netanyahu has a reputation as a hardliner on the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Although he carried out a partial withdrawal from the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank in 1998 – handing most of it over to the Palestinian Authority – he is a staunch opponent of the land-for-peace formula.

He has since declared there will be no more evacuations of Jewish settlers or settlements under his rule, nor the creation of a fully fledged Palestinian state.”

The redeployment of Israeli troops from 80% of Hebron – in accordance with the protocol signed during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister – took place in January 1997 rather than in 1998 as claimed by the BBC.

In those three short paragraphs the BBC tells its audiences that Netanyahu is “a hardliner”, supposedly justifying that description with the claim that he is “opponent of the land-for-peace formula” and will not evacuate Israeli communities or agree to a Palestinian state.

Audiences are given no explanation of what the “land-for-peace” formula is, how it originated or whether or not it has been successful and hence are not provided with the tools to judge Netanyahu’s alleged opposition to it for themselves. They are not informed that the two examples of treaties signed by Israel and Arab countries based on the concept of ‘land-for-peace’ – the agreements with Egypt and Jordan – have resulted in what some Israelis might describe as ‘land-for-not-war’ rather than peace.

The BBC’s would-be cameo refrains from mentioning the cases in which Israeli withdrawal from territory – for example parts of Gaza and Judea & Samaria in the early 1990s and the Gaza Strip in 2005 – not only failed to bring peace but was actually followed by greater violence. No mention is made of the effects that has had on perceptions of the concept of ‘land-for-peace’ in Israel: according to that BBC definition of a ‘hardliner’, it would include a significant proportion of the Israeli public as well as people such as former Labour politician Eitan Cabel, the ‘Blue & White’ party’s Moshe Ya’alon and writer A.B. Yehoshua.

Significantly, the BBC’s portrayal erases Palestinians (and their multiple refusals to accept ‘land for peace’ offers) from the picture entirely, promoting the narrative that Israel alone – and specifically its current prime minister – is responsible for the absence of peace.

A further example of how the BBC is more interested in narrative than fact comes in the article’s closing lines.

“He [Netanyahu] faces a tough challenge from political opponents seeking to topple him in elections on 17 September. Among them are another former prime minster, Ehud Barak, and a former military chief-of-staff.”

According to the latest opinion polls, Netanyahu’s ‘Likud’ party is on track to secure 32 Knesset seats in the election in two months’ time while Ehud Barak’s ‘Israel Democratic Party’ is polling four to five seats.

The BBC’s “depth of analysis” apparently defines that as a “tough challenge”.  

BBC Radio 4 listeners are told of ‘Palestinian air’

The July 11th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“More than 25 years on from the Oslo Peace accords, close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are still rare. Charlie Faulkner attends a Shabbat meal in Jerusalem where an Israeli woman invites a former Palestinian prisoner to her home.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 11:25 here) with an inaccurate portrayal of the aims of the Oslo Accords, a one-sided explanation of factors supposedly making a two-state solution “more remote” and the same unevidenced claim about friendships between Israelis and Palestinians. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s more than 25 years since the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, aiming to fulfil the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The accords led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority with limited self-governance of the West Bank and Gaza and raised hopes for a more peaceful future. But now the ultimate goal of establishing a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution seems more remote than ever amid rocket attacks and air strikes and an Israeli government taking a hard-line approach. Close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are rare but Charlie Faulkner has come across a personal attempt to bring people together.”

Charlie Faulkner is not a BBC employee: she describes herself as “an independent journalist” currently located in Amman and has written for several Qatar-linked outlets includingMiddle East Eye’, ‘The New Arab’ and ‘Al Jazeera’.

Faulkner’s story was about what she claimed was “a very unusual dinner party” at the home of someone described as “Jewish American” despite having lived in Israel for twelve years.

“In just a few moments Susan – a Jewish American in her 60s – would be inviting Suli – a former Palestinian prisoner – into her home for Shabbat dinner even though she’d never had a conversation with a Palestinian before. It was Susan’s daughter, 33-year-old Noa, who’d orchestrated this unusual get-together.”

Although family names are absent from Faulkner’s account, Noa appears to be Noa Yammer – communications director for ‘Hand in Hand’ – and ‘Suli’ is apparently Sulaiman Khatib who has previously appeared in BBC content. Carefully avoiding the word terror, Faulkner told listeners:

“Suli, now in his mid-forties, was imprisoned for 10 years at the age of 14 after attacking two Israeli soldiers. Having informally joined the Fatah movement, one day he and a friend decided to steal the soldiers’ weapons. During the attempt – and in a moment of blind fury – Suli and his friend stabbed them. Luckily the soldiers survived, he said, and after his release from prison he focused on achieving peace. He’s the founder of a group called ‘Combatants for Peace’ and gives speaking tours around the world. This year he’ll publish a book he hopes will humanise both sides of the conflict.”

Radio 4 listeners were given no factual information about the activities, agenda and funding of the political NGO ‘Combatants for Peace’.

Again with no evidence provided to support the claim, listeners were told that:

“Encounters between Israelis and Palestinians like this are incredibly rare, set against an often tense political background. […] The conversation quickly turned serious. Israel’s Independence Day was taking place the following week and Suli’s organisation had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service the evening before. He invited Susan to attend. Immediately she bristled but answered very honestly. She said she felt that attending would be disrespectful to the sacrifice made by Israeli soldiers who had died for the country.”

Faulkner made no effort to explain to listeners that that annual event – held on what is Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism – is considered by many to be controversial with “critics accusing it of legitimizing terrorism and equating Israel’s fallen soldiers and those who attacked them”.

Listeners heard Faulkner’s descriptions of her protagonists’ “attachment to the land”, with one including superficial references to the Six Day War and the Palestinian refugee issue – and promoting the notion of “Palestinian air”.

“Having spent most of her life teaching religious studies, Susan explained that through her faith she felt a real attachment to the land. She also emphasised that the family had sacrificed some quality of life to be there.”

“Suli pointed out his own family’s attachment to the land and how his cousin in Jordan, whose parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the 1967 war, is not allowed to return. His cousin often longs to breathe in Palestinian air, said Suli, and on those days he climbs Mount Nebo from which he can see Jerusalem and the village where Suli’s family still live.”

More one-sided framing followed:

“He talked about how his village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, called Hizme, has continued to suffer under what he describes as an ever-tightening grip of the Israeli authorities.”

Terrorist incidents in and around that village were of course not mentioned in Faulkner’s account.  

Israelis, however, were painted as largely intolerant.

“We talked about a social media post Noa had shared showing empathy for innocent Israelis and Palestinians caught up in the 2014 Gaza conflict. It had unintentionally sparked a highly emotional backlash from some friends and relatives. ‘We’re talking about these people’s children on the front lines’ Susan exclaimed. These people had seen Noa as siding with the enemy. […] Susan said she was proud of the way her daughter could hold both sides in equal esteem, suggesting she maybe wasn’t able to do so herself.”

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ promises BBC audiences “[i]nsight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world”. This report did not include any of those elements and was remarkably superficial and uninformative. It did, however, promote an inadequately portrayed political NGO, marginalise Israeli concerns and contribute to the inaccurate framing of the Oslo Accords and the supposedly ever “remote” two-state solution that has been quite frequently evident in recent BBC reports.  

 

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Throughout the month of June 2019, sixteen written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which were carried over from the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned security issues:

Israel strikes Syrian targets near Golan Heights (2/6/19 to 7/6/19) discussed here

Five items related to political/diplomatic aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict – specifically the economic workshop in Bahrain:

Middle East peace plan: Jared Kushner proposes $50bn fund (22/6/19 to 24/6/19)

Is peace between Israel and Palestinians out of reach? Yolande Knell (24/6/19 to 3/7/19) discussed here

Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank Yolande Knell (25/6/19 to 2/7/19)

Kushner urges Palestinians to embrace ‘opportunity of century’ (25/6/19 to present)

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Kushner says peace can bring prosperity (25/6/19 to 27/6/19)

One article had a historical theme:

Last known survivor of Sobibor death camp uprising dies aged 96 (4/6/19 to 7/6/19)

One report concerned internal Palestinian affairs:

Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises (6/6/19 to 12/6/19) discussed here

Of eight reports concerning Israeli affairs, three were about internal politics:

Israel’s Netanyahu: Is ‘King’ Bibi’s crown slipping? Tom Bateman (30/5/19 to 19/6/19)

Israel to hold fresh election as Netanyahu fails to form coalition (29/5/19 to 2/6/19)

Israel: Amir Ohana becomes first openly gay minister (6/6/19 to 11/6/19) discussed here

One report concerned a legal/criminal case:

Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits misusing public funds (16/6/19 to 19/6/19) discussed here

One report related to an Israeli national holiday:

Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site Tom Bateman (3/6/19 to 14/6/19) discussed here

One report concerned internal security:

Russia denies role in Israeli airport GPS jamming BBC Technology (27/6/19 to 1/7/19)

One report related to planning:

Golan Heights: Israel unveils ‘Trump Heights’ settlement (16/6/19 to 18/6/19) discussed here and here

One report can be classified as miscellaneous:

I never met my daughter’s dad – she was his dying wish Sarah McDermott (22/5/19 to 5/6/19)

While BBC audiences saw eight reports concerning Israeli affairs, just one report on internal Palestinian affairs appeared throughout the month.

In the six months between January and June 2019 the BBC News website has published sixty-seven articles pertaining to Israeli affairs and just eight reports on internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

BBC impartiality – a case study

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that: (update: link to new version here

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument. The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

And:

“Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion.  We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts.  We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument. […]

Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item.  Instead, we should seek to achieve ‘due weight’.  For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

Nevertheless, the omission of an important perspective, in a particular context, may jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.  Decisions over whether to include or omit perspectives should be reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied editorial judgement across an appropriate range of output.”

The corporation’s coverage of the recent US initiated economic workshop in Bahrain provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage ahead of a debate in the UK Parliament on that topic on July 15th.

Between June 20th and June 26th 2019 various BBC departments put out content relating to the conference in Bahrain. Common threads running through that coverage included:

  • Heavy promotion of Palestinian Authority and PLO talking points both by BBC journalists and by means of interviews with Palestinians.
  • Promotion of the notion of ‘the Palestinians’ as a homogeneous entity under one leadership with no mention of the long-standing splits between Palestinian factions and the fact that the PA and PLO do not represent the Palestinians as a whole.
  • The absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas and additional factions reject the idea of a peace agreement with Israel.
  • Exclusive promotion of the PLO’s interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’.
  • Use of partial terminology such as “illegal settlements”.
  • The absence of any mention of the participation of Palestinian businessmen in the conference and subsequent events.
  • Downplaying – and in most cases, ignoring – Palestinian terrorism and its role in creating the need for counter-terrorism measures.

While the table below is not exhaustive, it gives an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligation to “give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument” and to reflect “a breadth and diversity of opinion”.

As we see, the BBC chose to provide air-time to three times more Palestinian officials than Israeli officials and did not include any interviews with US officials in its coverage at all. Audiences saw or heard extensive and repeated comment from Palestinian civilians while just two Israeli voices were heard in a single item. Interviews were conducted with two representatives from US think tanks, one Saudi Arabian journalist and one inadequately presented UN official. 

[1] BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

[2] More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one & More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

[3] BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

[4] https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141985649131757569 & https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141986084525674496

[5] Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

[6] BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

[7] More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

[8] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743663

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743429

[10] BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one & BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part two

[11] BBC WS ‘Newshour’ listeners get little more than PA talking points

[12] BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one & BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

Across a variety of BBC platforms, audiences were given a very specific and overwhelmingly one-sided view of the Bahrain economic workshop and the US peace initiative in general. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear “a breadth and diversity of opinion” at all. 

Whether or not the fact that BBC journalists were given a ‘briefing’ by a Palestinian Authority representative three days before coverage began (a BBC decision which in itself is detrimental to “perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality”) had an effect on the chosen framing is of course difficult to determine but certainly the corporation’s coverage of the Bahrain economic workshop did not live up to its supposed standards of editorial impartiality. 

The purpose of those editorial standards is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. In this case it is abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports. 

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BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

In part one of this post we saw how presenter Mishal Husain gave listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on June 26th a very partial view of the Arab Peace Initiative and promoted the notion that the United States had “killed hopes of a Palestinian state”.

Later on in the programme  (from 2:35:28 here) listeners heard a seven and a half minute long item concerning the Bahrain economic workshop taking place on that day which was introduced by Husain using the same framing.

Once again Husain refrained from informing audiences that Hamas does not support the Arab Peace Initiative and – as in all BBC coverage of the Bahrain workshop – she misleadingly presented “the Palestinians” as a homogenous group, failing to clarify both that Hamas opposes any peace plan and that some Palestinian businessmen did take part in the conference.

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

Husain: “A US sponsored conference on economic development in the Palestinian territories has opened in Bahrain. Jared Kushner says it’s the opportunity of the century – part of his father-in-law Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which has not involved the Palestinians at all. As the event began Mr Kushner spoke of any future peace deal not being along the lines of the widely accepted Arab Peace Initiative which envisages a Palestinian state alongside Israel. I’ve been speaking to Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN. But first, Michael Lynk – UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” 

Michael Lynk’s actual title is “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”. Husain made no effort to inform listeners of his “particular viewpoint” as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and so they had no idea that behind the ostensibly ‘neutral’ statements they heard from a UN representative lies a long record of anti-Israel activity.

“Michael Lynk […] plays a leadership role in numerous Arab lobby groups, including CEPAL, which promotes “Annual Israeli Apartheid Week” events; signs anti-Israel petitions; calls to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes; addresses “One State” conferences that seek to eliminate Israel; and argues that “the solution” to “the problem” must go back to Israel’s very creation in 1948, which he calls “the start of ethnic cleansing.””

Unsurprisingly to anyone who is familiar with Michael Lynk, he had nothing at all to say about Palestinian terrorism.

Lynk: “On the one hand the concept of building a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian economy is one that we would all support but trying to put an economic peace ahead of political settlement I think is almost certainly going to fail and the most important reasons for the feeble Palestinian economy are tied to the 52-year-old Israeli occupation.”

Husain: “But traditionally the political settlement idea has been pursued first and that hasn’t worked. Is it possible that by putting the focus on economic prosperity you might create a different climate for political solutions to be talked about?”

Lynk: “I think not. You know, in order to have a successful economy any country is going to need control over its own territory, the ability to trade and to export, the ability to develop a vibrant labour market, the ability to create a supportive investment infrastructure and the Palestinians have none of these economic freedoms. Unless you solve the political problem first and end the occupation, any focus on the economy I believe is going to be doomed.”

Husain failed to clarify to listeners that, despite the security measures made necessary by Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinians did manage to export 94.8 million dollars-worth of goods in 2017. She went on to re-promote her partial framing of the Arab Peace Initiative, making no effort to inform listeners of its additional aspects – in particular those relating to Palestinian refugees – which make it a non-starter.

Husain: “Well it would seem from Jared Kushner’s envisaging of a way to solve the political problem…I mean he has…he has said the Arab Peace Initiative – this is the plan that envisages two states, one Israeli, one…one Palestinian – ahm…will not happen. ‘If there is ever a deal it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative’ he said. ‘Any future deal will be somewhere between that initiative and the Israeli position’. So it seems that – as many people would have suspected for some time – that the two state solution is dying or already dead.”

Listeners then heard Lynk’s interpretation of the two-state solution which, unsurprisingly, dovetails with that of the PLO – including the erroneous notion of “’67 borders”.

Lynk: “Yes and I agree with you. You know the…keep in mind that the international community has for a long time laid out what are the essential elements of a final political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It means an independent, contiguous Palestinian state based on the ’67 borders alongside of Israel. It means a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. It means an absolute end to the illegal Israeli settlements. It means a just solution for the Palestinian refugees and it means obviously guarantees. That’s not what we’ve been hearing from the statements being made by the three advisors on the Middle East peace plan. They’ve given their blessings to Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank – which is illegal under international law. They have envisaged something much less than a fully sovereign Palestinian state. None of this is any basis for trying to build trust that you’re leading towards a viable, just and fair settlement for both sides.”

Following that unchallenged promotion of PLO talking points from a supposedly ‘neutral’ source, Husain moved on to tick the ‘impartiality’ box with her next interviewee, telling listeners what “is absent from this plan” even though the relevant part of it has yet to be published.

Husain: “Ehm…let me turn to Danny Danon – Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations – who is listening to you, Michael Lynk. Ambassador Danon; isn’t it true that any real concept of peace involves political and economic freedom and that is absent from this plan?”

Danon: “Well I think it is unfortunate that you have a very important discussion taking place and the Palestinians are again ignoring it. So we welcome the US initiative. We are open-minded to discuss new ideas. But we all know that in order to move things on the ground, you need all the parties engaged. Today the Palestinians are saying out loud ‘we do not recognise the Israelis as partners, we do not recognise the US as mediators’ and it is unfortunate.”

Husain then took on the role of Palestinian advocate.

Husain: “Well, to not recognise as mediators, that is because this administration has shown very clearly which side they favour in all the actions that they have taken so far and the reason the Palestinians aren’t there at this event is because it is not discussing all issues. It is not discussing any of the political issues.”

Danon: “So as we know this is only the first part of the plan. We will have to wait to see the entire plan and to discuss it.”

Husain: “When is the rest of the plan coming?”

Danon: “It is up to the US administration to decide about that. We presume it will be after the elections in Israel and I don’t know if we will support everything in the plan but we respect the efforts and we welcome the involvement of very original partners and I think the fact that you have today Arab countries coming together, I think this is the right way to move forward.”

Despite having just acknowledged that the political part of the plan has yet to be published, Husain once again went on to claim to know what it includes.

Husain: “The long struggle of the Jewish people for self-determination and for your own homeland: you would never have accepted the sort of state that is now being put forward for the Palestinians – if you can even call it a state – somewhere where there are no full political rights alongside any economic rights.”

Danon: “So I think when you look at the history of the Jewish people we never had an ambition to hurt anyone else, to support terrorism or to encourage incitement. And I published an op-ed at the New York Times yesterday where I think it’s about time that the Palestinians will look at the future and not the past. For example, take the payment they are paying for convicted terrorists. Why they have this culture of hate? Let’s move on, recognise Israel and negotiate with Israel.”

Mr Danon’s op-ed can be found here.

Husain: “In that piece you wrote you used the word ‘surrender’. You said ‘there is nothing wrong with Palestinians surrendering – that would create the opportunity to transform Palestinian society’. I mean that, they would say, is a very offensive way to…to talk about their struggle for their rights.”

Danon: “You have to read the entire article because I use the word surrender to surrender their ideas of moving the Jews out of Israel…”

Husain interrupted with her own very revealing interpretation of the idea that Palestinians should accept that the Jews are not going to be driven out of the region:

Husain [interrupts] “To surrender their dream of statehood.”

Danon: “…and preaching of hatred. They should forget about that. We are there to stay and they should accept that. They should teach their children that that is, that Israel is there to stay. In order to move forward we have to recognise Israel and we have to see how we can live together or one side by side with the other and move forward. Until they will not do that they will stay where they are. And look what’s happening today: Israel is booming, our economy is stronger than ever and they are staying behind.”

Once again Husain promoted a strawman:

Husain: “Are you saying they should accept there will be one state in the future – the Jewish state?”

Danon: “I say they should enter the room. It’s legitimate that they will come with their own aspirations, their own demands, requests, requirements. And we will come with ours. You know, the international community can help and I think the financial help is well appreciated but at the end it will be us and the Palestinians living there. That’s why eventually we will have to engage in a direct dialogue.”

Apparently reluctant to close the item on that note, Husain let the partisan UN rapporteur have the last word.

Husain: “Michael Lynk: just a final thought from you. Do you think that the Palestinians should be engaging in this dialogue, however much they object to the terms in which it’s framed?”

Lynk: “Well that’s entirely up to them. You know, to be clear, as a UN special rapporteur I don’t speak for the Palestinians and I don’t speak for the UN. Really the question which I can answer is is this particular path or vision likely to lead to a just and durable peace and as I’ve said. I cannot see it.”

Husain rounded off the item with yet another misrepresentation of Lynk’s title:

Husain: “Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Ambassador Danny Danon of Israel, thank you very much.”

So what could Radio 4 audiences learn from this item? They heard a partisan and incomplete portrayal of the Arab Peace Initiative with no explanation of why it has gone nowhere in the seventeen years since it was produced. They were led to believe that that inadequately presented initiative is the only game in town and that by not embracing it in its entirety, the US has “killed” the chances for a Palestinian state. They got a one-sided explanation of the two-state solution which complies with the PLO’s interpretation of that concept. They heard Mishal Husain purport to tell them what is in a plan that has not yet been published. They did not however receive any information concerning the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of peace plans based on the two-state solution and the sole reference to Palestinian terrorism came from the Israeli interviewee.

In other words, as the BBC’s tight framing of the topic of the Bahrain economic workshop continued, audiences were once again denied the full range of information which would enhance better and comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC ignores UNHRC’s nomination of controversial official

 

BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one

The June 26th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included a fairly long item relating to the Bahrain economic workshop which was in its second day. Before that, however, during a review of the day’s newspapers (from 09:53 here) listeners were told by presenter Mishal Husain that:

Husain [09:53]: “And the Times reports from the US sponsored…eh…conference aimed at Middle East peace that’s taking place in Bahrain, saying ‘the US has killed hopes of a Palestinian state as that conference opened’. This is because Jared Kushner has used an interview to mark the start of the conference by saying that…ehm…that ‘we all have to recognise that if there ever is a deal’ – he means a peace deal – ‘it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative’ and that was the initiative that envisaged an Israeli and a Palestinian state standing side by side.”

That Times article included more than just that bizarre claim presented in its opening paragraphs but that was what Husain chose to highlight. The interview to which she referred was with Al Jazeera and the relevant part is from 20:02 in the video here.

Husain’s presentation obviously suggests to listeners that the first time the idea of a two-state solution came up was in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. That of course is not the case – the concept had been around since the Peel Commission report of 1937 and has since been part of numerous initiatives, including at the Madrid Conference in 1991. What Husain did not tell Radio 4 listeners is that the Palestinians have a long record of rejection of any solution involving two states for two peoples and that the Arab Peace Initiative is not accepted by Hamas or Hizballah.

Neither did Husain bother to clarify that that initiative includes more that just “an Israeli and a Palestinian state standing side by side”. It demands Israeli withdrawal from areas which are not included in any plan for a Palestinian state (including the Golan Heights) and it is, from the Israeli point of view, extremely problematic on the issue of Palestinian refugees due to its not only demanding ‘right of return’ to Israel but also rejecting the resettlement (“patriation“) of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries.

It is therefore plausible that when Mr Kushner told the Al Jazeera interviewer that any future agreement “will be somewhere between the Arab peace initiative and between the Israeli position” he had those points in mind. Mishal Husain however unquestioningly embraced the viewpoint of the Times reporter and promoted the notion to listeners that the United States had “killed hopes of a Palestinian state”.

That selective and politicised framing is important because, as we shall see in part two of this post, Husain continued to promote it throughout the later item concerning the Bahrain conference.