BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

As previously mentioned, the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme aired on the BBC’s domestic radio station Radio 4 was split between live broadcasts from London and the Gaza Strip. Over 40% of the programme’s airtime was devoted to the latter in various segments available here. (00:28 to 01:38, 09:35 to 24:20, 36:07 to 39:40, 47:53 to 57:25, 1:16:27 to 1:26:40, 1:34:15 to 1:44:00, 2:06:21 to 2:07:25, 2:10:13 to 2:23:30, 2:40:34 to 2:51:10 and 2:56:33 to 2:59:55)

Mishal Husain’s introduction to the broadcast (00:28 to 01:38) included the following explanation as to why the publicly funded domestic BBC radio station sent a reporter and crew all the way to the Gaza Strip despite having permanent staff both there and in nearby Jerusalem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “And we’re broadcasting from Gaza this morning because this has been a year which has seen tension and violence flare up again between Gaza and Israel. There have been months of protests at the boundary between the two and I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the divide.”

As regular readers know, since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ events at the end of March the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with a clear and comprehensive explanation of who initiated, organised and facilitated that publicity stunt, even though the information was available before it began and despite its British connections. For the past nine months BBC audiences have seen that violent rioting repeatedly portrayed as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place under the ‘Great Return March’ banner.

That editorial policy was also evident in this broadcast (notwithstanding an occasional ‘Israel says’ scrap tossed in the direction of impartiality requirements) and additional themes that have long been featured in BBC reporting were also evident.

One of the main themes promoted in this broadcast was the idea that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. However in seventy-five minutes of reporting from the Gaza Strip, Radio 4 audiences did not hear Mishal Husain utter the word terrorism even once and neither did they hear anything of Hamas’ use of funds and resources (including building materials) for the purposes of terrorism at the expense of the civilian community.

Husain began (09:35 to 24:20) with a review of one Israeli newspaper two Hamas-linked Gaza Strip papers, noting coverage of “the rally that took place here yesterday where supporters marked the 31st anniversary of Hamas”. She did not bother to inform listeners of the pertinent fact that Hamas reportedly spent over half a million dollars on that rally.

Husain: “Well Gaza is a place that the UN said six years ago could be unlivable by 2020. Today they’re warning that two million people who live here are slipping deeper into poverty because of what they’re calling deplorable living conditions. The blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons – is a major factor. Matthias Schmale who’s head of Gaza operations for UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – has told us that needs to change.”

Husain of course did not bother to ask Matthias Schmale to explain to her listeners why there are still people classified as refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian control for over 13 years.

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Listeners were not told that nearly a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip attended that Hamas rally the previous day and neither did they hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

Having just promoted the views of one interviewee who does not fall into the category of ‘ordinary people’ – and with more to come – Husain went on to make the following claim:

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel where there are bomb shelters next to bus stops and in playgrounds and in every home.”

After listeners had heard clips from interviews with Israelis and Gaza residents that were repeated in full later on in the broadcast, Husain continued:

Husain: “Well more now on how the economy has been affected here in Gaza in recent years –something that I’ve been seeing first hand over the last few days.”

Notably listeners heard nothing throughout the entire programme concerning the economic effects of Gaza terrorism on businesses, tourism and agriculture southern Israel before Husain handed the item over to the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David who continued with promotion of the ‘blockade’ theme.

David: “From what you’ve been hearing there it may or may not surprise you to hear that the World Bank has been warning that the Gaza economy is in free fall – that’s after it contracted by 6% at the start of this year. It says that the impact of that decade long blockade has been compounded by budget cuts from the Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid. Four out of five people now rely on food aid. We can reveal this morning that the UK will be giving an extra £5 million in emergency supplies to sixty thousand refugees.”

Once again listeners were not told why there are Palestinian refugees in a place ruled and run by Palestinians. David then went on to introduce another not so ordinary interviewee: the World Bank’s director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, clarifying that “she’s also the author of its report”.

Having presented unemployment and poverty statistics and discussed the relevance of “donor money” (but with no mention of Israel’s recent agreement to millions of dollars in cash given by Qatar entering the Gaza Strip), Wes went on to promote the ‘blockade’ theme again.

Wes: “…we also need to start working now on the medium term to put in place an enabling environment that will support jobs for Gaza’s youth and that will enable these youths to really make their own living. Critical to this is to remove the constraints on trade and movement of goods and people. They need to be relaxed otherwise there’s no way a small economy like Gaza can flourish.” 

Neither at this point nor anywhere else in this programme were listeners given factual background information concerning the numbers of people who do exit the Gaza Strip on a daily basis or the amounts of fuel and goods entering the Gaza Strip via Israel.

David: “…can you put any kind of numbers on what kind of difference getting that greater access could mean?”

Wes was unable to answer that question.

David: “…what about security concerns? What kind of impact could that have on the economy as well?”

Wes: “I think relaxing the blockade is going to be critical going forward. There is for instance something called the dual-use list and if there is scope to relax that I think that could have a very large impact on the economy in Gaza.”

As readers may know, “dual-use” (or “dual-purpose”) items – i.e. items which can also be used for the purposes of terrorism – enter the Gaza Strip only in coordination with Israeli security officials in order to ensure that they are used for civilian purposes. When asked to explain that term, Wes went on:

Wes: “So this list puts, highlights, goods that have security concerns – for instance certain tubes. So I told you that there is a severe water crisis in Gaza. So getting pipes into Gaza that could help alleviate this crisis and that would simultaneously also take care of Israeli security concerns would be critical.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been told at this point of Hamas’ past use of water and sewage pipes to manufacture rockets that were then fired at Israeli civilians but instead David closed the conversation there and went on to introduce her next two interviewees.

David: “Now as we’ve been hearing it’s Gaza’s young who have been particularly hard hit as Marina Wes there was saying. Could they play a key part in turning round the economy? The blockade means they can’t rely on the industries that their parents may have turned to such as fishing or growing strawberries so they are looking at new areas. Gaza Sky Geeks is the Strip’s first tech hub. It was formed after a charity collaborated with Google in 2011.”

In fact – as even Palestinian outlets acknowledge – strawberries are exported annually from the Gaza Strip during the season.

David’s interview with two women from Gaza Sky Geeks included a question concerning electricity and “a stable internet connection”. Listeners were not however informed that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is entirely unconnected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

As we see, in the first fourteen minutes of this broadcast from the Gaza Strip BBC Radio 4 listeners were repeatedly steered towards the view – promoted by two ‘experts’ – that the solution to the economic problems in the Gaza Strip is the lifting or easing of counter-terrorism measures. They did not however hear any serious portrayal of the Hamas terrorism which brought about those measures in the first place and continues to make them necessary. Neither were they given any information concerning the transportation of gas, fuel and goods into the Gaza Strip via Israel or Israel’s supply of electricity to the territory. The highly relevant topic of Hamas’ policy of prioritising terrorism over the needs of Gaza’s civilian population was – unsurprisingly – studiously avoided. 

Additional themes seen in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

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Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

The December 16th edition of ‘News at Ten’ – aired on BBC One and the BBC News channel – included a report titled ‘Life in Gaza’ by Mishal Husain who was scheduled to report from the Gaza Strip the following morning for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

“Two million people in Gaza are poised to slip deeper into poverty and increasingly deplorable living conditions – according to the UN – it warns that basic services are at risk of collapse. Gaza’s economy has been badly hit by a blockade by Israel and Egypt – needed, they say – for security reasons.

The blockade was tightened after Hamas took full control of Gaza more than a decade ago. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and many Western governments.

Inside Gaza – 54% of the labour force is unemployed, and 97% of tap water is unfit for human consumption.

Mishal Husain visited the Bolbol family to find out what life under the blockade is like.” [emphasis added]

Unsurprisingly, Husain followed the usual format seen in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip: high on pathos and slogans, low on facts and context. [emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “It’s a densely populated strip of land. A place that the United Nations has warned could be unlivable by 2020. One of the most acute problems is a shortage of clean water – something that Maher Bolbol needs not only at home but for his business. It’s a coffee stall where he makes the equivalent of just £2 a day. Gaza’s economy is at a standstill; badly affected by years of a blockade by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons.”

Gaza’s water problems of course have nothing to do with the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007. Those problems stem from excessive pumping from the aquifer by the local population and attempts to alleviate them by means of foreign-funded desalination plants have been thwarted by Hamas and by internal Palestinian disputes.

With Husain failing to make any mention of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians which are the reason for the implementation of restrictions on the import of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip, viewers then heard from her main interviewee.

Maher Bolbol [voiceover] “This blockade is like a cancer in the whole Gaza Strip. It spread and affects everyone and of course it’s endurable unless the blockade is lifted.”

Husain: “Today the World Bank says half of Gaza’s population is living in poverty. This is the busy home of a big family – the grandparents, their sons and daughters, their sons and daughters-in-law and all the grandchildren. But of course in a place like this that means many mouths to feed and it’s not easy to provide for such a large family in Gaza. The household is 21 people in all, living here since 2014 when their old home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. There are three generations under this roof but Maher is the only one who has any work at all.”

Viewers were not told where the family’s “old home” was or why it was allegedly “destroyed in an Israeli airstrike”.

Khadra Bolbol [voiceover]: “No clothes, no furniture. It’s barely enough for food and water and sometimes we can’t even find that.”

Husain: “This is the only existence the children know. But for the generation in the middle – their parents – dreams of jobs and livelihoods have been shattered.”

Alaa Bolbol [voiceover]: “It is sad to have to drop out of university. I thought I was going to make something of myself, that people would call me Alaa the accountant. Now I find myself unable to pull myself out of the hole I fell into.”

Husain: “He has a wife and child but no means of supporting them. His unpaid debts meant he had to go to prison. Now Maher has a new worry – another son went to the weekly demonstrations near Gaza’s boundary with Israel and was hit by a rubber bullet.”

In compliance with standard BBC editorial policy, Husain described eight months of violent rioting that has included shooting attacks, arson attacks, grenade attacks, IED attacks and border infiltrations in which a high proportion of people connected to terror organisations have been killed or injured as “demonstrations”.

Mohammed Bolbol [voiceover] “All young adults go and take part. I went there just like the rest of them, like anyone does. God willing the blockade will be lifted, then we will find jobs, live our lives and secure a future for our children.”

Maher Bolbol [voiceover]: “After the injury of course I’m upset. This is my son, I raised him. I’m scared for him. I also know that this will be an added burden to us as a family.”

Husain: “Tonight there is fresh bread even if scrap paper is the only available fuel. And few believe the blockade can end while Hamas – whose founding charter denies Israel’s right to exist – is in power here. When I’ve talked to Israeli officials and ordinary people they have said that Gaza is in this position because of Hamas. What do you think of that?”

Maher Bolbol [voiceover]: “No, our internal Palestinian governments cannot be held responsible. The siege that was imposed is really strangling us.”

Making no effort to clarify to BBC viewers that the counter-terrorism measures are not a “siege” and that they were implemented because of Hamas’ terror attacks against Israeli civilians, Husain closed her report with a brief and opaque tick of the ‘impartiality’ box.

Husain: “But as well as the blockade incomes here have been affected in the last year by Palestinian divisions; sanctions imposed on Hamas by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Maher’s family like many others here say they have little real hope of a better future.”

On the day that the BBC aired this report Hamas staged a rally in Gaza to mark 31 years since its founding. According to documents obtained by Israeli journalists, the cost of that rally amounted to over half a million dollars. BBC audiences of course heard nothing about that or about the highly relevant topic of Hamas’ long-standing diversion of funds and resources for the purpose of terror at the expense of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population.

Instead – and notwithstanding Husain’s few half-hearted ticks of the ‘impartiality’ box’ – BBC audiences were once again steered towards the view that the root cause of the problems faced by civilians in the Gaza Strip is the counter-terrorism measures that had to be implemented due to Hamas terrorism – the “blockade” – rather than Hamas terrorism itself.

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One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

h/t S

As readers probably know the BBC employs permanent staff in the Gaza Strip. In addition, just a couple of hours’ journey away in Jerusalem is a fully staffed BBC bureau with dedicated Middle East correspondents. Nevertheless, the publicly funded corporation has found it necessary to send a presenter from a domestic radio station to report on ‘life in Gaza’.

“This is the Erez Crossing, the point that connects Israel and Gaza. For the last eight months the perimeter fence between the two has been the scene of weekly Palestinian protests. I’ve been talking to people who live on the Israeli side and on Monday we’ll be broadcasting live from Gaza. Join me, Mishal Husain, on the Today Programme.”

It of course comes as no surprise to see Mishal Husain portraying violent rioting that has included shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and infiltrations into Israeli territory as “protests”. After all, that has been the BBC’s editorial policy for the past eight months.

It will however be interesting to see whether Husain’s conversations with “people who live on the Israeli side” include any mention of what she termed “home-made contraptions” six years ago.

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

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part four

The fourth item (see the first here, the second here and the third here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary that was aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs show ‘Today‘ was an interview (from 02:36:33 here) with the Palestinian Authority’s Manuel Hassassian conducted by the programme’s co-presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain’s introduction to the item included the exaggerated claim that the Balfour Declaration “shaped the map of the Middle East”.

Husain: “A letter written a hundred years ago that shaped the map of the Middle East; seen by Israelis as the foundation stone for their country and by Palestinians as the beginning of a disaster. We’ve been marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on the programme this morning. After hearing from Israel’s deputy foreign minister earlier, we’ll be talking to a senior Palestinian in a moment.”

After listeners had heard – for the first time in the programme – a reading of the Balfour Declaration in full, Husain continued by upgrading the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Husain: “With us in the studio is Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to the UK: effectively the Palestinian ambassador. […] We’ve been hearing the Israeli view already this morning that this is a moment of celebration for them. What do the words of the Balfour Declaration mean to you?”

Hassassian opened with promotion of a crucial element in the Palestinian narrative: the notion of Jews as European ‘colonialists‘. That falsehood went completely unchallenged by Husain.  

Hassassian: “This letter that Arthur Balfour has published…had published in the past, it’s a one sentence with 67 words that meant the destruction and the destitution of the Palestinian people. Bringing the Jews from Europe to Palestine, you know, that in itself, you know, was a crime against humanity. This is how we look at Balfour because today, when we go back retrospectively 100 years, we have seen how this letter had been…had become part and parcel of the mandatory rule of Great Britain over Palestine in facilitating the Jewish immigration and in creating a national home for the Jews without any respect to the political rights of 95%; then the Palestinians who were the majority…”

As was the case in the first three items in this programme (as well as in much of the BBC’s additional coverage of the centenary – see ‘related articles’ below), Husain then misrepresented the part of Balfour’s letter that referred to “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”.  

Husain: “Which…which are included in that letter, the second part of which does acknowledge that nothing in what has been said about Jewish…the creation of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine should prejudice those rights. But from what you are saying it sounds as if your objection is to the first part as well: the creation in the first place of a home for the Jews in Palestine.”

Ironically, Hassassian then clarified to listeners what the BBC has put much effort into concealing before promoting some highly dubious ‘history’.

Hassassian: “And to the second part because it meant only the civil and religious rights. It did not mention the political rights and the Palestinians have fought the Arabs with the allied in order to get the promise of an independent Palestine.”

Husain: “Your objection to the first part of that – the creation of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine – that is at the heart of the creation of Israel.”

Hassassian: “Yes.”

Husain: “So you are…you are opposed to the existence of Israel today?”

Hassassian then advanced the inaccurate notion that the “second part” of the Balfour Declaration meant the establishment of a “Palestinian state”.

Hassassian: “Today it’s a different reality. We are talking about the second part which was not fulfilled – i.e. the independent Palestinian state. Now in 1988 we have made our painful historic concession in recognising the State of Israel. We have embarked on the peace process. We have signed the Oslo Accords. We have recognised the State of Israel on 75% of the land. Today we’re not talking about, you know, the extermination of Israel. What we’re talking is about the fulfilment of the second part of this Balfour Declaration.”

With Husain making no effort to clarify to listeners that some Palestinian factions do indeed have “the extermination of Israel”at the top of their agenda, he went on:

Hassassian: “Instead of celebrating and marking and adding insult to injury, I think we Palestinians would have expected the moral and historic responsibility to be shouldered by this government and to apologise to the Palestinian people and to go ahead in the execution of the second part by recognising the State of Palestine.”

Husain: “You mean the British government?”

Hassassian: “Yes ma’am.”

Husain: “And the foreign secretary Boris Johnson has spoken about that second part – the protection of the non-Jewish communities of the area that was then Palestine – as being unfinished business. So there is a recognition of what you are saying. “

Husain’s portrayal of the article by Johnson to which she refers is inaccurate: the British foreign secretary did not say “that second part” of the Balfour Declaration was “unfinished business”. He did however refer to “the vision of two states for two peoples” as proposed in the 1937 Peel Commission report – a proposal that listeners were not told was rejected by the Arabs at the time and again on repeated occasions.

Hassassian: “Well that recognition is equated to hollow promises. We have been hearing this for the last several years. That the…the recognition of the fact that there should be a two-state solution, that they are against settlement building and which is true: the British government has taken a stand – a firm stand – by accepting and voting for Resolution 2338 [sic – actually 2334]. But by the same token we haven’t seen any concrete action plan. No pressures have been put on Israel. No BDS on Israel products, you know…”

Husain: “The boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Hassassian: “The boycott…yes and sanctions. We haven’t seen any concrete action. It’s talking the talk but not walking the walk. We do appreciate what Mr Johnson has said. We do appreciate the position of the British government when it comes to the support of a two-state solution but we don’t see any action. Look at the situation in Palestine. The two-state solution is slipping because of the continuous building of settlements by the Israelis.”

Failing to challenge the specious claim that the two-state solution is endangered by Israeli construction and making no effort to clarify to listeners that the building there is takes place in existing communities rather than – as Hassassian implied – new communities being built, Husain continued by raising a topic rarely discussed on BBC platforms: Palestinian responsibility. She refrained, however, from using the word terror and under-represented the number of victims of Palestinian terror.

Husain: “Right. Well let’s talk about the Palestinians’ own responsibility; about Palestinian actions that have been seen particularly since the Oslo Accords which you mentioned were signed. The Palestinian Authority was set up in 1993. Between 1994 and 2005 hundreds of Israelis died in attacks that were carried out by Palestinians and the numbers only came down after Israel built its security barrier…or wall. What that means is that the basic premise of Oslo – the exchange of land for peace – was never honoured and Palestinian violence is part of that.”

Hassassian: “I am really shocked at your question because you have negated the fact that thousands of Palestinians have died at the hands of the Israelis and that this apartheid wall is a political statement and it’s not for security reasons because they wanted to change the facts on the ground by building more settlements and carving Palestinian land. Why did they build this apartheid wall ten kilometres deep into the West Bank and not on their borders of 1967?”

None of those falsehoods promoted by Hassassian was even remotely challenged by Husain who went on:

Husain: “Mr Hassassian, we’ve talked already on the programme this morning to the Israeli deputy foreign minister and we’ve talked about the situation in the West Bank. I’m asking you to acknowledge the deaths of Israelis because of Palestinian attacks.”

Hassassian: “You…you…we have also to expect the acknowledgement of the Israelis for the death of thousands – and not hundreds – of Palestinians. I don’t think this is a fair statement. For us to acknowledge the death of hundreds of Israelis who are occupiers, who have been, you know, uprooting us from our land…”

Husain: “They were civilians. They were civilians, they were children on buses – just one example – that were targeted.”

Hassassian: “And there were…and we have hundreds… thousands of children have been killed by settlers and by the what’s so-called the IDF forces. I mean why do we talk about one side and not the other side? We are the occupied. We have the right to resist. We have the right to establish our own independent state. Why do we equate the occupier with the occupied? Is this a fair statement? It’s not a fair statement. We have the right to resist because we have the inalienable right for self-determination.”

Husain: “But listening to you it seems to me that the chances of peace, the chances of a process that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state, is further away than ever.”

Hassassian: “No. My position as Palestinian ambassador [sic] is to promote the two-state solution. I personally have always believed that political accommodation and negotiations is the only way out of this quagmire. I believe that no military solution will ever be a solution. I believe that convulsive violence breeds more violence.”

Husain made no effort to question Hassassian regarding his claim that he promotes the two-state solution even though he is on record as promoting a very different ‘solution’.

“The Palestinian Ambassador to UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, said ideally he would prefer a one-state solution but pragmatically and politically the two-state solution is the best option that the Palestinians could realistically achieve. Although, he said even that seems to be rather impossible under the current political climate.” September 2016

“Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative in the UK, condemned the Balfour Declaration. He said the Palestinians had been denied the right to self-determination and their basic human rights “due to the pledge by Great Britain to the Zionists”.

He said the Palestinian “right of return” was a “sacred right” and that the “non-Judaisation of the state of Israel is our red line”.” November 2013

“There is no two state solution. Democracies don’t fight each other. If Israel is a democracy I would claim that the Palestinians are also a democracy. If democracies cannot fight each other then why not have one state?; one man, one vote.” January 2013

“Ladies and gentleman, there is no two state solution left. We have to look to other, what I call, ingenious ideas and look outside the box and the only thing that comes to my mind is very simple; there is only one solution, which is a one state solution.November 2012

Hassassian continued with yet more falsehoods and context-free claims that went completely unchallenged:

Hassassian: “We have done our share as Palestinians in order to promote peace. But look at Israel? What did Israel do? Since the Oslo agreement they have quadrupled the building of settlements. They have killed many thousands: two wars against our people in Gaza. So where is the intention of peace on the other side? On the occupier that claims to be a democracy?”

The final part of the interview was devoted to the topic of the Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation with Husain raising the issue of the significance of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel in the context of its potential participation in a Palestinian unity government and Hassassian claiming that the Palestinian Authority is “trying to bring Hamas on board in a political programme that will recognise the State of Israel”.

Notwithstanding Mishal Husain’s atypical question regarding Israeli victims of Palestinian terror, this lengthy interview – over ten minutes long – obviously primarily provided a platform for yet more amplification of PA/PLO messaging concerning the Balfour Declaration centenary.

In all, listeners to the ‘Today’ programme on November 2nd heard over thirty-three minutes of coverage relating to that topic during which the part of the Balfour Declaration relating to the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” was misrepresented no fewer than six times. They did not, however, hear even one mention of the part of the same text that states that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice […] the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

BBC report on UK Balfour dinner follows standard formula

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part three

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

The November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included no fewer than four separate items concerning the Balfour Declaration centenary.

In her introduction to first of those items (from 51:49 here) co-presenter Mishal Husain repeated a practice seen time and time again in BBC coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below). Her inaccurate paraphrasing of the Balfour Declaration concealed from audiences the fact that the document specifically referred to the “civil and religious rights” of non-Jewish communities.

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

Husain: “A hundred years have passed since Britain pledged support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration, issued by the then foreign secretary in the midst of the First World War has become a source of celebration for Israelis and anger for Palestinians over what they see as the failure to stick to its promise that the rights of non-Jewish communities should not be prejudiced. The British government says it will mark the centenary with pride but its description of the pledges made at the time as ‘unfinished business’ has done nothing to soften Palestinian calls for an apology. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Bateman began his report in Be’er Sheva where commemoration of a battle in 1917 recently took place. Failing to clarify that battle’s First World War context to listeners, he went on to promote a theme previously seen in his reporting of the Balfour Declaration centenary: the notion that Palestinian Arabs were ‘dispossessed‘ – thereby inaccurately implying that the territory on which Israel was established was ‘Palestinian’. 

Bateman: “The Balfour Declaration was issued two days later. Palestinian Arabs would come to view it as a historic source of their dispossession. For many Jews it amounted to a form of salvation; recognition of their claim to their ancestral homeland.”

A brief interview with former MK Shlomo Hillel included a reference to the British Mandate which once again raises the question of whether BBC reporters understand the difference between the Mandate for Palestine – drafted and confirmed by the League of Nations – and the British role as administer of that mandate.

Bateman: “Shlomo Hillel – now 94 – an Iraqi Jew, was among the waves of Jewish immigrants in the years after the declaration was written into Britain’s international mandate for Palestine.”

Listeners heard nothing on the subject of why Hillel and tens of thousands of other Jews left Iraq, even though – as told in an interview some years ago – it is relevant both in the context of the wider topic of the effects of British policies in the Middle East and in relation to the part of the Balfour Declaration that has been consistently and glaringly absent from BBC coverage of the topic: “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

“After World War I, the British took over the country and appointed a king, and in 1932 Iraq became independent. “Suddenly the situation changed,” explains Hillel.

“Already by 1933, my father understood this was the end.”

That was the year of a massacre of Assyrian Christians in the north of the country.

“We were watching the Iraqi army’s ‘victory’ parade from our house in Baghdad and we thought if that’s what they can do to the Christians, what can they do to us?” Hillel moved to Palestine in 1934 to be with his older brothers and was followed by his parents in 1935.

During World War II, a Nazi-inspired pogrom (farhud) erupted in Baghdad in 1941, finally bringing to an end any hopes of continued peaceful existence for the city’s Jewish minority. “This was a huge traumatic event for Iraqi Jews. Young Jews started to organize self-defense organizations and an underground,” Hillel relates.”

Following an archive recording in which listeners heard a reference to “the wandering Jew”, Bateman continued with an airbrushed portrayal of the scope of and reasons for British restrictions on Jewish immigration:

Bateman: “Britain ultimately curbed Jewish immigration. Mandate rule struggled to deal with Arab unrest and Jewish paramilitary groups seeking a state.”

Bateman’s next interviewee was Rima Tarazi.

Bateman: “Rima Tarazi’s father was a civil servant for the British in Jerusalem in those years. She says he helped other Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war after Britain had pulled out.”

Tarazi’s father was Musa Nasir – also a member of the Jordanian parliament and a minister in the Jordanian government. Listeners then heard another inaccurate paraphrasing of the Balfour Declaration.

Tarazi: “My father was a great advocate of our cause – of the Palestinian cause – and he was always trying to make the British understand. Ever since the Balfour Declaration there have been…hard feelings started to arise. And the travesty of the problem is that they said we promise a Jewish homeland provided it doesn’t prejudice the rights of the non-Jews, so we became the non-Jews. We were the majority. We were 90% of the people, the population. It has polarised religion in our region.”

Bateman’s next interviewee, historian and MK Michael Oren, did point out that “the national aspirations of Arabs were widely realised in places like Syria and Iraq” but Bateman did not expand on the topic. His final interviewee was introduced thus:

Bateman: “The political leadership in the West Bank sees Mr Netanyahu’s invitation to Downing Street as an insult. Dr Nabil Shaath is an advisor to the Palestinian president.”

Shaath: “It’s not enough that you…you’ve done this but you celebrate it with the man who runs Israel today and who is doing everything possible not to allow the Palestinians any bit of sovereignty or survival on their land.”

Failing to remind listeners of the numerous occasions on which the Palestinians have rejected the opportunity to have their own state over the past eighty years, Bateman closed his report.

Bateman: “A hundred years after it issued the Balfour Declaration the British government concedes all its pledges have yet to be fulfilled but it has made clear it will not be saying sorry.”

While Radio 4 listeners got to hear a balanced quota of Israeli Palestinian voices in this interview, they also heard two inaccurate portrayals of the Balfour Declaration’s specific reference to the “civil and religious rights” of non-Jewish communities, one inaccurate reference to Palestinian ‘dispossession’, a curious portrayal of the Mandate for Palestine and the unchallenged accusation that Israel is exclusively to blame for the absence of a Palestinian state.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

BBC report on UK Balfour dinner follows standard formula

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

 

 

BBC Complaints says editorial guidelines on live output cannot always be met

The January 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included an interview by Mishal Husain with the Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi.

As was noted here at the time:

“None of Zoabi’s blatant propaganda and incitement concerning Israel was challenged by Husain – including her inaccurate claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is “occupied”, the lie that Israel “expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948”, the falsehood of “87 racist laws” (with Zoabi adding yet another one since she made a similar claim at the PSC AGM just three days earlier) or the unsourced allegation that 30 thousand ‘Palestinians’ are being ‘evacuated’ “from the Negev” (it was 13,000 at the PSC AGM) – which of course actually relates to the Umm al Hiran story and the generously compensated relocation close by of Bedouin squatters.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the misleading of listeners due to the interviewer’s failure to correct Zoabi’s inaccurate statements and false claims. The response received includes the following:

“First of all I’m sorry for the delay in coming back. I know people appreciate a prompt response, it’s taken us longer than usual to respond here – apologies. I understand you feel that Mishal Husain failed to challenge statements by Haneen Zoabi.

I have reviewed the piece – the aim here was to find out what Palestinians make of Donald Trump. Mishal began the interview by asking “What do you think Donald Trump means for the Palestinians?”

Mishal did take her up on the point about the American Embassy, explaining that the White House press secretary said that they were at the very first stage of even discussing the subject.

We always seek to ensure that the interviewer’s particular question is answered by the guest first and foremost. Ms Zoabi spoke at length and very quickly and passionately. The interviewer always seeks to interject when appropriate, balancing the need for a clear discussion with appropriate interaction. It’s an art form rather than a simple science, but we’re confident that in due course, a fair reflection of each side’s long-running stances was offered to listeners over the two days. Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, was interviewed the day before in order to provide a contrasting view.

It was clear that these comments were claims made from her established perspective – listeners can judge the different arguments for themselves. Mishal intervened, contrasting Hanin’s settlement claims with the position offered the previous day, where the Israeli view was that settlements are not the only issue. The area of questioning here was not ‘What exactly is happening now?’ but rather ‘How does the new US approach to the Middle East appear to Palestinians?’. 

In a fast-flowing interview situation, it may not always be possible for an interviewer to cross-check every statement and claim that is made by a guest, we’re sorry to hear this spoiled the interview for you. This issue could occur across a range of programmes, with a variety of guests and topics. There is no intention to treat any particular argument differently. We’d like to reassure you that there is no ulterior motive in either challenging or not challenging specific points on any occasion.” [emphasis added]

Quite how the BBC arrives at the conclusion that “listeners can judge the different arguments for themselves” if they are not provided with accurate information to counter false claims such as the ones made by Zoabi is unclear.

The statement “it may not always be possible for an interviewer to cross-check every statement and claim that is made by a guest” is clearly at odds with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on live output which state “we should take special care to minimise the risks involved” and go on to define those risks as including “broadcast of derogatory or libellous comments” and “misleading of audiences”.

Regarding “offensive comments” and “factual errors” – which are defined in those guidelines as “a serious incident in a live broadcast” – the guidelines state:

BBC Complaints, however, informs us that an interviewer cannot always be expected to “cross-check” claims made by an interviewee.

BBC Watch wrote back pointing out that if that is indeed the case, it may be prudent to avoid live interviews with guests with an established reputation for dissemination of politically motivated falsehoods. We have not received a satisfactory reply. 

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part two

The January 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Balad MK Haneen Zoabi who was in London for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM and other speaking engagements.today-24-1-zoabi-int

As seen in part one of this post, the previous day MK Tzipi Hotovely had been interviewed on the same programme by Sarah Montague and listeners were reminded of that – and obviously intended to view the two interviews as being linked – in the introduction to the item (from 01:24:26 here) by presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “On yesterday’s programme Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs made clear how pleased her government was to see the Trump administration take office. Within 48 hours of the inauguration, Israel approved more than 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting President Trump at the White House next week [sic]. Here’s what Tzipi Hotovely told us yesterday:

‘We think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East…’

So how does the new era appear from the Palestinian perspective? Haneen Zoabi is a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Good morning.”

Notably, Husain did not inform listeners to which political party Zoabi belongs and provided no information concerning that party’s anti-Israel platform.

Zoabi: “Good morning.”

Husain: “What do you think President Trump means for the Palestinians?”

Zoabi: “As the Israeli says, it is an expression of deep friendship and unfortunately it’s an expression also of supporting the Israelis’ policies of expanding settlements, of Judaising Jerusalem, of the violence policies of Israel against the Palestinians. So we will be the victims of this and this is also the violation of the international law because according to the international law Jerusalem is an occupied territories. So this is to delete the position; to ignore the position of Israel as occupier. We should always remember that Israel is occupier and without…and what’s the US…eh… do is to give Israel a full immunity to its policies. I think the…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You’re referring to….let’s just take one of the issues you’re referring to which is the suggestion that under President Trump the US embassy is going to move from Tel Aviv…”

Zoabi: “Tel Aviv.”

Husain: “…to Jerusalem. Now, what the White House press secretary has said so far is ‘we are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject’. If it does happen, what will it mean do you think? Will it be a red line as far as the Palestinians are concerned?”

Zoabi: “I think yes and I think the reality after that would not be the same as the reality before that. We heard yesterday the Palestinian Authority saying that the Palestinian Authority will withdraw its recognition from Israel – eh…of Israel – and I think this will be the time that the Palestinian Authority will declare the end of the negotiation illusions because till now the negotiations were just illusions. The real word was that Israel steal the Palestinian land, expand settlements – not just in the West Bank. I am a citizen and I live inside Nazareth…”

Husain [interrupts]: “A citizen of Israel.”

Zoabi: “…of Israel and I live inside Nazareth. Israel also now is evacuating thirty thousand Palestinians from the Negev, destroying five Palestinian villages against citizens of Israel. I am not talking the occupied territories in the West Bank. I’m talking about Palestinians whom Israel didn’t expel in 1948.You remember: Israel has expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948. No-one is remembering that now. And now…”

Husain [interrupts]: “When we were talking to the Israeli deputy foreign minister yesterday, I mean, she was stressing that in their view settlements are not…are not the only issue; that there are other issues: obviously the status of Jerusalem, refugees, Israel’s security. Where do you think the best chance of peace lies, given what is happening on the ground at the moment?”

Zoabi: “I think it is so strange to talk about peace while reallocating the embassy, while Israel yesterday has announce 600 housing units. As long as Israel is going with full immunity from the international community, with…with that which is considered to be crimes against humanityit’s a war crime to build settlementsit’s a war crimes. And the problem is not just occupation and oppressing the Palestinians – which no-one talks about it. No-one’s talking about the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisoners [prisons]. We must talk about…eh…making Israel accountable. If you want peace, you want justice. And if you want justice you must make Israel accountable to its crimes. It cannot be…it is not logic to give…to vetoes the UN resolution – Security Council resolution – to give support as the British government gives support to Israel all….all…all along and then to talk about peace. If you want peace you must let Israel pay the price of its crimes, of its oppressions, of its settlements, of its 87 racist laws. In Israel there are 87 racist laws….”

Husain [interrupts] “There was recently a UN Security Council resolution which went against Israel…”

Zoabi: [interrupts] “Exactly: an exception, exception.”

Husain: “…and was supported by the British. Thank you very much Haneen Zoabi, member of the Israeli Knesset.”

Zoabi: “Thank you.”

While this interview was about a minute and a quarter shorter than the one with Tzipi Hotovely the previous day, we see that Zoabi was interrupted on four occasions (compared to seven interruptions in the Hotovely interview) – but with notably less hostility.

None of Zoabi’s blatant propaganda and incitement concerning Israel was challenged by Husain – including her inaccurate claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is “occupied”, the lie that Israel “expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948”, the falsehood of “87 racist laws” (with Zoabi adding yet another one since she made a similar claim at the PSC AGM just three days earlier) or the unsourced allegation that 30 thousand ‘Palestinians’ are being ‘evacuated’ “from the Negev” (it was 13,000 at the PSC AGM) – which of course actually relates to the Umm al Hiran story and the generously compensated relocation close by of Bedouin squatters.

In fact, the only time that Husain did intervene to correct misleading information was to clarify that Britain had voted in favour of UNSC resolution 2334.

In short, Haneen Zoabi was given a completely unfettered platform from which to spout her predictably one-sided propaganda (in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as victims and Arab belligerence and Palestinian terrorism are erased) in an obviously more sympathetic environment than was evident in the previous day’s interview.

The fact that Mishal Husain failed to challenge even one of Zoabi’s many falsehoods means that the BBC cannot possibly claim that this interview was intended to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part one

The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

The Independent repeats ‘fake news’, claiming “50 racist laws” in Israel (UK Media Watch)

In which BBC Radio 4 links Israel’s anti-terrorist fence to Donald Trump

h/t LO

BBC coverage of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has never stood out as a shining example of journalistic impartiality but nevertheless, on August 2nd Mishal Husain – presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – managed to plumb new depths with the following introduction to an item which can be heard from 44:23 here.Today 2 8

“We hear a lot from Donald Trump about the wall he’d like to build along the US-Mexican border: an idea perhaps inspired by Israel’s security barrier.”

Does Donald Trump have anything to do with this story? Obviously not. Does Husain have any evidence-based information which would back up her speculation? Highly doubtful. That however did not prevent her from promoting tabloid-style false linkage between the two unrelated topics. Husain continued:

“Construction began in 2002 after a series of suicide bombings and it is now 60% complete. In the wake of recent attacks on Israelis, the government has promised to reinforce parts of it and make it harder for Palestinians to cross. Katy Watson reports now on what the strategy has achieved.”

The investigation into the terror attack at Sarona Market in June showed that the terrorists had infiltrated via a breach in the fence near Meitar and the government did indeed immediately allocate a budget for repair of the fence in that area.

While many would consider the human cost of a suicide bombing visually – and morally –more offensive than a structure erected to prevent such sights, Katy Watson’s opening to her report shows that her concept of aesthetics is clearly different. [All emphasis in bold added]

“Israel’s separation barrier is an eyesore that’s become part of the landscape. Mostly fence, it turns into a grey concrete wall around communities, cutting through them like a guillotine, separating Palestinians from their Jewish neighbours. Every so often there’s a checkpoint. It’s here that the thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel have to pass every day.”

Listeners then heard a male voice say:

“I need this wall to protect the Israeli houses here from sniper shooting from the other side.”

Watson continued:

“A colonel in the army, Danny Tirza was in charge of planning the separation barrier during a particularly violent time.”

Without providing listeners with any concrete information about what she euphemistically terms “a particularly violent time” – such as the fact that hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands more wounded and maimed in an unprecedented campaign of terrorism beginning in September 2000 – Watson’s report went on to present a selected quote from Col (Res.) Danny Tirza.

Tirza: “The people in Israel they ask the government ‘separate us from them. We don’t want to see them anymore. Don’t let them come to Israel for any reason.”

Watson continued, failing to inform listeners that the “West Bank territory” she is about to mention is in fact subject to final status negotiations or that the boundary she inaccurately allocates to that territory is in fact nothing more than a defunct ceasefire line:

“The route Danny mapped is hugely controversial. 85% of it is on West Bank territory.”

She went on:

 “The International Court of Justice says it’s illegal and should be pulled down.”

Watson refrained from informing listeners that the highly politicised ‘advisory opinion’ produced by the ICJ has no legal standing. Providing a very tepid description of the Sarona Market terror attack and failing to clarify that the terrorists passed through a breach in the fence, she went on to provide an inaccurate description of its physical characteristics:

“But in the wake of a shooting in Tel Aviv in early June, the government said it would step up efforts to finish the barrier. We’ve driven about an hour and a half south of Jerusalem…eh…along the West Bank. The fence goes for miles and miles. Most of it is metal barbed wire. There are sensors so if the fence is breached then alarms go off but you can also see areas with big holes that have been patched up and the community here says that this is an area which is breached quite a lot by Palestinians trying to get over the fence illegally.

But in the past few weeks they started putting up a wall. Concrete blocks 8 or 9 meters high are being positioned and razor wire placed on the top to stop the flow of people. Most of them are Palestinians who want to work in Israel but don’t have a permit. Authorities say this is also a common route used by attackers.”

Listeners then heard a woman say:

“I believe that if we want to be good neighbours, we need some fence between us.”

Watson next introduced the speaker, who is actually the head of Bnei Shimon regional council:

“Sigal Moran is the mayor of a nearby town. She’s been campaigning for a wall for years to make her community safer.”

Moran: “Israel and the Palestinians have a long history of conflict. In the base, this conflict is about trust and when you don’t have trust you can’t live together.”

Watson continued:

“On the other side of the razor wire is the Palestinian town of Al Burj. There they have a very different perspective. Sirhan al Amayra is a town councillor and says people’s lives are restricted.”

[voiceover]: “Israel’s practicing collective punishment. If somebody for example attacks in Tel Aviv, why should this little village be punished?”

Watson refrained from providing any information which would help her listeners understand the context of counter-terrorism operations to apprehend accomplices of terrorists. She then went on to make herself the focus of the story:

“A group of Israeli soldiers on the other side of the barrier watch us while we speak to Sirhan. We then try to drive to speak to a farmer whose land is near the new wall. The soldiers who were watching us do the other interview have been following us and they’ve just come up the bank from the other side; from Israel into the West Bank through the fence and they’ve stopped us going any further, told us to turn back. Frustrated 80 year-old farmer Yassir says this sort of thing happens often.”

[voiceover]: “When the wall was built things went from better to bad to worse. Now we’re so handcuffed it feels like we are living in a prison.”

Watson made no effort to inform listeners that the anti-terrorist fence neither ‘handcuffs’ nor ‘imprisons’ the residents of the Area B village of Al Burj.

Al Burj

Watson went on:

“I travel north to the Qalandiya checkpoint which connects the West Bank city of Ramallah to Jerusalem. It’s an area where tensions often run high. There I meet Xavier Abu Eid – an advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

As is to be expected from that PLO official, listeners then got a dose of propaganda which went unchallenged by Watson.

XAE: “What this wall does is not to divide Palestinians from Israelis. It’s actually to divide Palestinians from Palestinians.”

Watson: “And of Israel’s claim that the barrier is about security, Xavier says it’s about protecting Israeli interests, taking land away from Palestinians and control.”

XAE: “Israel cannot ask to have peace at the same time that it occupies and denies the right of a people. There will be people that react. Of course we’re against attacking civilians and that’s a very clear position but you cannot just control a people, deny them rights and from the other side say we’ll continue dominating them, controlling them so we’re safe.”

Watson of course did not enlighten audiences with regard to the PLO’s record of terrorism and glorification of terrorism. She closed:

“Israelis call it a security fence, the Palestinians an apartheid wall. Its architects say it saves lives but there’s a huge amount of resentment among Palestinians that the barrier creates more problems than it solves.”

According to Mishal Husein’s introduction, the purpose of this report was to inform BBC audiences about “what the strategy has achieved”. Notably, the anti-terrorist fence’s prime achievement – the dramatic reduction of the number of Israelis murdered in terror attacks – did not even get a proper mention in this report. BBC audiences did however hear falsehoods such as “illegal”, “an apartheid wall”, “collective punishment” and “taking away land from Palestinians”.

Readers may recall that visiting BBC journalist Katy Watson previously produced some very reasonable reporting on the topic of the Second Lebanon War. Sadly, Watson’s trip to Israel appears to have included a process of journalistic socialisation because this item is nothing more than yet another politicised campaigning report on the topic of the anti-terrorist fence, the likes of which have been produced by many a BBC journalist in the past.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

Why did the BBC’s Kevin Connolly resurrect an irrelevant moggie story?

If blessed with a long memory, listeners to the December 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme might have concluded that Kevin Connolly has spent so long at the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau that he has simply run out of fresh stories to tell. After all, barely three years have passed since Connolly last devoted one of his reports to the subject of street cats in Israel – “The lairy, wary cats stalking Jerusalem bins“, 18 October 2012. 

However, those listening to the item (from 01:20:00 here and promoted separately in abridged version here and a filmed version here) would quickly have understood the intent behind Connolly’s purported feline-interest report – which actually relates to a story over a month and a half old. The synopsis to the abridged version reads:Connolly cats R4

“Israel has a feral cat problem, with as many as two million feral cats living rough and scavenging for food around the country.

A neutering programme run by an animal charity has been keeping the numbers down but this year faced a challenge from a right-wing, religious Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who felt that it was against Jewish ethical principles to spend Israeli state money on interfering with the reproductive cycle.”

Presenter Mishal Husain’s introduction to the item was as follows:

“For decades Israel has had a problem with feral cats. There are an estimated 2 million of them on the streets. A neutering programme run by an animal charity has been keeping the numbers down but this year it faced a challenge from a right-wing minister who said it was against Jewish ethics to spend state money on interfering with the reproductive cycle. For now the charity has won the argument so our correspondent Kevin Connolly went to see it at work.”

In the report itself Connolly inaccurately tells listeners that the charity-run neutering programme is “controversial” in Israel. 

“For the cats the neutering clinic offers a brief respite of cleanliness and care. But in Israel its work is suddenly controversial.”

He goes on:

“The religious right-wing agriculture minister Uri Ariel has tried to direct state funding away from the programme, arguing that a prohibition in Judaism on interfering with the Almighty’s preferred arrangements for reproduction applies to animals as well as humans.”

Later he says:

“At one point the Agriculture Ministry was talking about transferring them [street cats] to other countries – although without saying where or how. A little internet mockery has put paid to that idea – at least for now.”

In fact it was not “the Agriculture Ministry” which proposed that idea but the same minister in a letter to his opposite number at the Ministry for Environmental Protection and what Connolly does not adequately clarify to listeners is that Ariel’s outlandish ideas were quickly shot down by the public, animal welfare activists, lawmakers and the attorney general, meaning that the story he now tells is long since irrelevant.

Nevertheless, that did not prevent Connolly from resurrecting it over a month and a half later even though British listeners to this report would not have learned anything about methods of catching, neutering and releasing street cats which does not also happen in their own country But of course the real subject matter of this item is not the cats: they are merely the hook for the promotion of a story about a “right-wing, religious” politician in one of the BBC’s ‘Israeli Jews behaving weirdly’ stories.

Radio 4 listeners also heard Connolly imply that Israelis like to blame the British for their problems:

“And if you’re British and you’re waiting to hear how this problem in the Middle East is somehow your fault – keep listening.”

An interviewee then says:

“The legend in Israel is that there was a rat problem and that the British brought cats to Israel to take care of the rats and now we have no rat problem and we have many, many cats.”

As those listeners with a long memory may have recalled, Connolly promoted that same theme three years ago in his previous cat story.

“There are plenty of feral cats elsewhere in the Middle East too but the great thing about being a citizen of a former colonial power is that almost any problem you ask about can somehow be traced back directly to your national door.

So there is a theory that the feline population of Jerusalem began to expand when the city was under British rule between the wars when cats were introduced to control rats.”

Apparently this kind of non-story is what the audiences of a media outlet which has apparently lost interest in reporting terror attacks against civilians and serially avoids touchy subjects such as internal Palestinian politics or the situation of minorities living under PA and Hamas rule must come to expect.