BBC erases crucial background from report on Jerusalem election

On October 30th millions of Israelis went to vote for their preferred representatives in elections for 54 regional councils, 122 local councils and 75 municipalities. Understandably, that local story did not receive any BBC coverage – with one exception.

Listeners to the October 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 47:59 here) as follows:

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

Kearney: “Elections are taking place today in Jerusalem for a new mayor and city council. For the first time a Palestinian’s on the ballot running for a city hall seat. It’s proving a controversial move in perhaps the world’s most contested city, divided by its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. The latter have broadly boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Kearney’s claim that this is “the first time” that an Arab resident of Jerusalem has run in local elections is inaccurateAs usual BBC audiences were not provided with any background information concerning the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation and unrecognised annexation of parts of the city or the circumstances which prevailed at the time when “Israel captured” those areas. 

Bateman began his report with some scene-setting and signposting.

Bateman: “I joined Amar Awad for an uphill task: the daily school run.”

Awad: “Yeah we are going up to the school of my girls…”

Bateman: “Uh, so you climb over these chairs and over the wall – this breezeblock. OK, and then to a kind of dirt path.”

Awad: “It’s very hard for them because there is no service buses to take them and it’s dangerous. It’s an image that you don’t see in a Jewish neighbourhood.”

Bateman: “In West Jerusalem.”

Awad: “In West Jerusalem, yes.”

Bateman: “It is a common complaint among the more than 300 thousand Palestinians of East Jerusalem. They pay the same council taxes as people in the west but speak of the injustice of neglected services, poor infrastructure, even home demolitions in some cases for lacking planning permits.” […]

Of course people who build without planning permission in municipalities around the world would also likely be subject to demolition orders.

Bateman: “On this, the eve of elections for Jerusalem mayor and city hall, Amar addresses a taboo: that he is thinking of voting. Historically nearly all East Jerusalemite Palestinians boycott the ballot. They see voting as legitimising Israeli control. And here is a man at the centre of Amar’s dilemma: Ramadan Dabash – a Palestinian born in East Jerusalem the year before Israel captured it, giving its Arab inhabitants only resident and not citizen status. He’s on the ballot leading a Palestinian party for seats at city hall. This is a first and he’s promising to demand better services.”

Bateman’s failure to clarify to listeners that residents of east Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship – and that Ramadan Dabash is one of those who does hold Israeli citizenship – obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Dabash: “I will change all the situation here in East Jerusalem. I’m the first one. I want to make history.”

Bateman: “Of course the Palestinians that have opposed you, that believe you shouldn’t be doing this, say it goes way beyond services: that this is about what it represents. They see it as normalising an occupation.”

Dabash: “Look, if you want to talk about the problem here – occupation, normalisation, Israelisation – so maybe the solution is come 100 years more. We are 51 years until this time. Nobody take care of us.”

Notably, Bateman made no effort to enlighten listeners as to the identity of “the Palestinians that have opposed” Dabash and similarly inclined Jerusalemites. He did however make sure to squeeze the US president into the story.

Bateman: “Meanwhile in downtown West Jerusalem the election bandwagon was trying to move. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu got stuck in a packed Yehuda market [sic – actually Mahane Yehuda market] with his favourite candidate Ze’ev Elkin. The Israeli right-wing feels the wind in its sails, powered by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The nationalists who balk at the Palestinian vision for their capital in East Jerusalem like to talk of a unified city, meaning under Israeli administration.”  

In contrast to Bateman’s “wind in its sails” portrayal, Ze’ev Elkin’s mayoral bid failed.

Bateman next inadequately introduced a contributor from the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

Bateman: “Lior Schillat is a former Israeli government advisor turned think-tank director.”

Schillat: “The way we work in modern democracies nowadays is that when there is a representation there is also a support and attention of the municipality to what’s happening. What’s happening in Jerusalem is that one-third of the city does not have those representatives that wake up in the morning and make the phone call to the mayor.”

Presumably referring to a survey carried out earlier this year by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bateman went on to inadequately introduce the founder of the political NGO PASSIA.

Bateman: “Some polling suggests a large number of East Jerusalemites would be prepared to vote for the local authority. There’s been some new Israeli government investment in the city’s east. But the boycott is likely to stick says the Palestinian academic Mahdi Abdul Hadi.”

Abdul Hadi: “Today after 51 years they are using one Palestinian who claim as a citizen of Israel to run for election. People will not vote because this is Israelisation. We are not consider as people at all. They are taking our history, our culture, our heritage and claiming this is a Jewish land and not a Palestinian land.”

Failing to explain to his listeners that second derogatory reference to “Israelisation” – the fact that increasing numbers of Arab Jerusalemites want to participate in Israeli economic and political life – and making no effort to challenge Abdul Hadi’s overtly projective propaganda, Bateman closed his report.

Bateman: “The political horizons for city councils may rarely go beyond schools and streetlights and new pavements but Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so do questions over today’s election.”

The same report was repeated on BBC World Service radio in the October 30th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ where it was introduced by Razia Iqbal (from 08:23 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “Now, a city mayoral race and city council election may not be deemed to be of international import but these elections are taking place in Jerusalem – probably the most contested and potently political city in the world. For the first time the ballot paper includes a Palestinian who is running for a city hall seat. It’s proving a highly controversial move in a city divided by its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. The latter have broadly boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally.”

The report was also repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day. Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 18:25 here) thus:

Franks: “We don’t often cover local elections here on Newshour, what with our big-boned global agenda. But the elections that took place today in Jerusalem are happening or did happen in one of the most prized and contested cities in the world. For the first time the ballot paper included a Palestinian who was running for a city hall seat and that proved highly controversial in a city divided between its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. Those Palestinians have by and large boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally.”

As we see, in all three of these broadcasts the participation of a resident of Sur Baher in municipal elections in Jerusalem was described to BBC audiences both in the UK and around the world as “highly controversial”. Despite that, the BBC made no effort to clarify the identity of the parties holding that view.

BBC audiences were told nothing of Palestinian Authority intervention in local Israeli elections. They were not told that in August of this year the official PA daily newspaper announced that:

“The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council issued a religious ruling that bans running or voting in the occupation’s municipal elections in occupied Jerusalem… it emphasized that voting or running in the municipal elections is forbidden by religious law, since this matter is subject to the rules of benefit and damage – which the sources of authority for estimating them are the knowledgeable religious scholars who know what the results will be – and there is no doubt at all that the damages that will be caused as a result of the participation are huge compared to the benefits.”

Neither were BBC radio listeners told that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party put out multiple social media posts instructing potential voters to “boycott the occupation’s municipal elections”.

In other words the BBC chose to tell selected parts of a story while once again concealing crucial information in a report which was repeatedly presented as being about a “contested city” and in which the US president got more mentions than the intimidation of Jerusalem voters and interference in Israel’s democratic process by the Palestinian Authority.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on intimidation of voters in Jerusalem

Accuracy and impartiality failures in BBC report on Jerusalem elections

 

 

 

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Looking beyond the BBC Berlin correspondent’s framing

On October 13th a report titled “Germany protest: Tens of thousands march against far right” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page.

“More than 100,000 people have been marching in the German capital Berlin to protest against xenophobia and the increasing influence of the far right.

Rights groups organised the rally, as marchers held placards reading “Indivisible” and “United against racism”.

The BBC’s Jenny Hill in Berlin says even the organisers seemed surprised by the turnout.”

Readers found the following portrayal of the event:

“Marchers walked through central Berlin, rallying at the Brandenburg Gate.

Many said they were defending human rights and tolerance, particularly of migrants.

“I’m worried that we are not there for the others, and that we just don’t bother or care about loads of people who really need our help,” said one demonstrator.

“Nobody just comes because they are bored.”

One woman said: “There are so many people who believe they can abuse human rights and questions of equality and so on, and it’s time to say no, there are other people who just want to be open and open-minded.””

The BBC’s Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill added her own analysis:

“The mass protest – officially aimed at promoting an open society – was organised by hundreds of groups with different agendas and political affiliations.

But most of the participants were united by their concern about the influence of the far right on German politics and society.”

However, a report that appeared in the Jerusalem Post three days later suggests that the BBC’s Berlin correspondent seriously overlooked parts of the rally which were not quite so committed to tolerance and open-mindedness.

“Speakers urged the obliteration of the Jewish state and support for the BDS campaign against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reviewed a video showing two speakers who called for the “liberation of all of Palestine 48” and “We must take a stand and boycott Israel. BDS.” The slogan to “liberate all of Palestine” refers to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, and is widely considered a euphemism to cleanse Israel of Jews. […]

Demonstrators at the march hoisted symbols in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, according to observers and German media reports. 

The European Union and the US have designated the PFLP a terrorist group. 

The speakers who call for genocidal antisemitism against Israel and BDS delivered their talks under the banner of the pro-BDS and pro-PFLP organization International Alliance. […]

The Iranian-regime controlled Islamic Center of Hamburg was present at the march. The city-state of Hamburg’s intelligence agency monitors the Islamic Center of Hamburg because it is considered a threat to Hamburg’s democratic system. The Islamic Republic of Iran-dominated center in Hamburg plays a key role in the annual al-Quds Day rally in Berlin, calling for the elimination of Israel.

The Central Council of Muslims, which is an umbrella organization for groups with ties to the fascist Turkish Grey Wolves and anti-Western Islamic entities, participated in the march. 

The prominent German-Turkish lawyer and liberal Muslim Seyran Ates told BILD, “It is a very naïve idea of tolerance when one demonstrates with people on the street who do not want tolerance.”

The Palestinian NGO ‘Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’ also took part in the rally.

“Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists joined the mass #Unteilbar (“Indivisible”) demonstration in Berlin, Germany on 13 October, organizing a contingent in support of the Palestinian struggle against racism, colonialism and oppression and for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners. […]

The Palestine bloc marched in a left/revolutionary group with the Internationalist Alliance, including the MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany), Rebell youth organization, ATIF (Association of Turkish Workers in Germany) and many other groups.”

The people described as ‘political prisoners’ include of course the convicted terrorists who are supported by that NGO.

“Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network participated in the contingent, carrying signs and posters demanding freedom for all Palestinian prisoners. The protest action also came as part of the week of action for Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, the Arab Communist struggler for Palestine jailed in France for 34 years, with actions in cities across Europe, in Palestine, Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.

BDS Berlin activists marched for Palestine as part of the bloc, while organizers from Coup Pour Coup 31 in Toulouse, France, joined the protest in Berlin, carrying signs and posters for Georges Abdallah. Palestinian youth led the contingent, carrying the Palestinian flag high while carrying the group’s lead banner calling for Abdallah’s liberation.”

In other words, this ‘tolerance’ rally was allowed to become a stage for ‘protest action’ on behalf of a terrorist convicted for the murders of an American military attaché and an Israeli diplomat in Paris.

The Jerusalem Post reports that organisers of the event were aware of the presence of anti-Israel participants in the rally:

“A spokeswoman for Indivisible, Theresa Hartmann, told the Berlin-based paper B.Z that the event’s organizers rejects hatred of Israel and that the anti-Israel agitators “did not speak on the official stage but the organization has responsibility for what took place at our demonstration.”

She said Indivisible distances itself from the anti-Jewish state speeches because its departs from the “joint consensus” of the demonstration.” 

The BBC’s Berlin correspondent however did not report that part of the story and so BBC audiences – along with the ‘historical record’ – saw the event framed exclusively as one which defended human rights, tolerance, equality and open-mindedness.

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A second hand BBC News report on Palestinian torture

BBC Watch has in the past documented the BBC’s decidedly sparse interest in internal Palestinian affairs.

“Although the conflict is clearly just one story among many in the region, only very occasionally do audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within that context and do not have an Israel-related component.

Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

Reviewing BBC News coverage of internal Palestinian affairs

BBC News flunks on Palestinian internal affairs yet again

In August 2017 and again in July 2018 we noted that the BBC had totally ignored a story about Palestinian Authority citizens suing the PA over torture by its security forces.

BBC News ignores an unusual legal story from Israel

Story of PA torture continues to be side-lined by BBC

The last time the BBC News website produced any reporting on allegations of PA torture was over two years ago and prior to that – in 2009.

However, when ‘Human Rights Watch’ (one of the political NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted in BBC content) published a report on October 23rd, BBC News website quickly published an article linking to the relevant HRW press release under the headline “Palestinian forces routinely arresting and torturing critics – HRW“.

“The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip routinely arrest and torture peaceful critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch says.

A report based on interviews with former detainees alleges the rival factions have “established machineries of repression to crush dissent”.

Security forces, it says, often taunt, threaten, beat, and put detainees in painful stress positions.

The PA and Hamas deny the allegations.”

While the vast majority of the BBC’s 704-word article is given over to paraphrasing and quoting HRW’s press release, at its end readers find second-hand responses taken from a Reuters report on the same story.

“Officials in the West Bank and Gaza rejected the findings.

Maj Gen Adnan al-Dmairi, a spokesman for the PA’s security forces, told Reuters news agency: “Arrests are being carried according to the law and we are committed to upholding the law.”

Eyad al-Bozom, spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of interior in Gaza, said: “We do not have a policy of torture. This is a violation of the law.”

“We have taken action against officers who violated the law, including issues of torture. Some were detained and put on trial, others were demoted,” he added.”

Readers may recall that Adnan Damiri (or, as spelt in the Reuters article, Dmairi) is the same PA police spokesman whom the BBC found it appropriate to quote when, in 2016, it portrayed a temporary roadblock set up by Israeli troops following a terror attack by a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces as “collective punishment”.

While it is obviously refreshing to see this issue getting some exposure on the BBC’s website (and the article did at least refrain from recycling the irrelevant comment relating to Israel found in the HRW report), it is nevertheless notable that this is not a report by the BBC informing its funding public about the serious topic of torture conducted by Palestinian factions but the recycling of a report by an external organisation.

And so, BBC audiences still await serious, original BBC reporting on this issue as well as on other aspects of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

The Palestinian protests the BBC preferred to ignore

A rare BBC News report on internal Palestinian affairs

BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)

Gaza Strip stories the BBC chooses not to report

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The Times of Israel reports on a story ignored by the BBC.

“Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad selected a new leader for the first time in more than 20 years Thursday, a senior official said, but is likely to remain close to Iran.

Syria-based Ziad al-Nakhala will take over as the movement’s secretary general from Ramadan Shalah, who has been suffering from serious health issues for months, the official said on condition of anonymity. […]

Nakhala, who was born in Gaza in 1953, is close to both Iran and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. He had been the deputy leader to Shalah since the 1990s.”

2) The ITIC has published a report about Palestinian calls to boycott the upcoming municipal elections in Jerusalem.

“On October 30, 2018, the municipal elections in Jerusalem are to take place. There are about 200,000 residents in the city having the right to vote for the municipality, who since 1967 have boycotted the local elections. Senior Palestinian figures, including clerics, are trying to prevent the residents’ participation in the elections: Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority, has issued a fatwa (religious ruling) banning the participation in the municipal elections or running for mayor. Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher, announced that it is forbidden to take part in the elections because Jerusalem is an “occupied city” and the participation of East Jerusalem residents in the elections would mean “recognizing the legitimacy of the occupation.” Saeb Erekat, chief of the PLO’s Executive Committee, announced that the Executive Committee is opposed to giving legitimacy to the Israeli government’s policy towards the Arab residents and therefore the elections must be boycotted.”

3) At Tablet magazine, Emily Benedek discusses ties between international aid organisations and terrorist groups.

“At the beginning of August, a Palestinian man opened fire on IDF soldiers at the Gaza boundary, threw an incendiary device, and attempted to breach the fence. He was killed by return fire. What made his act stand out was that the man, Hani al-Majdalawi, was employed as a nurse with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), one of the world’s best-known international aid organizations. Al-Majdalawi had previously been employed by both Oxfam Great Britain and the American Friends Service Committee, two of the West’s oldest NGOs. Although he was not dressed as a medical provider at the time of his attack, his act added to mounting concern that NGOs operating in the Middle East are increasingly vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists, and susceptible to being co-opted by extremist ideologies.”

4) PMW reports on the continuing Palestinian Authority and Fatah failure to recognise Israel.

“For more than two decades, Palestinian Media Watch has documented that neither the PA nor Fatah recognize Israel when addressing their own people. In fact, the opposite is true. Both do their utmost to convince Palestinians that all of Israel was, is, and will remain “Palestine.” 

It is not surprising that Palestinians deny Israel’s existence, since the message that all of Israel is “Palestine” comes from the top. The Palestinian Authority Minister of Education Sabri Saidam recently posed holding a sketch of the PA’s map of “Palestine” that likewise presents all of Israel as “Palestine” at an event with NGOs working with the education sector.”

BBC amends inaccurate photo caption two months on

As documented here in July, the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel suspends fuel deliveries to Gaza over arson attacks” on the 17th of that month in which readers were initially given an accurate portrayal of the story.

“Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons.

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

However in contrast, the caption to a photograph featured later on in the report and a quote from a political NGO informed BBC audiences of “the closure of Kerem Shalom” and the “shutting down of Gaza’s main lifeline”.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those inaccurate representations of the situation, pointing out that – as the BBC obviously was aware – the Kerem Shalom crossing had not been closed or shut down.

On July 26th we received a response from BBC Complaints informing us that it would take more time to reply. On August 14th we received another response stating that BBC Complaints had not been able to reply within the accepted time-frame and referring us to OFCOM. On September 18th we received an additional response.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44858637) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in our response.

To hopefully address your complaint now, after considering your points in more detail we have amended the caption of the third photo to now explain that:

An Israeli NGO said the measures could have disastrous implications for Gazans

However we do not consider that the paragraph which refers to a statement from Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha needs changed for the reasons you’ve outlined.

In particular they do not say that the crossing has been “shut down” but refer to the “shutting down of Gaza’s main lifeline…” which implies ongoing activity in a story about the tightening of restrictions.”

Apparently BBC Complaints would have us believe that audiences would not understand the phrase “shutting down” as meaning closing or ceasing operations.

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

The September 23rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 19:23 here) described in its synopsis as follows:

“And where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration with Nigel Varnell [sic] of Embrace the Middle East and Sarah Elliott from Republicans Overseas.”

The charity representative is actually called Nigel Varndell.  Listeners were not provided with any information concerning the “particular viewpoint” of the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East’ as required under BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

Right at the beginning of the programme presenter Edward Stourton told listeners:

Stourton: “Charities are trying to plug the gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw funding for Palestinian refugees. We’ll debate the morality of that decision with one of the charities involved and a Trump supporter.”

The long item itself was introduced by Stourton as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Stourton: “A group of charities have declared they’re trying to plug the funding gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw American support for the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. Nigel Varndell is head of marketing and fundraising for the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East’ and Sarah Elliott chairs the London-based group ‘Republicans Overseas’. Nigel Varndell told me how his charity is trying to help.”

After Varndell had told listeners about his own charity’s £25,000 contribution to a “Catholic health development” project run in “some of the poorest areas of Gaza” by the Vatican-run NGO ‘Caritas‘, Stourton asked:

Stourton: “What do you think the overall impact of the Trump administration’s policy is going to be?”

Varndell: “Well if you look at the overall impact, we’re talking about $200 million potentially of US aid cuts. Also cuts into UNRWA – the United Nations agency – that could be hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re already hearing of cuts to hospitals in East Jerusalem that deal with Palestinians and also money for co-existence projects. Now if you begin to look at the impact of that purely in somewhere like Gaza, that might mean something like 500 to 600 schools closing. That could be 22 health centres in Gaza that might be forced to close. That might be cuts to employment for people who work for UNRWA – maybe another 10 to 12 thousand jobs in an area that already suffers from huge unemployment. It’s going to be very significant.”

Stourton then asked his second contributor:

Stourton: “Sarah Elliott; given what we’ve just heard how do you possibly justify this policy?”

Sarah Elliott mentioned the possibility of other donors stepping up before going on to bring up a topic usually avoided by the BBC – Palestinian Authority funding for terrorists and their families.

After Stourton stated that “the vast majority – all this money – goes to legitimate aid projects, doesn’t it?”, Elliott brought up the topic of UNRWA textbooks, to which Stourton retorted “can you give me evidence for that?”. Elliot’s subsequent mention of weapons discovered in UNRWA schools produced no reaction from Stourton, who went on to ask Varndell for his input.

Stourton: “Well I want to hear from Nigel Varndell now. Well what is your response to the suggestion that this money doesn’t always go to legitimate purposes and is – I suppose contaminated seems to be the accusation – by the political nature of the region?”

Varndell told Radio 4 listeners “that money’s not going astray” and that “we’re talking about education for children, health care for sick people”.

Notably, neither he nor Stourton brought up the fact that aid provided to what Varndell termed “development organisations” frees up the Palestinian Authority’s budget for rewarding terror and Hamas’ budget for expansion of its terror capabilities such as cross border tunnels.

After Sarah Elliott had spoken about transparency and American priorities, Stourton brought up the topic of ‘morality’.

Stourton: “Do you think it’s moral to take money back from various projects that have been…people have got used to, providing them with health, education and so forth?”

He went on to interrupt Elliott’s answer to that question:

Stourton: “Can I…can I just…ahm…point out to you one area where people are suspicious about this, which is the fact that a lot of the money that’s being withdrawn is going to the refugee agency and there is a view that actually this is political; this is about trying to remove the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right of return from the political process.”

Listeners heard nothing on the relevant topic of unique automatic hereditary status for Palestinian refugees or that the so-called ‘right of return’ actually means eradication of the Jewish state and scuppers any chance of a two-state solution to the conflict.

They did however hear Nigel Varndell opining that “it’s deeply immoral to try and use the poorest and the most vulnerable people in Gaza as pawns in a political game” before he went on to make a problematic claim.

Varndell: “This is an area – one of the few areas in the world where under-5 child mortality is not going down in spite of the millennium development goals and everyone’s commitment to those.”

Listeners were not told that Varndell’s claim concerning child mortality rates is sourced from UNRWA itself or that since 2015 UNRWA has been making spurious claims of a connection between child mortality and Israeli counter-terrorism measures which do not stand up to scrutiny. He continued:

Varndell: “What we’re talking about is punishing those people and I was in Gaza in May. I was talking to children, women who have no access to healthcare other than that provided by aid agencies. And to try and say to them that they need to be political pawns in this is completely immoral and I would say wrong.”

Stourton: “And that is what you’re doing, Sarah Elliott, isn’t it?”

Elliott: “No, no, no. It’s what their political leaders are doing. There’s no reason why that region should have 80% of their people on aid. And I think that their political leaders are keeping them down in order to push their own agenda.”

Rather than relating to the issue of why people who live under the rule of fellow Palestinians should be classified as refugees and why the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not provide education and healthcare for those people, Stourton steered the focus back to the micro:

Stourton: “But the impact of what’s happening at the moment is indeed about people on the ground. […] Let me put this to you please: the people who Nigel Varndell has been talking about are the ones who are going to suffer as a result of this policy, aren’t they?”

Following Elliott’s response, Stourton gave the last word to Varndell who praised the “moral leadership” of British government departments in relation to a pledge of increased funding to UNRWA before closing with threatening speculation:

Varndell: “…it must be moral to keep funding these kind of aid development projects. We need to keep doing that or people like those I met in Gaza in May will lose their lives, their healthcare, their education and their hope. And arguably that will drive them into the hands of extremists and make this worse and more unstable for Israel, for Palestinians, for everyone.”

Given that the BBC’s coverage of the topic of the US decision to cut donations to UNRWA and other projects has been uniformly superficial, it would be easy to dismiss this item as more of the same.

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.

Obviously it would therefore have been appropriate for Edward Stourton to have explained to BBC Radio 4 audiences listening to this item why a PR firm that describes ‘Embrace the Middle East’ as one of its clients claims to have been involved in the item’s production – and what that entailed.

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Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

On September 5th the BBC News website published a 609 word report headlined “Khan al-Ahmar: Israel court approves demolition of Bedouin village” which opened by telling readers that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected appeals against the demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has been a subject of international concern.

Judges upheld an order to raze Khan al-Ahmar, where about 180 people live in shacks between two Jewish settlements. […]

An injunction against the demolition will expire within seven days.”

The caption to the main photograph illustrating the article, together with a later paragraph, suggests that the BBC’s journalists did not read the court’s decision in which it is stated that the settlement was built during the last twenty years.

“Khan al-Ahmar was established in the 1950s by members of a tribe from the Negev desert”

“Khan al-Ahmar, which is 8km (5 miles) east of Jerusalem, was established in the early 1950s by members of a semi-nomadic tribe the UN says was displaced from the Negev desert in southern Israel.”

Readers are told that:

“Israel’s government says the structures were built illegally, but Palestinians say permits are impossible to obtain.”

And:

“Palestinians complain that the Israeli military refuses the vast majority of Palestinian building requests and say they are left with little option except to build without permission.”

They are not however informed that the court’s decision notes that the residents make no claim of ownership of the said land and that the site – and in particular the illegally built school – is too close to a major highway for construction to be permitted there under planning laws. Neither were they informed that the court stressed the importance of an equal approach to illegal construction, regardless of the ethnicity of the petitioner.

The article states:

“Since 2009, residents have been fighting demolition orders issued for the wooden and corrugated iron shacks in which they live, as well as a clinic, mosque and an Italian-funded primary school.”

Readers are not informed of the relevant fact that the residents were represented by lawyers hired by the Palestinian Authority.

The article states:

“In May, the Supreme Court rejected petitions to prevent the demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and the relocation of its residents to a site designated by the Israeli government near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis.”

Readers were not told that the offer of relocation includes a free plot of land already connected to utilities at a site with existing services including a school.

The BBC’s report includes the following:

“Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated the court on Wednesday’s ruling upholding the demolition order, which he said had come despite “the orchestrated hypocrisy of Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], the Left and European states”.

“Nobody is above the law, nobody will keep us from acting on our sovereignty and responsibility as a state,” he added.”

Readers found no explanation of that reference to “European states” and so remain unaware of the fact that some of the illegal construction at that site and others was carried out by the EU.

In addition, readers found forty words of comment from what is described as the PLO’s “human rights body” along with a link to the B’tselem website. The only other link in the article leads readers to the UNRWA website and readers are provided with 145 words of highly questionable legal interpretation attributed to “the UN”.

In other words, in addition to the serious omissions in the BBC’s representation of this story, audiences saw four times more comment (and two links) from outside sources opposing the evacuation of the illegally constructed settlement than they did opinions in favour. 

Related Articles:

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THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

The glaring omission in the BBC’s portrayal of Gaza truce negotiations

On August 15th a report headlined “Israel reopens Gaza cargo crossing after calm” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

“Israel has fully reopened its cargo crossing with Gaza, saying it is in response to a period of relative calm.

Lorries carrying fuel and commercial goods passed through Kerem Shalom on Wednesday after weeks of restrictions.

The fishing zone off Gaza’s coast was also restored to 17km (nine nautical miles), having been reduced to 6km.

Kerem Shalom was closed for all but humanitarian deliveries in retaliation for cross-border incendiary kite and balloon attacks by Palestinians.”

After that reasonable account of events, the report continued with promotion of an anonymous allegation:

“Human rights groups said the move amounted to illegal collective punishment.”

Those who read previous BBC reports concerning the Kerem Shalom crossing may recall that the same allegation has been promoted twice by the BBC and that it comes from the foreign funded political NGO ‘Gisha’.

On July 10th the BBC News website told audiences that:

“The Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha, which promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, also condemned the Israeli decision.

“The damage being caused to agricultural lands in Israel is grave and deplorable, but collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza by closing its only official crossing for the movement of goods is both illegal and morally depraved,” it wrote on Twitter.” [emphasis added]

On July 17th the BBC News website promoted the same quote, together with a link to the NGO’s Twitter account.

As noted here at the time, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require that audiences be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors. In the case of ‘Gisha’, it would obviously be helpful to BBC audiences to know that the political NGO touting the claim of “illegal collective punishment” petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court in April, claiming that Israel’s responses to the ‘Great Return March’ violence along the Gaza border are illegal and demanding that the Court prohibit the use of live ammunition by the IDF. The court rejected that petition.

Apparently this time the BBC chose to circumvent that requirement by presenting the quote anonymously, while portraying an openly political organisation as a ‘human rights group’.

Additionally readers of this article found the BBC’s standard sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop.

“More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March – most during protests along the Gaza-Israel border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

One Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper during the same period.”

As has been the case throughout the last four and a half months, the BBC once again promotes Hamas-sourced casualty figures while failing to clarify that the terror group is one of the factions involved in the organisation, financing and facilitation of what are yet again blandly described as “protests”.

Readers are not told that what it euphemistically terms ‘expression of support’ has been characterised by violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts.

While amplifying the “declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel”, the BBC does not bother to inform its audiences that the intention of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ is to bring about the end of the Jewish state.

Readers also found comment from Yolande Knell:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Gaza says the reopening of Kerem Shalom crossing has raised hopes that Egypt and the United Nations could be getting closer to negotiating a more comprehensive truce between Israel and Hamas that would prevent another escalation and ease the severe economic hardship in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Israel’s finance minister confirmed a report that Mr Netanyahu had secretly met Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt in May. The two men are believed to have discussed the terms for a ceasefire, the easing of the blockade of Gaza, and the rebuilding of its infrastructure.”

Notably, while that portrayal of a potential “truce between Israel and Hamas” focuses audience attentions on “the severe economic hardship in Gaza”, it makes no mention of a relevant issue which the BBC has been ignoring for four years.

In addition to holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – the Hamas terror group is also keeping prisoner at least two Israeli civilians – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al Sayed – who have not been the topic of any BBC reporting in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

If BBC audiences are to understand the negotiations behind “a more comprehensive truce”, they obviously need to be informed that the issues being negotiated are not confined to Gaza Strip related topics such as “the blockade” and “infrastructure”.

 

 

 

 

Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Book of the Week’ is described as:

“Serialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history”

Last week’s five episodes featured a book titled “Where the Line is Drawn” by Raja Shehadeh.

Episode One – July 23rd:

“Raja Shehadeh is an award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human right’s [sic] organisation, Al Haq. In Where the Line is Drawn he reflects on his forty year friendship with Henry, a Jewish Israeli. As idealistic young men when they first meet in 1977, they connect over shared interests in literature, writing and walking. As the years pass, their friendship is challenged by history, politics, enmity and violence, but it also points the way to a common future. Raja Shehadeh’s books include Occupation Diaries; Language of War, Language of Peace and Palestinian Walks which won the 2008 Orwell Prize. He has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta.”

Episode Two – July 24th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, visits Jaffa, the city from which his father was exiled during the Nakba in 1948 when 750,000 were forced from their homes with the end of the British Mandate and the creation of Israel. It’s now 1978 and he is staying with Jewish friends who moved into one of the old Arab houses in Jaffa. He is curious about their choice of home.”

Episode Three – July 25th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq recollects a humiliating experience on his way home to Ramallah.”

Episode Four – July 26th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, remembers a terrifying night time drive. Meanwhile, tense times lie ahead for Raja and Henry as the new millennium dawns.”

Episode Five – July 27th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq receives shocking news and he comes to a new understanding about the value of his friendship with Henry. He also reflects on the controversial killing of a young Palestinian attacker by a teenage Israeli soldier who was later jailed for manslaughter.”

Although the NGO ‘Al Haq’ is mentioned in each and every one of those five synopses, BBC Radio 4 audiences were given no information about the political agenda of that so-called “human rights organisation” or its alleged ties to a terror group.

Despite the frequent references to “illegal occupation” and “occupied territories”, no proper historic context was provided to listeners throughout the entire series. In episode one listeners were told that “Israelis…in 1967 had taken the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan” without any mention of the fact that Jordan illegally occupied those areas for 19 years.

Listeners to episode one heard a partisan description of the circumstances in which Palestinians including Shehadeh’s father – also a lawyer – left their homes which left them with the inaccurate impression that they were universally “forced out”.

“In 1948 during the Nakba, where around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes with the establishment of Israel, he lost his practice, his home, and all his properties. And he had to start all over again in Ramallah.”

In episode two listeners heard a reference to Jaffa as “my father’s city from which he was exiled” and were again told that in 1948:

“…with the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of Israel, around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. The Palestinians who managed to stay were placed in the Ajami quarter surrounded by barbed wire. It was like a ghetto.”

Listeners also heard that in 1967 “I drove with my parents to visit the city they had been forced to leave 19 years earlier.”

Notably, when Raja Shehadeh appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ in 2014, he told a rather different version of that story: a version in which his parents were not “forced to leave” Jaffa but decided to relocate to their second home.

“Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

Throughout the five episodes listeners heard Israelis described as “settlers” (regardless of their place of residence in Israel) and “colonisers”. Notably, all the Israeli voices in the dramatisation were done in a bizarre quasi-American accent – regardless of where they were born – which implied that they were ‘foreigners’. In episode two listeners heard the story of Shehadeh’s visit to a plant nursery in which he asked how the owner – described as a woman from Canada – “could establish her nursery on land expropriated from villagers who were now forced to live in crowded refugee camps with no land to cultivate for themselves” and accused her of ‘exploiting’ the land.

Listeners also heard a context-free account of the beginning of the second Intifada – described as “futile” rather than wrong – and justification of terrorism:

“Israel was fighting for the retention of this land. We were fighting to end the occupation in accordance with international law which gave us the right to resist.” [episode three]

“…the human and political issues that led these young men to brutally kill themselves, and others, in despair.”

In episode three listeners were told that Shehadeh’s father had been “murdered…by a collaborator working for Israel” even though it was later admitted that “no-one was ever charged”.

In episode five listeners heard the wave of Palestinian terrorism which began in the autumn of 2015 described thus:

“This uprising was different. There was no unified leadership guiding these young men and women. They had no political platform or concrete demands. They simply improvised ways of resisting. Some of these were non-violent, others violent involving the stabbing of not only soldiers but also innocent Israelis. The Israeli government responded with violence, defining all resistance as terrorism.”

Also in episode five listeners heard a long section relating to an incident in Hebron in March 2016 which was inaccurately portrayed as having begun when:

“Abdul Fattah al Sharif, 21, from the occupied old city of Hebron lay on the ground shot after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

As the BBC’s own reports on that incident show, the words “allegedly” and “tried to” are completely superfluous and materially misleading.

“Sharif and another 21-year-old Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.”

There is of course much more on which to comment in these 75 minutes of entirely one-sided stories which completely erase Palestinian agency and responsibility and prompted Sunday Times journalist Rod Liddle to write to the BBC.

“A nice man called Andrew in the BBC Press Office is kind enough to send me a list of stuff the corporation is doing each week. […]

I have never replied to Andrew’s email, but I did last week because I had been listening to the book that Radio 4 was serialising. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your weekly bulletins about what the BBC is up to. I wonder if you could answer my inquiry below, or pass it on to someone who can.

Here’s the thing. I am hugely enjoying the serialisation on Radio 4 of the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh’s entertaining book, How My People Were Robbed, Murdered and Crushed by the Vile Occupying Fascist Israeli State. I may have got the title slightly wrong, for which apologies. I was wondering if the BBC intended, at any point, to serialise a book that might give a contrary point of view on this disputatious issue — perhaps by an Israeli?

All the best,
Rod

I got a friendly acknowledgment from Andrew — and later a two-line reply from the BBC, stating that the corporation’s coverage is impartial. Mr Shehadeh has spent most of his life railing against Israel and Jews, while claiming to be a moderate. And his book is serialised by Radio 4. Of course, it will not serialise a book by an Israeli to provide the political balance that the corporation is duty bound to strive for (even if, frankly, it doesn’t strive terribly hard).”

That just about sums it up.

Related Articles:

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray discusses “The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy“.

“According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ – according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office – since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course. […]

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.”

2) The ITIC has updated its report on a study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks.

“An examination of the new textbooks issued by the PA shows they continue expressing, and in some instances by radicalizing, the same basic principles that appeared in previous textbooks: the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run school, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

3) The ITIC has also published a report on a ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip and expected to arrive in the area next week.

“Three small boats of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip set sail on July 21 and 22, 2018, and are expected to arrive around the end of July. Before they left for the Gaza Strip they conducted a series of propaganda visits to various European ports. The flotilla’s objective is to help the Palestinian propaganda campaign that accompanies the “return marches” by raising awareness to the demand to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. That is supposed lead to international solidarity with the Gazans while defaming Israel.

On July 16, 2018, four boats anchored in the port of Palermo, Sicily, and from there three of them set sail together for the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. The most prominent figure in organizing the flotilla is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian anti-Israeli activist living in Britain, affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Birawi has many years of experience in organizing flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. His official title is “coordinator of the international committee for breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.””

Readers may recall that Birawi is also linked to ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel since late March. The ITIC has also published an update to that report with details of the identities of the flotilla’s participants, one of whom is the founder of ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) who has in the past been interviewed by the BBC.

4) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran discusses “Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights“.

“Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.”