BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

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BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

 

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BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ are promised “in depth reporting, intelligent analysis and breaking news from a global perspective”. Here is what those listeners heard (from 03:39 here) in the news bulletin which opened the programme’s August 15th edition. [emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Israel has banned two US Democrat Congresswomen from entering the country because they’ve been critical of its policies towards the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar had been expected to begin a tour of the Palestinian territories later this week. Ms Omar has accused the Israelis of implementing President Trump’s ban on Muslims. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The Congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the US, and Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent – have both supported the movement to boycott Israel. They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week in a trip that had become the focus of controversy. Israel passed a law two years ago allowing it to ban entry to supporters of the boycott movement. Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Israel would show weakness to allow them in, calling them a disgrace and accusing them of antisemitism. Israel’s interior ministry later said it would not allow them entry. The not-for-profit group that was organising the visit called the move an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision makers from around the world.”

That sixty-six second item prompts several observations:

1) Tlaib and Omar were not denied entry “because they’ve been critical” of Israel’s – unspecified – “policies towards the Palestinians”. They were refused entry to Israel because they openly support a political campaign which negates Jewish self-determination but as ever BBC audiences heard absolutely nothing about the obviously relevant topic of the BDS campaign’s aims in this bulletin.

2) There is no “ban on Muslims” either in the US or in Israel. In fact:

“A record number of visitors from Muslim countries came to Israel last year, including nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

According to figures provided by the Population and Immigration Authority on Monday, 72,109 citizens of Egypt and Jordan (the only Arab countries with which Israel has full diplomatic ties), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018.”

3) Once again BBC audiences heard nothing about the political NGO ‘Miftah’ – opaquely described by Bateman as a “not-for-profit group” without any mention of its agenda and record. Neither were they told that earlier this month Palestinian leaders met with no fewer than 72 Democrat and Republicandecision makers” from the US Congress.

Given the failure by Tom Bateman to provide any relevant background information on the BDS campaign or the political NGO ‘Miftah’, given that listeners were misled with the claim that Tlaib and Omar were not permitted to enter Israel because “they’ve been critical” and given this item’s unquestioning and uncritical amplification of falsehoods from Omar and ‘Miftah’, readers can decide for themselves whether Radio 4 audiences got the “in depth reporting” and “intelligent analysis” touted on this programme’s webpage.

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Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

 

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

On August 15th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel bars Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The opening paragraph similarly told readers that:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

The following lines however indicated that the BBC is well aware of the fact that the two Congresswomen had no interest in visiting Israel as a whole.

“Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.”

Readers were told that:

“Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.”

And:

“Israeli law blocks entrance visas to any foreigner who calls for any type of boycott that targets Israel – either economic, cultural or academic.

The law attempts to suppress the “boycott, divest, sanction” movement, which has drawn growing support across Europe and the US.” [emphasis added]

Not only is that representation of the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel’ law inaccurate (the amendment gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions) but as usual the BBC did not clarify to its audiences that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.  

The report also told readers that:

“Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib have both been criticised for their stance on Israel – but have denied charges of being anti-Semitic.”

No effort was made to explain to readers why such charges have been leveled or to inform them of the problematic nature of statements made by the two representatives.

The BBC chose to uncritically amplify a statement from Omar while failing to inform readers of similar actions taken by democratic countries – including the UK.  

“Ms Omar described Israel’s move as “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation”.”

Regarding the Congresswomen’s proposed itinerary, readers were told that:

“According to US media, their trip was meant to begin on Sunday, and would include a stop at one of the most sensitive sites in the region – a hilltop plateau in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

They also planned to visit Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.” [emphasis added]

According to that itinerary, what the BBC presents as “peace activists” are in fact political NGOs such as ‘Mercy Corps’, Amnesty International, Al Haq, B’tselem, DCI-Palestine and ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Readers were told that:

“The trip to the West Bank was planned by Miftah, an organisation headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.”

No background was provided concerning Miftah and its record of advocating the BDS campaign and glorifying terrorists

The following day – August 16th – that article was replaced by another headlined “Rashida Tlaib rejects Israel’s offer of ‘humanitarian’ visit” which included much of the same content but also informed readers that:

“…in a series of tweets on Friday, Ms Omar hit back at claims that she and Ms Tlaib hadn’t asked to meet with Israel’s government or opposition officials.

The Minnesota congresswoman said that, during their visit, they had planned to meet Jewish and Arab members of Israel’s parliament, along with Israeli security officials.

Among other plans, they had also intended to tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Israeli military veterans, she said.”

Readers were not told that those “Israeli military veterans” were in fact members of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ or that the itinerary shows no evidence of planned meetings with Israeli Knesset members or officials.

Readers also found another euphemistic portrayal of the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign – which aims to put economic pressure on the Israeli government – because of their opposition to Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Obviously if – in line with the BBC’s public purposes obligations – audiences were to understand Israel’s decision not to permit this visit by two members of the US Congress, they needed to be accurately informed what the campaign supported by the women is really about.

However rather than provide that essential information, in these two reports the BBC once again chose to continue its long-standing policy of avoiding telling its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.

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The BBC, the British Council and BDS: what Simon Cox didn’t report

The February 13th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – was titled “Come to Sunny Gaza!”.

FOOC 13 2

The programme can be heard here (with the relevant section beginning at about 22:48) or here. A written version of the same report by Simon Cox also appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Discovering Gazans’ resilient side“. Simon Cox art

Listeners to the audio version may well have been quite bowled over by the fact that presenter Kate Adie actually mentioned the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year in her introduction to the item and also by the fact that Cox does not stick entirely to the ‘Gaza doom and gloom’ route so well-trodden by herds of BBC correspondents before him.

All the same, he offers no context or explanation for statements such as:

“I had come prepared for trouble, with a flak jacket and helmet, driven from the border with Israel in an armour-plated car past a plethora of grey breeze block structures, unfinished due to a lack of cement.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“Rawan, my young translator, explained how the electricity was only on for eight hours a day so work, shopping, everything had to be crammed into this brief window.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“You need this kind of ingenuity when half the population is unemployed.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the PCBS cites an unemployment rate of 31.0% – not 50% as Cox claims – during the first quarter of 2013 and of course that is influenced by the fact that only 17.1% of women participate in the labour force.

But the less obvious (and much more interesting) aspect of this report – which Simon Cox does not seem too keen to expand upon – is the one reflected in this paragraph:

“I was not here to report, but to train a group of journalists from Alwan radio for a weekly programme they had been making with other stations in the West Bank as part of a wider BBC and British Council project.”

BBC audiences might at this point have been interested in some context regarding the media scene in the Gaza Strip post the 2007 violent coup carried out by Hamas. The fact that media outlets associated with political and terrorist groups other than Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were quickly forced to close down, revise their content or relocate is, after all, a relevant factor – particularly perhaps for audience members who fund both the BBC and the registered charity the British Council via Foreign Office grant-in aid funding.

“The majority of media outlets in Palestine are based in the Gaza Strip. Since June 2007, Hamas loyalists have either shut down or assumed control of these outlets. As of August 2007, only two TV stations are currently available: Hamas’s Al Aqsa and the Islamic Jihad’s Sawt Al Aqsa, and two radio stations: Al Qur-an Al-Kareem which is run by Hamas’ Religious Affairs ministry, and Radio Alwan which is considered a pro-Hamas station.” [emphasis added]

In other words, only media organisations run or tolerated by Hamas can operate.

“Today [Ed. – August 2007] there are seven radio stations broadcasting from the Gaza Strip, most of them affiliated with Hamas and Islamists: Hamas’ Radio Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Radio Al-Quds, four independent stations (Sawt al-Iman (The Voice of Faith), Radio al-Manar, Radio ‘Alwan and the entertainment station, FM-Gaza). They all broadcast, as does Radio al-Qur’an al-Karim, which belongs to the Palestinian ministry of Islamic endowments.” [emphasis added]

Radio Alwan does not however confine itself to being on the receiving end of training projects provided by benevolent foreign organisations. Recently it ran a training project of its own in collaboration with an organisation called iPal

iPal fb Alwan

And what is iPal’s raison d’etre? Well we can learn more about that via the Anna Lindh Foundation website where, in among the jargon and buzz words and in addition to “collaboration with Alwan Radio” and “collaboration” with the Hamas supporting organisation Islamic Relief which Israel designated in 2006, we find the following among iPal’s stated activities:

“BDS Movement: building workshops about the BDS as an introduction for the youth in Gaza to let them know more about this campaign and the importance of it and how it plays an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for Justice and also to get them a part in some BDS activities in Gaza.”

iPal’s “coordinator in Gaza” Abeer Abu Shawish also works for the Arab Centre for Agricultural Development (ACAD) and in November 2013 she was to be found organizing on its behalf “a conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid, colonization and occupation” at which “Zaid Shuabi, outreach officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), gave a report by Skype from the West Bank.”.

However, Radio Alwan is far from being the sole organization with British Council and BBC links which directly or indirectly supports and promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which aims to delegitimize Israel into extinction

As we noted here only recently, the British Council has a “partnership” with the BDS supporting ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest. Among the British Council’s partners in Israel is the Mossawa Centre and among its partners in the Palestinian controlled territories are the Maan Development Centre, Miftah and Palestinian Vision which employs a media spokesman who is a veteran of the BDS campaign and in its 2010 annual report (scroll down for English) noted inter alia that its activities include the organization of quiz nights with the theme “Judaizing of names in the city” [Jerusalem] and included the illustration below. Palestinian Vision 2010 report

In addition to Miftah and ‘Palestinian Vision’, the British Council’s partners in its ‘Tajaawob‘ project include Oxfam and the BBC’s own charity ‘BBC Media Action’ which gets over 40% of its funding from departments of the British government.

The same British government claims that it does not support the BDS movement.

“In correspondence with NGO Monitor, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “

However, the same government department which wrote those words funds both the British Council and departments of the BBC which do partner organisations that directly or indirectly oppose a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and work towards the elimination of the Jewish state. 

Isn’t it odd that the BBC’s “investigative journalist” Simon Cox should have missed all that? After all, UK-based members of the BBC’s audience might like to be enlightened as to what lies behind some of the projects and organisations which their taxes and obligatory payments are actually funding.

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