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

The June 26th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“Also in the programme: Jared Kushner’s conference to bring “Peace to Prosperity” to Palestinians takes place in Bahrain…without the Palestinians.” 

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 30:04 here) thus:

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

Henley: “’President Trump and America have not given up on you’ Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told Palestinians. But they weren’t there to hear him at a conference in Bahrain focusing on the economic aspects of the Middle East peace plan Mr Kushner has been working on. He wants fifty billion dollars-worth of investment to be put into the Palestinian economy. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian authorities are attending the event. It’s not discussing a political resolution.”

In fact the plan speaks of $50 billion of investment to be divided between the Palestinian economy and three neighbouring Arab countries over ten years. Henley went on:

Henley: “Well, we’ll be looking at the plan in a moment. First, our Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at how the Palestinian economy is doing.”

Listeners then heard the same report by Knell that had been aired the previous day on ‘Newshour’ and on BBC Radio 4. Although the final interviewee in that report is Issam the fruit seller, Henley continued:

Henley: “Palestinian builder Rasmi ending that report by Yolande Knell. So how is the conference going given that the people who are being discussed – the Palestinians – are boycotting it? The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has said ‘what will be presented at the conference has nothing to do with reality’. ‘It’s nothing to do with occupation’, he said, ‘the best part of it will be the coffee break’.”

Following that uncritical promotion of PA talking points, Henley introduced an interviewee – a journalist covering the conference for a newspaper considered close to the Saudi Arabian regime.  

Henley: “Faisal Abbas is editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based Arab News and he joins me now from the conference, which is happening at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama which is the capital of Bahrain. […] Is it strange that this conference is being attended by Gulf billionaires, by Israeli businessmen and the likes of Tony Blair and Christine Lagarde, all discussing a project that the Palestinians have already rejected?”

Once communication problems had been resolved, Henley repeated his question, yet again failing to inform listeners that a number of Palestinian businessmen did attend the economic workshop.

Henley: “Tell me if you think it’s strange that this conference is discussing something Palestinians have already rejected in their absence.”

Abbas: “Ahh…so it is absolutely strange. I, like all the Arabs participating here, we are here because we do care about the Palestinian cause and, you know, in our hearts, in our actions we will do anything to support the Palestinians. So I respect the decision of the Palestinian leadership but I perhaps don’t think…I don’t agree that it was the best course of action. I think it would have been much better for somebody to be here to fight the cause and explain the point of view as to why this is rejected and make fresh demands if needed.”

Henley next promoted more PA/PLO messaging.

Henley: “What’s being discussed are economic solutions. Some people have said – Palestinians have said – it amounts to bribes for them to give up their demands for a political solution: a two-state solution.”

Abbas: “Ah, look, if that is the case…this is what I was saying, you know, participating and listening does not equate to an approval. If that is indeed the case then neither them or any of the Arabs would support such an equation. You know, this is, you know, just the advantage of being here. You have to look at the plan and from an economic point of view it makes a lot of sense. It does bring hope and there is nobody that ever spoke about it that said that this is a conditional for the Palestinians agreeing to terms that they might not agree. Everybody has been saying that this only be subject to approval of both sides and subject to a reception of the political side of the peace plan which will be revealed in a few months’ time.”

Henley’s next question also had nothing to do with the US plan presented at the workshop beyond mentioning one of the participants.

Henley: “Shlomi Fogel, who’s an Israeli shipping magnate attending this conference, says he thinks the Arab world is sick and tired of the Palestinians and their cause and just wants the conflict out of the way. What do you think?”

Abbas: “Ahm, I don’t think that’s true. We sympathetic with our Palestinian brothers. We stand by them. We think it’s unjust, it’s unfair what they’ve had to go through for decades. We’re…look we’ve tried various solutions – sometimes military, sometimes non-military. Nothing has worked so far and one of the definitions of insanity is trying something over and over again and expect a different result. You have a serious…”

Henley did not even allow his interviewee to complete his sentence before closing the item.

Henley [interrupts] “Thank you very much. I’ve got to stop it there, I’m afraid.”

In the introduction to this item listeners were told that it would be “looking at the plan” presented at the Bahrain economic workshop. In fact, audiences heard nothing at all about what that plan includes and how it might advance the economic well being of the Palestinian people.

Instead BBC World Service radio listeners once again heard a superficial report which did little more than amplify Palestinian Authority talking points and contributed nothing to proper audience understanding of the story.

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More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

 

 

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More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

The top story in the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 25th was described as follows by presenter Tim Franks in his introduction to the programme: {emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “It’s eluded the Israelis, the Palestinians and countless US administrations but now this White House says it has a brand new detailed plan for Middle East peace. Today we got part one: the economic vision for the Palestinians. It’s our top story.”

The item itself (from 00:57 here) was presented thus:

Franks: “We’re used to big, bold talk from President Trump but on one thing we can probably all agree: that were his administration to be able to conjur a full peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, it would indeed be – as Mr Trump put it – the ultimate deal. Today we got the long-awaited first part of the plan, drawn up under the aegis of one of his closest – if not the closest advisor – his son-in-law Jared Kushner. At what’s been billed as an economic workshop in Bahrain, he’s laid out his proposals for fifty billion dollars’ worth of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries. Mr Kushner appealed for open minds and for patience.”

After listeners had heard two segments of recordings of Kushner speaking at the conference, Franks went on:

Franks: “The White House says this is about trying a new approach to improve the Palestinians’ prospects after many years of political stasis if not outright failure. Palestinian leaders though are boycotting the event, furious about what they say is the Trump administration’s bias against them. White House officials say they’re unmoved by that show of intransigence. They’re interested instead in appealing to ordinary Palestinians keen to improve their parlous economic prospects. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been speaking to some of those Palestinians.”

Listeners then heard a report from Yolande Knell which was similar to both a televised report billed Palestinian poverty which she produced for BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on June 20th and an article she wrote which was published on the BBC News website on June 25th under the headline “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank”.

Knell: “It’s not long after four o’clock in the morning. It’s still pitch-black but the street here is teeming with people. There’s a small, informal market place that’s popped up overnight and some are stopping to buy some breakfast, some falafel sandwiches, a cup of coffee. These are Palestinian workers heading into the Israeli checkpoint.”

Listeners heard a voiceover translation of a man saying:

“The economic situation isn’t good. That’s why we have to go to Israel to work because there are no job opportunities.”

Knell: “Rasmi, from Hebron, has nine people depending on him and earns three times more in Israel as a builder than he could at home. With the West Bank economy in dire straits, it relies heavily on the tens of thousands of labourers like him with Israeli work permits. But here at the Taybeh Brewery near Ramallah they say business could be fizzing as much as the bottles of beer on their production line if it wasn’t for the tough political situation.”

Woman: “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. We are a Palestinian company under occupation and we don’t have our own borders, we don’t have control over the water, electricity. Anything that comes in and out of the country is through Israel.”

The Taybeh Brewery is situated in Taybeh which is in Area B and has been under Palestinian Authority civil control and Israeli security control since the year the brewery was founded, 1995. Just as the representatives of the Palestinians agreed to the zoning into Areas A, B and C, they also agreed to arrangements concerning water and electricity. The Palestinians have their own Water Authority and get some of their electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation – to which the Palestinian Authority currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt.

Knell: “Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

Knell of course did not bother to mention the Palestinian terrorism which made checkpoints necessary.

Khoury: “Palestinians are very smart people. They’re very determined, they’re very hard-working and they’re very highly educated and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed and this country would be amazing.”

Knell: “But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns, after Hamas – which is widely seen as a terrorist group – took over. Hamdi has no job and lives with his six children in one room. They struggle to get by on Qatari donations of $100 a month. ‘That money isn’t enough’ he says, ‘it just goes to pay our debts’.”

Once again Knell sidestepped the crucial issue of the terrorism which brought about the situation she describes. Listeners next heard shouts of ‘go home’ but Knell did not bother to inform them that the “protests” she went on to describe were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction.

Knell: “Already there’ve been Palestinian protests against the Trump administration’s economic plan. While Israel says it’s keeping an open mind, it’s been rejected outright by Palestinian leaders. The prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, says a political solution is needed.”

Shtayyeh: “This workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and the legitimisation of occupation. The Palestinian leadership is not part of it and we think that the outcome is going to be fruitless and it is simply nonsense.”

Knell: “Back at the turnstile of the Bethlehem checkpoint, Rasmi the builder is returning home, tired at the end of a 16-hour day. He stops to buy grapes from Issam, a farmer turned fruit seller who sets up a stall here each afternoon. He tells me that there’s no work in his village.”

Issam: “Our officials can’t open new buildings or factories. They don’t have the resources.”

That of course would have been the ideal opportunity for Yolande Knell to point out that some 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget – around $330 million a year according to a BBC report from a year ago and more according to other sources – is spent on payments to terrorists and their families. Knell however refrained from providing listeners with that relevant information.

Knell: “Can President Trump fix the Palestinian economy?”

Issam: “No. From what we saw when he became the president, he has done nothing to help the Palestinian economy unfortunately.”

Knell: “With financial woes at the heart of so much suffering here, it’s easy to see why White House aides view the economy as a way to exert influence. But so far, few Palestinians are buying their argument that the ‘deal of the century’ could be their opportunity of the century.”

The rest of that nearly twelve minute-long item was given over to a conversation between Tim Franks and David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank who attended the workshop in Bahrain.  During that conversation Mr Makovsky observed that “solving the whole conflict” is “easier said than done”, noting – as a former Obama administration official – that:

“We had a president who was very engaged on the Palestinian issue and we couldn’t get even an answer from the Palestinian Authority…”

Tim Franks chose not to follow up on that statement and once again BBC audiences heard a long yet monochrome report on the Bahrain economic workshop which avoided the key issue of the Hamas-Fatah split and sidestepped the topic of Palestinian terrorism.  

BBC News finally gets round to mentioning new PA prime minister

The day after we noted on these pages that BBC audiences had heard nothing about a two year-old self-awarded pay rise to Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers, the BBC News website published a report headlined “Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises”.

BBC audiences finally learned – three months on – that a new PA prime minister had been appointed – but were not told that the pervious one had resigned in January.

“UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said such moves “defy logic and anger people” when Palestinians were struggling with economic hardship.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had agreed to end the practice, he added.

Mr Shtayyeh – an economist who took office in April – has also ordered an investigation, during which ministers will reportedly receive half their salaries.”

The BBC did not clarify that, as reported by AP, most PA employees are currently only being paid half their salaries:

“Newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, a longtime adviser to Abbas, has suspended the pay raises and referred the issue to Abbas “to review it and take legal measures.” While the issue is investigated, ministers will receive half their salaries, like most other government employees, according to government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim.””

Notably, the BBC completely avoided the topic of the reaction on the Palestinian street to the news of the secret pay rises.

Readers were provided with a link to a recent interview with Shtayyeh.

“In an interview with the New York Times published on Wednesday, Mr Shtayyeh warned that the PA was in such dire financial straits that it was “in a collapsing situation” and could be bankrupt by July or August.”

The BBC’s explanation of that claim focused on two factors, the first being tax revenue transfers from Israel.

“The financial crisis was exacerbated this February by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax and tariff revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Israel announced it would freeze the transfer of about $139m (£109m) – an amount it said was equal to that paid by the PA in 2018 to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks.

Israeli officials say the payments incentivise terrorism. But the PA insists they are welfare payments for relatives of prisoners and “martyrs”.

The PA responded to the freeze by refusing to accept any further Israeli revenue transfers, which account for about half its budget.”

The second factor cited is the US administration.

“Since 2018, the US has ended both bilateral aid for Palestinians and contributions for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa).

Those moves came after the PA cut off diplomatic contacts in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers that part of the aid cuts were also linked to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to convicted terrorists or that another category of aid – security aid – was actually refused by the Palestinian Authority in December 2018 when it informed the US that:

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance.”

That omission is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the BBC did tell readers that:

“Mr Shtayyeh warned that if the PA experienced a financial collapse it would have to put security personnel in the occupied West Bank on unpaid leave.”

Given the PA’s rivalry with Hamas, that scenario is of course extremely unlikely.

Obviously the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of spending some 7% of its annual budget on payments to terrorists and their families is relevant to this story but the last time BBC audiences heard anything about that topic was eleven months ago.

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New PA PM not newsworthy for the BBC

With BBC audiences still unaware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister resigned in late January, a new – and of course unelected – prime minister was appointed by Mahmoud Abbas on March 10th. 

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on Sunday, a senior official said, in a move seen as part of efforts to further isolate Hamas.

Abbas asked Shtayyeh, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian president’s Fatah party, to form a new government, Fatah vice president Mahmoud al-Aloul told AFP.”

A member of Fatah’s central committee as noted above, Shtayyeh has a record of denying Jewish history in the region and whitewashing terrorism. That of course has not prevented him from being interviewed by the BBC on numerous occasions over the years.

In late 2014 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Shtayyeh claim that areas assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland but occupied by Egypt and Jordan between 1948 and 1967 were “Palestinian territory”

“This is a strategic shift in which we are leaving the bi-lateral negotiations that has not been really the answer for ending the Israeli occupation that has occurred on the Palestinian territory in 1967.” 

He also gave an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of years of avoidance of serious negotiation by the PA.

“We have given the negotiations every single possibility and unfortunately the United States has not really made Netanyahu thirsty enough to bring him to the river to drink.”

Shtayyeh gave a similarly inaccurate portrayal of the reasons for the demise of the last round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO during which three tranches of releases of convicted terrorists took place, with the fourth and final tranche postponed due to lack of progress in the negotiations and later cancelled because of unilateral Palestinian moves that included ‘reconciliation’ between Fatah and Hamas.

“And Israel did not allow the release of the Palestinian prisoners which has been agreed upon and mediated by Secretary Kerry, so from our side we have given negotiations every possibility.”

Since early 2017 BBC audiences have repeatedly heard Shtayyeh opine that the prospects for a two-state solution have ended.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

And:

“For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

Shtayyeh has been promoting ‘internationalisation’ of the conflict at least since 2011.

“The peace process is not going anywhere. The facts on the ground are changing all the time. Israel continues to build settlements,” says Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior negotiator who will help write President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the United Nations this week.

Photo credit: Daily Mail

“The only option we have is to go to the United Nations and ask for recognition of the 1967 borders. This is not a unilateral move. The United Nations is a multilateral forum.”

None of that is of course surprising coming from one of the Fatah faithful who was present at the 2014 wreath-laying ceremony for the Munich Olympics terrorists in Tunis together with Jeremy Corbyn.

It does however mean that – as one analyst put it – there is no reason to expect any changes in the new PA government’s policy.

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Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

A report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on the afternoon of August 13th was initially headlined “Jeremy Corbyn pressed over ‘terror memorial’ claims”. Roughly two hours later the word terror was dropped from the headline, which was amended to read “Jeremy Corbyn ‘wreath laying’ attacked by Israeli PM“. The report was also posted on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

As noted on these pages last September, for decades BBC News has refrained from describing the members of the PLO faction that perpetrated the Munich Olympics massacre as terrorists. Surprisingly, the word terror was used in this report’s opening line:

“Israel’s PM has criticised Jeremy Corbyn over his presence at a ceremony said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack.”

However, the report later returned to form: [emphasis added]

“The questions were in response to a Daily Mail front page featuring photographs it said showed the Labour leader near memorials to members of the militant Black September group behind the 1972 attack.

Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian group at the 1972 summer games in Munich.”

Sixty-nine of the 778 words used in the report described the Israeli prime minister’s tweet criticising Corbyn’s participation in a 2014 event in Tunisia commemorating members of the ‘Black September’ terrorist faction responsible for the brutal murders of Israeli citizens. Forty-nine words were used to give readers background on the Munich Olympics attack itself and a further fifty-seven words related to the Daily Mail article published three days earlier which once again brought a story that first emerged in 2017 into the spotlight.

Amplification of the denials of Corbyn and the Labour Party concerning that event accounted for 35% of the article’s total word count and a further 77 words – including Labour Party denials – related to a previous event in 2013. 

Readers were told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved “unequivocal condemnation” for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Netanyahu’s claims about his “actions… are false”.

The Labour leader said he had attended the event in Tunis in 2014 as part of a wider event about the search for peace.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the “wider event about the search for peace” – subsequently also described as “a conference” – was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression” or that – as also reported by the Daily Mail – its participants included a senior Hamas official featured in past BBC content.

“At the event in Tunisia, top Hamas leader Oussama Hamdan presented a ‘four point vision to fight against Israel’ and praised the group’s ‘great success on the military and national levels’, adding that the violence was ‘magnificent’.

He had just given an interview to Lebanese media in which he said that the anti-Semitic myth that Jews drank Christian blood was ‘not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact.’

Othman Jerandi, a former Tunisian foreign minister, also gave a speech at the conference and stated: ‘ISIS and Israel are the same thing’.

Other delegates included activist Zaher Al-Birawi, who is close to the leadership of Hamas; and lawyer Sabagh al-Mukhtar, who appeared as an expert witness to support extremist cleric Abu Hamza before he was deported from Britain.”

Birawi is of course the UK-based activist involved in the organisation of both the recent failed ‘flotilla’ and the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting that has been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the past four and a half months. Birawi was also previously the director of the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ which has in the past donated to Jeremy Corbyn.   

Together with Corbyn at the wreath-laying ceremony linked to that ‘conference’ was a member of the PFLP terror group and a Fatah official who has appeared in BBC content.

Despite Corbyn having subsequently made statements that contradict the claim from “Labour’s press team”, readers of this report were told that:  

“On Sunday Labour’s press team said: “The Munich widows are being misled. Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.””

In an insert of ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s political correspondent Tom Barton readers found amplification of Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’ – with no mention made of the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting and attacks were linked to terror factions – as well as amplification of a baseless but unattributed allegation.

“In his reply, Jeremy Corbyn described the Israeli Prime Minister’s accusations as false. But he also took the opportunity to say that the killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces deserves “unequivocal condemnation”. His supporters say the purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu’s message is to shut down that sort of criticism of Israel’s actions.”

In contrast to the 269 words used to report denials from Corbyn and the Labour Party, statements made by “critics” were afforded 108 words.

The BBC’s report stated that in relation to his presence at the wreath-laying ceremony, Corbyn said:

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it.”

Readers were later told that:

“In a tweet, Labour said he and other Parliamentarians had been honouring victims of the 1985 Israeli bombings.”

As noted at the Times of Israel, the context to those statements – which the BBC did not bother to provide – is the fact that what audiences saw described as “Israeli bombings” was the response to another brutal Palestinian terror attack.

“The “terrorist incident” he was apparently referring to was an Israeli air force strike on the PLO headquarters in 1985 in response to the hijacking of an Israeli yacht and the execution of three Israeli passengers.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat escaped unharmed although several of his bodyguards and several civilians were killed in the strike, which completely destroyed the headquarters.”

Remarkably, the BBC had no ‘analysis’ to offer its audiences on the topic of the leader of a British political party – and potential prime minister – who apparently thinks that a counter-terrorism operation against the headquarters of a terrorist organisation which had claimed the brutal murders of three civilians was a “terrorist incident”. 

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BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

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Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

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Elections 2015: the morning after – Doucet on BBC television news

On March 18th the BBC began to produce coverage of the results of the previous day’s election in Israel. Among those reports was one by Lyse Doucet which appeared on BBC television news and also on the corporation’s website under the title “Israel election: ‘Security fears’ seal Netanyahu victory“. Doucet opened her report as follows:

“After a night when he made political history, Mr Netanyahu’s first stop this morning was the holiest site in Jewish history – the Western Wall – for prayer and a pledge.”

A viewer responded to that obvious (but nevertheless frequently made) mistake on Twitter.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet

Of course that is not accurate either, as the viewer pointed out, but no correction has been made to the report since its appearance.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet 2

With the BBC having earlier adopted and promoted the view of some opinion polls (though not all) according to which the centre Left Zionist Union was tipped to win the election, it is interesting to see how Doucet explained its actual result to BBC viewers.

“Security fears won this election for him. Mr Netanyahu lurched to the right and promised: no state for the Palestinians, no end to Israeli settlement building.”

Whether or not there is a factual basis for Doucet’s “lurched to the right” claim is debatable – not least according to Netanyahu himself:

“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”

DFLP logo

DFLP logo

After having brought in an Israeli journalist to back up her theory, Doucet moved the focus of her report to Ramallah:

“In the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank there’s disappointment but a growing determination to still find a way to create their own state.”

Ironically, those words are spoken whilst the image on screen shows a Ramallah street decked with DFLP flags with a logo which eradicates Israel from the map.

Doucet filmed 18 3 DFLP flags

Ignoring that particular inconvenient truth, Doucet next gave a platform to Mohammed Shtayyeh and his thinly veiled threats – which she made no attempt to clarify.

“I think it is time now that the international community should put serious pressure on Netanyahu to save the two state-solution – one, and on the other hand I think Netanyahu should not really take that big risk to be as aggressive as he used to be because the Palestinian reaction will be not pleasant for him.”

Against a background of images of the anti-terrorist fence, Doucet proceeded to further mislead BBC audiences by saying:Doucet filmed 18 3

“Across the West Bank during Mr Netanyahu’s time as prime minister security barriers have gone up, making Israelis feel more secure and Palestinians less hopeful.”

Construction of the anti-terrorist fence of course began in 2002 – seven years before Netanyahu became prime minister – and it is not located “across the West Bank” but around that area. Within the area itself, the number of checkpoints has actually been reduced in recent years: from 40 in July 2008 to 13 in February 2014.

Doucet’s mind reading of the Israeli people and their prime minister continued:

“Today there were calls from many capitals for a resumption of peace talks. That’s hard to imagine right now. Benjamin Netanyahu managed to rally a majority of Israelis around his right-wing message but it still left a divided society and a country at growing odds with the rest of the world. But for the Israeli leader, that matters much less than what he sees as the best way to ensure Israel’s security. This has long been a land troubled by conflict. Now Israelis also worry about rising threats on all their borders in this increasingly unstable region. So in the end, many voted for the man who spoke to those fears.”

Interestingly, Doucet had nothing to say about why the BBC got the election story so wrong – yet again. But her overall message to audiences is very clear: the underlying factor preventing peace and light from descending on the Middle East is not Islamist extremism, not foreign support for Palestinian terror groups, not the Palestinian Authority’s throwing in of its lot with Hamas via its ‘unity government’, not the existence of Hamas terror cells in PA controlled areas and not the absence of an elected Palestinian president and government who can truly claim to represent the Palestinian people. According to Doucet, it is the fears of Israelis which have scuppered the chance for peace. 

 

 

 

BBC World Service or Palestinian Authority radio station?

On December 31st the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Lyse Doucet – included an item (available here from 14:00) concerning the signing of the Rome Statute by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.Newshour 31 12 Doucet

Unfortunately for BBC audiences hoping to augment their understanding of that issue with accurate and impartial information, Lyse Doucet’s idea of ‘standard setting journalism’ proved to be nothing more than the provision of a platform for unhindered and unchallenged PA propaganda from Mohammed Shtayyeh. Doucet introduced the segment thus:

LD: “Let’s get more details now on our top story. In the last few hours the Palestinians have formally applied to join the International Criminal Court which could pave the way for the pursuit of alleged war crimes charges against Israel. The move has been strongly criticized by the Israelis as well as the United States which called the move deeply troubling. I’ve been speaking to Mohammed Shtayyeh; he’s a former Palestinian negotiator when there were negotiations with Israel. He’s a senior member of the Palestinian leadership. I asked him whether this marked a policy shift for the Palestinians.”

Mohammed Shtayyeh: “This is actually a paradigm shift. This is to show that the Palestinians are not victims of one option which is either negotiations or negotiations as the Israelis tried to put it for us. This is a strategic shift in which we are leaving the bi-lateral negotiations that has not been really the answer for ending the Israeli occupation that has occurred on the Palestinian territory in 1967. And we are seeking an international multi-lateral peaceful form which is the United Nations. Unfortunately, the United States has vote against us with the member states of the Security Council and therefore we are taking a different direction which is from the political track to a legal track. Signing the Rome Statute is enabling us to really take the Israeli leaders into international criminal courts because they have been committing really serious crimes against our people whether it is in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip. And also we will be going to the ICJ – International Court of Justice – to really make a ruling vis-à-vis the Palestinian territories because the Israeli leadership is claiming that these territories are disputed territories rather than occupied territories. So therefore we are seeking every single option – peaceful option, I should say – that is enabling us to really put an end to this Israeli occupation and to the sufferings of our people.”

Doucet made no effort to inform listeners that Israel did not occupy “Palestinian territory” in 1967 or to clarify that the area concerned was in fact under Jordanian occupation (unopposed by the Palestinians) from 1948 until 1967.

Crucially, she also made no effort to explain to BBC audiences that the route of solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by means of negotiations is not an Israeli invention as stated by Shtayyeh, but actually the product of existing contractual agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians and witnessed by members of the international community. Hence, listeners remained unaware of the significance of the current unilateral Palestinian moves in breach of that contract. Instead, Doucet continues:

LD: “What the United States has said, what Israel has said is that this is going to just escalate the tensions and what the Palestinians need is to negotiate for the achievement of their state with Israel and not with the United Nations.”

MS: “Well this is a totally unaccepted claim because we have been negotiating for twenty years or more. We have given the negotiations every single possibility and unfortunately the United States has not really made Netanyahu thirsty enough to bring him to the river to drink. And therefore Netanyahu has come to the negotiating table saturated with champagne rather than thirsty for peace so the United States has not really been able to oblige Israel to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory which was fully and totally eroding the geographical base for a future Palestinian state.”

LD: “But…”

That word is the entire sum of Doucet’s challenge to Shtayyeh’s inaccurate and misleading portrayal of years of avoidance of serious negotiation by the PA. As former US negotiator Dennis Ross recently pointed out:

“Since 2000, there have been three serious negotiations that culminated in offers to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Bill Clinton’s parameters in 2000, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts last year. In each case, a proposal on all the core issues was made to Palestinian leaders and the answer was either “no” or no response.”

Doucet also refrains from reminding listeners of the US initiated ten month-long building freeze of 2009/10 and that the Palestinians refrained from coming to the negotiating table for 90% of that period. Shtayyeh is then allowed to promote more falsehoods concerning the last round of negotiations during which three tranches of releases of convicted terrorists took place, with the fourth and final tranche postponed due to lack of progress in the negotiations and later cancelled because of unilateral Palestinian moves.

MS: “And Israel did not allow the release of the Palestinian prisoners which has been agreed upon and mediated by Secretary Kerry, so from our side we have given negotiations every possibility. Let me remind you of one little thing which is since the Madrid peace talks 1991 until today, the number of Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories have grown up from 120,000 to 651,000 Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories living in 185 Jewish settlements. So those who want really us to go back to negotiations, we are ready to do so if they are able to ask Israel to totally freeze the construction of settlements both in the Palestinian territories – i.e. West Bank and Jerusalem.”

LD: “What the United States has said to you is why not wait until after the Israeli elections, which are only a few months away, before you make this kind of move.”

MS: “Fine. Let’s assume that we are waiting. The question for the United States that we are putting: what is going to happen after the elections? After the election they will tell us that there will be… you know, you have to wait…there will be a formation of the government, you know, this coalition is very fragile, wait and see, Netanyahu is in a bad situation. And then maybe United States in election mode because it is the third year of the term of the president. So we have been waiting. We are victims of this game of, you know, wait between elections of mid-term in Washington, presidential elections in Washington and then Israeli elections and so on. The problem is with waiting that is Israel waiting? Not implementing construction of settlements? Are the Israelis waiting for anything to happen? They are not. The problem is that they are creating fait accomplis [sic] on the ground every day. So why is it that we should wait? What are we going to wait for?”

This of course would have been an appropriate moment for Lyse Doucet to enquire about the long overdue Palestinian elections which were supposed to take place in January 2015 according to the terms of last year’s Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal but she declined to do so and closed the ‘interview’ instead.

Doucet’s failure to present any sort of serious challenge to the distortions and falsehoods promoted in Shtayyeh’s diatribe means that listeners did not actually get “more details on our top story”. In fact, the sole achievement of this item was to expose listeners worldwide to five minutes of uninterrupted PA propaganda which, rather than contributing anything towards meeting the BBC’s remit of informing audiences about international affairs, actively hindered their understanding of this particular issue and the wider topic of the Middle East peace process in general.

The PA’s own official media could not have done better.

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