BBC Complaints response invokes non-existent “pre-1967 borders”

As readers may recall, the January 29th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Midnight News’ included a report (which is still available online) concerning the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan that included several misleading statements.

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC reporter Aleem Maqbool told listeners that “They [the Palestinians] have been wanting the return of occupied East Jerusalem to establish their own capital” and spoke of “Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan and relying entirely on Israel for access”.

As noted here at the time, Maqbool’s use of the phrase “the return of occupied East Jerusalem” inaccurately suggested to listeners that that location had previously been under Palestinian control (rather than under Jordanian occupation for 19 years). His reference to “Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan” was also misleading to listeners: none of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since 1994 have a “border with Jordan” and a Palestinian entity with such a border has never existed.

In addition the programme’s newsreader told listeners that “Jordan said the only path to peace in the Middle East was to establish an independent Palestinian state based on its borders before the 1967 war”. 

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that long report which included a reminder that – as stated in the BBC Academy style guide’s entry for ‘Green Line’ – no such “borders” existed “before the 1967 war” and that the lines were actually the 1949 Armistice lines which were specifically defined as not being borders.

On February 18th we received the following response to that complaint. [emphasis added]

“Thank you for contacting us about the midnight news bulletin on Radio 4 on Wednesday 29th January.

We have spoken to senior staff about your concerns.

Aleem Maqbool’s line in his report, “the return of occupied East Jerusalem”, was referring to the point that Israel took East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war and later annexed it. He was not suggesting that this part of the city had previously been under Palestinian control – he did not, for example, say “return to them” but “the return of.”

The newsreader’s introduction to the report said “Jordan said the only path to peace in the Middle East was to establish an independent Palestinian state based on its borders before the 1967 war.” The phrase “its borders” refers to Jordan (which is the subject of this sentence) not to the Palestinians and it did not imply that a Palestinian state was in existence then.

The sentence in the report that said “Palestinians no longer have a border with Jordan” was referring to the Trump plan, under which the proposed state would not have a border with Jordan, as it would if there were a two state solution based on a return to the pre-1967 borders, a long-held Palestinian position.

In addition, the reason for talking about the border was to reinforce the point that without the Jordan Valley, any proposed West Bank State becomes an island (or group of islands) within Israel.”

BBC Watch has submitted a second complaint which includes yet another reminder to the BBC that – as its own style guide states – the 1949 ceasefire lines are not “borders”.

 

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“Due impartiality usually involves more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints. We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.” 

And:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.”

The BBC’s public purposes commit the corporation to providing:

“…duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world.”

And:

“…a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”

The corporation’s coverage of the recently released US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage – in this case on the BBC domestic radio station Radio 4 and on BBC World Service radio.

While the tables below are not exhaustive, they give an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligations to provide “a range and depth of analysis” and to reflect “a range of views”.

Programmes aired before the US plan was made public are marked with a pale gold background.

Commentators and BBC journalists who provided a neutral view of the US proposal are marked in blue, those promoting a positive view in green and those promoting a negative view are marked in red.  

BBC World Service radio:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fk0q7  from 14:06 David Makovsky

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fm2df  from 30:05 discussed here, Husam Zomlot, Aaron David Miller

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fmxmb  from 00:11, 14:06, 45:07, Husam Zomlot, Logan Bayroff (J Street), discussed here and here

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575fpz9j  from 30:06, Shlomo Ben Ami, Rashid Khalidi

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wq5575ftqfj  from 30:06 Mohammad Shtayyeh

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csyv7l  from 00:00

 

BBC Radio 4:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dr9s  from 1:47:16 discussed here

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dphy  discussed here (including times of reports) Husam Zomlot

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpkh  from 45:43, Jan Egeland,  Karin von Hippel

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpkm  from 08:22, Mustafa Barghouti

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpl0   from 01:32  and 07:51, Diana Buttu

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpl6  discussed here

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dqf8  from 2:49:20

 

As we see, the BBC chose to provide airtime to Palestinian officials while no interviews with Israeli officials were included in any of the programmes and one interview with a former US official was heard on each of the two stations. Interviews were conducted with two Israeli representatives from think tanks (one neutral and one negative), three representatives from US or UK think tanks (one neutral, two negative), two US-Palestinian academics (both negative), one representative of a political NGO (negative) and one lobbying group representative (negative).

The majority of reports from the BBC’s own staff presented a negative view of the topic.

Both those BBC radio stations gave audiences were given an overwhelmingly one-sided view of the US peace initiative (in all twelve times more negative views than positive ones), starting even before it had been published. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines 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 once again 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 offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

BBC impartiality – a case study

 

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

Over seven minutes of the January 29th edition of the half-hour Radio 4 programme ‘Midnight News’ was given over to the topic of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan which had been made public several hours previously.

The first item in the programme’s introduction was presented using the absurd but long-promoted BBC myth that the result of resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be “peace in the Middle East”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “President Trump has set out his plan for peace in the Middle East which has immediately been embraced by the Israeli prime minister but rejected by Palestinian leaders.”

The same myth was repeated when the newsreader commenced that lead item (from 00:59 here).

Newsreader: “President Trump has set out what he has called the most detailed peace plan ever offered for the Middle East, saying it’s a win-win for both Israelis and Palestinians. He announced his plan at the White House alongside Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu but the Palestinians were not there as they had not been part of the process. Mr Trump’s proposal gives Israel sovereignty over all its settlements in the occupied West Bank while promising Palestinians statehood in the future if they meet certain conditions. Our Washington correspondent Aleem Maqbool has this report.”

Listeners were not told that the reason the Palestinians “had not been part of the process” was because they refused to take part. Neither were they given any clue as to what the “certain conditions” for Palestinian statehood (e.g. dismantling their system of salaries to terrorists and disarming Hamas) actually are

Aleem Maqbool began by repeating BBC framing seen in reports (see ‘related articles’ below) broadcast even before the US proposal had been revealed.

Maqbool: “At a raucous news conference at the White House standing beside the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump launched a plan the like of which, he said, had never been seen before. [recording Trump speaking] But as soon as the details started to be revealed it was very clear the win is really Israel’s alone.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Trump saying “…Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided – very important – undivided capital”.  

Maqbool: “Something that would have surprised few but would have made Palestinian hearts sink all the same. They have been wanting the return of occupied East Jerusalem to establish their own capital. Under Donald Trump’s plan Israel would not even have to give up any Jewish settlements it illegally built on occupied land. But the knife for Palestinians was twisted further when the US president released a map of his vision for a future Palestinian state. Large swathes of the most fertile West Bank land annexed for Israel. Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan and relying entirely on Israel for access. The West Bank becoming in effect a cluster of tightly-controlled islands.”

Maqbool’s use of the phrase “the return of occupied East Jerusalem” inaccurately suggests to listeners that that location had previously been under Palestinian control (rather than under Jordanian occupation for 19 years). His partial portrayal of “Jewish settlements…illegally built on occupied land” denies listeners information concerning alternative views of that topic. His reference to “the most fertile…land” dovetails perfectly with PLO descriptions of the Jordan Valley. But it is his reference to “Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan” which – even taking into account Maqbool’s previously displayed lack of knowledge of the region’s geography – perhaps misleads listeners most. None of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since 1994 have a “border with Jordan” and a Palestinian entity with such a border has never existed.

Listeners then heard a recording of President Trump describing a letter he had sent to the PA president explaining that “the territory allocated for his new state will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years. During this time Palestinians can use all appropriate deliberation to study the deal, negotiate with Israel, achieve the criteria for statehood and become a truly independent and wonderful state.”

Once again failing to explain to listeners that the decision not to be “at the negotiating table” was taken by the Palestinians themselves, Maqbool went on:

Maqbool: “Not how Mahmoud Abbas will see it. Of course Palestinians feared, given that only one side was at the negotiating table presided over by a historically partisan peace-broker, that the deal would be biased towards Israel. But some may have hoped for more concessions from the other side. Instead what they got was a clear US seal of approval for much that Israel has been trying to achieve. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who smiled and clapped through Donald Trump’s speech, could barely contain his pleasure when he spoke, saying the day was as historic as the one in 1948 on which US president Truman became the first world leader to recognise his country. [recording Netanyahu] The fear among some critics of this plan is that there is so little, if anything at all, that Palestinians can put their name to, that it could strengthen the hand of hard-liners in the region. Given the reaction already, Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century is a pivotal moment but not one that brings Palestinians and Israelis together. Rather one that gives Israel the authorisation to continue and even broaden its occupation.”

Listeners were not informed exactly how Israel’s so-called “occupation” could be ‘broadened’ and neither were they told of the part of the plan which offers areas today under full Israeli sovereignty to a future Palestinian state.

Newsreader: “There were protests in Gaza and the West Bank with demonstrators burning posters of Donald Trump. In a televised speech the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the proposals were impossible to accept. [recording Abbas] The militant group Hamas which controls Gaza called Mr Trump’s announcement aggression and nonsense. Khalil al Hayya is one of the group’s leaders.”

Al Hayya voiceover: “We warn all countries of the world and all entities who cooperate with this deal because we reject it as a Palestinian people and we will resist this deal in all forms.”

Listeners then once again heard the inaccurate suggestion that a Palestinian state with “borders” had existed before 1967. They were not told that no “borders” existed “before the 1967 war” or that the lines were actually the 1949 Armistice lines which were specifically defined as not being borders.

Newsreader: “Jordan said the only path to peace in the Middle East was to establish an independent Palestinian state based on its borders before the 1967 war. But Egypt urged both sides of the conflict to consider President Trump’s plan carefully, with a view to resuming negotiations and the former Middle east envoy Tony Blair said the Palestinians would be able to make progress if they engaged with the proposals. [recording Blair] With his thoughts on the deal, here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Bowen’s “thoughts” were of course exactly the same as those he had two hours earlier promoted on BBC television.

Bowen: “President Trump says he’s found a new way to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel will get the security it needs, Palestinians will get the state they crave. So far so good. Except that the Trump plan gives Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanayhu all he wants and offers Palestinians very little. A sort of state that will be truncated without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements. Essentially the message to the Palestinians is take it or leave it. They’re being told to accept that Israel has won and – with its American friends – will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

Listeners then heard Bowen’s partisan interpretations of UNSC resolution 242 and ‘international law’, although he predictably had nothing at all to say about the “inadmissibility” of Jordan’s capture and subsequent occupation of territory assigned to the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people.  

Bowen: “The Trump document ignores UN resolution 242 that emphasizes the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. It also sweeps aside international law saying that occupiers cannot settle their people on occupied land.”

Bowen closed – once again – with promotion of the view that the inevitable result of “anger, despair and hopelessness” for Palestinians he apparently believes to be non-actors devoid of agency is violence.

Bowen: “There is a chance Palestinians, whose leaders immediately rejected the plan, will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

Once again we see that – under Jeremy Bowen’s baton – BBC audiences were given an overwhelmingly one-sided view which promoted serious inaccuracies and deprived the corporation’s funding public of essential information necessary for them to make up their own minds about the US proposals.

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 reporting on the ICC prosecutor’s statement

Listeners to the December 20th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ heard the following (from 06:01 here) in the opening news bulletin read by Luke Tuddenham. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Tuddenham: “The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at the earliest opportunity. Fatou Bensouda says she believes serious offences have been committed but Israel has questioned whether she has the jurisdiction to open an inquiry. Our Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.”

Johnston: “The ICC prosecutor has conducted a preliminary investigation of Palestinian complaints regarding the situation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Now she says she’s satisfied that war crimes have indeed been committed there. But she’s asked the court to confirm that it has jurisdiction over these areas before she launches a full investigation. Israel has vigorously denied that the ICC has any legal authority in the Palestinian territories and says the case should have been thrown out. If Ms Bensouda does proceed with her investigation charges might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians.”

A couple of hours later those listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard this portrayal of the same story (from 19:57 here).

Newsreader: “The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at the earliest opportunity. Fatou Bensouda believes serious offences have been committed and has asked the court to confirm that it has jurisdiction over the areas in which she wants to conduct an investigation: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ICC had no authority in these areas.”

Obviously neither of those items provided the BBC’s domestic audience with even the minimum of background information needed to properly understand the story. The BBC’s blanket portrayal of “the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza” as “Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories” – despite the fact that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip over 14 years ago and agreements signed by the Palestinians place parts of Judea & Samaria under Israeli control and define the final status of those areas as well as parts of Jerusalem as being subject to negotiation – obviously muddied the picture.

Listeners heard no explanation as to why “Israel has vigorously denied that the ICC has any legal authority” in the said areas or what sort of ‘war crimes’ the prosecutor claims have been committed. Neither was it clarified why charges “might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians” and the relevant issue of the “principle of complementarity” was not mentioned at all. 

What these two superficial reports do promote to domestic BBC audiences, however, is the take away messaging that an international legal body is “satisfied that war crimes have indeed been committed” by Israelis.

Related Articles:

Superficial and one-sided BBC reporting on ICC statement

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

As documented here last week, one of the BBC News website’s three written reports relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State promoted the false claim that the current US administration had changed a “four-decades-old position”.

“Palestinians have condemned a decision by the US to abandon its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law.” [emphasis added]

We noted that:

“Secretary Pompeo’s statement marks a return to the policy of US administrations between 1981 and December 2016. In other words, the “position” described by the BBC is three years old rather than “four-decades-old”.”

Remarkably, both later on in that report as well as in an earlier one, the BBC made it evident that it knows that full well:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 reports on the same story received no such explanation and instead were repeatedly fed that “four decades” spin.

In the November 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ presenter Ritula Shah told her audience (from 17:11 here) that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Shah: “The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. The move breaks four decades of State Department policy.”

Returning to the topic later on in the programme, Shah brought in BBC News’ North America correspondent Aleem Maqbool (from 36:14) who promoted the same myth.

Maqbool: “…it’s certainly I suppose consistent with what we’ve seen from the Trump administration over the last couple of years in recognising, for example, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and also recognising Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights – another area of course that was occupied during the Six Day War of 1967. But the timing has surprised some people because, you know, many Palestinians will feel – even over those four decades during which the United States did consider the building of settlements inconsistent with international law, it never really stopped those settlements expanding at a rapid rate to the point now where some of them are as big as cities.”

Maqbool then came up with another falsehood:

Maqbool: “One of them in particular – Ma’ale Adumimcuts the West Bank in half.”

‘Cuts in half’ obviously means divides into two parts but Ma’ale Adumim does nothing of the sort.

Of course similar inaccurate claims have been made by journalists in the past but Maqbool’s false statement clearly materially misleads BBC audiences.

Maqbool also repeated his inaccurate “four decades” claim in a report aired in the November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 08:43 here).

Maqbool: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in that sentence overturned more than four decades of official US policy. It was under President Carter the State Department decided that, in keeping with much of the rest of the world, that Israel’s building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land was not allowed under international law.”

That ‘four decades’ spin which the BBC knows full well to be false and misleading continued in later BBC Radio 4 broadcasts, as will be seen in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

 

 

BBC’s domestic audience sold short on Labour antisemitism yet again

The October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ included an item (from 12:51 here) concerning the earlier announcement by MP Dame Louise Ellman that she had left the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “The veteran Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman has quit the party, saying that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister. In a statement on Twitter Dame Louise said the party was no longer a safe place for Jews. Jason Kaye reports.”

Kaye: “Dame Louise, who is Jewish, has long been vocal in her opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and she’s faced calls to step down from members of her local party in Liverpool Riverside. In the statement tonight she said her decision had been truly agonising but said she had to take a stand because she could not advocate a government led by Mr Corbyn, who she said would pose a threat to the country. She said that as a back-bencher Jeremy Corbyn had consorted with antisemites, Holocaust deniers and terrorists and under his leadership Jewish members had been bullied, abused and driven out of the party. The MP for the neighbouring Wavertree constituency, Luciana Berger, quit Labour in February making similar claims. She’s now joined the Liberal Democrats but Dame Louise, who’s been a Labour member for 55 years, says she won’t join another party and hopes that she can return to her political home under different leadership.”

Following that portrayal of parts of the MP’s statement (which notably avoided her reference to the ongoing investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission), Kaye proceeded to give completely uncritical amplification to a statement put out by a Labour party spokesperson.

Kaye: “Labour said the party would continue to take robust action to root out antisemitism in the party and wider society. It said Mr Corbyn had consistently supported struggles for human rights and justice around the world and had made the right calls.”

A slightly edited version of Jason Kaye’s report – once again including uncritical amplification of that Labour party statement – was also heard by listeners to a news bulletin aired (from 1:02:25 here) during the October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  Shortly afterwards (from 1:14:56), audiences heard presenter Mishal Husain interview Dame Louise Ellman.

Although the MP twice raised the topic of the ongoing EHRC investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party, Mishal Husain interrupted her interviewee in order to promote the notion to listeners that things have improved.

Husain [interrupts]: “Are we also not now in a different place, would you say, on Labour’s handling of antisemitism is that they now have been public about the number of complaints they’ve received? Ehm…earlier this year Jeremy Corbyn said the complaints system essentially needed to be toughened up so that…so that Labour could confront what he called the poison of antisemitism.”

Ellman: “Well it’s very clear that Jeremy Corbyn – the head of the Labour party – has really struggled to accept that there is any such thing as antisemitism within the Labour party and…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Even now?”

Ellman: “…sees antisemitism as something on the Right. I think he’s had to acknowledge it but he finds it very difficult to do it. And even now the Labour party only takes action when there is public exposure of what is going on and when very brave whistle-blowers come out and talk about what they themselves have experienced.”

Husain’s suggestion that the Labour party’s handling of antisemitism within its own ranks is “in a different place” is of course unfounded – as the party’s own recently released annual report (which does not include the word antisemitism) indicates.

Those who have been following the BBC’s reporting ever since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent will be aware that (with a few exceptions) it has generally failed to provide the British public with coverage that provides them with the information necessary for full understanding of the issue and these two programmes aimed at domestic British audiences are no exception.  

Related Articles:

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

 

 

‘Homemade’ Palestinian weapons return to BBC news reporting

Back in November 2012 a BBC TV presenter told viewers that Hamas was ‘only’ firing “home-made contraptions” at Israeli civilians.

Not enough Israelis killed by “home-made contraptions” for BBC’s Mishal Husain

During the conflict in the summer of 2014, BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents repeatedly described the missile arsenals of the Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations as “homemade rockets”.

BBC continues to promote theme of “homemade” rockets

As was noted here at the time:

“The obvious intention is to steer audiences towards a view of these weapons as being crudely and simply made, with the implication that they are ineffective and do not present such a dangerous threat to Israeli civilians.”

Five years on, BBC audiences were told of a “homemade” improvised explosive by one of the same BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the August 24th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 17:23 here).

The newsreader began by framing the story according to BBC editorial policy – i.e. by failing to describe a violent politically motivated attack on civilians as terrorism and by using politically partisan language to portray a geographic region. [emphasis added]

Newsreader: “An Israeli teenager has been killed and her father and brother injured in a suspected Palestinian militant attack near a settlement in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military says an improvised bomb was used. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Yolande Knell chose to use the Arabic pronunciation of the name of an Israeli city and – in line with BBC policy throughout the past 18 months – to portray violent rioting that included the throwing of explosives, grenades and Molotov cocktails as “protests”.

Knell: “As the funeral took place for seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb in the central Israeli city of Lud [sic – Lod], her father – a rabbi – and older brother remained in hospital, being treated for their injuries from the explosion. In the hilly area of the West Bank, Israeli soldiers searching for the girl’s killer have blocked roads leading to Palestinian villages. Unusually, a homemade bomb is said to have been used. It’s thought it was planted close to a natural spring in a popular hiking spot and detonated as the family approached it. There’s been a recent rise in Palestinian attacks – several linked to the Islamist movement Hamas – raising concerns about a possible upsurge in violence ahead of next month’s Israeli elections. In Gaza, where there was a large turn out for the regular Friday protests along the border fence with Israel, the Hamas leader praised the latest attack in the West Bank but didn’t say whether his group was responsible.”

Since the beginning of this year the Israel Security Agency has recorded monthly use of improvised explosive devices and pipe bombs in attacks carried out in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem:

January – 15 attacks using pipe bombs

February – 11 attacks using IEDs

March – 16 attacks using IEDs

April – 21 attacks using IEDs

May – 4 attacks using pipe bombs

June – 15 attacks using pipe bombs

July – 6 attacks using pipe bombs

Since the BBC has refrained from reporting the majority of those attacks (with four of those seven months seeing no reporting on terrorism against Israelis whatsoever) it is hardly surprising that Yolande Knell portrays this latest attack using an IED as being ‘unusual’.

As for Knell’s claim that the device was “homemade”, the Times of Israel reports that:

“The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it. […]

Channel 12 quoted unnamed officials as saying that the size and complexity of the device indicated that one of the major terror groups was behind the attack.”

Channel 13’s military correspondent Alon Ben David reported that the IED weighed between three and four kilos and contained a large amount of shrapnel, adding that the incident was “planned and organised – and not a spontaneous or improvised terror attack”.

Yolande Knell’s use of the term “homemade” does not convey that information to BBC audiences and – as was the case when she used it in 2014 – downplays the gravity of events.

Related Articles:

BBC News ‘contextualises’ terror attack with ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’

BBC News continues to ignore Palestinian terrorism

 

PA’s ban on LGBTQ group gets two minutes of BBC airtime

Some four hours after BBC Watch noted the absence of any BBC reporting on a story concerning a Palestinian Authority ban on the activities of a LGBTQ group a two-minute item appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ (from 13:57 here) on August 19th.

Newsreader: “Gay rights activists in the West Bank have been threatened online after the Palestinian police announced a ban on their campaigns and meetings and called for help to arrest them. The prohibition of the main local LGBTQ group was announced despite the Palestinian Authority having signed up to various international human rights treaties. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “In a statement posted on Facebook, a police spokesman described the actions of the LGBTQ group al Qaws – or rainbow – as a blow to the ideals and values of Palestinian society and against the monotheistic religions. Same sex relations aren’t against the law in the West Bank but homosexuality remains largely taboo, as it is across the Arab world. Those involved with the group have been threatened with arrest, accused of sedition after a recent event in the West Bank. In response to the statement announcing the ban – which has now been deleted from Facebook – members of the Palestinian public posted angry messages. ‘Arrest them and burn them all’ read one. Mohammed Abu Ramilla [phonetic] from al Qaws criticised the police for creating an atmosphere of persecution and intimidation.”

Knell did not clarify where her interviewee is located: a factor obviously relevant to his participation in this item.

Abu Ramilla: “That was so shocking to us. For the police to release such a statement that incites people to follow or to report anyone that knows anything about the organisation, which translates to people reporting anyone they know who might be LGBT or Queer in their lives…well. And we think that’s very dangerous, obviously.”

Knell: “Other activists suggest the Palestinian Authority could be in breach of UN treaties on human rights which it signed to try to strengthen its hand in the conflict with Israel. When contacted by the BBC, the Authority’s police refused to comment. The EU funded mission which trains Palestinian police said it was continuing to give advice – including on LGBT rights – and that it was trying to clarify the circumstances of the statement.”  

The same item was aired six hours later on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 20:13 here).

In short, listeners to one domestic BBC radio station heard a two-minute item in two news bulletins, neither of which will be available to the public a month from now.  

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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”.

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BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

Just after 9 p.m. UK time on the evening of May 4th BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ which led (from 00:11 here) with a report described on its webpage as “Three dead in Gaza as Israel retaliates after a serious escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks which cause injuries in Israel”.

Both presenter Julian Marshall and reporter Tom Bateman initially refrained from telling listeners who was responsible for the rocket fire against Israeli civilians and promoted a sense of false equivalence.  

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

Marshall: “There’s been a serious outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. There’ve been fatalities and injuries after scores of rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Predictably, Bateman avoided the use of the word terror throughout his report, even inaccurately claiming that the IDF describes its targets “as militants sites”.

Bateman: “Well on Saturday morning there was a barrage of rockets that were unleashed from the Gaza Strip into Israel. At that stage around 90 rockets according to the Israeli military. Many of those were shot down – dozens according to the Israelis – but that salvo went on for hours. As Israel responded with tank and air strikes across the Gaza Strip, now there’s been a day of heavy exchanges of fire and this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip. Before that a 22-year-old man killed in an Israeli air strike in the north of the Strip. While those rocket salvos continued, some hit homes in towns in southern Israel and there were 2 people wounded, one of them seriously: an 80-year-old woman who was hit by shrapnel.”

As usual Bateman failed to inform listeners that by the “Palestinian ministry of health” he in fact means the same terrorist organisation launching those rockets at civilian targets. Three quarters of an hour before Bateman’s report was aired an IDF spokesman had already noted that “According to indications, the infant and her mother were killed as a result of terrorist activities […] and not as a result of an Israeli raid” and as we see, Bateman was obviously aware that the Hamas claim he chose to promote may be less than watertight. Neither had he apparently bothered to clarify whether or not the “22-year-old man killed” was in fact part of a rocket-launching squad.

Marshall: “I mean clearly any loss of life, any casualties are to be regretted but with so many rockets fired, Tom, it does seem that there was a relatively low loss of life.”

Rather than explaining to listeners how Israelis defend themselves in such circumstances, Bateman went on to promote the bizarre notion that rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terror groups are a relatively recent phenomenon and one that “we’ve become used to”.

Bateman: “These exchanges of fire have been something we’ve become used to over the last year. And they have varied in their magnitude. There have been serious casualties in the past, others have taken place with fewer casualties and what we’ve seen I think in the previous exchanges of fire like this is that rockets might be fired in the periphery of the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, not going further afield and Israel responding largely with strikes on Hamas militant sites that have been evacuated. Things have become more serious with this turn of events and it follows what happened on Friday which was a Palestinian sniper shooting at 2 Israeli soldiers during these weekly protests that have been taking place at the Gaza perimeter fence. Those two soldiers were wounded. Israel then responded by hitting a Hamas militant post, killing two of those militants. A further two Palestinians were then killed by Israeli fire in the protests. Already by Friday night there was a fairly serious escalation and that was then followed, as I say, by the barrage of rockets from Gaza on Saturday morning.”

Marshall: “Has any group in Gaza said that they carried out…ehm…some or all of these attacks?”

Bateman went on to uncritically amplify a Hamas statement.

Bateman: “Hamas is the militant group that controls the Strip and it was clear from the outset…they said that they would respond to what they described as the aggression by Israel yesterday that led to the deaths of two of its militants. But the other significant group in the Strip is Islamic Jihad; another smaller militant group that is thought to be behind some of the recent fire from Gaza in the recent months towards Israel. As things stand at the moment it looks as though these hostilities are going to continue despite the ongoing attempts by the United Nations and also by Egyptian intelligence to try and broker a calm between the two sides. And those efforts have been going on for many months but what we see at intervals like this is how quickly and easily that can be shattered.”

Three hours later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard another report from Bateman. By that time COGAT had also clarified that the child and the person initially mistakenly described as her mother had been killed by a shortfall rocket fired by Gaza Strip based terrorists. Nevertheless, Radio 4 listeners were told that:

[00:30] Newsreader: “A mother and her baby have died after Israeli forces launched attacks on the Gaza Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being fired by Palestinian militants.”

[07:46] Newsreader: “Israel says around 200 rockets have been fired into the south of the country from Gaza by Palestinian militants, wounding two people. Israel launched air strikes and tank fire in response. Palestinian officials said four people including a mother and her baby were killed. Israel has closed both crossings into Gaza. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns as a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza. Israel shot down dozens of them before [sic] its tanks and war planes targeted militant sites in the Strip. This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike. A 22-year-old Palestinian man died in a separate strike earlier. During hours of rocket fire two Israelis – one of them an 80-year-old woman – were injured after being hit by shrapnel. This latest flare-up follows months of tensions between Israel and Gaza based militants who demand an easing of the crippling blockade which Israel says is needed to stop weapons getting in. Israel demands calm on the boundary after more than a year of Palestinian protests at the perimeter fence. The rocket salvo coincided with the funerals of two Hamas militants killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike: retaliation – Israel said – for the wounding of two Israeli soldiers who were shot by a Palestinian gunman. It marks yet another ratcheting-up of hostilities, despite repeated attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term truce.”

Once again Bateman failed to clarify that “the Palestinian health ministry” is in fact controlled by the Hamas terrorist organisation and listeners heard nothing about the shortfall rocket or the circumstances in which the other two of the “four people” were killed.

“In addition, the ministry said two Palestinian men were killed in Israeli strikes Saturday: Imad Muhammad Nasir, 22, and Khaled Mohammed Abu Qliq 25.

The latter was reportedly killed in an airstrike as he and several other men were launching rockets at Israel.”

Yet again too we see Bateman conforming to BBC editorial policy by euphemistically describing violent rioting during which IEDs were thrown, infiltrations attempted and a sniper fired at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border as “protests”.

Given the BBC’s previous experiences of jumping to insufficiently verified conclusions regarding the circumstances of the deaths of small children and women in the Gaza Strip, one would have thought that lessons would have been learned and caution – especially in relation to claims from a terrorist organisation hiding behind a ‘health ministry’ mask – would be applied.

Obviously that is not the case.

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