BBC News report on Jerusalem planning fails to meet impartiality guidelines

On the afternoon of November 6th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Jerusalem: Israel approves controversial Old City cable car plan” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The report is illustrated with an image credited to You Tube and captioned “The Old City of Jerusalem is a Unesco World Heritage site” but readers are not informed that it is in fact a “screen capture from a promotional video for the Jerusalem Old City cable car project showing an artist’s impression of cars passing over the Hinnom Valley”.

The report opens with a description of the plan which includes clear framing. [emphasis added]

“A controversial plan to build a cable car network in Jerusalem’s Old City to transport visitors to one of Judaism’s holiest sites has been approved by Israel’s housing cabinet.

The cable cars will ferry up to 3,000 people an hour about 1.4km (0.9 miles) from West Jerusalem to the Western Wall in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel’s government says the project will reduce traffic congestion.”

It then quickly moves on to present the views of various opponents, including a link to a campaigning video.

“But opponents say it will damage the area’s historic landscape.

They intend to petition Israel’s High Court of Justice to stop it.

Emek Shaveh, an Israeli non-governmental organisation working to defend cultural heritage, has previously warned that the cable car network will alter the skyline of the Old City – a Unesco World Heritage site – and have a detrimental impact on Palestinian residents of the Silwan area living under the proposed route.

It has also alleged that the project “serves a highly political agenda” and that it was “fast-tracked” through the planning process.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that: [emphasis added]

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

Readers are however told nothing of that foreign funded political NGO’s “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” before the report moves on to promote a link to an as yet uncorrected BBC backgrounder from 2014 and highlight additional objections.

“The Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian government – the custodian of the compound behind the Western Wall, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount – have also expressed concern about the impact on the Old City.”

Readers then see an edited version of a problematic video made by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell in 2017 and at the end of the report they are told that:

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

As is overwhelmingly the case in BBC reporting, while the corporation adopts and uses PLO approved language such as “occupied East Jerusalem”, audiences are told nothing of the Jordanian occupation of parts of the city or of the fact that until June 1967 – as shown in Article 24 of the original PLO charter from 1964 – the Palestinians specifically stated that they had no claim to territory occupied at the time by Jordan, including the Old City of Jerusalem.

The result is that, as usual, BBC audiences are fed a politically partisan account which deliberately omits relevant context.

Related Articles:

BBC News redesigns Jerusalem’s Old City

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

BBC-promoted NGO’s terror links surface again

Several weeks ago we documented the BBC’s coverage of the terror attack near Dolev on August 23rd which resulted in the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb.

BBC News ‘contextualises’ terror attack with ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’

‘Homemade’ Palestinian weapons return to BBC news reporting

Since then the BBC has not produced any follow-up reporting, including about the related arrest of three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in September.

“Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian men suspected of carrying out a deadly terror bombing at a West Bank natural spring that killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl and injured her father and brother last month, the Shin Bet security service said Saturday night.

According to the Shin Bet, the suspects were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group from the Ramallah area. […]

According to the Shin Bet, the PFLP terror cell was led by Samer Mina Salim Arbid, 44, who has been involved in terrorist activities over the years. During the Second Intifada, he served directly under the head of the PFLP in Ramallah, creating IEDs and planning attacks.

“Arbid led the cell, prepared the IED and set it off the moment he saw the Shnerb family reach the spring,” the Shin Bet said.”

The terror cell leader, Samer Arbid, was employed (despite his past history of involvement in terror activity) as an accountant by the Palestinian NGO ‘Addameer’ which is known for its links to the PFLP – a designated terror organisation in the US, the EU, Canada and Israel.

Five days after Rina Shnerb was murdered the BBC News website published a video report which included an interview with the director of ‘Addameer’, Sahar Francis.

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

That heavily promoted report was made available on the BBC News website for fourteen consecutive days.  

In other words the producers of that report, along with additional BBC journalists, apparently saw nothing at all problematic in the amplification of the unchallenged narrative of a political NGO that is linked to a terrorist organisation that the BBC knows has murdered Israeli civilians in the past and which, we now learn, employed the leader of the PFLP terror cell apparently responsible for the brutal murder of a seventeen-year-old out hiking with her family. 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Israel’s election

In contrast to previous election campaigns in 2013, 2015 and April 2019, BBC News website coverage of the September 17th election was relatively limited with just seven written reports appearing between September 16th and September 22nd.

Nevertheless, some familiar themes were evident in that coverage along with some new ones.

September 16th: Israel election a referendum on Netanyahu, Jeremy Bowen

In that article the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” and “to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting” – employed the standard BBC tactic of presenting history as having begun in June 1967 while erasing the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem from audience view.

“The southern end of the [Jordan] valley, where I am, has been occupied by Israel since 1967, a big part of the land it captured in that year’s Middle East War.”

As has been the case in BBC coverage of all Israeli elections throughout the past six years, this time too the topic of the ‘peace process’ was framed as being exclusively dependent on Israeli actions.

“Usually the valley is a sleepy place. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed it into his country’s general election, which is coming up this Tuesday. He declared that if he was returned as prime minister, he would annex the Jordan Valley, and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The suggestion has been condemned by many of Israel’s friends, including Britain, on the grounds that it would be yet another nail in the coffin containing hopes for peace. Israel would have absorbed land Palestinians want for a state.”

Bowen told BBC audiences that:

“Israel’s electoral system always produces coalitions. Would-be prime ministers need to add their own party’s seats to those of smaller parties who exact a price for giving their support. The ultra-Orthodox have been staunch supporters of Mr Netanyahu. Without their seats, he would not be able to form a government.”

Apparently the BBC’s Middle East editor has forgotten that in 2013, Netanyahu did form a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.

September 17th: Israel’s election: The most important things to know

In this article BBC audiences found both a problematic video dating from June 2019 in which Israeli citizens living in certain locations are portrayed by the BBC’s Yolande Knell as “illegal” and a partisan map produced by the political NGO ‘B’tselem’ which has often been promoted in previous BBC content.

Once again audiences saw promotion of the Palestinian narrative according to which the prognosis of the ‘peace process’ depends entirely upon Israel, along with the BBC’s habitual but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

“The fate of the Palestinians depends on who is in power in Israel, since Israel occupies land which they seek for a state of their own.

Mr Netanyahu says he will never agree to a sovereign Palestinian state with powers like any other country (something which he says will be a serious threat to Israel).

He has also pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and a swathe of land known as the Jordan Valley (which comprises about 30% of the West Bank). Because they are built on occupied territory, the settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The Palestinians, who want the settlements removed, say such a move would make a Palestinian state impossible and kill the peace process once and for all.”

The BBC promoted the unsupported claim that:

“…Mr Netanyahu is politically right wing and ideologically driven by Jewish claims to the land based on the Bible…”

Readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“In April’s election, Mr Netanyahu won the most votes but failed to form a coalition, which is he why he called a snap poll for 17 September.”

In fact, rather than Netanyahu acting alone as claimed by the BBC, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and to hold another election.

September 17th: Israel election: Netanyahu in tough fight in this year’s second vote

At the beginning of this report readers were again wrongly informed that Netanyahu alone called an election.

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting to hold on to power following one of its closest election races in years.

He called Tuesday’s snap election after failing to form a governing coalition in the wake of an election in April.”

However the article’s final paragraph indicates that in fact the BBC knows that is not the case.

“After April’s election, Mr Netanyahu’s attempts to form a new government failed and he ran out of time in May. He pressed for new elections and Israeli MPs voted by a significant margin in favour of a new poll.”

Readers again found Yolande Knell’s problematic video branding people “illegal” in this report along with the previously seen Palestinian talking points concerning the ‘peace process’ and the BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra.

“Last week, Mr Netanyahu declared he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” in the Jordan Valley if he won. The announcement amounted to a promise to effectively annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want to be part of a future state.

Amid international condemnation, the Palestinian leadership called the move a war crime which would bury any prospects for peace.

Mr Netanyahu also reiterated a pledge from the last election to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

September 18th: Israel election: Netanyahu and rival headed for deadlock

The same narrative concerning the ‘peace process’ was evident in this report too.

“Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been in office for 10 years and is vying to win a record fifth term in office.

The 69-year-old, who leads the right-wing Likud party, has pledged to annex Jewish settlements and a swathe of other territory in the occupied West Bank if he is returned to power.

Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in occupied East Jerusalem, have warned such a move will kill any hopes for peace.”

Readers also discovered that, according to the BBC, Israelis are not allowed to decide on their own capital city:

“Like Mr Netanyahu, he [Gantz] has ruled out ever dividing Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital.”

September 19th: Israel election: Netanyahu and Gantz compete over leadership

September 21st: Israeli elections: What do the results reveal? Tom Bateman

The problematic video by Yolande Knell was promoted in this report too along with the same messaging concerning the ‘peace process’.

“The campaign led to a hardening of the view among Palestinians that the so-called two-state solution – the long held international formula for peace – is no longer viable, according to the pollster Dr Khalil Shikaki.

“There is no doubt that the debate during the election campaign in Israel has been significantly damaging to the Palestinian willingness to support diplomacy and negotiations,” he says, citing Mr Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

Once again no effort was made to delve into the question of where that Palestinian “support” for “diplomacy and negotiations” has been throughout the past 26 years since the Oslo Accords were signed or to clarify that some Palestinian factions. including Hamas. explicitly reject such ideas. Significantly though, Bateman did find it appropriate to tout the so-called ‘one-state solution’.

“Dr Shikaki says that instead around a third of Palestinians opt for the idea of a “one-state” outcome – meaning a single country between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan in which every individual has an equal vote; something Israelis would see as risking the end of the Jewish state.”

Bateman also elected to promote disinformation concerning the voting rights of Palestinians.

“While around five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza cannot vote in Israeli elections, they are affected by the decisions of those who can.”

Arab residents of East Jerusalem are entitled vote in Israeli elections if they have chosen to take Israeli citizenship and Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule in parts of Judea & Samaria or under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip of course vote – when their rulers allow it – for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Bateman also chose to use politicised terminology to describe Israel’s Arab population:

“In fact, with nearly all the votes counted, turnout went up to nearly 70%, from 68.5% in April.

Some of that rise was because many more of Israel’s Palestinian citizens – Arab Israelis – voted this time than they did in April.”

Once again we see the BBC promoting a politicised description of Arab Israelis despite the fact that only a minority self-identify as Palestinian.

September 22nd: Israeli elections: Arab parties back Gantz to oust Netanyahu

This article included the same politicised terminology (has there been a memo?) in analysis by Barbara Plett Usher:

“The leader of the Arab grouping, Ayman Odeh, said it wasn’t endorsing Mr Gantz and his polices: but was moving to try and block Benjamin Netanyahu from securing another term, and to send a clear message that Israel’s future must include the full and equal participation of its Palestinian citizens.”

Apparently the BBC considers it acceptable for its journalists to identify people according to their own political narrative rather than to reflect how those people self-identify.

All versions of this report told readers that:

“The Joint List won 13 seats in the election. If Mr Gantz had the endorsement of all 13 seats, he would still fall short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat legislature.”

By the time the later versions were published it was known that the Joint List’s ‘Balad’ faction had rejected inclusion in that endorsement but the BBC did not bother to update its report accordingly.

Back in January 2013 we made the following observations in relation to BBC coverage of that year’s Israeli election:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances. 

Broadly speaking – and we see this reflected time and time again in its reporting; not only in relation to the elections – the BBC absolves the Palestinian side of the equation of any responsibility for the progress of the peace process (or lack of it) and turns Palestinians into child-like creatures lacking all agency.”

Two years later we noted that:

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities.”

In April of this year we commented:

“Overall, the BBC News website’s selective coverage of the 2019 election conformed to the agenda evident in the corporation’s reporting of the two previous ones. Israel was once again portrayed as a country ‘shifting’ to the right and that alleged shift was depicted as the exclusive reason for the predicted failure to make progress in ‘the peace process’.

In order to promote that framing, the BBC of course has to ignore the fact that no matter which Israeli political party has won elections over the past twenty-seven years, all attempts to bring an end to the conflict have been met with a negative response from the other side.  

And yet, despite its obligation to “build people’s understanding” the BBC continues its dumbed-down, narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters.”

As we see, the BBC’s overriding interest in promoting a political narrative means that it continues to adhere to that well-worn formula.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC World Service radio’s OS promotes narrative over fact

h/t ED

The August 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘BBC OS’ closed with an item (from 48:15 here) promoting the filmed report about teenage Palestinian detainees published on the BBC News website on the same day which was discussed in an earlier post.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Luke Jones: “Now one of the most watched videos on the BBC News website today focuses on Palestinian children who have been incarcerated in jails in Israel. Megha Mohan, the BBC’s Gender & Identity reporter made the video, met some of the families of these children. She’s joined us at our desk here in the newsroom. When did you first come across this as a thing that was happening?”

Mohan stated that it was not her idea but that of Yousef Eldin – the video’s producer – claiming that:

Mohan: “…the news peg for it was a couple of months ago when the Israeli Supreme Court denied a petition to allow Palestinian children in incarceration to have phone calls with their parents.”

The Supreme Court did not ‘deny’ that petition from the political NGO HaMoked: it refused to discuss it because it had not been first submitted by an individual prisoner to a District Court.

After Mohan had claimed that the “conversation” had been “bubbling around” since the year 2000, Jones asked:

Jones: “And why are these children incarcerated in the first place?”

If listeners thought they were going to be given information about terror attacks and assaults on security personnel carried out by Palestinian minors, they would be disappointed.

Mohan: “So this is when you get into technical international law. So the West Bank as we call it is occupied territory which means there’s a…it’s the only place in the world where there’s a dedicated juvenile military court system that Israel says they have to impose because they are the occupiers. So it has to…so if it’s Palestinian children they have to put them through a military court procedure. However if it’s Israeli children they go through civilian procedure. However, the process that we found when we were out in the West Bank for these children being arrested – and when we say children we mean by international law so that’s under 18s: Generation Z – when they are being arrested, a number of the clauses from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – which is a legally binding human rights document that Israel is signatory to – a number of those clauses were failed. So things like being allowed to have translators, being allowed to have legal representation. A lot of the children we interviewed told us that wasn’t the case.”

Jones: “You did the video, which lots of people are watching online. You also did a radio piece as well. Let’s listen to a bit of that.”

Listeners then heard a clip presented by Mohan as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager was described as having spent “8 months in detention” and audiences heard her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before saying:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

As we noted earlier, apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to portray travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Mohan went on to claim that “what we wanted to do…was to just really stick to the legal aspect of this…” and that the ‘children’ she interviewed “were also speaking on a legal ground. They want the, you know, kind of right to defend themselves”.

Jones next asked “what did the Israeli authorities say about this?”.

Mohan: “They said that they don’t believe that they’ve broken any of the UNCRC rules and they said it’s not a perfect procedure but they, you know, they’re doing what they can.”

Jones: “Were you surprised by that?”

Mohan: “Ehm I…[laughs] was I personally surprised by that? Probably not.”

Jones: “And some of the people who…we were hearing there were being interrogated in Hebrew so they didn’t necessarily even know what was happening.”

Mohan: “They were made to sign confessions in Hebrew. So the interrogations were happening without lawyers for, in the case of Ahed Tamimi, over several days, several times but the confessions were in a language they couldn’t understand.”

In the video former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch clarified that the claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions “they couldn’t understand” is not true. That information was not communicated to listeners to this programme and as we see, Megha Mohan chose to repeat those unsubstantiated allegations anyway.

The BBC is clearly very keen to widely promote this report to its audiences even though it is based entirely on claims that the BBC has obviously not been able to independently verify made by a handful of teenagers convicted of acts of violence whom it is quite possible were put in contact with the BBC by the political NGO Addameer whose director was featured in the video.

But the BBC evidently has no intention of allowing facts to get in the way of the political narrative to which Yousef Eldin and Megha Mohan have self-conscripted.

Related Articles:

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

On August 28th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the ‘Gender & Identity correspondent’ for the BBC World Service and BBC World, Megha Mohan. Others involved in the production of the eleven-minute video include Yousef Eldin and Ramallah-based Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring.

The report is titled “Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention”. The word ‘childhood’ is defined as the period of time between infancy and puberty. The people showcased in this film would be better described as adolescents and of course none of them spent their entire “childhood in Israeli military detention”. That sort of manipulation however is evident throughout the entire report.

The report’s synopsis promotes an unsubstantiated claim from unidentified “critics”. The likewise unidentified “human rights group” is HaMoked: a political NGO with a very limited definition of human rights which campaigns solely on behalf of Palestinians.

“Last month Israel’s Supreme Court refused to hear a petition by a human rights group demanding that Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails be allowed to telephone their parents.

The case cast a spotlight on children tried in military courts for crimes committed in the occupied West Bank. Israel is believed to be the only country that tries children that way. Critics have said the ill-treatment of detainees is widespread.”

The first of the “children” showcased by Mohan is Ahed Tamimi, whose case was vigorously promoted by the BBC last year. Showing footage from December 2017, Mohan tells viewers:

“It was this slap that made global headlines. Then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi spent eight months in prison after it.”

Ahed Tamimi of course spent that time in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of incitement, and two counts of obstructing soldiers. BBC audiences were however once again led to believe that she was convicted for a “slap” and even though towards the end of the film (10:12) viewers were told that “the Israeli military told the BBC that Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal for a number of charges”, they were not told what those charges were and no information concerning the context of the grooming of Ahed Tamimi by her family of professional activists was provided.

Later on viewers heard that Tamimi “alleges that she was mistreated on several occasions following her arrest” and later still Tamimi told BBC audiences of ‘difficulties’ concerning sanitary pads. When interviewed by a Russian TV journalist a year ago, Tamimi told a different story.

“I did a lot of things: a legal course, we spent a lot of time on that, and matriculation exam studies; I read books; we would sing; we even had joint breakfasts of the entire wing – we would go outside, every room would bring its things, and we would eat together. We also ate lunch together most of the time. We also had parties; we would sit and sing, and dance. There were a lot of things that we did to pass the time: We watched TV, for example we jumped around in the rooms and did silly things; we did a lot of things.” 

Another of the cases highlighted by Mohan is presented as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager is described as having spent “8 months in detention” and viewers hear her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before she says:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

Apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to describe travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Neither in this nor any of the other showcased stories does the BBC offer viewers any information concerning the incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society which prompts teenagers to try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

Mohan does however tell viewers that:

“Israel is the only country in the world where children are prosecuted through a dedicated juvenile military court system. Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children in the West Bank because it is under military occupation. Every year more than five hundred Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested by Israeli forces. Israel argues that the children it detains are threats to national security.”

As was noted here last July when similar claims were made on BBC World News TV:

“Of course if Palestinians accused of security offences were tried in Israeli civil courts, the BBC would be the first to be jumping up and down shouting ‘annexation!’ because that would mean that Israeli sovereignty had been extended to Judea & Samaria.”

Viewers hear Mohan claim that “it can take the family up to six hours to cross checkpoints” in order to visit their imprisoned son. The Beit Fajjar resident interviewed by Mohan states:

“The checkpoint. The issue is with the checkpoint. Searching, come forward, go backward, go there. And the machine beeps because of anything. It’s a mess. It’s exhausting, torture. As if we’re also detained.”

Viewers are at no point provided with an explanation of why checkpoints are needed and neither are they informed that until the Palestinians decided to conduct a terror war against Israel’s civilian population – the ‘intifada’ – those checkpoints did not exist.

One of the main interviewees in the report is Sahar Francis of ‘Addameer’ who is presented as follows:

Mohan: “Conversations involving Palestinian territories and Israel are polarising and emotive. Child detention especially so. But Saher [sic] Francis, a lawyer for Addameer – an organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank – says the issue is not just moral but legal.”

Viewers are told nothing of Addameer’s political agenda – or of its ties to a terror organisation proscribed by the US and the EU. They do however get a generous dose of Francis’ falsehoods and propaganda.

Francis: “…arresting children is part of the whole system. When you raid a house after midnight in order to arrest a 14-year-old boy it’s not just against the boy himself. It’s against the whole family. Imagine the father and the mother that they cannot protect their son and they see their son is dragged out of his bed at night. I wouldn’t believe it’s about security; it’s about control. It’s about control and maintaining the oppression against the whole society. Especially children. It’s affecting a whole generation at the end of the day.”

Mohan goes on to assert that:

Mohan: “The most controversial form of incarceration is known as Administrative Detention. It allows the Israeli military to hold people without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence that is not shown to the detainee or their lawyer. The military says administrative detainees pose a threat to the national security and their cases are therefore classified.”

That of course is not an accurate or impartial portrayal of Administrative Detention (also used in other countries including the UK), which is only used in specific circumstances.

The report includes an interview with former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch who explains that:

“The military system is specifically for the Palestinians because that is the requirement of international law. Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention said given a breach of the criminal law, protected people – the Palestinians – can only be brought to justice before the military court.”

Hirsch also clarifies that the earlier claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions written in Hebrew is not true. As we see, that did not prevent the editors of this film from airing those allegations anyway.

Mohan then moves to another topic.

Mohan: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international agreement that states that children should only be arrested as a last resort. Israel is a signatory. The law says children should not be held in shackles, have prompt access to a lawyer and translations and be treated with respect.”

The relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (37 and 40) do not mention the word “shackles” at all. Mohan of course does not bother to inform viewers that the Palestinian Authority also became a signatory to that Convention in April 2014 and that Article 38 states:

“States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”

Regular readers may recall that last December the BBC’s ECU acknowledged that there is a “question” regarding “the extent to which this [the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] can be described as “international law”” and the BBC claimed that it had “reminded” its journalists that “the reach of international law is not always as it is claimed and should be checked for accuracy”. Apparently Megha Mohan and her team did not receive that memo because she closes her report as follows:

Mohan: “Israel currently denies Palestinian children detained in the West Bank protections granted to Israeli children. Yet agreed international law states the same legal rights should apply to every person going through the judicial process. Especially those under the age of 18.”

As Maurice Hirsch had already explained, “Palestinian children” and “Israeli children” are not subject to the same “judicial process” because:

“Article 66 of the 4th Geneva Convention refers to the role of military courts in areas under military control. The article states that members of protected populations accused of crimes may only be brought before courts whose members have military status (and are subordinate to the military authorities).”

Nevertheless, Mohan’s claim is not justified, as explained here.

It is of course amply obvious that this highly partisan report falls into the category of journalistic activism and does not meet either supposed BBC standards of accuracy or impartiality or the corporation’s public purpose remit.

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BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

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Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

 

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ are promised “in depth reporting, intelligent analysis and breaking news from a global perspective”. Here is what those listeners heard (from 03:39 here) in the news bulletin which opened the programme’s August 15th edition. [emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Israel has banned two US Democrat Congresswomen from entering the country because they’ve been critical of its policies towards the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar had been expected to begin a tour of the Palestinian territories later this week. Ms Omar has accused the Israelis of implementing President Trump’s ban on Muslims. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The Congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the US, and Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent – have both supported the movement to boycott Israel. They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week in a trip that had become the focus of controversy. Israel passed a law two years ago allowing it to ban entry to supporters of the boycott movement. Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Israel would show weakness to allow them in, calling them a disgrace and accusing them of antisemitism. Israel’s interior ministry later said it would not allow them entry. The not-for-profit group that was organising the visit called the move an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision makers from around the world.”

That sixty-six second item prompts several observations:

1) Tlaib and Omar were not denied entry “because they’ve been critical” of Israel’s – unspecified – “policies towards the Palestinians”. They were refused entry to Israel because they openly support a political campaign which negates Jewish self-determination but as ever BBC audiences heard absolutely nothing about the obviously relevant topic of the BDS campaign’s aims in this bulletin.

2) There is no “ban on Muslims” either in the US or in Israel. In fact:

“A record number of visitors from Muslim countries came to Israel last year, including nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

According to figures provided by the Population and Immigration Authority on Monday, 72,109 citizens of Egypt and Jordan (the only Arab countries with which Israel has full diplomatic ties), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018.”

3) Once again BBC audiences heard nothing about the political NGO ‘Miftah’ – opaquely described by Bateman as a “not-for-profit group” without any mention of its agenda and record. Neither were they told that earlier this month Palestinian leaders met with no fewer than 72 Democrat and Republicandecision makers” from the US Congress.

Given the failure by Tom Bateman to provide any relevant background information on the BDS campaign or the political NGO ‘Miftah’, given that listeners were misled with the claim that Tlaib and Omar were not permitted to enter Israel because “they’ve been critical” and given this item’s unquestioning and uncritical amplification of falsehoods from Omar and ‘Miftah’, readers can decide for themselves whether Radio 4 audiences got the “in depth reporting” and “intelligent analysis” touted on this programme’s webpage.

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Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

 

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

On August 15th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel bars Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The opening paragraph similarly told readers that:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

The following lines however indicated that the BBC is well aware of the fact that the two Congresswomen had no interest in visiting Israel as a whole.

“Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.”

Readers were told that:

“Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.”

And:

“Israeli law blocks entrance visas to any foreigner who calls for any type of boycott that targets Israel – either economic, cultural or academic.

The law attempts to suppress the “boycott, divest, sanction” movement, which has drawn growing support across Europe and the US.” [emphasis added]

Not only is that representation of the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel’ law inaccurate (the amendment gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions) but as usual the BBC did not clarify to its audiences that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.  

The report also told readers that:

“Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib have both been criticised for their stance on Israel – but have denied charges of being anti-Semitic.”

No effort was made to explain to readers why such charges have been leveled or to inform them of the problematic nature of statements made by the two representatives.

The BBC chose to uncritically amplify a statement from Omar while failing to inform readers of similar actions taken by democratic countries – including the UK.  

“Ms Omar described Israel’s move as “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation”.”

Regarding the Congresswomen’s proposed itinerary, readers were told that:

“According to US media, their trip was meant to begin on Sunday, and would include a stop at one of the most sensitive sites in the region – a hilltop plateau in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

They also planned to visit Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.” [emphasis added]

According to that itinerary, what the BBC presents as “peace activists” are in fact political NGOs such as ‘Mercy Corps’, Amnesty International, Al Haq, B’tselem, DCI-Palestine and ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Readers were told that:

“The trip to the West Bank was planned by Miftah, an organisation headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.”

No background was provided concerning Miftah and its record of advocating the BDS campaign and glorifying terrorists

The following day – August 16th – that article was replaced by another headlined “Rashida Tlaib rejects Israel’s offer of ‘humanitarian’ visit” which included much of the same content but also informed readers that:

“…in a series of tweets on Friday, Ms Omar hit back at claims that she and Ms Tlaib hadn’t asked to meet with Israel’s government or opposition officials.

The Minnesota congresswoman said that, during their visit, they had planned to meet Jewish and Arab members of Israel’s parliament, along with Israeli security officials.

Among other plans, they had also intended to tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Israeli military veterans, she said.”

Readers were not told that those “Israeli military veterans” were in fact members of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ or that the itinerary shows no evidence of planned meetings with Israeli Knesset members or officials.

Readers also found another euphemistic portrayal of the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign – which aims to put economic pressure on the Israeli government – because of their opposition to Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Obviously if – in line with the BBC’s public purposes obligations – audiences were to understand Israel’s decision not to permit this visit by two members of the US Congress, they needed to be accurately informed what the campaign supported by the women is really about.

However rather than provide that essential information, in these two reports the BBC once again chose to continue its long-standing policy of avoiding telling its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.

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BBC News website republishes deleted video report

Last month we documented the unexplained removal of a video from the BBC News website and other locations on the internet.

“On July 9th the BBC News website published a filmed report on its ‘Middle East’ page titled “Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex”. […]

That filmed report giving BBC audiences a rare glimpse of Palestinian society remained on the BBC News website’s Middle East page for three days and then disappeared, with no explanation given. […]

The video has also been removed from syndicated content…”

Over three weeks later, on August 6th, an edited version of the same video reappeared in the ‘Latest Updates’ section at the bottom of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Shattering sex taboos in the Palestinian territories”. Its synopsis reads:

“A survey carried by the Arab Barometer for BBC News Arabic in 2018 and 2019 suggests that, across the Middle East and North Africa, people feel their right to freedom of expression is being squeezed.

It indicates that people feel 20% less free to express themselves today than when they were surveyed in 2013.

That also has an impact on sex education. But organisations like Muntada al-Jensaneya are breaking through the silence and finding safe spaces for people to learn about sexuality, helping to transform society’s attitude towards sexual rights and health.

Note: This is an updated version of the original published report.”

Section 3 (Accuracy) of the new editorial guidelines published by the BBC last month includes a clause titled ‘Correcting Mistakes’.

“3.3.28 We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately. Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness. An effective way of correcting a serious factual error is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right

Mistakes in on-demand and online content

Where mistakes in our on-demand content, which is available online after broadcast, are unlikely to be a serious breach of editorial standards, a correction should be published on that platform, so that it is visible before the output is played. Such on-demand content does not then normally need to be changed or revoked.

Where mistakes to our on-demand content are likely to be considered a serious breach of editorial standards, the content must be corrected and the mistake acknowledged, or in exceptional cases removed. We need to be transparent about any changes made, unless there are editorial or legal reasons not to do so.  

In online text content, any mistake that alters the editorial meaning should normally be corrected and we should be transparent about what was wrong.” [emphasis added]

Informing audiences that “[t]his is an updated version of the original published report” without clarifying why it was updated, why that took so long and what it was about the original film that “was wrong” obviously does not meet standards of transparency and does not help those who watched the original report during the time it was online.

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019