BBC WS provides a platform for anti-Israel campaigning

An organisation called Palestine Community Foundation was set up in the UK in 2018 by a British woman called Razan Shamallakh who appears to believe that Israel is “my own country” and brands Israelis as “white”.

“We are Palestine Community Foundation. A non-governmental organisation aimed at Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike; promoting Palestinian culture, advocating for justice and building a sense of community around Palestine in the UK.” [emphasis in the original]

A quick look around that organisation’s website gives an idea of its political agenda, from supporting the BDS campaign to selling a much criticised children’s book.  The organisation’s 2020 campaign is explained in a video. One of the people appearing in that video is named as Laila Hassan of the organisation Women in Hebron.

Earlier this month the PCF brought Laila Hassan Awada to the UK for a tour of universities.

The PCF’s general manager Natasha Self also took Hassan to the BBC HQ on March 6th.

That interview was aired on one of that day’s editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’, hosted by Ben James and Krupa Padhy, and it will be available online for “over a year”.

Padhy introduced the item (from 35:42 here) by referring to a story from January. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Padhy: “Now when the US president Donald Trump announced a peace plan for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians it was followed by days of riots and violence in the West Bank town of Hebron as protesters showed their opposition to the proposed plan. That might be when you’ve heard about Hebron most recently in the news.”

James: “Well we’ve got someone in the studio this morning who lives in Hebron. Let’s say hello to Laila Awada who’s here in the UK to talk about life there, also to promote her women’s collective which is empowering Palestinian women to earn their own money.”

After a conversation about the market stall run by the collective, listeners heard the following from Laila Hassan Awada:

Awada: “I join Women in Hebron in 2008 and I had to work in Jerusalem before but I lost my job by the wall when they…the Israelis they built the wall. And then we stuck in the West Bank and we cannot go any more in Jerusalem or what they call it Israel.”

Travel to Jerusalem is of course possible with a permit and thousands of Palestinians make the journey every day. Unsurprisingly, no effort was made to inform listeners that the anti-terrorist fence was constructed because Palestinian terrorists murdered over a thousand Israelis and injured hundreds of thousands more during the second Intifada.

Awada explained that the women do embroidery and that in addition:

Awada: “…we can talk about…the same time about the situation in Hebron and how we are strangled by the settlement and how many settlers we have living in the old city. We have around 800 settlers. I mean Zionist people because we never had any problem with you are Jewish or for religion. But we talk about the Zionists and this is what I want people to know what’s the difference between the Zionist and the Jewish people.”

Predictably listeners heard nothing about the ancient Jewish community in Hebron or the 1929 massacre which brought it to an end. No effort was made to challenge Awada’s absurd claim that “we never had any problem with the Jewish” even in light of that historic fact and audiences were not told what Zionist means, or of the fact that the vast majority of British Jews identify as Zionists.

Awada: “And our shop it’s under the Israeli settlement. It’s called Avraham Avinu and it’s an area called H2. It’s divided by Oslo Hebron protocol. It’s just has to be H1 under Palestinian control and H2 it’s under Israeli control.”

James: “OK so those are some of the different designations of the land as the result of that accord.”

No effort was made to clarify to audiences that the Palestinian representatives willingly signed the 1997 Hebron Protocol or that the vast majority of the city (around 80%) is under complete Palestinian control. Neither, of course, were listeners told that the Avraham Avinu synagogue in Hebron dates from 1540. 

Later on Awada explained the purpose of her (and her colleagues’) frequent tours abroad.

Awada: “But really I want to give my message for other ladies, how the women under occupation they live and how the occupation affected our business and why I cannot do my business in my country, why I have to go to other countries.”

At the end of the item Padhy opined:

Padhy: “Good to have you here in the UK. Good to have you here in the studio.”

This is not the first time that a representative of Women in Hebron has appeared on BBC World Service radio and once again the question of who initiated the contact between that group and BBC producers must be asked. The fact that the BBC World Service chose to give a sympathetic platform to an activist brought on tour in the UK by a highly partisan political group, with literally no challenging questions asked and no factual background provided to place her politically motivated narrative in context, should be deeply worrying to the BBC’s funding public.   

Related Articles:

Political messaging on BBC WS ‘Business Matters’

 

BBC’s ‘Newsday’ gives a platform to ‘occupation’ propaganda

On March 6th one of the editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included an item (from 04:36 here) relating to the previous day’s discovery of cases of Coronavirus in Bethlehem.

Presenter Krupa Padhy introduced the item:

Padhy: “…in the biblical city of Bethlehem a Palestinian official said they had closed the Church of the Nativity after suspicions that a number of Palestinians had caught the virus so I’ve been spending some time talking to Mustafa Barghouti who is a Palestinian MP and a doctor himself.”

Padhy refrained from informing listeners that the Palestinian Legislative Council – the parliament – has not convened since 2007 due to the Hamas-Fatah split and that Barghouti was last elected over 14 years ago.

Barghouti began by giving a reasonable account of the situation which included the following:

Barghouti: “There is a status of quarantine now imposed in Bethlehem area and in the whole of the West Bank to ensure that no more cases will be infected due to the fact that some of these people who have the disease have been in contact with other people. […] This is a very important precaution that is taken place by the Palestinian Authority.”

However as is usually the case when Mustafa Barghouti is interviewed by the BBC, he soon took advantage of the platform given to him for the promotion of politicised messaging.

Barghouti: “Of course you must understand that in the West Bank and Gaza we have [to be] very careful because we have a poor infrastructure due to the fact that we have been under Israeli military occupation for more than 52 years.”

Padhy: “Yes.”

The Gaza Strip has of course not been under “Israeli military occupation” for over 14 years and the Palestinian Authority has been in control of Areas A and B – including healthcare – for nearly a quarter of a century. Nevertheless, listeners heard no challenge to Barghouti’s false claims.

Barghouti: “In addition to that we are unable to control our borders or the movement because of Israeli restrictions as well so it’s complicated…”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have the ability to close crossings. The day before this interview the PA ministry of tourism announced a ban on foreign tourists and the PA prime minister announced limits on traffic between different areas.  

Barghouti: “It’s also important to understand that [what] we have here is a very complicated situation because we have a Palestinian Authority with very limited authority since we are under the military Israeli occupation and the decision to close down Bethlehem area completely was taken by an Israeli minister which means the Israelis can close down any Palestinian city any time they want without even consulting with us. So of course we have to take the burden of two things: the burden of this horrible disease and the necessity to encounter it every possible way and also the burden of the fact that we are not in control of our own freedom of movement, of our own borders.”

The Israeli minister to whom Barghouti referred is the Minister of Defence. As reported at the time by the Jerusalem Post, the decision to close the crossing between Israel and Bethlehem was taken together with the PA.

“Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Thursday, in coordination with the IDF and Palestinian Authority (PA), a closure of Bethlehem due to concerns on the spreading of coronavirus. Both Israelis and Palestinians will be restricted from entering and leaving the city.”

The Times of Israel noted that:

“Israeli and Palestinian health officials held a meeting on Thursday to coordinate their responses, and shared information on the virus’s spread according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian matters, said it had delivered 250 test kits to the Palestinians and was coordinating joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical workers.

COGAT said the closure of Bethlehem would apply to all Israelis and Palestinians, but not goods, which would continue to flow freely and would remain in place until further notice.”

Newsday’s worldwide audience of course heard nothing of such cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Instead they got an entirely predictable but totally unchallenged dose of politicised messaging from a regular BBC interviewee who never passes up such an opportunity.

Related Articles:

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The limits of BBC News reporting from PA controlled territories

Reviewing BBC coverage of the Likud leadership primary

How much coverage would one consider it necessary for the BBC to give to the topic of leadership primaries in one political party in a foreign country?

BBC coverage of the Likud leadership primary which took place on December 26th included the following:

December 26th:

BBC News website:

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in party leadership challenge

BBC Radio 4:

‘Today’programme – the first item in the opening news bulletin was a report by Barbara Plett Usher (from 01:39 here).

BBC World Service radio:

‘Newsday’ – the lead item (from 00:37 here) was a four-minute interview with Israeli journalist Noga Tarnopolsky.

‘Newshour’ –  the lead item was a four-minute report (from 00:12 here) by Barbara Plett Usher.

December 27th:

BBC News website:

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably wins party leadership challenge

BBC Radio 4:

‘Today’ programme – a report from Barbara Plett Usher (from 33:44 here) and an additional report from the same journalist in a news bulletin (from 1:03:38 here).

BBC World Service radio:

‘Newsday’ – a four-minute and twenty-second report from Barbara Plett Usher (from 14:09 here).

‘Newshour’ – a report by Barbara Plett Usher (from 45:04 here).

Yes, the BBC apparently really did consider it efficient use of public funding to produce at least nine multi-platform reports in two days on the topic of a leadership poll conducted by one political party in a foreign country in which less than half of the 116,000 members eligible to vote returned a predictable result.

Reviewing the impartiality of BBC radio reports on the Pompeo statement

Earlier this week we reviewed inaccurate claims made in reports aired on BBC radio stations about a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

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

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

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

Some of those reports included recorded statements from or interviews with people other than BBC journalists and the overall picture indicates that audiences did not get a balanced view of the story.

November 19th, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 01:38 here)

Erekat: “Once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, once they become an administration that’s pro Israel’s occupation, pro Israel war crimes, this is constitute a major threat to international peace and security.”

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newsday’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 06:09 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo is absolutely rejected and must be condemned because once superpowers, once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, this is constitute a a major threat to international peace and security and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post (from 07:29 here)

Interview with Palestinian journalist and former PA spokesperson Nour Odeh (from 06:23 here)

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 14:06 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo the Secretary of State of the United States is absolutely rejected and must be condemned and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi (from 34:07 here)

In short, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment from one side only – the PLO’s side – while listeners to BBC World Service radio heard four times more comment from the Palestinian side than from the Israeli side.

Apparently the BBC believes that meets its obligation to ‘due impartiality’.

 

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

As we saw in two previous posts, the BBC’s domestic radio audiences were repeatedly – but inaccurately – told that a statement made last week by the US Secretary of State changed a “four-decades-old position”.

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

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

As CAMERA explained:

“Pompeo declared that his administration was reversing the position taken in the last days of the Obama administration.  On December 28, 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry declared his re-adoption of the position taken by the Carter administration 38 years earlier of Israeli settlements as “inconsistent with international law.” […]

…this was not a “major reversal” of policy: Pompeo was not announcing a new campaign to promote settlement building. He was presenting the administration’s legal opinion.

Nor was the 1978 legal opinion of Herbert J. Hansell, the State Department’s legal advisor at the time, “longstanding.” It was reversed by President Reagan less than three years after it was adopted by the Carter administration. 

Pompeo was merely reversing a 3-year-old position by the Obama administration that re-adopted the old Hansell opinion.  Ignoring nearly 38 years of history in between, the journalists falsely suggest that the Hansell opinion was held unwaveringly throughout four decades.”   

Articles which appeared on the BBC News website demonstrated that the BBC is fully aware of that history but nevertheless, listeners to BBC Radio 4 were misled with inaccurate information. Unfortunately for the BBC’s international radio audiences, the same erroneous claim was also promoted on BBC World Service radio.

On November 19th three consecutive editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ – presented by Lawrence Pollard – promoted that ‘forty years’ myth. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edition 1 – from 06:09 here:

Pollard: “Now let’s talk […] about another American policy switch in the Middle East. For forty years Israeli settlements in the occupied territories which were captured in the war of 1967 have been seen as illegal by most world opinion. Now, after an announcement from Mike Pompeo the US Secretary of State, the US no longer regards them as – the phrase is – inconsistent with international law.”

Edition 2 – from 06:23 here:

Pollard: “We’re going to talk about another major U-turn in American policy in the Middle East. The Trump administration says they don’t consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law. I should say any more because they have done for the past forty years.”

Edition 3 – from 00:46 here:

Pollard: “Palestinians have expressed outrage after the United States said it no longer believes that Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories are illegal. The announcement was made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It reverses forty years of US policy and puts Washington at odds with…ahm…the UN and particularly the EU as well.”

Listeners to the November 19th afternoon edition of the same radio station’s programme ‘Newshour’ were told by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 14:06 here) that:

Iqbal: “The Trump administration has abandoned its four decades old position on Israeli settlements  in the occupied West Bank. Its position now is that the settlements do not violate international law.”

According to their webpages, those editions of ‘Newsday’ will remain online “for over a year” and the ‘Newshour’ broadcast will be available for a further 24 days. Clearly those materially misleading statements regarding “forty years of US policy” need to be urgently corrected, as has already been done at some other British media outlets.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Israeli election coverage continues to advance a new narrative

In a previous post we saw how a September 18th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday’ promoted the claim that “Arab Palestinian parties” had run in the recent Israeli election.

We also saw how two written reports published on the BBC News website on September 21st and 22nd described Arab Israelis as “Israel’s Palestinian citizens”.

In a later September 18th edition of ‘Newsday’, presenter Karnagie Sharp interviewed Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov (from 00:42 here) and one of her questions (at 03:34) was phrased as follows:

Sharp: “OK but we also saw another interesting development here. The Arab Palestinian parties, they did really well, didn’t they? The third…now forming the third largest party in the Knesset.”

Harkov explained:

Harkov: “Yeah, they’re Israeli. These are Arab citizens of Israel.”

In its coverage of previous Israeli elections in 2013 and 2015 the BBC described the Joint Arab List as being comprised of “Israeli Arab parties” and used the term “Israeli Arabs” to describe that list’s target electorate. So why has the BBC now taken to inserting the confusing term “Palestinian” into its reporting? A clue may be found in a conversation aired (from 23:03 here) in the September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme.

After having inaccurately claimed that “for a fifth of its existence Israel has had Benjamin Netanyahu as its prime minister”, presenter Evan Davis brought in the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Davis [26:05]: “Ahm, Jeremy, tell us about the Arab Israelis because as I understand it their turnout in this election rose pretty significantly compared to the last one which was, what, back in April.”

Bowen: “Yeah, ahm, 20% of the citizens of Israel are not Jews. They’re Arabs, or more specifically, they’re Palestinians. Not the Palestinians of the West Bank or of Gaza, though related of course, but Palestinians who are Israelis, who have an Israeli passport and are supposed to have full rights though in practice they don’t.”

In fact, as of May 2019, 25.76% of Israel’s population are not Jews. 20.95% are Arabs and 4.81% are ‘others’ including non-Arab Christians and non-Arab Muslims. A poll conducted in April 2019 indicated that 46% identified as Arab Israelis with the pollsters commenting that when compared to a previous poll from 2014:

“…the findings in the current poll show that the number of respondents self-identifying as “Arab-Israeli” has risen, and the number of those identifying only as “Palestinian” dropped.”

While other polls may give slightly different results, one thing is clear: the BBC’s Middle East editor has apparently adopted the political narrative according to which all Israeli Arabs are Palestinians – regardless of how they actually chose to self-identify – and that patriarchal approach is increasingly finding its way into BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio promotes a political NGO’s disinformation

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Israel’s election

 

BBC WS radio promotes a political NGO’s disinformation

The early edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on September 18th included two items relating to the previous day’s election in Israel, the second of which was introduced (from 27:01 here) by presenter Karnagie Sharp as follows:

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

Sharp: “First to Israel…ah…where Netanyahu…this is a headline from one of the main [sic] daily newspapers in the country: ‘Netanyahu fails to secure majority, Gantz leads, Arabs surge exit polls show’. Final results of the election are still to be announced but according to exit polls Benjamin Netanyahu – the longest-serving prime minister in the country – has failed to secure a ruling majority…ah ah…and his challenger Ben [sic] Gantz leading the Blue & White centre coalition has a lead. Arab countries have condemned a campaign pledge by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.”

Given the BBC’s record of interviewing Palestinians when reporting Israeli elections listeners may not have been surprised to then learn that they were about to hear “a Palestinian view” of the previous day’s poll. The presenter of that view – and the BBC’s perhaps unintentionally frank portrayal of his starting point – may however have been less expected.

Sharp: “For a Palestinian view on these elections let’s now speak to Hagai Elad, the executive director of B’Tselem, the Israeli information centre for human rights in the occupied territories. Welcome to the programme. So I’m going to read you another headline from Ha’aretz. It says ‘Magician Bibi has run out of rabbits’. What do you make of the exit polls so far?”

Sharp made no effort to inform listeners – as required by section 4.3.12 of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – of the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of B’tselem

Elad: “…the votes are still being counted and we may be facing still weeks of negotiations about the future government. And all this is discussed in the context of as if a celebration of democracy. But in fact all…all of what this does is to paint a false democratic façade hiding a deeply undemocratic reality that has been in place already for decade after decade. When the election results are clear or not clear, when there’s deadlock or no deadlock, when there’s a Right-wing government or a Left-wing government or a national unity government, the continuation of Israel’s oppression, dispossession and occupation of the Palestinian people.”

That blatantly false and obviously partisan portrayal of Israeli democracy failed to prompt any reaction from Sharp.

Sharp: “OK. So when you look at the results at the moment, you know, we know that the results are still coming in but if prime minister Netanyahu…if he were to lose will this change things in the region?”

Elad: “So of course the personality of the prime minister makes a big difference but if I take a broader perspective about this reality and for instance the context of potential annexation of parts of the West Bank was mentioned, then we actually put the centre of attention not on what may have been but what has already happened: de facto annexation. The fact that Israel does whatever it wants in the 60% of the West Bank known as Area C and that all this is happening above the heads and beneath the feet of the Palestinians living in that area that are never asked, never counted as they were also not counted in yesterday’s election.”

Sharp made no effort to remind listeners that the PLO agreed to Israel being in control of Area C when they signed the Oslo Accords or to clarify that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live in Areas A and B which are under Palestinian Authority control. She continued with a description of four Israeli political parties as “Palestinian” and the uninformed suggestion that they are “in the government”.

Sharp: “What’s really interesting though…I want to bring that…because you also called it undemocratic; the Arab Palestinian parties did well though this time, didn’t they? Third largest party now in the Knesset, never seen before in the government. So there’s a bit of hope there.”

Elad: “So we’re talking about the 20% of the – or so – of the citizens of the State of Israel who are Arab and also of course there are also Jewish voters to this party. But between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there are 14 million people or so – thirteen and a half, fourteen million people. And there is one government that controls the lives of all the people in this area and controls all the territory in this area and in this area there are 5 million Palestinians in the occupied territories – in the Gaza Strip, in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank – and they are not citizens. They live under Israel’s military occupation and they do not participate in the political process. They have no political rights.”

Sharp once again failed to challenge Elad’s blatant and materially misleading claims. Arab residents of East Jerusalem are of course entitled vote in Israeli general elections if they have chosen to take Israeli citizenship (and in municipal elections even if they have not) and Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule in parts of Judea & Samaria or under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip (which, contrary to Elad’s claim, has not been under Israeli control for fourteen years) of course vote – when their rulers allow it – for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The Joint Arab list secured 13 seats in this election – the same number as in the 2015 election – but the embarrassingly under-informed Sharp went on to make another inaccurate claim.

Sharp: “OK. You still haven’t reacted to the fact that for the first time we’re seeing that these Arab Palestinian parties have done well in these new elections. Who are they likely to align with do you think and how can that make a difference?”

Elad: “They have done perhaps somewhat better than in previous elections but they’ve been part of parliament already for many years, including in this formation of one unified party, already for quite some time. The situation is that this comes at the backdrop of an extremely racist election campaign, especially from Likud but also from others and also what statements that already were made by Netanyahu denying any potential involvement of Arab parties in Israel’s government.”

Sharp: “Yeah.”

Elad: “A deeply racist position.”

Sharp: “OK. Thank you very much for speaking to us. That’s Hagai Elad the executive director of B’tselem speaking to us.”

Sharp failed to clarify to listeners that some of the Arab parties hold anti-Zionist positions which can be regarded as racist or that those parties have traditionally refused to participate in any Israeli government.

So what did BBC World Service listeners get in this item? They heard the crude propaganda of a political NGO which engages in lawfare against Israel go completely unchallenged by an interviewer who was clearly very much out of her depth – with the result that audiences were materially misled. 

 

Inaccuracies in BBC WS ‘Newsday’ report on Israel election

Listeners to the later edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on April 9th heard a five-minute item replete with factual errors and misleading claims.

The item was introduced (from 04:23 here) by a presenter who managed not only to pronounce the Israeli prime minister’s first name in three different ways in 44 seconds but also inaccurately described him as Israel’s “longest-serving prime minister”. In fact, only if Netanyahu is still prime minister on July 17th 2019 will he overtake David Ben Gurion – currently Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The presenter also failed to note that whether or not what she described as “imminent criminal indictments” against Netanyahu will be filed depends upon hearings to be held in the coming months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Presenter: “Let’s take you to Israel now…eh…Israelis are going to the polls today as the country’s longest-serving prime minister Benyamin [sic] Netanyahu faces his toughest challenge yet. Plagued with controversies and under the shadow of imminent criminal indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, many are still tipping him to win. Let’s speak now to our Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman. Tom, it’s been described as almost a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule but now he has a real contender and a challenger…eh…in the former…general – or retired general – Benny Gantz. Let’s talk about Benny Gantz for a minute. What’s he promising and why has he proven such a strong challenger to Binyamin Netanyahu?”

Bateman: “Well Benny Gantz was a chief of the Israeli army. He was actually in position under Mr Netanyahu’s leadership when he was prime minister in this last term.”

Netanyahu’s latest term in office began in May 2015 following elections in March of that year. Benny Gantz retired from army service in February 2015 and so – while Gantz was chief of staff during parts of two of Netanyahu’s earlier terms in office, Bateman’s claim that he was “in position” during “this last term” of Netanyahu’s office is clearly inaccurate.

Bateman went on to promote false equivalence while describing a Hamas rocket attack on a moshav in central Israel last month.

Bateman: “He oversaw the military operation – the all-out conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel – in 2014 so he is an experienced general. He entered the race after…they have to have a three year…ah…period of rest away from the military or politics because former generals in Israel are usually pretty hot stuff when it comes to Israeli politics and they can be very popular. He entered this race and he has put up a very serious challenge to Benjamin Netanyahu who, remember, likes to portray himself as the guarantor of Israel’s security. That has been his number one pitching point to the Israeli public and so to have this former chief of staff to come in and who has said that in his view Mr Netanyahu has not been effective on the security front. There has been a military flare-up again between Hamas and Israel during the election campaign and Mr Netanyahu’s rivals, including Mr Gantz, were quick to jump on that and say that he should have been tougher.”

Presenter: “And Mr Netanyahu has been appealing to the Right-wing voter base. How and…and…will that make a difference in the way that people vote given how close the challenge is?”

Once again avoiding the topic of the effects of Palestinian terrorism on Israeli public opinion and the tricky question of how a two-state solution could come about under Palestinian leadership split between Fatah and Hamas, Bateman promoted PLO messaging on the topic of ‘settlements’.

Bateman: “Well the Israeli public has shifted to the Right over the decades, particularly since the Left in Israel saw its last high-water mark in the 1990s in the Oslo peace accords – the peace process with the Palestinians – which has very much been frozen and in many ways begun to fall apart since then. Particularly the Israeli youth are…many of them vehement supporters of the Right wing and Mr Netanyahu. And I think even during this campaign we have seen him tack further to the Right and in the closing days of the campaign he said that he would phase the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, so extending Israeli sovereignty formally over those settlements which have grown in number since he was last elected into office. They’re illegal under international law although Israel disputes this but fundamentally they are seen by the Palestinians as the single biggest obstacle to them establishing a future state. And so what we have seen in this election, I think, with that further appeal to the Right wing is the prospect of the internationally held formula – a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians – really moved even further to the margins.”

In addition to Bateman’s promotion of the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ we see that he also promotes the inaccurate claim that the number of what the BBC chooses to call ‘settlements’ has “grown” since Netanyahu was “last elected into office” – i.e. since the previous election in March 2015.

In June 2017 the BBC itself reported that work had begun on what it described as “the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for more than 20 years”. That community – Amichai – will house former residents of Amona which was evacuated in February 2017. No additional new communities have been built by the Israeli government in the past four years and proposals to legalise outposts built without government consent have not progressed. It is therefore unclear on what evidence Bateman bases his assertion that “settlements…have grown in number” since March 2015.

The item continued:

Presenter: “And I mean we…we talk about Mr Netanyahu of course facing a tough challenge but he’s also, you know, facing…ehm…he’s…he could be removed from office under criminal indictments. Mr Netanyahu still faces charges of corruption. How is that affecting, you know, his campaign and how’s that affecting the support for him?”

Bateman: “Well among his most loyal supporters, I mean they’re…they’re…they’re fiercely loyal of [sic] him. They know about the allegations – some might even believe them – but they really don’t care.”

Presenter: “Hmm.”

Only at that point in the item did listeners hear an accurate portrayal of “what will happen next” in relation to the repeatedly referenced legal cases involving Netanyahu but no information was provided concerning Israeli law in such a situation.

Bateman: “I think it possibly has had some effect and it has allowed Benny Gantz to pick up some votes from the Right wing although most of the votes he has taken seem to be coming from the Left. As for what will happen next, well we’re due at some point later this year – the Israeli attorney general – to give Mr Netanyahu a hearing and then those charges could be formally laid against him so you will then have a sitting prime minister with a formal indictment against him which would be a rare or unprecedented situation in Israeli politics and what may happen over the coming days, if he wins the election he has to put together a coalition government. Perhaps there will be a price to membership of the coalition in that parties and their leaders will have to say that they would support him through that process and not resign from government which would then precipitate a collapse of the government and then potentially another general election.”

Once again we see that the profuse amount of BBC coverage of Israeli affairs and the permanent presence of BBC staff in Jerusalem does not preclude shoddy and inaccurate reporting which misleads audiences around the world.  

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Another Israeli election, another BBC claim of a ‘shift to the right’

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Among the topics (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’ was that of cuts in US aid to Palestinians – particularly via the UN agency UNRWA.

Nearly two weeks before any official US announcement was made the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was already framing the topic for listeners in an item that purported to examine the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”

January 3rd, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

“As we see, listeners to this item heard three views in all – two from Palestinians and one from a think-tank fellow with a record of being less than neutral. No American or Israeli views were sought by the programme’s producers. Audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.”

On January 16th the BBC News website reported that:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say.

It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 16th, BBC News website:

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background (see also here)

“While…relevant background was withheld, the BBC’s article did amplify reactions from former UN official Jan Egeland and the PLO. […] Obviously BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions on this particular story so long as the BBC continues to refrain from providing them with the relevant background concerning the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that they have been denied for so many years.”

The next morning the top story in the various editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ was described as follows:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say. It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 17th, ‘Newsday’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

The interviewees heard by listeners were as follows:

05:06 edition: Jan Egeland (Norwegian Refugee Council), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

06:06 edition: Antonio Guterres (UN), Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO)

07:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

08:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

09:06 edition: Jonathan Schanzer (FDD), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

10:06 edition: Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

“The majority of the opinions heard…were strongly critical of the [US] decision and the sole exception was in the contributions from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. […] Obviously that imbalance in itself compromises the BBC’s claim to produce impartial reporting “reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion“. Moreover, listeners heard numerous inaccurate and misleading claims from both Gunness and Barghouti that presenters made no attempt whatsoever to challenge or correct. No attempt was made to raise any of the serious issues surrounding UNRWA’s functioning and agenda despite their clear relevance to the story.” 

The BBC News website published two additional reports on the same story:

January 17th & January 26th, BBC News website:

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

Four days later, an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

January 30th, BBC News website:

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

“…just 72 words in Yolande Knell’s 882 word report were devoted to the provision of superficial background information on UNRWA. […]  While content provided by UNRWA staffers Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and (former BBC employee) Chris Gunness makes up nearly half of Yolande Knell’s 882 word article, once again this PR item amplifying UNRWA’s campaign against the US administration’s reduced donation fails to provide BBC audiences with the full range of impartial information concerning the UN agency that is needed for broader understanding of the story.”

In February UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, was given a long slot on BBC WS radio.

February 19th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

“Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.”

In May BBC WS radio audiences heard Yolande Knell interview the Jordanian minister of information.

May 9th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.”

The following month listeners to the same programme heard Nada Tawfik promoting UNRWA PR.

June 13th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

“To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.”

In late August the BBC WS radio programme ‘Newshour’ once again presented preemptive framing of a US announcement that had not yet been made in a long item that included an interview with the Jordanian foreign minister.

August 30th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

“This interview with a senior minister from a country where some 40% of UNRWA clients live could obviously have been employed to provide BBC audiences with much-needed enhancement of understanding of the background to the ‘UNRWA in financial crisis’ story that the BBC has been reporting since January. Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s record on this story, once again that opportunity was passed up.”

The US announcement on August 31st was covered in a written report published on the same day in which readers saw quotes from the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness and the then PLO representative in Washington.

August 31st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

“Once again BBC audiences did not see an explanation of the changes to UNRWA’s mission over the years which have created the situation in which the number of people registered as refugees has grown rather than diminished in 70 years.”

That report was replaced by another one the next day.

September 1st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

“…16.3% of the report’s word count was given over to criticism of the US decision from various Palestinian factions, including the PLO (together with a link) and the Hamas terror group. An additional 48 words were used to describe Palestinian denunciation of previous unrelated US Administration decisions. A further 13.7% of the report’s word count was devoted to amplification of statements from UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness, meaning that in all, 30% of the article was devoted to informing BBC audiences of condemnations of the US move.”

Listeners to BBC WS radio on the same day also heard from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.  

September 1st, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

“…BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged UNRWA messaging together with promotion of Palestinian talking points in a long item which once again did little to contribute to their understanding of the background to this story.”

Also in September an edition of a BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme included an item billed “where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration”.

September 23rd, ‘Sunday’, BBC Radio 4:

More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

“Yet again BBC audiences were denied information concerning UNRWA’s problematic record and were given no insight into the background to its politically motivated perpetuation of the refugee issue. Yet again BBC audiences heard no discussion of why citizens of the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas are classified as refugees and deliberately kept dependent on foreign aid.

However, in this item Radio 4 listeners heard more than an academic discussion. They heard a significant contribution from the “head of marketing and fundraising” at an NGO that is raising money for this particular cause – a cause that was repeatedly portrayed to the Sunday morning audience as the right “moral” choice.”

As the above examples show, the BBC’s coverage of this story was both generous and blatantly one-sided. While repeatedly providing platforms for UNRWA officials and supporters, the corporation made no effort to explain the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that are the context to the story.

In other words, the BBC’s approach to this story, which ran for much of 2018, was to self-conscript to a political campaign rather than to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to reach their own informed opinions on the topic.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

Revisiting another of the BBC’s 2018 campaigns

 

BBC News continues to sideline Hamas’ ’50 were ours’ announcement

As we saw in an earlier post, the BBC’s reporting on a Hamas official’s announcement on May 16th that the vast majority of those killed during violent rioting on the Gaza border two days earlier were Hamas members was – to put it politely – underwhelming.

So far we have found only three brief references to that announcement in all of the BBC’s relevant content and since then BBC reporters have reverted to portraying those killed on May 14th as ‘peaceful protesters’, ‘unarmed civilians’ or merely ‘Palestinians’, despite fifty-three of them having been claimed as members by either Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Another example of that editorial policy came in a May 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ in an item (from 06:09 here) introduced by presenter Paul Hawkins as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Hawkins: “The UN will meet later today – the Security Council will meet later today – to discuss the upsurge of violence on Tuesday between Gaza and Israel as dozens of rockets were fired by Palestinian militants at Israel and then Israel responded with missile attacks on Gaza. Israeli intelligence minister – ah…the Israeli intelligence minister – said his country was at the closest point to the threshold of war since the seven-week conflict with Palestinian militants four years ago. Our correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem. Tom, what’s the latest?”

Stating that “tensions had begun to mount since Sunday”, Tom Bateman described just one of several incidents to have taken place in recent days while qualifying the widely reported and documented event with the words “Israel said”.

Bateman: “…Israel said it found an explosive device laid at the perimeter fence. It then…one of its tanks then shelled a military post inside Gaza which killed three members of the militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Bateman then went on to describe the 22 hours of mortar and rocket fire launched against Israeli civilian communities on May 29th/30th but without clarifying that Hamas and the PIJ had issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for those attacks. Describing Israel’s response to the attacks, he told BBC audiences that:

Bateman: “The Israelis say they’ve targeted military positions belonging to militant groups – both to Hamas and to Islamic Jihad.”

In response to Hawkins’ question “why is this happening now?” Bateman linked the firing of military grade weapons at civilians – including a nursery school – by groups he studiously refrained from describing as terrorists to “anniversaries”:

Bateman: “Well there has been an escalation in tensions over the last couple of months. It’s been a significant year, both because it has been the anniversaries…the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel, 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba; their catastrophe where they mark what they see as their historical dispossession. Then there was the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which was welcomed by Israel but vehemently opposed by Palestinians that same week. So in the run-up to that – I’m sure listeners remember that there were weeks of protests at the Gaza border fence and Israeli troops shot dead more than a hundred Palestinians. The Palestinians say these were peaceful protests by unarmed civilians. The Israelis say that this was largely orchestrated by Hamas; that these were violent riots and people intended to storm the fence to harm Israelis and Israeli communities on the other side of the fence. So, you know, in the aftermath of that, things have been very tense…”

As we see Tom Bateman chose to ignore the fact that over 80% of the people he is happy to quote ‘Palestinians’ describing as “unarmed civilians” have been shown to have links to various terror factions. His faux impartiality concealed the fact that Hamas publicly acknowledged that five of those killed on March 30th were members of its Qassam Brigades, that it claimed 50 of those killed on May 14th and that the PIJ has also claimed several of those killed since the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt began.

In addition, while happy to uncritically parrot claims of “peaceful protests”, Bateman placed documented violent incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks and border infiltrations in the category of things “Israelis say” happened. He similarly described documented calls by Hamas leaders to infiltrate Israeli territory and attack Israeli citizens as merely things that ‘Israel says’.

Bateman then returned to the May 27th IED incident, telling BBC World Service audiences that it was Israel’s response to that – rather than a terror organisation’s act of planting an explosive device on a border fence – that caused the latest escalation.

Bateman: “…and then, you know, we’ve had these exchanges of fire over the last few days and as I said, Sunday I think was an important day in terms of the Israeli actions when they said they’d discovered an explosive device and the Islamic Jihad militants had been killed – they vowed to revenge that – and that immediate flare-up in the last few days seems to have been following what happened on Sunday.”

Just as there is no room in the BBC’s framing of the ‘Great Return March’ story for ‘distractions’ such as reporting on Hamas’ organisation, funding and facilitation of the events, the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing by Palestinian rioters or the repeated arson attacks on Israeli farmers’ fields close to the border, so too Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad acknowledgement of the fact that a very significant proportion of those killed during the month and a half of rioting were members of their terror groups has been expunged from the BBC’s chosen narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part two