Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Julie Masis tells “The unknown story of Moroccan Holocaust survivors“.

“Between 1940 and November of 1942 when the Americans landed in Morocco, Moroccan Jews also had to abide by discriminatory laws: Jewish children were expelled from schools, Jews were fired from government jobs, and there were quotas on how many Jews could attend universities or work as doctors, lawyers and pharmacists, said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who wrote a book about the Holocaust in Arab countries. […]

Historians also say that had American troops not landed in North Africa in 1942, Moroccan Jewry — which numbered approximately 250,000 during WWII — may have also been sent to the death camps.

According to documents that outline the Final Solution, Hitler had planned to exterminate 700,000 French Jews – a number that makes sense only if the Jews in French North Africa are included, Satloff said.”

2) Terry Glavin documents “The untold story of the dramatic, Canadian-led rescue of Syria’s White Helmets“.

“It started with a telephone call, just before the Canada Day weekend. It was Nadera Al-Sukkar from Mayday Rescue, the British-based foundation that serves as the Syria Civil Defence White Helmets’ administrative agency in Jordan. “She sounded really scared,” is the way Peter MacDougall, Canada’s ambassador to Jordan, remembers the call. Al-Sukkar wasn’t the type of person who scared easily. “She’s usually really impressive, but really low key.”

The way Al-Sukkar remembers it, the situation was desperate, and calling MacDougall was a long shot. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were streaming out of the towns and cities of Dara’a and Quneitra, Syria’s southern governorates. Medical clinics were being targeted and bombed. The White Helmets—Syria’s famous civilian emergency first responders—were in Bashar al-Assad’s crosshairs again, just as they had been in the hellholes of Aleppo, Douma, Ghouta and Homs.”

3) At the Algemeiner Shiri Moshe reports on a new study of Palestinian Authority school books.

“Israel is routinely referred to as the “Zionist Occupation” within the curriculum, including in contexts before the 1967 Six-Day War, in which it came to control the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and eastern portions of Jerusalem.

Various areas within Israel are described as Palestinian, with a geography textbook for 12th graders stating that the “Negev Plateau is located in southern Palestine,” while a entrepreneurship textbook for the same grade claims that the Israeli city of Nazareth is located in the “Palestinian North.””

4) Amos Yadlin, Zvi Magen and Vera Michlin-Shapir analyse “The Crisis over the Downed Russian Plane” at the INSS.

“The downing of the Russian Il-20 plane by the Syrians on the night of September 17, 2018 has become one of the most complex incidents in the framework of Russia-Israel relations, at least since the start of Russia’s intervention in Syria in October 2015. Following an Israeli attack in the Latakia region, a Syrian SA-5 anti-aircraft battery struck a Russian reconnaissance plane, which crashed into the sea, killing its crew of 15. Although it was Syria that failed to identify the Russian plane, Russia chose to blame Israel for the incident. However, it appears that both Russia and Israel still have a fundamental interest in continuing the good relations between them and maintaining their understandings in Syria. The recent announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defense about the transfer of advanced S-300 systems to Syria changes little in this regard, since Israel is well-equipped to withstand this challenge. However, it puts Russia and Israel on a precarious path and may signal that Russia has broader political motivations in this crisis.”

 

BBC World Service promotes standard narrative on Jews from Arab lands

The BBC’s public purposes – as laid out in the Royal Charter – include “[t]o support learning for people of all ages”.

“…the BBC should help everyone learn about different subjects in ways they will find accessible, engaging, inspiring and challenging.”

One topic on which the BBC has done little to help enhance its audience’s knowledge is that of the history of Jews from Arab lands.

On August 13th BBC World Service radio aired a repeat edition of ‘Heart and Soul’ titled “Morocco’s Jews: Hospitality or Hostility?“.

“Morocco’s Jewish community was once the biggest in the Muslim world. More than a quarter of a million Jews called the North African country home. Most Moroccan Jews left after the establishment of Israel in 1940s and 50s. The understanding between the two religious communities, who used to live side by side, has slowly been forgotten.

Young people especially feel a growing disconnect with the communities of the past. Many Muslim Moroccan’s [sic] are bringing a middle eastern Islam to the country; different to Morocco’s traditionally Sufi inspired moderate version of the faith

Nina Robinson asks what the future will be for the co-existence of Muslim and Jewish communities in this unique Muslim country?”

Given that synopsis, one would have expected the background to the exodus of Jews from Morocco to be accurately and fully explained to BBC audiences and indeed that topic was raised by Nina Robinson at 16:23 minutes into the programme.

Robinson: “…an important question remains: if life was always so harmonious, why did most of the Jewish people leave?”

Listeners then heard from interviewee Joseph Sebag – sometimes dubbed ‘the last Jew in Essaouira’.

Sebag: “Every family has reasons, personal reasons, to stay or leave for political reasons, for ideological reasons. They wanted not necessarily to leave but to be buried in the holy land. But there was Zionism movement that infiltrated the community and created what we say psychose [psychosis] that they scared the local people and a lot of Jews left because of that. In 1948 a lot of Jews, Orthodox Jews, have left to Israel and then you have the 6 Day War as they call it and in ’73 the Yom Kippur war. These are the three major dates in the Moroccan Jewry.”

In other words, according to the account presented to BBC World Service radio listeners, the fact that the overwhelming majority of Moroccan Jews upped and left the country inhabited by their ancestors for hundreds or even thousands of years had nothing at all to do with conditions in Morocco and everything to do with Israel and false scares “created” by ‘Zionist infiltrators’.

BBC audiences have of course heard in the past similar portrayals of Jews living harmoniously in Arab lands until Zionism and Israel came along but unfortunately for those hoping to learn about the topic, that narrative is inaccurate.

The Jewish community in Morocco had suffered periodic pogroms and forced conversions throughout history, including in the 18th and 19th centuries and in the early 20th century tens of Jewish families from Morocco had already emigrated to what was at the time Ottoman ruled Palestine. One event which was still within living memory at the time when the significant exodus of Jews from Morocco began was the pogrom in Fez in 1912. During World War Two, Morocco – at the time a French protectorate – came under pro-Nazi Vichy rule and Jews were subjected to anti-Jewish legislation.

Following a serious episode of anti-Jewish violence in Oujda and Jerada in June 1948, thousands of Jews emigrated. As Morocco moved towards independence in late 1955, new fears arose within the Jewish community and indeed between 1956 and 1961 Moroccan Jews were prohibited from emigrating to Israel. In the three years following the lifting of that ban, a further 80,000 Jews left Morocco for Israel.

None of that obviously relevant background was however included in Nina Robinson’s programme and so BBC World Service audiences were once again steered towards the inaccurate belief that – just as they have in the past been told happened in Libya, Tunisia and Iraq – Moroccan Jews lived in perfect harmony with their Muslim neighbours until the creation of Israel.

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the ‘Point of No Return’ blog Lyn Julius marks the 77th anniversary of the Farhud.

“The Farhud (meaning “violent dispossession”) marked an irrevocable break between Jews and Arabs in Iraq and paved the way for the dissolution of the 2,600-year-old Jewish community barely 10 years later. Loyal and productive citizens comprising a fifth of Baghdad, the Jews had not known anything like the Farhud in living memory. Before the victims’ blood was dry, army and police warned the Jews not to testify against the murderers and looters. Even the official report on the massacre was not published until 1958.

Despite their deep roots, the Jews understood that they would never, along with other minorities, be an integral part of an independent Iraq. Fear of a second Farhud was a major reason why 90 per cent of Iraq’s Jewish community fled to Israel after 1948.”

2) As noted here recently, the BBC produced at least two reports downplaying Hamas’ role in the recent violence along the Gaza Strip-Israel border. The ITIC – which has conducted an extensive study of the Palestinians killed during the ‘Great Return March’ events – has published a special report on one sixteen-year-old, who would of course be described as a ‘child’ in BBC reports.

“On the evening of May 16, 2018, Hamas held a memorial service for the “heroic shaheed” Saadi Abu Salah. The ceremony was held near his parents’ house in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. The general public was invited to attend. During the ceremony a professionally-produced, 14-minute Hamas video was shown. Its objective was to show Saadi Abu Salah’s courage, glorify him and turn him into a role model. His father and uncle, both released prisoners, wore green Hamas scarves.

The video, with a sound track of martial music, shows Saadi Abu Salah burning tires, throwing stones, sabotaging the border security fence and clashing with IDF soldiers (see pictures below). A masked operative from the so-called “tire and fence-cutting unit” reads a death notice for Saadi Abu Salah, saying he excelled at burning tires and cutting through the border fence. His father says his son always talked about his desire to be a shaheed and even prayed to Allah to grant his wish. Behind the father is a picture Saadi Abu Salah with senior Hamas figure Fathi Hamad.”

3) At the Weekly Standard, Matthew R.J. Brodsky discusses media coverage of the ‘Great Return March’.

“The growing chasm between reality and reporting regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was in stark relief during the recent events in Gaza. The prevailing narrative was that strong-armed Israelis were shooting and killing unarmed peaceful Palestinian protesters, when in fact there were a series of violent riots planned by Hamas as cover while they attempted to breach the security fence, pour into Israel, and kidnap or kill Israelis. The majority of those killed were terrorists or affiliated with Gaza-based terrorist movements, which is information provided by the terrorist groups themselves.

Regardless of how one feels about Israel or the Palestinian quest for statehood, establishing what happened should have been a straightforward task given the abundance of verifiable evidence as the events unfolded. Unfortunately, this grotesque failure to report facts accurately or put them in context reached this point after several decades during which news outlets cemented the conflict narrative as a story focused on Israeli actions alone.”

4) Following Morocco’s cutting of diplomatic relations with Tehran, at the JCPA Amb Freddy Eytan looks at neighbouring Mauritania’s ties with Iran.

“The relationship between Iran and Mauritania is deteriorating every day due to heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia on Mauritania to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. The president of Mauritania is still debating how to explain cutting off connections with Tehran, which had been growing in recent years.

At the beginning of May 2018, Morocco severed ties with Iran, and under Saudi Arabian pressure, Mauritania cut off relations with Qatar in May 2017.

On May 25, 2018, Mohamed al-Amrani Iran’s ambassador in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital city, was summoned by the Mauritanian foreign minister to explain increased Shiite activity at the al-Mujina mosque in Nouakchott. This mosque is close to the Iranian embassy, and it is essentially run by Iranian “diplomats.””

BBC’s terminology double standards on display again

On several occasions in the past we have documented the difference between the terminology used by the BBC in its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and in its coverage of the Western Sahara conflict (as well as others).

Another example of that double standard appeared in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on June 5th under the headline “Ecowas agrees to admit Morocco to West African body“.

The BBC’s account of the story includes the following:

“Morocco’s application [to join ECOWAS] comes after it rejoined the African Union in January.

Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.” [emphasis added]

Even for the BBC (which generally uses the term ‘disputed’ to describe the status of Western Sahara) that is remarkably tame language. As we see, the corporation did not find it necessary to include any of the accompanying comment concerning legality or ‘international law’ that is standard in reports concerning Israel and no information is given regarding the absence of international recognition of Morocco’s annexation of the territory.

One possible explanation for that lack of that information relevant to audience understanding of the story is found in the fact that 41.9% of the word count of this article actually relates to a topic not related to Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS or its earlier rapprochement with the African Union.

“King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited. […]

King Mohammed VI last week announced he would not be attending the summit in Liberia, because of the presence of Israel’s prime minister.

Morocco does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu addressed West African leaders on Sunday saying: “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel.

“I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise.”

While in Liberia for the summit, his bodyguards scuffled with those of Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, according to reports in the Israeli media.

This trip comes nearly a year after Mr Netanyahu was in East Africa as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the continent and Israel.”

Having taken the editorial decision that it was more important to include an irrelevant second-hand tale of a ‘scuffle’ between bodyguards rather than to provide readers with factual information concerning the status of Western Sahara, the BBC even failed to explain that story properly.

“…Gnassingbé arrived at the meeting with his bodyguards, but they were stopped at the door to the meeting room by Netanyahu’s security detail, where the Israelis reportedly demanded that the Togo security personnel provide identification.”

Priorities…

 

BBC News ignores a story about press freedom

h/t Point of No Return

bbc-greste-protest

BBC journalists protest suppression of free speech in 2014

Given the BBC’s self-evident interest in freedom of the press and its track record of calling out intimidation of journalists and obstruction of free speech, one might have thought that a story about colleagues condemned by a terrorist organisation and pressured not to visit a certain country would have caught the corporation’s attention.

Ynet reports:

“A delegation of seven leading Moroccan journalists is currently being hosted by the Israeli foreign ministry with the aim of enabling the participants to view first-hand the situation in Israel and to shatter negative myths associated with the country’s image. […]

In a conversation with Ynet, one of the delegation members from a prominent Moroccan newspaper explained the climate of fear and propaganda which has hitherto precluded the possibility of such a visit from coming to fruition.

In 2009, she said, she received an invitation to visit Israel as part of Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum but felt pressured to decline the offer.

 “I was extremely afraid of coming. We are under pressure from the Arab media, religious people and propaganda about the Palestinian issue,” the journalist confessed.

 “People are scared to become outcasts. If you say you support Israel, or even that you don’t have a negative opinion about the country in regard to the Palestinian issue, they will single you out.”

In 2010 and 2011, the same journalist received invitations to participate in a conference on counter terrorism in Israel. “For that, of all things, I wanted to come but my manager told me that if I go there he will have the right to fire me because if someone found out that one of our radio journalists visited Israel they would attack us for normalization…This is the thing that scares us in Morocco. It is forbidden to normalize relations with the Israeli enemy and with the Israeli criminal army that robs Palestinians of their land.” “

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“In a report published on London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed’s website, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “In the shadow of the escalation of the crimes of the Israeli enemy and the actions of racist purification against our people, we condemn the visit of a team of Moroccan media persons to the Israeli entity with the goal of normalizing with it and undertaking a campaign of beautifying its image in the Arab media.

“We consider this a crime against our people, and an offense to the feelings of the Arabs and Muslims and lovers of the Palestinian cause and an encouragement of the Israeli entity in its crimes and violations,” he continued. […]

…Barhoum stressed that “urgent work is needed to stop all forms of normalization, cooperation and connection with this Israeli entity by any party and to mobilize all the energies of the [Arab] nation to support the justice of the Palestinian cause and to stand behind our people, its rights and [its] principles.””

However, that story did not receive any coverage on either the BBC News website’s Middle East page or the BBC Arabic website’s ‘Morocco‘ section – and neither did the following recent events in Rabat:

“Hundreds demonstrated in the Moroccan capital Wednesday against the Israeli flag being flown beside the colours of 195 other countries at UN climate talks in the central city of Marrakesh. […]

“The Israeli flag at COP22 means Morocco symbolically recognizing the state of Israel. It’s unacceptable,” one protester told AFP.

“Death to America, death to Israel!” demonstrators cried while burning the Israeli flag and parading anti-Israel placards.

Several pro-Palestinian associations took part in the protest after calling on authorities to take action about the flag earlier this week.”

Apparently BBC editors did not consider that these two stories would contribute to meeting their remit of building understanding of “international issues”.

Related Articles:

A media story the BBC ignored surfaces again

 

 

Another example of BBC double standards on disputed territories

The double standards employed by the BBC in its reporting on disputed territories have been noted here before in relation to Cyprus and Western Sahara.  The latter region was recently in the news again and on March 17th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Western Sahara: Morocco threat over UN peacekeepers” which displays an interesting choice of language.W Sahara art

“Morocco has threatened to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

It is furious with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after he used the term “occupation” about the territory, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the article readers were told that:

“Morocco annexed most of the disputed former Spanish colony in 1976.” [emphasis added]

In contrast to its reporting on Israel which – in line with the directives of the BBC’s dedicated style guide – is inevitably peppered with phrases such as ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’, this article uses the much more politically neutral term “disputed” which is also how the region is described in the corporation’s general style guide.

W Sahara style guide

The BBC is far from the only media organization to use differing terminology depending on who is contesting a region, as our colleagues at CAMERA have documented. Nevertheless, as long as the BBC continues to employ such blatant double standards, it should not be surprised that its supposed impartiality is called into question. 

BBC double standards on disputed territories

At the beginning of November the BBC World Service produced two items concerning a decades-old conflict involving an invasion, disputed territory, thousands of people living in refugee camps and more than twenty years of failed negotiations.Witness W sahara audio

However, BBC audiences did not hear the words ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’ as they so frequently do in content relating to Israel. In fact, what they did hear in those two programmes was a nostalgic and sympathetic portrayal of Morocco’s ‘Green March’ into Western Sahara in 1975.

The audio version of that episode of ‘Witness’ uses the term “disputed territory” in its synopsis.

“In November 1975, King Hassan the Second ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into disputed territory in the desert. He wanted to claim the colony of Spanish Sahara for Morocco. The Green March led to a diplomatic victory for the King, but sparked a guerrilla war and decades of instability in the region. Witness speaks to a Moroccan who was on the march.”

The synopsis to the filmed version of the same programme uses the same term.Witness W Sahara filmed

“Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war.
Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco” and readers will not find terms such as ‘occupied’ or ‘international law’ in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.

 

 

A sports story which did not interest the BBC

Whilst the BBC News website’s Sport section (along with BBC television news and BBC World Service radio) has recently invested energies in the context-free promotion of Jibril Rajoub’s latest exploitation of sport for the political delegitimisation of Israel, no coverage of another recent Israel-related sports story has been seen on its pages.No news

The Israeli delegation to the World Masters Judo competition held in Rabat on May 23rd and 24th was unnecessarily detained upon arrival in Morocco.

“The members of the Israeli delegation were held up at the airport for more than eight hours, in a large room with no chairs, food or water. […]

Only after the International Judo Federation chairman threatened to call off the entire competition, the Israeli delegation members were allowed into the country, and were escorted to their hotel by the king’s security unit.

 On the first day of the competition, the Israeli judokas experienced hostility again, and the Israeli flag was nowhere to be seen. In response, a representative of the International Judo Federation demanded that all the flags of the participating countries be removed.”

In addition:

“The Israeli team was also not mentioned on the tournament’s website. The spectators waved Palestinian flags, shouted “We’re going to kill you,” and booed each time a member of the Israeli team appeared.”

No report on those events appears on the BBC’s dedicated Judo page or elsewhere in the sports section of the BBC News website and neither was it covered on the website’s Africa or Middle East pages.